Clown Skulls – Cute, or Total Fail? You Decide…

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OK, these clown skulls weren’t my greatest idea, but maybe you can think of a way to make them work a little better.

I have to admit that I was pretty impressed by how well the crackle effect worked, though – it’s just a coat of white acrylic paint brushed over wet Elmer’s glue. I might use that again, someday.

And I did like the skulls before painting the clown faces on them, and I can always paint them again so they weren’t a total loss. 🙂

If you want to make more realistic skulls, you might be able to find some Styrofoam skulls at Walmart or your local craft store, and cover them with a thin layer of paper mache clay. If you’d like to use my skull-shaped face sculpting form, you can find the pattern and videos here.

And if you’re wondering where I got the Golden Acrylic Glazing Liquid that I talked about in the video, I bought it from Amazon.com here.

To make the clown skulls…

Covering the skull form with paper mache clay

I started out by printing two copies of my skull-shaped face-sculpting form on full-sheet labels. They’re slightly smaller than normal. I believe I set the printer at 90%. I stuck the labels on cereal box cardboard, taped them together, and covered them with a thin layer of paper mache clay.

I added some WED clay to the mixture, just to see if it would make the PM clay a nice old bone color. I was just playing around, so ignore that part – it’s exactly the same color as FolkArt’s Linen acrylic paint that you can get at Walmart.

I had to add the paper mache clay in stages, because you need a dry place to hold on to. I let the first area dry in front of a fan until it was firm enough to handle, and then finished the rest of the skull. Then I put them back in front of the fan and left them overnight. I used a very thin layer, and that really cuts down on the time needed to get them dry.

Drill a hole in the skulls…

drilling a hole in the skull

I drilled a small hole in the top of the skulls so I could hang them from a string near my front door. You might be able to cut a hole some other way, but even a thin layer of paper mache dries really hard.

Add Elmer’s glue and white paint …

Adding crackle glaze with paint and glue

I used a crackled white acrylic glaze over the darker paper mache clay when it was dry, to help make the bones look older. To do that, I painted on a thick coat of Elmer’s Glue-All first, and then painted the white directly over the wet glue.

I wanted the white to be somewhat transparent, but I wasn’t sure if this glue-and-paint crackle method would work if I thinned the acrylic paint with water, so I used Golden Glazing Liquid instead. It definitely cracked. Whether or not it makes the bones look older or not is a matter of opinion – I still haven’t decided.

Paint shadows in the empty parts of the skull …

Painting shadows in the skull eye sockets

When the white paint was dry, I used a dark grey acrylic paint mixed with some glazing liquid, and darkened the eye sockets and nose. I used a paper towl to smudge the edges of the grey to make it look more like a shadow. I would normally use my finger for smudging, if I didn’t know you were going to be watching me do it. I actually did use my finger on the second one, and I think it actually turned out better.

This is the point where I actually liked the skulls. When this video is finished I’ll probably paint over the clown faces with the Linen acrylic paint, do another white cracked layer over that, and darken the eye sockets and nose. I think I would also make the skulls even grungier with a final very thin glaze of burnt umber and golden glazing liquid, wiped off with a dry paper towel.

Paint the clown face colors ..

Painting clown faces on the skulls

I drew the clown faces onto the skulls. This is when it became pretty obvious that clown faces really need the face…

When I first thought of this idea it sounded fun to pretend that archeologists found bones of a new species of human, called clownicus americanus, perhaps, and the bones were the same color as a clown’s skin — the way a tiger’s skin has the same stripes as their fur.

That means that clowns are born with clown faces, which is even more of a stretch – and clown teeth aren’t painted, so maybe leaving them white would have helped, at least a little.

Add one more layer of the crackled paint and glue …

Skulls with the second crackle glaze

I thinned all the colors except the dark grey with the glazing liquid, to try to make those areas look old, too. I wasn’t happy with it, so I added more crackled, transparent white over the painted faces.

I still didn’t like it.

Seriously – if you can think of a way to actually make this idea work, let me know. ?

Even though I don’t like the way the clown skulls turned out, it was still nice to have an excuse to ignore the garden (and all the latest news) and just play around for awhile. For a few hours, the garden and the chickens and the rest of my small farm had to fend for themselves – and they did just fine without me. 🙂

12 thoughts on “Clown Skulls – Cute, or Total Fail? You Decide…”

  1. Hi Jonni
    I would like to know if your creations with papier mache and/or plaster are weather (water) resistant? Can we place them outside? Do we need to add a layer of plasti-durex material on it in order to place them outside? Thanks in advance.

    • Paper and plaster are not at all water resistant. If you just need them to be outside for a few days, and if it isn’t raining cats and dogs, any outdoor varnish will protect them. They will still soften if they get at all wet, but you can bring them back inside and let them dry out again. For long-term outdoor display, you’d need to do whatever would work to protect a printed copy of the local newspaper. In other words, they would have to be completely encased with a waterproof membrane that doesn’t break down in the sun or winter cold or pecking birds. I haven’t found a product that will do all that myself, but Linda says her mushrooms have been outside for about three years and still doing fine. You can see her guest post here.

  2. Your being too hard on yourself young lady ?
    They look great! I just paper mached mine with the white glue and small pieces of paper straight over a skull form covered in cling wrap! They were a bit thin but worked ok for my purpose. Nothing as in depth like yours ?
    Love all your work and love watching your tutorials. Lots of love
    Kaz from Oz ?

  3. Paint them bright white then take a Mexican Day of the Dead approach to colorful decoration. I’m a total rookie but I made a couple I thought came out ok.

  4. Every artist has a closet full of not so great attempts.
    We grow and learn as we try and do.
    Thank you always trying and your sincere humility.
    Your work is mostly beautiful and impressive.

  5. Jonni,

    A couple of ideas.

    The rounded form that creates the teeth is a little unnatural and maybe causing some believability issues. I would also take time to build up the individual teeth with paper clay (tapered to the gum line).

    Instead of black, try deep browns as though the bone is stained by the earth. Apply the paint and then wipe it off with a cloth so that the color remains in the recessed areas. See my Demon mask horns for an example.

    The inset areas on the side of the skull also need some shading. Think of them as the hollow in your cheeks when applyiing blush.

    Instead of a traditional clown face, you might want to look at Day of the Dead masks for inspiration. I think you can mix the look of the two for a unique design.

  6. Hello¡ Maybe them are not what you had in mind in the begining, but I think that are a great base to make some Halloween decorations, painting them as mexican “día de los muertos faces”? or just plain crackled skulls?What is art if not trying and retrying again? I would say it’s a great start for some art to come. 😉

    • Yes, exactly – I love that you said “What is art if not trying and retrying again?” I agree completely. Several people have suggested the día de los muertos faces, and I can’t understand how I didn’t think of it myself. I’ll try that next time. 🙂

  7. These are cute, but I think I wouln’t have added the last transparent white and crackle on the black ‘shadow’ areas. That kind of defeated the illusion of the shadows. Otherwise not bad a all!


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