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End of Phase Two approaching

October 21, 2009

Certain necessities are necessary for the final result. (I feel so Victorian saying that!)

Certain necessities are necessary for the final result. (I feel so Victorian saying that!)

There are a lot of joys I’ve rediscovered with this return to paper mache. One of the upsides is that I have every excuse to go to art supplies stores whenever I want. There’s a Blick location in the Loop on State Street, and it’s so easy to get sucked in. When I was little and growing up in Athens, Ohio, I used to go to the tiny art store in the basement of Ohio University’s college bookstore at every possible opportunity. Now I find myself getting terrifically excited at the sight of Liquitex acrylic paints or the smell of soft rubber erasers. Decorating this sucker is going to be a blast.

I’m not there yet, though. The last bits of the rabbit’s base, its forelegs and underside, are drying as I type. I’ve found, for whatever reason, that blank newsprint, like the kind you get wrapped around terra cotta pots or framed prints for padding, dries very hard and so I’ve tried to make sure the rabbit as a whole has at least one to two layers of that. (It also dries very white, which gives the piece the neat effect of looking like it’s built of plaster.) I’ve seen other materials recommended around, and brown paper bags, dried cleaning wipes and matte fliers will certainly get a chance to prove themselves in future rounds. This seems like a good opportunity to point out that it’s not just the type of paper you use that makes a project stable by the end.

One of the very basic tricks I learned from Sheila McGraw was that paper mache can’t just be laid down any old way on a form. Sure, slapping strips on at crazy angles could be a little more fun, but you’d always wind up with gaps or soft spots on your piece. Not only would your final product not look as finished, it just wouldn’t hold up as well. You’re much better served by laying down all your strips for one layer in one direction, then making your next perpendicular, so they make a weave or a cross-hatch. (I really wish I had pictures for this, but my hands are always too gummy for real process shots. There may be video here if it would be help people — I certainly like having it available.)

Some people recommend using different types or sections of newspaper for different layers, so you can keep them straight as you go. For instance, you could alternate between the financial section, with all its columns of tiny numbers, and the lifestyles section, which is full of pictures and images and colors. When I was little and my dad got The Financial Times delivered, it was always gone fast, thanks to its weird orange tint. At the moment I’m pretty limited to the RedEye, Chicago’s free daily put out by the Trib, and the copies of Vive lo Hoy that no one picks up inside my apartment building’s lobby. No worries, though — so long as the piece is hard enough, no one will care once the painting starts.

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