Saturday, June 7, 2014

Obsessed with Sugar Skulls

I attempting to find my perfect artistic medium combination, I'm now obsessed with sugar skulls.  For those of you who don't know, sugar skulls are decorative skulls (real sugar skulls are edible, but usually just used for decorative purposes) made for celebration of The Day of the Dead, a holiday celebrated in Mexico and closely related to All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  

When I was a kid, skulls and skeletons used to freak me out big time.  Periodically, when I went with my mother to Korvette's, a department store of the time, we would wind our way through several departments in our journey to her shopping destination.  This meant cutting through a smelly cheese department (fondue supplies, I'm sure) and then the toy department.  You would think the toy department would be a place I'd want to visit, but on one pass through, I'd spotted the dreaded Visible Man Anatomy Kit.  This was an anatomically model correct man with CLEAR SKIN.  Pictured on the box cover were cross sections of the man's muscles, organs and bones.  YUCK.  I had nightmares for months after that, just picturing that I, too, had this gross stuff inside my body, especially a skeleton!  But I digress…  

Still, I think this is partly why I like sugar skulls - they take something traditionally scary (the skull) and turn it into something beautiful.  They also nicely balance the living and the dead, and represent the idea that the spirits of our deceased loved ones are still with us… wonderful symbolism, in my opinion.  Anyway, I have been looking at sugar skull tattoos, drawings, paintings and masks on Pinterest for weeks now.  A skull seemed like a relatively easy shape to make in paper mache, and it would provide a nice painting surface.  Plus, as a sugar skull, I could sprinkle it with other three dimensional elements, too.  

First, I blew up a 12 inch balloon and covered it with a nice thick layer of paper mache.  Then I cut it in half lengthwise, and drew a face on it.  

I ripped some paper towels into small pieces, soaked them in water and then whipped them around in my blender for a bit until they were nicely chopped.  I then scooped them out in a kitchen strainer and tapped the strainer a bit to get the excess water out.  I mixed a small batch of flour and water in the usual ratio and mixed it into the ground paper towels until it looked something like oatmeal.

I globbed on clumps of the mixture in that places that seemed to require more depth.  I was pretty happy with how much depth it was adding, except the drying process wound up shrinking it considerably once again.  Oh well.  After the mush layer dried, I still had to add more crunched up paper to the chin and forehead.  After that dried, I added another layer of smooth sheets, just to smooth out the texture again.  

Now it's painting and decorating time.  I find myself in need of a new paintbrush - one that can make small dots and fine lines.  My daughter paid me a lovely compliment the other day.  She said, "Mom, if you paint this in purple and pink and teal,  I might want to hang it in my room."  

So now I have a color scheme as well.   

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