Let’s face it: Mixed media artists tend to be hoarders. Sure, we might not be as hardcore as the hoarders on TV, but we do have drawers and boxes overflowing with postcards, cabinet cards, playing cards, and book pages that house guests never get to see (the poor things). This Halloween, showcase that stash by creating spectacular art doll decorations that will dazzle friends, neighbors, and trick-or-treaters – and maybe even give them the shivers!
- Card stock (for backing)
- Small brads and a paper piercer or straight pin
- Markers, paints, or watercolor pencils for coloring images
- A white gel pen
- A black pen or marker for outlining (e.g. a Micron or Zig)
- Chalk ink for edging (optional)
- A computer, a scanner, and a printer (optional but helpful)
- Wooden toy blocks or the equivalent
- A very tall screw (for example, a 4-inch drywall screw) and a screwdriver
- Wire (the gauge isn’t particularly important)
- A standard hole punch
My favorite thing in the world to look at is a human face, or in some cases, a face that used to be human before its owner succumbed to a vampire, the zombie apocalypse, an infestation of plague rats, or those pesky old body snatchers from the ‘70s. Of course, most of us don’t have old photos of vamps and body snatchers hanging around, which means we get to dig for photos of ordinary people and alter them. What fun!
Although it’s possible to use actual photographs in this project, creating a copy with the scanner creates options of scale (e.g. making a big face small, or the other way around). After scanning, crop the images and size them as desired.
There are several ways to make an ordinary person appear ghoulish, most of which are fairly obvious. Here are just a couple of tips:
- When adding sutures, scrapes, bruises, veins, and gray circles, try to work with, not against, the hairstyle and facial structure of the person in the photograph. The same applies to the existing lights and shadows.
- That said, don’t feel tied to the exact positions of eyelids and lips. Those things can easily be altered – to great effect!
- Be sparing in initial applications of color, beginning with light shades of gray, green, yellow, red, and blue. It’s easy to add color but difficult to take it away, and no one wants a zombie that looks like an angry zucchini!
- There is no right way to alter a photo, so play around a little. Print two or three copies of the same image, and see what happens.
- After applying color, adhere the image to cardstock and cut it out. Go over the black outline one last time with the black pen or marker and chalk the edges with ink as desired.
Rock that Body
To decorate my own house, I built several dolls from anatomical parts, or more accurately, from illustrations of anatomical parts in textbooks, of which I have several, all rescued from thrift stores for three dollars or less. Anatomy textbooks make great fodder for art dolls because they contain every body part imaginable, although of course, anatomy books are not necessary for completing this project. It’s not even necessary to be literal about the trunk and limbs of an art doll. A rectangular poison label would make a fantastic Halloween-themed body, as would a toe tag or a tombstone.
After selecting the body, attach the head with adhesive (if a stationary head is the goal) or use a paper piercer and a brad to give the head some evil mobility.
With that accomplished, start embellishing. Give the doll a hat, arms, wings made from finger bones, a broom made from the spine and head of a beauty queen – whatever! Have fun using items from those drawers full of stuff!
Stand in the Place Where You Live
The finishing touch for these art dolls is the stand, which elevates them – literally – to a whole new level of sophistication.
To make the stand, follow these steps:
• Screw the tall screw into the wooden block. (It isn’t necessary to drill a pilot hole because the wood used in children’s blocks is generally cheap and soft.)
• Cut two lengths of wire between two and three inches (5.1 to 7.6 centimeters) in length.
• Cut a strip of cardstock roughly ½ inch high (1.3 centimeters) and slightly narrower than the width of the doll’s body.
• Mentally divide the strip into three equal parts. Using the hole punch, put a hole on the line between the first and second parts, and a second hole on the line between the second and third parts. Apply glue or other adhesive to the far edges of the strip, and adhere the strip to the doll, reinforcing with tape as necessary. The result should look something like the photo.
• Wrap one end of one wire around the top of the screw, then bring the wire forward and bend it up to create distance between the doll and the screw. The end of the wire should be able to slip into the hole in the strip of cardstock. Repeat with the second piece of wire.
• Adjust the wire as necessary until the doll is positioned just right.• If desired paint the block to enhance the overall look.
The finished art dolls look fantastic on a buffet, windowsill, or shelf. They also make great party favors!