Paper, Spider, Pup

That may sound like a variation on an old game, but it’s really just what I’ve been up to lately in the studio. I have two studios, actually; the clean one at home that I use for making comics and illustrations, and the one that I maintain at a studio cooperative so that I can get messy and not have to worry about the walls and the floors. It’s not very big, but has plenty of table space and storage for all my space-hogging supplies.

One of the things I like to do there is paper maché. And if you’ve ever done it (think back to about grade 3 or so), you know that it’s MESSY! So today, there I was up to my elbows in flour-and-water paste, joyfully flinging it around in anticipation of a horrible, gruesome, giant spider to decorate my porch with on Halloween. What could be scarier, right? I know I jump out of my skin when one trundles across the floor in search of a mate!

The first thing to do was to wad up bunches of paper into balls for the body and head. The body is about the size of a slightly flattened cantaloupe. I got a little carried away with the tape; it didn't need to be this thorough.

The first thing to do was to wad up bunches of paper into balls for the body and head. The body is about the size of a slightly flattened cantaloupe. Yes, this is a BIG SPIDER! I got a little carried away with the tape; it didn’t need to be this thorough.

I’m trying out a new (for me) method, invented by a Seattle artist named Dan Reeder. It involves making a paper maché understructure, with the final skin made of what he calls cloth maché, which is stronger than mere newspaper. Along the way, some coathangers get used for limb armatures, and teeth and claws are made out of polymer clay, and maybe a bit of resin drool drips from their scaly lips.

Dan started out making these crazy monsters called “Screamers” (which greatly amused his classes back when he was a schoolteacher — what kid wouldn’t love a drooling monster?), and now has a website with wonderful videos of him making his creatures, with the help of his cat. Go watch some, maybe with popcorn and a buddy — they’re fun, and the tutorials are quite hilarious — Dan is a very funny guy, as well as being a good teacher. I’ve spent many hours watching both his stop-action speedy ones and the tutorials. He’s also got a book, Paper-Mache Monsters, which I’m following along on for this project. Oh, and he’s also here on WordPress, so after you’re done reading here, check out the Gourmet Paper Mache Blog.

Here are the legs in progress. They're made of pulled-out coathangers stuffed with newspaper. A friend who runs an apartment building gave me a nice stash of them a while back; they're getting hard to find, but she says there are always some left in the closets when people move out. There may be something metaphysical about this.

Here are the legs in progress. They’re made of pulled-out coathangers stuffed with newspaper. A friend who runs an apartment building gave me a nice stash of them a while back; they’re getting hard to find, but she says there are always some left in the closets when people move out. There may be something metaphysical about this.

I and finally got started on a monster of my own as a result of a challenge from one of the paper maché Facebook groups I belong to. Even though I decided to start small and simple, I must confess to being terribly behind, and my spider might not be dry in time, but I’m going to make the effort anyway! I’ll post some pics when it’s done — and if I get it done in time, and it’s scary enough, maybe I’ll get to keep all the candy for myself!

I had forgotten how nice it is to work with flour paste. I used warm water like Dan recommends, and it feels very nice and smells nice too. Here are the spider bits all covered in several layers of paper and glue, laid out and hung up to dry. And the mess. I really had a great time being messy today!

I had forgotten how nice it is to work with flour paste. I used warm water like Dan recommends, and it feels very nice and smells nice too. Here are the spider bits all covered in several layers of paper and glue, laid out and hung up to dry. And the mess. I really had a great time being messy today!

I have another paper maché project in progress, a cute little puppy. that I’ve been working at for what seems like forever. I’ve been using the more traditional small-paper-strip method, because I want to get all the details nice and smooth. I usually use white glue (Weld-bond, diluted about half with water) because in my old studio, the mice liked my art so much they ate it! Fortunately, our new building is much nicer and we do not have mice. It’s a bit lonelier, but my sculptures don’t become late-night party food.

Her's where I'm up to with the puppy. He's ready for some eyes, and a thin, smooth coat of paper pulp in which I'll make fur textures. I think he'll be a Dalmatian.

Her’s where I’m up to with the puppy. He’s ready for some eyes, and a thin, smooth coat of paper pulp in which I’ll make fur textures. I think he’ll be a Dalmatian.

 

 

8 responses to “Paper, Spider, Pup

    • It *is* fun — I’ve done paper maché on and off for years, though lately my sculpture urges have been satisfied by the polymer clay work (which is not to messy to do in the house). But getting messy like that feels very kid-like, and I don’t feel the need to make something perfect or realistic. In fact, for me it is to sculpture what comics are to drawing; though I’ve seen some paper maché work that is quite realistic, I’m having fun with creating something wacky and phantasmagoric. If I didn’t have the studio, I’d have to make it a summer activity and do it outside.

      Liked by 1 person

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