Posts Tagged ‘dia de las muertos’

Creepy Cool!

August 9, 2018

So I got back a couple of days ago from Art Unraveled, a fun and fabulous art retreat held every August in Phoenix, Arizona. I have wanted to go for literally years! Last year, while perusing the classes and wishing and dreaming (fairly uselessly), as I always do, I decided 2018 was the year it was going to actually happen! From that day on, I started putting aside any extra $$ that came my way. Sources included: working overtime on holidays, an annual longevity bonus, selling items in my Etsy shop, completing surveys about medications from pharmaceutical companies, and even a surprise check from a single share of Disney stock I’d purchased 30 years ago and forgotten I owned, which I discovered on the Missing Money website. (Check it out; maybe you have unclaimed funds, too!)

I saved on the airline ticket by applying for a Priceline credit card, saved on the hotel by applying for a Hilton Honors card, and saved the checked baggage fee at the airport by applying for the American Airlines credit card. I decided to forego the cost of a rental car since the hotel is located within walking distance of many shops and restaurants, and chose to check out late the last day so I wouldn’t have to pay for another hotel night.

With all this “planned scrimping” and saving, I was happy to reach my funding goal after only six months!

While the past week at Art Unraveled has been a whirlwind of overwhelming experiences that can’t possibly be covered in a single blog post, I thought I’d share one of my favorite classes, “Dollies de las Muertos,” with Thomas Ashman of Black Sheep Artist Studio. He is a wonderful instructor, with many interesting stories to tell! Our goal was to create amazing Day of the Dead figurines, and I couldn’t wait!

thomas ashman

We started our journey with an unloved porcelain doll from the thrift store. I was happy to find a very large, very lovely specimen in great shape, and paid only four dollars because one of her thumbs had broken off. (Dude made her a new one out of Paperclay!)  Standing 22″ tall, “Gloria” (according to the name on her handbag) wore a magnificent champagne colored satin dress and featured a rosy complexion, sweet expression, darling ringlets and lovely bright blue eyes. (Awwwww!)

creepy before

All this was definitely going to change. (For the better, in my opinion!)

The first thing we did was remove our dolls’ hair and clothes, rip off any pretty, frilly things (like the roses on Gloria’s dress) and shred the sleeves and bottom hemline into tatters, a la the fashion style of Morticia Addams. After immersing the dress into a bath of black fabric dye, the transformation had begun!

The next step was to remove the eyes. (Eeeeeek!) Thomas came around with an effectively deadly spring tool, and – POP! POP! – out came Gloria’s pretty blue peepers! We then painted our dolls’ faces and arms with bone-colored paint, creating the “skeleton” base for traditional Day of the Dead embellishments. Here’s Gloria awaiting her makeup!

gloria in progress

Hours of painstaking painting with tiny brushes later, the face was done and it was time to embellish the dress. I added some metal and rhinestone jewelry components from the bead aisle at Michael’s and glued black feathers onto a plastic toy butterfly to make wing-like extensions for the bodice. Thomas provided marabou clusters from which we made feathery wigs.

not gloria closeup

Ta-daaaaa! Isn’t she awesome?!!

We made doll stands from wood blocks and dowels, painted them black, and then it was time to display our beautiful creations! I arranged Gloria’s right hand to hold up her dress and glued a “cactus skeleton” into her left hand as a kind of magical staff or wand. A very kind local lady at Art Unraveled was handing out these fascinating bits of long-dead, dessicated cacti, and it made the perfect souvenir of my first visit to Arizona.

not gloria

Thank you, Thomas, for this fun and fabulous class! I had an amazing time and I’ll always treasure my Day of the Dead dolly, whose name is now “GORE-IA!” (Right?!!)

Wacky Cats

March 9, 2015

So awhile back,  I posted this tutorial on how to make your cat into a Dia De Las Muertos character by transferring a photo and then painting over it. I recently came across one of my “Gatos” paintings and decided it would be cool on the cover of a sketchbook.

dia sketchbook 1

I started with black book covers by 7 Gypsies, bound in some Canson sketch paper and then added my original painting to the cover, adding lots of colorful embellishments. Most of the flowers are from a pack I bought to use in my cruise journal a couple years ago; I love the bright, crazy colors. I didn’t use glitter this time (amazingly!), but the sparkly rhinestones more than make up for it, I think.

dia sketchbook 2

Speaking of cat paintings…

For the most part, I’ve always relied on existing images as the basis for my artwork. I’ve made a lot of backgrounds and embellished like crazy, but when it comes to the main image, very few have been original to me. Lately I’ve wanted to try making my own images. Painting over a photo is a good start, but I want to move towards “original” stuff. While I am very poor at drawing, I can do basic shapes and don’t mind too much erasing and re-drawing.

So I’ve spent the last couple of weeks haunting blogs and YouTube and working my way up to trying something original. The tutorials helped me decide on a method; basically to make a background and draw the image separately to glue on later. Great way to not mess up a great background if the focal point is “pre-approved.” 🙂

I decided my first attempt would be a cat, since it’s not difficult to draw a cat’s face and the more “whimsical” I made it, the less I’d have to depend on actual drawing skills!

The background was simple; a few scraps of different papers (book text, sheet music, scrapbook paper) glued down onto mat board with decoupage medium, painted, and then some stenciling and stamping added when that was dry. I drew the cat’s face on white cardstock, cut it into quarters and painted each quarter separately, then glued them back together on the background. Then embellished like crazy, adding a stamped crown, a dress and sun border cut from scrapbook paper, and a few stick-on pearls and rhinestones. Final touch was some doodling and writing with a black Pitt pen.

wacky cat

It’s not the most exciting piece, but I think it’s fine for my first effort at something original. I may mount this on a black background to make it pop a little more. The colors on the background got a little muddied (my bad for being too impatient to let each layer dry!), so I’ll work on that next time, and maybe I’ll plan a little better and pick out what I’m going to use ahead of time instead of using whatever was close at hand on my messy table!