I initially researched online about the cultural significance of the calavera and the different ways of decorating it. I referred to Wikipedia as a starting point for my research. I browsed around to get some ideas of how I could do the Calavera and was able to find numerous blogs and articles regarding the painting and importance of the Calavera in the Hipic world. I bought a plastic skull online instead of making my own papier-mâché.
My roommate suggested that I go to Michaels store to get the necessary items. We drove there to buy paint, markers, brushes and a palette. I had to use an assortment of acrylic paints and markers to achieve the desired result. I first had to paint the whole skull white to act as a base for the bright colors. Since the white from the original paint set was not enough the cover up the whole thing, I got a 2 fl oz white acrylic paint. I put 3 layers of white paint on to cover up the skull and make the designs pop.
I also used black paint to outline the teeth and paint the inside of the eye socket. The next step I did was draw the designs with a pencil. I got inspiration mainly from three different online Calaveras. It took me more than 2 hours to draw onto the skull, but it gave me an idea of how I was going to paint it. I stuck to bright colors like red, green and purple to color the flower and leaves with a few brown and yellow. To give the painting more of a 3D effect I wanted to use an artificial flower which I got at Dollar Tree instead of painting the flower over the eyes. But it did not look good, so I painted flowers and dots in the eye socket.
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I chose part J which is the ‘craft’ option of the project by painting a calavera because I am interested in arts and crafts. I wanted to broaden my knowledge about craftsmanship, specifically Hipic-oriented crafts. I thought it would be interesting to try something new since my painting and crafts are not normally influence by Hipic culture. During Día de los Muertos which translates to day of the dead, people in Latin culture paint Calaveras which are decorative sugar skulls to celebrate the dead.
Through this project, I have realised that Spanish speaking people have a completely different point of view of death from other cultures that I have come across. I was surprised by how they took death lightheartedly and celebrate it as something festive -which it is to them. I definitely learned a lot about Día de los Muertos which I previously thought was the same as Halloween as back then I never witnessed either of those two events because my country did not celebrate them.
Before starting out the project, everything I knew about Día de los Muertos was from watching the animated movie Coco. I now know that these two are not the same, although they are related and instead of being viewed as something scary, Día de los Muertos is gleeful. While drawing and painting it, I realised it would take longer to paint the Calavera than I anticipated as it is a 3D object and I normally paint on flat canvas. Otherwise, I feel like I did an alright job at decorating the skull because the designs, especially the flowers look a lot like henna designs, so I was familiar with it. I feel like I could have done a better job with the symmetry of the front of the skull.
If I could do it all over again, I would have done the Calavera with smaller and more intricate designs, focussing on keeping it asymmetric. I would recommend this choice of project to an art student or someone interested in art as it is an opportunity to learn something new involving art in the Hipic culture.
Calaveras are mostly made to celebrate Día de los Muertos, which is on 31st October and lasts for 2 more days. It is crucial to know the importance of Calaveras in Hipic culture, where they are made as an offering to the deceased loved ones. They serve as a reminder that life is short and that they will eventually be reunited with their loved ones. Calaveras are an artistic portrayal of the human skull with most of the times, colorful flowers to depict joviality and love. Not only is it to honor the deceased but also to make death look less scary in order to overcome the fear of death and live life to its fullest. It is believed that during those three days, the gate to heaven is open, allowing the deceased to roam freely on Earth.
The ofrendas such as the Calavera help guide the souls to the family waiting at their shrine. People decorate the ofrendas of deceased family members with a Calavera de Azucar which are sugar skulls which are adorned with colorful decorations; small Calaveras represent children who died while the bigger ones represent the adults as it is believed that the deceased come back among the living to enjoy the offerings though the Calaveras are not usually edible as they are decorated with non-edible ornamental items such as rhinestones and sequins. People sometimes get Calavera tattoos to commemorate deceased loved ones. The Calaveras have roots way back to the Aztecs, centuries before Christianity even came. This tradition is more cultural-oriented than a religious one.
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