I am a huge fan of Day of the Dead festivals and artwork, even if it is a wee bit ahead of the calendar date! I was inspired to create these pieces after going to Linpeng International Inc./Fiona Accessories to visit with Fiona and Jimmy Lin. They are truly wonderful and talented people with a dedication to creating beautiful hand painted beads, jewelry and beading supplies, and I am grateful for meeting Fiona at the Craft and Hobby Association Trade Show in 2014. At this visit, as usual, we discussed beads and jewelry, went over new ideas and displays, but Jimmy showed me something a bit different this time: little packages of Acrylic flat back gems, normally used for scrapbooking, in a wide variety of colors. He asked me if I could think of any other applications and the first thing that came to mind was covering papier-mâché skulls with the gems for Day of the Dead decor.
Fiona Accessories Acrylic flat back gems Flower and Diamond shaped in sizes 14mm, 19mm, 22 mm and 20x30mm
Mini acrylic flat backed gems (normally for scrapbooking, nail or shoes)
Liquitex Gloss Varnish
Papier-mâché mask and skull by Darice and often sold at Michaels late Summer into Fall
Beacon Gem-Tac (Great stuff, non-toxic and flexible)
Sakura Pigma Micron Pen Set (I just love using their pen sets for any illustrations I do)
First I gathered all of my supplies, picking colors of paint, acrylic gems, brushes and which papier-mâché pieces I felt would look the best for what I had in mind.
I started by applying white acrylic paint to the entire surface of the papier-mâché skulls. I let each layer of the paint dry completely before adding the next layer to prevent the papier-mâché from getting too wet and losing shape. I noticed that 2-3 coats of paint are normally required to get complete coverage.
I started to loosely place where I would like the Fiona Accessories Acrylic flat back gems to sit on the papier-mâché and traced outlines in pencil, but I did not glue them on at this point. This would give me outlines to follow and color in with the pens and paint before applying the gems.
There is no set pattern or design to Day of the Dead masks, as it is a wonderfully free form style of art, allowing the artist to put any variety of shapes, symbols and scroll-work on their pieces. I have a fondness for plant life and organic shapes so I painted flowers, vines and geometric patterns across the pieces in silver, black, red and blue. I outlined key elements with Sakura Pigma Micron pens to make them visually pop more.
Since I really liked how the silver paint looked I added some leaves and geometric shapes in green pearl paint, along with flowers in red pearl paint. The paint having a slight shimmer would play off the sparkle of the acrylic gems. Applying the paint and drawing with the pens can take some time but I find it rather relaxing and meditative.
Once the paint was fully dry I applied the Fiona Accessories Acrylic flat back gems to the papier-mâché skulls with Beacon Gem-Tac. A small drop of the Beacon Gem-Tac will go a long way and dry perfectly clear; just holding the gem in place for a few seconds is all that is needed to get the gem to stick to the skulls.
Once all the large acrylic gems were applied to the papier-mâché skulls I filled in the open areas with more paint and pen details, then adding mini acrylic gems with more Beacon Gem-Tac. I let the glue fully dry before going onto the next step.
To make sure all of the detail and gems were protected I applied three coats of Liquitex Gloss Varnish to the skulls, letting each layer dry completely before applying the next.
Once the varnish was dry I was able to add them to the rest of my Day of the Dead artwork collection!
Until Next Time, Safe Travels!