Dan Reeder’s Latest Paper Mache Dragon

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Dan Reeder's latest paper mache dragon video. gourmetpapermache.com

A few weeks ago, someone forwarded a link to one of Dan Reeder’s dragon videos. She reminded me that some people haven’t yet discovered Dan’s paper mache dragons and monsters. His work is so unique and amazing that I can’t bear the idea of anyone not seeing it.

His videos are an international sensation, but I found one I hadn’t seen yet – it’s his latest video showing how he made his Dark Paper Mache Dragon. I grabbed it off his YouTube channel for this review.

I hope he doesn’t mind that I also snagged a still from the video that shows off the artist and his two very helpful cats. (If he does mind, he may send one of his dragons to teach me a lesson. That big fellow leering over his shoulder doesn’t look very friendly. Did you notice the fire in his eyes?)

Dan’s fast-motion videos are entertaining, but they move way too fast to use as actual how-to instructions for making your own dragon. Fortunately, Dan has written down all the instructions you could ever need in his two books – Papier-Mache Monsters and Paper Mache Dragons.

I think I’ve read just about every book that’s been written about paper mache, and I can say that Dan’s books are among the best. He has a natural teaching style, a wonderful sense of humor, and his instructions are organized in a way that makes it easy to follow the steps and end up with a completed project by the time you finish the book.

Dan’s dragons and monsters look complicated when they’re finished, but the steps for making them aren’t complicated at all. Just take your time to actually read all the instructions, and you’ll end up with a fabulous, and original, paper mache masterpiece.

I’m happy to say that Dan’s books and mine regularly compete for the top spots in the paper mache how-to book genre on amazon.com. Not that we’re competing, of course. No, of course not. That would be silly.  ;)

What makes Dan Reeder’s paper mache methods different?

The armatures: Dan’s method for making an armature results in a strong, lightweight form for the inside of his sculptures. Much of the inside of his large dragons and other creatures is empty space. This is especially helpful if you want to hang your sculpture on the wall, like he did with the Dark Dragon in this video, or if you’d like to hang one of these fierce beasts from the ceiling.

Or even if you just want to occasionally move your dragon so you can vacuum the floor.

The way they’re made also makes it easy to create the fluid, dynamic postures that a dragon requires.

I have to admit that I made a large dragon a few years ago and I didn’t follow Dan’s instructions. I should have – my dragon would have turned out much better, it would have been finished in much less time, and it would have been a lot lighter. Next time…

The head of this dragon is a “segment” of the armature that has been cut open to create the open mouth. This is the easiest method I’ve ever seen for creating an open-mouthed creature.

The “cloth mache”: The final skin on his monsters and dragons is probably what Dan is most famous for. He uses torn bed sheets instead of paper for the final covering. In the video you’ll see him making the folds beneath his dragon’s chin and neck with the cloth, too. The cloth mache is really strong. He has a blog post that shows one of his dragons that’s been perching in a tree in Seattle for several years without any water damage – I looked for it so I could link to it in this post, but I can’t find it. If you know where it is, please let us know.

I have to admit that I don’t know what Dan is using for those flat scales on his dragon in the video. It looks like traditional paper pulp, but I could be wrong. does anyone know? If not, I’ll go to his Facebook page and see if he can remember where it is.

I do know (since I read his books) that he uses house paint to color his dragons and monsters. His books show how he gets the interesting painted finish. It isn’t as hard as it looks.

If you want to know exactly how his dragons are made, check out his books on amazon.com. When  your dragon is finished, you can show him off on Dan’s site at https://gourmetpapermache.com/your-paper-mache/ – but we want to see it, too, so be sure come back to this blog when it’s done and show us how it turned out.

Have you already made something using Dan’s instructions? Tell us all about  it in the comments below. Better yet, show us with an image added to your comment.


15 thoughts on “Dan Reeder’s Latest Paper Mache Dragon”

  1. how did he get the newpaper core out without it sticking? I wonder if one could wrap the core in plastic wrap , then Vasline to make for more easy removal when making a hollow form. My other question is, how did he attach it to the wood base?

    • Hi Janine. It’s been awhile since I read his book, and I can’t remember how he got the paper out. The plastic wrap would certainly work. As for attaching it to the base, you’d want to ask him. You can find his Facebook page here. While you’re there, be sure to take a look at his other wonderful creations. His methods might be perfect for your fantasy creatures.

  2. I am in the very last steps of finishing my colt. I’m going to add some varnish and try to darken him up a bit to give him an antique look. His name is Buckwheat and he has been a project of pure joy for me. He is my first paper mache anything ever and I hope to improve as I go. I see so many wonderful ones on this blog that all of you do and hope to eventually to get as good. I used real horse hair for his mane and tail from my old buckskin horse Fred. I know he doesn’t have many years left and I will now always have keepsake of sweet horse Fred.

  3. I have made several sculptures using Dan’s methods with the cloth and glue, a couple of monsters and this one of my dog Sam. I use his method to make open mouths for my dog sculptures, putting cloth mache on the inside and using paper mache clay on the outside. The cloth tends to wrinkle up a little when it dries, so I don’t normally use it on my sculptures unless I want that look. But it is very strong and light, so it’s good for covering skinny parts like a tail.

  4. Wow! Jonni! Thanks for pointing this guy out. I LOVE the wire mesh and cloth idea and the simplicity of just using Elmer’s glue. I’ll bet old, or new, muslin sheets would be great because of the light weight and looser weave.( Do they even still make these?) I would think your “cloth like” paper ” shop towels” would work fine with the white glue too. I have not been aware of this fine guage mesh but will definitely look into it. What a great armature! The Gourmet Paper Mache videos are fun. He’s very entertaining.

      • I saw the devil mask video. I have been in touch with him on where to get the mesh. It’s Amaco Diamond mesh from Dick Blick. Yes, I will try this technique. I have your books so I ordered his book, “Monsters,” which he says is his most comprehensive for instructions and materials. I started reading it online. He is very funny in his book too!

  5. He is very funny, extremely talented. I would love to try his cloth mache method sometime, though I am not too interested in making dragons or monsters. Maybe that will change when my grandson grows up a bit.

    • I think the cloth mache would work as well with birds or any other kind of critter. Or figure sculptures, too. The glue and water mixture he uses seems to dry pretty stiff, so it might be a way to get draping over a figure sculpture, or the wrinkles on a Shar-Pei.


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