It stopped snowing here in South Dakota, and the wind stopped blowing. My dog is getting used to the cold snow on his feet (but still not happy about it) — and, more to the point of this blog, my Santa is done.
If you didn’t see the first post, where I showed the process of making a simple form and then covering it with paper mache clay, you can find it here.
After he was dry, I made a few changes to Santa’s eyes, and then turned him over and added another thin layer of paper mache clay to the underside. There were a few spots where my first layer was much too thin, and in a few other places the paper mache clay pulled apart, creating tiny holes as the material dried and shrank. The additional layer on the back took care of that, and made the piece strong enough to hold up–I figured it would be going in and out of boxes for storage. I used the back of a spoon to add the layer on the back, so I could reach into the deepest parts and make it reasonably smooth.
Then I popped Santa into the oven at about 250F to dry again. After that, I gave him a few coats of glue/plaster gesso, using the recipe from my book on paper mache masks. The recipe is:
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) white glue (Elmer’s Glue-All)
- 2 teaspoons (10 ml) cold water
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) plaster of Paris
- 1/4 teaspoon (1 ml) vinegar
If you use this recipe, don’t pour the left-over gesso down the sink – plaster sets up under water. The gesso can be wet-sanded (I used a damp shop towel).
I also discovered something about paper mache clay that I had never tried before. It wasn’t useful at all in this project, but I can imagine times when it would come in really handy: It turns out that you can also use a damp sponge to smooth the paper mache clay itself, after it’s dry. No sanding mess.
I played around a bit while painting Santa. I wanted the texture of his beard to show, so I started with a light grey undercoat. I also used a weird pink for his face and red for his hat. Fortunately, all of the undercoat on his face was covered as I continued finishing him.
I used a warm white on the beard, and tried to catch only the tops of the ridges so the darker grey would show in the crevices. The face was painted with Northern European flesh color (white, cadmium red, yellow ochre, and a touch of burnt sienna.) It took several coats, with variations in the amounts of the colors in the mix, until I thought he looked OK.
Next,I gave Santa some rosy cheeks and a pink nose (he spends a lot of time out in the bright, cold snow, after all). The eyes are a light grey-blue.
After the cheeks and eyes were painted on, I sealed Santa with a coat of satin acrylic varnish. When that was dry, I mixed up some of the same varnish with just a few drops of burnt sienna and one tiny drop of ultramarine blue, so the mix was a very thin brown. I brushed this over the sealed Santa, allowing the pigment to flow into the deeper laugh lines and around the eyes and nose. I then finished covering the rest of the beard and hat, and the very light brown helped to bring the colors together. I added two white highlights to the eyes, and he’s done.
Almost done, I should say. I now need to use my glue gun and add a hanger on the back.