Paper Mache Dragonfly -equivocation hell

Hi everyone.  Well, as soon as I shipped my Tiamat project I got back to work on my dragon-like dragonfly.    That’s what I was calling it, because it was supposed to be dragon-like in every way I could make it.     But pretty quickly I started down that path we all get into once in a while (at least I hope I’m not the only one) when no sooner than I’d make a decision about some aspect of the piece I’d change my mind.    And when that starts happening, it’s sort of like a hot flash, you know it’s only going to get worse before it gets better.   (yeh, men get hot flashes too)

One of the reasons I haven’t posted in a while is because I was waiting for this to stop.  I was waiting for an artistic path to make itself clear, and then I would report on the happy traveling.     But now the sculpting is almost complete and I still haven’t gotten out of that equivocation hell.   So I guess I’ll just write about it.

It started with the eyes.  As I mentioned in my last post about this project I decided to paint my own eyes.  I wanted dragon-like eyes, but big, like a bug.  I was happy with them at first, until I put them on the project.  Here is the first look.

paper mache dragonfly - old face

I added some horns.  Dragons have horns.   But it didn’t help.  It already started looking much more bug-ish than I wanted.

paper mache dragonfly - first face

Then I added some tentacle-like things.

paper mache dragonfly - old eyes other side

Meanwhile, I made the eight arms/legs.  I wanted basic bug arms but dragon-ish hands.  Here are the hands before cloth.

dragonfly hands

Here are the finished arms/legs.

paper mache dragonfly- arms

I added some detail to the tail. I emphasized the segmentation.  I like the way this turned out.

paper mache dragonfly- tail

Here it is from the side after everything was assembled and most of the cloth mache skin was added.   But I’ll tell you, I just hated the eyes.   It’s not rational.   It was all bug.  No dragon.  Which then made the neck seem odd.  I was ready to put it out with the trash (my garbage collectors might have gotten a kick out of it).  By the way, I will fix that bump where the wings stick out.  I will build it up between the neck and the top of the wings to make a better transition between the two.

paper mache dragonfly- old eyes

After lots of back and forth I got up at 3 in the morning and tore the eyes out.  It was very satisfying.

paper mache dragonfly- eyes out

Later in the morning I replaced them with these dark green alligator eyes.

paper mache dragonfly side

I think I like this better……but I’m not sure.  Argh.

paper mache dragonfly finished

Here’s how it stands at the moment.   It’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever made.  In fact, it’s ugly.  But I must finish it after putting in this much time.

paper mache dragonfly

Maybe the paint will help.  Maybe if I paint it and change my mind and paint it again, and again, and again, I’ll like it.

I’ve also been working on a couple of commissions.  I’ll show you those at some point.  They are going much better.

More soon.   Take care.   Make art.

About danmonsterman

I've been a paper mache artist for many years. Visit my website for instructional videos, galleries, and everything else paper mache. Or visit my WebPress blog,
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78 Responses to Paper Mache Dragonfly -equivocation hell

  1. Helen Champanis says:

    I don’t think it is ugly. I think it is rather nice. And interesting. You are so talented. It brings joy to see your work. Greetings from Cape Town, South Africa. Regards Helen.

    • Hi Helen. You are very kind. Glad you don’t think it’s too ugly. I’m okay enough with it to paint. Some projects just don’t flow as easily as others. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  2. Daniel Sampson says:

    I think it’s awesome. The legs might be a bit bunched up, but it still looks good.

  3. Leslie says:

    I like it – I think the bigger bump in front of the wings will make it more “dragonfly-ish” I liked the first eyes, too, and these alligator eyes are also good. Sometimes a particular project takes on a life of it’s own and you just have to go with it and see what happens. Tell ya what, I’m glad those creatures aren’t hovering over the pond out back!

    • Hey Leslie. Yes, it looks a lot better with that bump added. I should post a photo with that changed. I let it sit for a week and now I feel better about it. I’ll paint it now. Thanks for the note!

  4. Nina says:

    Love it! I love all of your work! It’s going to be beautiful! Can hardly wait to see the finished project!

  5. Brenda Moehlig says:

    I love it. As with all your work. You don’t see your own greatness.

  6. repurposequeen says:

    I think it’s amazing, you just don’t see your own greatness. I love everything you do. I don’t even like dragonflies. Not that I dislike them, but just not into them….until now. Lol

  7. Kat says:

    I LOVE him/her/it. I think I missed something. You mentioned you made 8 legs and I only see 6 so did you throw 2 legs out with the eyes at 3 in the morning? I am presuming that you are going for more dragon than dragonfly. I myself like the bug aspect stronger with this piece. You have done so many dragons it is nice to see a little variation on this piece. I like the green eyes better but my first thought was alien when the photo came up. We all know what happens when you start to add the paint and details, everything can change in a blink of an eye.

  8. William Mills says:

    What you do not like I find beautiful. Yep I am weird. I would love to be the curator of your not quite up to your standards. lol

  9. Marie says:

    It is so refreshing to hear another artist talk about getting stuck in the overthinking mental loops that mangle the creative process. Some pieces are harder than others. But this is a great piece! Keep at it! If you don’t end up loving it, you’ll have learned a ton for the next project. (But it is still a great piece!)

  10. IvonesioRamos says:

    certainly it will be very good after painting!

  11. Lyman says:

    That thing is the stuff of nightmares!
    I’m redoing a project of my own – sometimes it just doesn’t feel right.
    May I humbly offer an unsolicited suggestion? You could give him a more dragonish aspect if the jaws were shut! I know – all that work. Take it for what it’s worth.
    Thanks for sharing!

  12. I think he is awesome. Love the green eyes. If you are dissatisfied, maybe put him out of sight and mind and work on other things for a while? He may need a cocoon period before he can emerge in his final form!

    • Thank you intrepid woman. Yes, I’ve done that a little. That’s why it has taken me so long to post. I’ve been working on a couple other projects as well, just to get some space. But eventually I had to build up courage and get back to it.

  13. Great job so far can’t wait to see it finished. I almost threw out the dragon I stated 4 years ago but he is finished except for a protective coat and it’s to cold right now.
    Waiting to see your commissions you are working on!!

  14. Taylor Bowman says:

    I like it-I think it is pretty neat. The profile alone is simply awesome. But needless to say you are genius!

  15. D. L. Cook says:

    I know you don’t put ear frills on all your dragons and they still look like dragons, but do you think maybe some small ones on this project might make it look more dragon-like instead of bug-like? I don’t know I just visualize it more with ear frills. Otherwise,
    I think it looks pretty great! 🙂

  16. Penelope says:

    I am absolutely in love with it..Leave it just the way it is. !!!! It’s awesome !!!

  17. diane sorensen says:

    I absolutely love it! Yes, I have done some “eye ripping” myself and understand the feeling. It is not ugly. It is exceptional!


  18. melanie white says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this with me. It is quite something and I know when completed it will be totally cool. “you are the best”.

  19. Diana Avina says:

    Thank you for showing me your work.  Enjoyed your changes very much!  Definitely those eyeswere way to big.. other than that you did a good job making and painting them, just smaller theywould have been perfect.  Good luck on painting, I am sure you will do a good job.Sincerely;Diana

  20. I love it. Every hideous bit of it.

  21. janielaurel says:

    I have to admit I’ve never commented on any of your dragons, but I am such an admirer of this work, and dragons have always been a part of my life (probably why I am so attracted to dragonflies – who always seem to follow me around). But I giggled so hard when saw this…. this is the ** dragonfly from hell** … if you were building it for ME, I’d take it – fangs, tentacles and all… I adore this thing!! I can’t wait to see the finished piece.

  22. Ralph says:

    I really like it. The hands & arms are outstanding. Good choice with the alligator eyes the first ones looked too cartoonish.

  23. Brenda says:

    That is creepy cool!!

  24. Lori says:

    I think you are too hard on yourself! It looks great.
    That 3:00 AM thing…sometimes it helps, sometimes it’s better to stay in bed. Although I know when something is pestering me, I can’t sleep either.
    This will be amazing, ( already is) just like all that you create. It is quite different and maybe that is what is making you second guess yourself? No need for all that!
    Bye for now,

    • Hey Lori. Thanks for the nice note. You are sweet, as always. I agree about the middle of the night thing. Fixing art is one thing but you don’t want to respond to emails at that hour. See you

  25. mrhomn333 says:

    This is fierce and fantastic! I’m looking forward to the next progress report. I LIKE IT!

  26. Jamie says:

    The spiny tentacles really make this piece. Love it.

  27. Grumpmeister Fink says:

    I’m not sure what to say about this project, it is beautiful, but is also horrendously ugly. This project kind and of gives of a “Men In Black” sort of feel (I also got this feel on parts of the Dark Butterfly project). I’m sure that it will turn out great in the end though! Keep making great art!

  28. Andrea Collum says:

    I love it, too and can’t wait to see it painted! I do think putting a curve or curl in the tail would give the feeling of movement and life, Your work is incredible!

  29. WILLIAM HASTY says:

    i like the eyes. i think a less nasty looking dragon would fly better. dragonflies and damselflies should not be per say dragons

  30. debbie says:

    I just realized that you might have really interesting trash…

  31. Norma says:

    You’re being too hard on yourself, Dan, obviously this dragon-fly has some angst he needs to work out and you’re the one he’s chosen to bring him to life! If anything, I’d put him away out of sight for some time, maybe in a closet. Ignore him and after a few days or weeks, open the door. You’ll see immediately what the issue is, maybe there -is- no issue and you’ll be able to move forward.

    • Hi Norma. Thank you for the nice remarks. I think I’m going to just paint and see what happens. I know you are right about stepping back once in a while. I did that to some extent over the last couple months. That’s why I haven’t posted for a while. Take care

  32. CatPersonSue says:

    I love it! It makes regular dragonflies look….. bland. After all, when you look at it, what do you see? A DRAGON FLY. You just have to remember that sometimes your imagination and subconscious will work together to take over your conscious decisions (which may have derailed a little bit). This is what you INTENDED, and you just didn’t realize it. Wonderful work!

    p.s. I was in a thrift shop the other day and thought of you. There was a small boy waving a little stuffed dragon around (maybe 12″). Monsters and Dragons = Dan Reeder. It got me to thinking about how much your work has evolved and how polished your artform has become since the beginning. Your work is absolutely exquisite!

    • Hey Sue. Well, you are very sweet. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I don’t usually suffer from this kind of indecision. But I’m glad I wrote about it. All of these nice comments have convinced me to go ahead and paint it and see how it goes. Thank you!
      PS. That’s funny about the little kid. Sounds like me when I was little. I appreciate your comments about my work.

  33. IvonesioRamos says:

    Inspired step by step of their work, which you so generously shares, decided ventured me trying to make a “dragon” for my grandson Diego that appears in one of the photos! It was so far hard work and insane, now after the white base, the final painting. My grandson wants it to be purple! Laughter, laughter … I owe so many tips and the construction of a delicious memory next to my dear little grandson!
    After so much generosity on your part follows a surprise that I have prepared for you! Open and see!

  34. Shawn says:

    Love it! 🙂

  35. Stella says:

    Some projects are just difficult, and my experience is when they’re difficult, they’re really difficult. I’ve got one at the moment that I’ve been avoiding for ages.

    I think your dragonfly has enormous potential and will look great with the right paint job. To me, it seems like the kind of project that’s all about the colours and the details, so it will probably look a lot more “right” when it’s painted. I like the alligator eyes. They do help to get the balance between insect and dragon, possibly because their colour suggests insect eyes, and the head as a whole is especially cool.

    • Thanks for the note Stella. You are absolutely right. I’ve decided to paint it and quit worrying about how much of each it looks like. I’m working on a commission too, and that got me out of my vicious equivocation cycle. We’ll see how it goes. Hope you are making lots of art.

  36. I think it is awesome. I wish I could create things like this. I love dragons. I am working on one right now in needle felting.

  37. sacredcatstudio says:

    I think it is awesome. I wish I had your imagination and could create what you do. Never worked with paper mache. I love dragons and am working on one right now in needle felting.

  38. Karen C says:

    The first iteration reminded me a lot of the sideart for the Centipede video game… which doesn’t seem like it ought to help with the too-bug-ish problem, but if you look at it that centipede’s at least half snake:

    I was always terrible at the game, but that was my favorite arcade cabinet art for some reason.

  39. Beate says:

    Hi Dan,
    i never saw better dragons like yours. My name is Beate and I come from Germany. My english is not so good. I want to built a little dragon for my group of writing persons, the theme in our last book is dragons. Our book has the name DRACHENFLÜGE. Now we want to read our stories to the public. And a dragon is a eye-catcher …
    I read all your blogs and understand many things. And I see your photos and video.
    One question: how many layers do you made with paper marche? If the marche is dry, you do cloth marche on the dragon. Now waiting and how many days before you paint the dragon?
    Thank you for your answer.
    Bye, Beate

    • Hi Beate. Thanks for the note. I probably put about 5 or 6 layers on the paper mache. It’s hard to know. You get a feel for the thickness. It can take five or six days to completely dry. I always add the cloth mache skin. It makes the project very strong and provides for the details I want. Usually I can paint the day after adding the cloth. Good luck with your projects!

  40. San Juanita Chavez says:

    I finally found your dragonfly…..I Love dragonflies. I made one out of table legs, screens for wings, and bolts for eyes….and put it on my moms fence…
    I to like the second set of eyes better n the bottom colors are superb…other than adding color to the translucent wings … I dont know what you could do to make it better.

  41. Tamara Reyna says:

    I love your work and the how to info you share. I was thinking what I would like to pick your brain about though is how you have gone about marketing your work. And how you have gone about marketing it as an art form versus a craft. I have been creating paper bonsai. I’ve not seen anything like I do. I’ve seen origami bonsai but, mine is not origami and, I believe multiple times better than anything I’ve seen (I am a brutal self-critic). Most pieces take some time from start to finish. I see them as a type of paper art. I’ve built a small inventory but am unsure of how to price and proceed with the selling. If what I was doing was simply a craft I could use a standard pricing system but, as art I think a different system of pricing would be warranted. You may not be interested in broaching this subject and I understand that but, if you would I am all ears and/or eyes.

    • Hello Tamara. I’m afraid I don’t have too many pearls of wisdom concerning the marketing of art. I don’t follow any kind of marketing plan. And my circumstance has not been typical. I was fortunate enough to have some books published which have sold well for many years. My books have always sold my art and my art has sold my books. Selling books is still how I make most of my “art money”. For me, making and selling individual pieces of sculpture has never been where the money is. They are just too labor intensive to make. I only make a few commissions in a year and I sell them for a price that I’ll accept for my labor. That’s usually more than most people are willing to pay. Pricing art is one of the most heatedly debated topics on the art forums I belong to. Do you price according to an hourly wage you set for yourself? Or do choose some king of “art value”. That is much more difficult because what a piece of art is worth is what someone is willing to pay. That sweet spot price is very difficult to find because you must have a way to put the art in front of many potential buyers. You obviously need an audience, the bigger the better. How you describe your art has a lot to do with how it is perceived. Again, I don’t have formula for how to choose. For me, it’s always been about whether to call my work “paper mache” or “mixed media.” While a mixed media piece may sound more art-like than paper mache, it is searched way fewer times than “paper mache”, so I stick with that label. You’ll have to decide how to label your pieces. And you’ll have to decide what they are worth, at least until you’ve sold enough to get a sense about that sweet spot price I mentioned.

      To make this answer even longer…I’ve sold my art in all the various venues over the years, art fairs, galleries, and online. Actually it was only one fair, one that was considered a fine art fair rather than a craft fair. Judging was involved to participate. Obviously if you sell at a craft fair, your art will be considered “craft”. I’ve sold in galleries, the traditional place “fine art” gets sold, but you need an agent to get in them (there goes 15% off the top) and the galleries would take 50-60% so the pricing had to be outrageous to make any money. I stopped that. Now it’s all about being online. To sell work online you need exposure. To get noticed online takes an enormous amount of time and energy to do well. Anyone who follows my blog knows that I don’t often spend the time that it takes to do well. Feeding a website, blog, Facebook page, and Youtube channel takes time away from the making of my art. But that is how you get exposure. I was online for quite a few years before I got noticed in any kind of big way. That finally happened, but it was more serendipitous than because of any kind of strategy. A couple of my videos went viral, mostly on Facebook. That got me a pretty large following on Facebook which generated a lot of interest in my work. (Unfortunately it also made my Facebook page the target of hackers. I’ve been hacked twice. And my videos are routinely uploaded illegally on Facebook, often with my information edited out. So I get millions of views but no one knows that that the videos are mine. Very frustrating.) Still, I can’t complain too loudly since I now have more people wanting art than I can possibly accommodate mostly because of Facebook. Even that comes with a whole different set of problems however…sorry, it’s hard to keep from ranting about Facebook.

      I don’t know if any of this helps you at all. This is just my experience. There are many artists out there who have figured out the answers to your questions. It’s just not me. Sorry. Perhaps some of my artist friends on this blog will chime in.

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