Everything is impermanent.
A goodly percentage of my friends believe that you can never start celebrating Halloween too early. Since moving to Tucson, I get more excited about All Souls’ than Halloween, and this year I decided to create a Dia de los Muertos feel for the early autumn bulletin board. I also documented a lot of my process. The welcome back-to-school butterfly has faded and died, and moved on to a new journey via the recycling bin, and we move from a symbol of transformation and life to a symbol of permanence and death: the calaveras.
All you need to get started.
This little sketch was undertaken at 3 a.m. the night before, which is not bad. Sometimes I get in there with very little idea of what I actually intend to create. This is the first time I’ve ever made a thumbnail. You know that metric ruler belongs to the elementary school, and you know I’m the only one who uses it.
Clockwise, from top left: blank background, dress based on a traditional folklorico design, pieces laid out inside, scalpel for interior details.
To begin, I tear down the old bulletin board, then get some butcher paper and create a new background, which takes 2 layers of paper and a lot of staples. I sketch out the individual pieces freehand and then cut them out with a pair of scissors, but for the interior details, I’ll often use a small blade.
Everything went smoothly up to this point; although I often feel a panicky sense of self doubt at the beginning, worrying if my art skills are good enough to pull off whatever I see in my head, getting the shapes out of the paper ended up being a simple process.
Transferring the cut-outs from the table to the bulletin board can be more of a challenge. For one thing, it’s windy out there, and for another, gravity works against me. Pretty much the first thing I did was accidentally dump half a bottle of rubber cement onto all the clothes while trying to place them, so I had to stop and clean that up. After that, things moved slowly, but with less incident.
Clockwise from top left: wind ruffles the first pieces; staples create detail in the sombrero; staples create detail on hem; a few flowers.
A combination of rubber cement and staples seems to be the best choice for affixing paper to paper. The cemented edges may loosen over the next few weeks, but the staples will keep them from coming completely apart. The staples keep the entire design up; if I don’t use enough, sometimes the wind picks the paper up and steals it away. This has happened a few times, and once I never found it again. So, I try to use the staples as design elements. Instead of adding stripes to the clothing, I’ve used staples to create the accents. When the skeletons were satisfactorily placed, there wasn’t room for much text, and I couldn’t think of anything appropriate, so I just added some more flowers to keep things lively.
This was a relatively fast design: four hours from start to finish. Cutting letters probably would have doubled that. I’m pretty satisfied with the finished product, although I liked the faces better in my sketch. At any rate, this seems like a good way to kick off the season.
Happy Halloween, Samhaim, Dia de los Muertos, All Souls, what have you. In October, things die, and we rejoice in the fact that we’re still alive to lament their passing.