Jeff Nishinaka is a paper sculptor from Los Angeles whose handcrafted work is commissioned around the globe by private and public companies and celebrities. From ethereal lines in a mythical creature to geometric shapes in a cityscape, Nishinaka draws from fantasy and reality to create monochromatic objects in relief. His fascination with art started at a young age, as a fan of Norman Rockwell, 1960s cartoons, Marvel comic books and the Japanese comic book “Astro Boy.” After attending University of California, Los Angeles, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California.
Paper became Nishinaka’s medium of choice as an art student. Instead of choosing matchsticks, nails or clay for a class project, he challenged himself by using paper to create a multidimensional fish sculpture. During this creative process, he felt compelled to discover new ways to shape, bend and round edges on different types of paper. He felt destined to be a paper artist.
Nishinaka’s work has been featured in numerous galleries, public art displays, retail displays and ad campaigns for clients such as Microsoft, Starbucks, Ralph Lauren, United Airlines, Clinique, MGM Studios, Lexus, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Qualcomm and Iggesund Paperboard. He has created more than 40 custom sculptures for martial arts expert and actor Jackie Chan. Art publications from around the world and media outlets such as USA Today, The New York Times, V Magazine and The Atlantic have touted his work.
The artist attributes his successful 30-year career to the special relationship he has with paper. He feels that the medium has an energy and life of its own and that it is his part to release or reveal what is already there. Trying not to overwork or force paper into submission, he lets the beauty of paper speak for itself. Each sculpture begins with an idea, a rough sketch and research. When ready to construct, Nishinaka uses simple tools: a pencil, X-Acto knife, wood dowel, tweezers, glue and an eraser. Above all, his most treasured tools are his hands. To him, the human touch lends a textural quality that cannot be achieved digitally. Adhering to the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship, Nishinaka meticulously creates each element of a structure with great precision, patience and passion.
To Nishinaka, creating art for clients is just as fun as it is teaching it. He serves as an instructor at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, where he says “fresh young minds” inspire and motivate him to continually refine his skills. Along with teaching, Nishinaka enjoys traveling, playing the drums, building model airplanes and sharing tips about his craft with social media followers.