Project Difficulty Level: Challenging
My first project for this new blog is a paper mache dragon, which I made in honor of my readers over at my other site, DrawFluffy.com
This dragon is made from newspaper, paste, masking tape and paint. The total cost was under $5 – an art project for the true cheapskate! Feel free to use the ideas and instructions to make your own paper mache dragon, with your own individual creative touches, of course!
The first step in making a small sculpture from paper mache is to create the basic form. For this project I used newspapers twisted into a general shape and then wound together with masking tape. For inspiration, I looked at the beautiful drawings of dragons in the book Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons.
Note: be sure to keep any books or other items a loooong way away from your paper mache projects – you’ll be making a big mess, and you wouldn’t want to ruin a nice book.
I create both hind legs before attaching them to the body, so I’ll know they’re both basically the same size. The legs are attached so the top (hip) is near the dragon’s backbone.
I don’t pay any attention to details, like toes, in this stage. I’m just trying to build the general shape of the dragon, and give him (her?) an interesting posture.
The back legs are on, and now the front legs are being attached. I include the shoulder section in the leg, and I continue to add masking tape to cover the paper. The masking tape helps make the inner form stronger.
Now the tail has been added, along with some spiny points along the backbone. Then the tail and hind legs are taped securely to a board.
The wings have been added. The wings are first made with a twist of paper in the same shape as a front leg (arm?) and attached to the body. I then cut some cardboard from a cereal box and folded it like a fan. This has been taped securely to the wing’s ‘bones’.
Adding wings to an animal that already has front legs is a real challenge, because the front legs are attached in the place where wings would go. (Wings are front legs, with feathers added). One can only hope that the final sculpture will look halfway reasonable.
Now for the fun, messy part. I dip each torn piece of newspaper into the flour and water paste, and then wipe off the extra paste against the side of the bowl. Then the paper is laid on the body and pressed down as smooth as possible.
This is continued until the entire dragon has been covered. I also covered the masking tape that holds the dragon to the board.
The weight of the wet paper will cause the form to lose it’s shape, so a paper roll props up the dragon until the first layer dries.
Once the first layer is completely dry, another layer is added, the form is propped up again, and allowed to dry again.
This sculpture will not be played with, so it only needs two layers of newsprint and paste. Once these layers have dried, the form is strong enough to stand on it’s own.
Now the features are added with tiny bits of paper towel dipped in paste.In this photo you can see I’ve added the mouth, eyes, nostrils, ears, and chin whiskers.
The toes have also been added, and a layer of paper town has been added to the rest of the dragon, because it produced a very nice leathery texture.
The features are left to dry, and then the entire sculpture is covered with a layer of paste, diluted with a small amount of carpenters glue. This helped to smooth out the texture and gives the dragon a smooth, slightly bumpy skin. Once the top layer of paste is dry, the dragon is covered with white primer.
The dragon is now painted with antique copper paint, which I purchased from the crafts section at the local Walmart. The base is painted black.
Using a fairly dry brush, I start to add the color to the dragon. The first layer of green has been added in this picture. Some of the copper still shows through. (I could have stopped at this point – but I’m not too excited about the bright green as a color for a large, imposing and scary creature. I thought he (she?) needed some more work.) As I continue painting, I mix some of the green with silver paint, and I add some copper, black and silver spots along the dragon’s side. I paint the eyes last.
The finished paper mache dragon:
After all the painting was done, and all the paint was dried, I finished the sculpture with water-based verathane mixed with a small amount of copper paint. This protects the sculpture, and the copper helped pull the colors together and made the skin patterns more subtle. The dragon is finished – now, on to my next project!