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This skull was an experiment in creating a prop by applying strip mache over an existing form. The skull also provided a chance to play around with different painting techniques by going beyond my typical dry brushing technique. The result is a fairly realistic skull that looks as if it has been removed from an ancient crypt. This is a great project for someone looking to try papier mache because it basically bypasses the artistic process and concentrates on the technical aspects of papier mache.
The process began by selecting a Halloween prop that I wanted to duplicate with papier mache, for this project I chose a resin skull purchased from Big Lots. The first step involved covering the skull with strips of newspaper soaked in water. The wet newspaper strips act as the release agent essentially forming a barrier between the resin skull and the addition of papier mache strips.
Once the wet newspaper barrier was in place, papier mache strips were applied over the entire skull. Approximately four to five layers of strip mache was used to cover the entire skull.
After the papier mache strips had completely dried, the “shell” was then removed by cutting it in half with a razor blade.
Each half of the papier mache shell was filled with a small amount of homemade papier mache clay. The clay was applied to the interior portion of the shell to provide strength and support.
Once the clay had dried the two halves were reassembled with hot glue and masking tape. Additional strip mache as applied to the seam and allowed to dry creating a durable papier mache recreation of the resin Halloween prop.
The mouth area of the skull was cut out allowing for the addition of individual teeth made from papier mache clay. Crumpled newspaper was stuffed into the interior of the skull for support and several pieces of corrugated cardboard was hot glued into the interior of the skull for strength and durability.
The teeth were hot glued to the strip mache skull and a very thin layer of papier mache clay was added to the exterior of the skull to create a smooth bone-like surface.
The painting process was the result of trial and error, my only goal was to experiment with some new techniques beyond dry brushing.
First the skull was covered with a coat of Old English Furniture Scratch Remover. The Old English was applied directly to the raw or unpainted mache. Adding Old English to the mache yielded some very interesting results.
Next some diluted Antique White acrylic paint was dabbed onto the entire skull. The paint was thin enough so that the brown base coat was still visible beneath the Antique White paint. A cloth dampened with soapy water was then used to rub the white paint off the skull revealing the brown undercoating. The process required a little bit of elbow grease to remove the paint but the effect was interesting as you could control the amount of paint being removed from the skull.
This above process was repeated with diluted yellow acrylic and finally a wash of black acrylic paint. The final result is something very organic and natural, something not readily identifiable as a typical paint job.