Sunday, 29 March 2015

Mystery Project - Revealed!!

The last time I showed you my Mystery Project, it looked like this:

The pieces were all ready, they just needed to be decorated and then put back together - but for what??

Well, you probably won't remember these little guys, as they only appeared once in a photo of something else, back at Christmas time:

These funky little skeletons came home with us from Peru when we were backpacking in South America just over a year ago. These are little ceramic Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) decorations that we picked up, and I'm amazed that they made it home with us intact!

We bought these little skeletons as most of the Dia de los Muertos art that we saw was much larger, and would not have fitted in our bags to bring back - although now we are both wishing that we had given it a try!

These larger folk art pieces were not only Dia de los Muertos themed, there were all sorts of scenes, cultural and religious, that were depicted in the form of Retablos. You can read more about what Retablo means here, but they are basically 3D art forms presented in decorated wall-mounted boxes. I so wish that we had bought one while we were away, as some of them were truly beautiful, but when I searched through my photos to show you some I was disappointed to find that I hadn't taken very many (I hadn't wanted to offend the stall holders by taking photos and not buying anything). These pictures are the only Retablo pictures I have. They're not the best Retablos we saw, but they do give you an idea of what they can be like:

Picking the prickly pear cactus fruits   :)

I think that now you can probably see what I was aiming for with the MDF bits in the first picture?   :)

Not all of the Retablos had carved boxes like the one in the above picture, most of the ones I saw were painted - and in fact my favourite ones were the painted ones. This is lucky, as while I'm not great at painting, I certainly wouldn't be able to make carvings! (especially not with MDF!)

Both inside and outside of the box needed decorating, and I decided on a night-time desert theme for inside the box for our Mariachi band skeletons. The desert with cacti theme was quite a feature of the Retablos we had most liked when we were looking at them in Peru. I free-handed the scene on the inside of the box using acrylic paints and sponges, including a few cacti of my own. The weird messy bit on the bottom left was meant to be an agave plant, but the sponge defeated me for this bit.

I did a little bit of research for designs for the outside of the box to decorate the doors and the top, and for these bits I sketched the designs first, before transferring them onto the doors and top piece. Once finished, I attached the doors to the box using the little hinges I mentioned before, and used wood glue to attach the top piece. Altogether, this is how they turned out:

The bright sunlight has made the paint colours glare a bit, they aren't this bright in real life!

I'm not totally happy with my painted flowers, it's a long time since I painted anything so my work on this was not delicate enough. When I feel the inclination I will go over it again to improve it, but for now it looks ok - better in real life than it looks in the photos as the paint is not really as bright as it appears here!

The hooks you can see in the top are the key hooks that came from the key hanger, which was cut in half to make the top piece. By a happy coincidence, they were just the right length for hanging the skeletons from :)

Painted cacti are all well and good, but the proper Retablos have modelled scenery. I used floristry wire to make a rough cactus shape, and then modelled air drying clay around it. Once dry, I painted my cactus with more acrylic paint, and when that was dry I added details with an art pen, to look thusly!

The wire at the bottom helps it to stand in the box, although I do need to fix it more securely really...  I quite like my cactus, and I think I might make some more scenery in the future, when the inspiration strikes.

But for now, all that remains is to hang the skeletons in their new home, so that instead of 3 dangley skeletons with nowhere to display them, we have a (kind of) Dia de los Muertos Retablo to display!

Ta dah!!!!!

It's definitely not as good as the proper artist-made Retablos on sale in actual South America, but the skeletons themselves are authentic, and for a DIY tribute to Peruvian folk art, I'm pretty happy with it!   :)

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