Paper Mache Ice Dragon – a little cloth mache before the horns

Okay, I know I said I’d do horns next.  But I decided I wanted a layer of cloth skin on the head first.    It would be a much better surface for using hot glue to apply the horns.   So a quick cloth mache on the face.

I always fold the cloth to use for eyelids.  I usually do under the eyes first. 

cloth mache under eye

Then over.  The nice thing about wrapping eyes with the cloth is that wrinkles occur naturally adding a touch of realism.

cloth mache over eye 

cloth mache around the eyes

I fold a long strip of cloth for lips, then fill in above them with pieces of cloth.

cloth mache lips

I push a large square piece of cloth into the nose and piddle around until I get the shape of nostril I like.   

cloth mache nose

cloth mache nose finished

I’m very happy with the way the eyes look with the lights off.  The clear cast resin with irises and pupil ground from the back with a Drumel have a nice look to them.  

very cool clear cast eyes

Okay, horns next.  I promise. 

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Paper Mache Ice Dragon – Mount the head, add eyes and nostrils

Head Mount- Eyes and Nose

I know it’s been a little while since I posted last.   But I am posting almost real time and I need to work before posting.  Thank you for your patience (except for the guy who wanted to know when the video would be done.  🙂  Of course I’m just like that myself.  I want what I want, now.).  

So I left off having securely attached the neck to the wood plaque.  

neck on plaque

Time to start the real fun.  First, I attached the bottom and top jaws to the neck using lots of masking tape.  

taping on the paper mache jaws

Next, I added some cheeks.  This is just wadded paper wrapped with masking tape.   For these details I really like phone book paper.  It compresses nicely. 

Add cheeks  

Next, I added the eyes.   After experimenting with all the eye candidates, putting them on, taking them off, putting them back on, taking them back off, eating cookies, putting them on, taking them off, I decided I liked the ones I made with the clear casting resin.   They look the best with lights behind them.  I think they also look the best without the lights on, and since the trophy will spend most of the time without the lights on, this was the deciding factor.  I did make a slight change to them however.  I used a Drummel to grind a small groove where the lens would be.  Then I roughed up the part that would be the irises.   I’m happy with the look.

resin eyes 

First I hot glued some foil where the eyes would go to help reflect the light forward.  I glued the little clump of lights (nine I think) in place then used masking tape to secure the eyes in front of the lights.   

adding the lights behind the eyes

adding clear cast eyes

Then I fashioned some thick eye brows and taped them on.   

adding brows

So here is the basic head.  

mounted paper mache head

I also decided to add some nostrils with a few lights inside.  This time I used aluminum foil to create the basic shape.  

Add foil nostrils

Nostrils with lights on

Thanks for stopping by.  Horns next!

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Paper Mache Ice Dragon – Wood Plaques and the Neck

I have to say at this point that much work has happened and yet I haven’t even started the final assembly when the dragon starts looking like a dragon.  That will come with the next post, I promise.     As you can see, a lot of this process could be considered “grunt work,” all in preparation for the final sculpt.  Because of this, these projects can take many, many (add a couple more “many”s if you want) hours.  I tried counting a few times but always just lost track.   Luckily, I enjoy every part of the process, even what most people consider very boring and repetitive.  That’s why I’m still doing this work after many decades. 

Soooo, about Wood Plaques and necks….

I’ve made many trophies that just hung on the wall, that were not mounted to any kind of wood backing.   Those work very well when you want it to look as if the dragon was coming through or out of the wall.   But lately I’ve been mounting the trophies to wood plaques.  The downside is that it looks as though the dragon has been killed.    It really bothers some people.  (I think I’ve have heard from them all.)   But in case I’ve missed one of you, let me say unequivocally, I have never actually killed a dragon.  

Anyway, I buy my plaques from the same taxidermy companies where I get my eyes.  They are all great quality and reasonably priced.   Here is the one I’m using for this piece. 

wood plaque

Many of the people who have used my techniques to make trophies have made their own plaques.   I made a very big one for my five-headed Tiamat dragon.  It adds a nice touch. 

Paper mache Tiamat Dragon 

The neck.  

Time to cut open the paper mache neck.   I cut off both ends and pulled out the wads of paper that I used to make it.  

paper mache neck cut off bottom of paper mache neck

I’m left with a fairly strong, light, paper mache shell.  As a bonus I am able to use the wads of paper again. I  toss them into a box for future projects.  

pull out paper wads

I wanted my trophy to come out of the plaque facing slightly downward and with a little turn of the head (just like in the drawing of Viserian that I put in the first post).  So I trimmed the shell so that it would sit the way I wanted on the plaque.    When I had the position I wanted I traced around it with a Sharpie  (to use for mounting later).  

cut paper mache shell for plaque trim paper mache shell

Battery packs. 

I need to take a side trip here before showing how to attach the neck to the plaque.  Since I am using battery powered l.e.d.s I need a place for the battery packs.    In this case I will have four packs that I want to hide inside the neck.   After drilling a hole in the middle of the plaque that I’ll use to hang the project (that hole will go over a screw in the wall) I cut two holes that were the same size as the battery packs. 

trace battery packs cut holes in plaque

I hot glued two packs back to back and also added a strip of duct tape (for good measure) to hold them together. 

better packs hot glued together 

Then I drilled a round oblong cut-outs on each of the wood pieces that had been cut out.  I inserted pieces of wire clothes hanger bent into a square. I used the wire to hold the battery packs to the pieces of wood.  The oblong holes allow me to grab the wire when pulling out the battery packs.  

wire bent into square2 battery packs together

Connecting the Neck to the plaque.

The shape of these trophies require a very secure connection to the wood plaque.   This is especially true if the trophy sports a long neck.  While the trophies themselves are not terribly heavy, a long neck will create significant torque.  Glue by itself is not strong enough to keep the trophy on the wood.   I use pieces of wire clothes hanger to secure the neck to the plaque.   

First I drill holes around the perimeter of the neck. 

drilling holes through plaque

Then I bend pieces of wire clothes hanger into “U” shapes.  

U shaped wire

I push the ends through the holes from the back of the plaque. 

wires through plaque

I make little hooks at the end of the wires (on the neck side) that I push into the paper mache shell.  I hold them in place with masking tape.  

hook on wires Neck with wires inside

Then I add a couple layers of cloth mache.  

cloth mache on neck

When dry this becomes a very strong, secure platform to finish sculpting the dragon.

Hang in there.  Next post this will start to look like a dragon!

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Paper Mache Ice Dragon – Even More About Jaws

I know what you are thinking…..fergodssake!  More about jaws!  Yep.  This is the last one, I promise. 

As you know I decided to use blue l.e.d. lights with this project.  Normally I would bunch lights and put them in the back of the jaws.  But these jaws will be more closed, so I’m trying something different.   I really want the icy teeth to reflect the blue light.   So I punched holes in the jaws and inserted the l.e.d.s into them. 

paper mache jaws with lights  poking holes for lights

paper mache jaws with lights  poking leds in the jaw

Then I taped the loose wires on the outside.  

paper mache jaws with lights  taped

What is great about this is that these l.e.d.s blend into the jaws when they are off.

paper mache jaws with lights  off

paper mache jaws with lights

 And when they are on, they do a nice job of reflecting the light, just as I wanted.   

paper mache jaws with lights final

The real fun is coming soon.   Assembly.

Thanks for stopping by!

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Paper Mache Ice Dragon- More work in the Jaws

More About the Jaws.  

There is more to be done to these jaws.    First is to dry brush a few highlights.   A dark pink I think. 

highlight tongue

Same with the tongue.   

highlight tongue

Next a little glue.  What?  

glue for glitter

And some, gulp, glitter!  

adding glitter to jaws

Okay, I don’t really like glitter either, although you wouldn’t know it from my last project, Alduin (and I heard plenty of complaints about it, so I don’t really need any more thanks.)   This is a very fine glitter and it’s going to go a long way toward making the dragon look frozen.      

finished jaws

The blue lights on these is going to look great.   Trust me.

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Paper Mache Ice Dragon – Jaws and Tongue

About jaws.

Well, I’ve been working hard on this project.   I’m sure some of you are already saying, “when is he going to get to the interesting part?”   And my answer would be, “never.”   This isn’t quite true, but it must be clear by now that most of the work on a project like this is building the parts.   I make one horn I like, then I make a dillion more.   I make a few teeth I like, then I make a half dillion slightly different sizes of them, just in case I change my mind about what I want to use.    And I have to stop often to gab a few chocolate chips.    (Julie keeps a bag in the freezer for when she decides to make cookies.   Of course I found them and every so often I sneak a handful.)   (A few days later I realize there are only a few chips left in the bag and must seriptitiously get to the  store and buy a replacement bag.)(I finally got caught because I bought the wrong brand.)   

Anyway, it’s time to make some jaws.   Perhaps the most recognizable feature of the steps I have put together for making dragons concerns the jaws.   Not only are the teeth and tongue, and the mouth generally, very important to the look of a dragon, the jaws constitute the basic armature of the piece.   

First I cut open the paper mache piece I made earlier.   Then I pull out the wad of paper leaving two half shells, ie.  the upper and lower jaws.

cut paper mache shell open up jaws shell

shells of jaws

I use hot glue to attach the teeth until I can “cloth mache” them in place.  More about that later.   Keeping in the spirit of the Viserion drawing, I lined the insides of the jaws with teeth, then added a few on the outside as well giving the jaws a really full look.  

put on teeth with hot glue

Between the clear teeth and the large number of them I think these jaws are rather dramatic.   I like them!  

cool jaws

I need a nice tongue.    I always make my tongues the same way.  I twist a sheet of paper, in this case phone book paper, around two pieces of wire clothes hanger.    I twist so that it tapers to a point.  Then I wrap with masking tape.  Once I have the two parts, I put a length of masking tape along the back.  Just the back.  I want to leave a crease on the top.  I will accentuate that when I add the cloth.

pieces of tongue 

tape on tongue

The wire in the tongue makes it easy to bend into interesting shapes.  I wanted a little curl at the end of this one.   

bend tongue

As most of you know, after sculpting with paper mache, I add a “skin” of cloth (old bed sheets) dipped in white glue.  Many years ago, with the publication of my first book, I dubbed this process “cloth mache” for lack of a better term.   This note that this term is used all the time now.   Adding this skin to a paper mache project makes it very strong, and it allows for great detail.  

cloth and jaws

I tear the old bed sheet into long strips and then cut them into shorter pieces.   I use these small strips to anchor the teeth.  I fold them and then wrap each tooth.   The fold in the cloth is a great facsimile for gums. 

wrap teeth with cloth more teeth wrapping

Once all the teeth are wrapped, a put a large piece of glue soaked cloth in the middle of the jaw.  Because the cloth is bigger than the jaw, wrinkles naturally form as you lay it.   Again, this method of anchoring teeth and creating the palate with cloth is characteristic of my dragon making methods.   It works very well.  

add cloth to jaws cloth palate  

I also wrap the tongue with the cloth mache.   As I mentioned, I accentuate the crease in the tongue by pushing the cloth in the gap between the two parts.   

cloth mache tongue

Initial Painting

I decided to keep with the dark, but very cold, color scheme in the Viserion drawing as well.   So I first painted the jaws purple.  Then I “blackwashed” them.  That is, I painted on watered down black paint, then wiped it off before it dried.   In the furniture world this would be called “antiquing.”  But since I was projects with lots of different colors, it makes more sense to me to call this process blackwashing.   So I do.

paint jaws blackwash jaws

blackwashing jaws

I painted the tongue a dark pink and blackwashed it as well. 

paint tongue blackwash tongue 

I will stop here.  There is a bit more to do with these jaws and tongue, too much for tonight.  I’ll finish them off next post.  

Thanks for stopping by!

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Paper Mache Ice Dragon – More horns and some teeth

As I said, I’ve been busy with the clear resin.   I made more horns of various sizes.   I don’t know if this will be enough.  I’ll make more if needed.      I also made some teeth (I’ll show you how next post).    Before showing you those I want to say that I’ve made teeth out of many different substances over the years.   I’ve used regular, fired and glazed clay.  I’ve carved them out of wood.   And I’ve used actual teeth.   For a time I was selling to a lot of dentists.   And every so often I’d get an anonymous box of teeth in the mail, teeth pulled from humans.   They are pretty cool for human-like projects.  And sometimes I would turn them over and use the roots for a dragon or some other beast.   But I mostly use polymer clay nowadays.  Some examples in the photo below:  Pearl Fimo (top row), Florescent Fimo (second row), black Sculpey (third row), cow teeth (fourth row), and human teeth (last row).  However, I won’t be using any of those this time.

various teeth

This time I wanted teeth that, like the horns, are made of ice, only I wanted them to be very smooth.   So I needed better molds.   I bought some alginate, the same stuff your dentist uses to make molds of your mouth.   It’s fun to use, just add water and work fast.    I mixed the alginate and pushed in some Fimo teeth, then pulled them out after the alginate set.   

alginate teeth in mold

teeth mold finished

I filled them with the clear resin and let them sit overnight.   They still had the waxy coating when I pulled them out of the mold.  (Sorry, the photo is really out of focus.  It happens once in a while.)   It took a few days to cure.   

adding resin to teeth teeth out of mold

Like the horns, I think they turned out beautifully, exactly as I wanted.  

cool resin teeth

As I mentioned in a previous post, I also wanted to make some crystal clear resin eyes.   I used the alginate to make those as well.  I used impressions of a couple different eyes from my stash.   

cool resin teeth

More later.

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Paper Mache Ice Dragon – about eyes

This post is about eyes.

As I mentioned, while the paper mache pieces are drying I do other things.   One of the most important decisions about a dragon project is the what to do about the eyes.   I buy most of my eyes from taxidermy companies even though I admit an emotional conflict with that industry.   When I look at “cat” eyes for sale, like lynx or tiger, it makes me a bit ill to think that someone actually kills those animals to have them stuffed.  And large Aftrican animals…  don’t even get me started.   But I just can’t make eyes like the ones made by the cottage industry that makes eyes for taxidermists.  They are beautiful glass pieces of art.  The water based paint I use on my projects don’t stick to the glass so I can paint over them and later scrape it off.  (That is actually one of the best parts of the project.  I feature it in all my videos.)  And they are correctly shaped.  I’ve seen some cool eyes made by pasting photos of irises to the back of cabochons.  But the flat surface on the back just doesn’t give any depth.    Just not the right shape for me.  But I digress.

I have lots of eyes already to choose from. 

     lots of eyes       

But of course none of them are right for this project.   So I’ve been playing with some ideas.    I’ll talk about a few in successive posts.   I want to warn you… you can give me opinions about the eyes I show you, but it probably won’t effect my decision.   Don’t get offended if I don’t choose your favorite.   

For this piece I started by looking at the eyes they are using on Game of Thrones for the newly dead Viserion.    They are a very nice blue.   (I love the last scene of the episode when he opened his newly blue eyes for the first time.)   Here is what they looked like.

Viscerion eyes

I don’t have any eyes like that in my stash.  So I decided to experiment and see if I could get something close.    I have a few “blanks” laying around. 

 blanks first paint eyes

I first paint a few dark blue streaks.    Then quickly while it’s still very wet I add some white and then see what happens when they blend.   If I don’t like what I see I throw them in a container of water, wash out the paint, and start over.   Here are a few contenders I got using this process.   

four painted eyes

As I said, these are just contenders.  I have a few more things to try before I make any decision.

More Ice Dragon eye experiments.

So I’ve been experimenting with more options for eyes.   I have to say that I haven’t just been debating in my head about eyes.  I’ve been wrestling with whether to add lights to this project.    I’ve added lights to the last 4 or 5 dragons and it started to feel a little same-old, same-old.   So I wasn’t going to put lights in this dragon.   But then my friend Rick P convinced me that this project might be cool with blue lights.  I already had some white lights around, and I ordered some blue just to see.  They just came today.   Rick also reminded me that most of the time the lights would be turned off anyway.   And I’ve been asked many times about my methods for adding lights, so putting light in the project would answer all of those inquiries.   

Putting lights behind eyes changes everything so far as the eyes I showed earlier.    I know that putting lights behind eyes that I paint myself usually don’t look very good.  Below are some examples.  On the left is one of the painted eyes with white lights behind it.   And on the right I used blue lights.   The blue lights make them look a little better, but overall I don’t like my painted eyes with lights.

white lights behind eyes blue lights behind eyes

Something that does work well with lights behind them are glass taxidermy eyes that I’ve ground out the paint in the back with a Drummel tool.  Here are a couple of those with lights behind them.   I have to say that I do like the frosty look of the eyes without the lights on.  And these eyes look a lot like the eyes in the drawing on the first post when the lights are on.   

eyes with paint grinded off more frosty eyes

Here is the eye on the left with blue l.e.d. lights behind it.

blue light behind frosted

The camera doesn’t really capture how this really looks.

By the way, before I decided to use l.e.d. lights I toyed with the idea of using the frosted glass eyes withn some flourescent Fimo behind them.   Here is how that would look in the dark.   Kind of cool, but too yellow in the daylight, and too yellow at night.   They need to be white-ish or blue-ish.

fluorescent fimo fimo behind eye

And,….I’ve also been doing more with the clear casting resin.   I made many more horns, and I also made some teeth that look like they are made of crystal clear ice.   I really like them.   I will have a post showing that process soon.   While I was making the molds for those teeth I also made molds of some of the glass eyes I have.  I used them to make eyes out of clear casting resin.   I think they look great also.   Like the teeth, they look like eyes that are made of clear ice.    I really like the look of these with the lights off.   The verdict is still out as to how they look with the lights behind them.   In fact, the verdict is still out about all of the eyes I’ve played with so far.    But I think the eyes I’ll use will be some of the ones I’ve shown in the last few posts.  I probably won’t make up my mind until I’m ready to install them on the dragon.  

resin eyes no light resin with white light behind

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Paper Mache Ice Dragon – Paper Mache the pieces

Back to the Ice Dragon.

Time to paper mache. I usually do this first. Then while the pieces are drying it I work on teeth, horns, eyes etc.. But as I mentioned earlier I wanted to get some horns I liked before even starting the project. Once again, this isn’t the greatest format for a tutorial. I will just list some steps over a couple posts and hopefully you can match the step with the photos.

1) I start by unfolding a pile of newspaper. I’ve heard that it’s getting harder to find newspaper. Luckily we still have one paper in my city and I subscribe to it. That subscription gives me way more paper than I need. While other paper will work (like phone book paper) newspaper is still the best.

I crumple wads of paper by wrapping one sheet over the next compressing a little more on one end to get the shape I want. When I get the size I need I wrap it with masking tape. This will be the head of the trophy. Here I’m using 1 and 1/2 inch tape, but you can use the 1 inch also.

first crumple crumple

add tape to wad

2) The neck will be too big to make just one wad of paper. So I make several smaller wads and then tape them together.

Neck wads

3) Tear up some newspaper into strips. No teeny weenie strips here. I take a section of paper and tear it from the fold downward into two pieces. There is a grain to the paper and it will tear straight. Make one tear in the middle, and another at the edge to get rid of the fold. Then find the middle of the crease at the top and tear there.

tear paper into strips stack of paper

4) I use just cheap white flour, the kind where all the nutrients have been removed, and water. That’s it. If you look online you will find as many recipes as there are paper mache artists. Some add salt. Some heat the mixture. I just use warm water because it feels nicer. I mix it with my hands until it’s the consistency of soup. I know that is kind of a loose measurement. But there is no perfect ratio. It’s sort of one to one, but it gets thicker as I work, so I add water every so often anyway. You will know the right mix when you get it. It will just work. Btw, you can use white glue instead of flour and water paste if you want (or if you are allergic to flour).  I keep a container of water to add as I go because the paste will get thicker as I work.

flour paste

5) If you learn one thing from me about this process it needs to be this. Put ONLY YOUR HANDS into the paste, NOT the paper! Keeping your hands very wet, put one (and only one) sheet of paper on a time. Make sure the paper is completely wet before adding another sheet of paper. Doing it this way will ensure that you don’t get lumps of paster between layers of paper or air bubbles. When you put paper into the paste it starts to disintegrate and it come apart in the paste. It will also give you clumps of paste between layers insuring that it won’t dry very well. If you do this right, the pieces will be light and very strong.

mache 1 add water

6) Continue until you’ve applied about 5 or 6 layers of paper. Again this is not a hard and fast rule. Make sure it’s at least 3 layers, but don’t make it 10. Put the pieces somewhere warm to dry. Turn them every day or so to expose the wet parts. It can take up to a week for these to dry. Be patient! Do NOT put these in the oven or the microwave or anyplace else stupid. Use the drying time to do other parts of the project.

The head and the neck. Remember, patience is a virtue! 

head mached neck mached

Okay, for those of you that aren’t patient….and I know who you are, you have written to me many times asking how to speed up the drying. So here is the only way that works. Take a big box, big enough to cover all of the pieces. Cut a rectangular or round hole in the top of the box just big enough to fit the end of your hair dryer. Push the end of the hair dryer into the hole. Turn it on LOW for little while, just enough to warm the air. Prop the box up just enough to let some of the moist air escape. Do this in bursts a few minutes at a time then let the warm air do its job. Every so often turn the pieces to expose the wet areas. Even with this method it will take a couple of days to dry. Find something else to do! Work on the teeth. Eat. Watch “Blade Runner 2049” once again, the best movie of 2017. Do not leave the hair dryer on unattended! More later.

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Egads! I think I confused many people with my last post.

My last post was a hail Mary post aimed solely at a woman from South America who wrote to me asking for advice about making a paper mache tree.   I accidentally erased her email because it was a large file with photos.   I did not lose anyone else’s emails.   I have now received a few emails worried that they were no longer on my email list.   Actually, I do not maintain an email list of any kind.   The woman’s email I lost was in my inbox.

So sorry for the confusion.  Unless you are the woman from South America (she didn’t sign it with her name, just that she was from South America) then don’t worry.  Nothing has changed.

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