Saturday, April 20, 2013

styrofoam head art

I had this dream a while back, that a bug flew in my head and built a nest.  I wanted to make an art piece about it.  I bought a styrofoam head at Hobby Lobby. I used the old "dip the edge of a quarter in paint and run it down the face" trick to draw a line down the center. I had bought an electric (turkey) carving knife to use on the layered sweater arm project (see previous post), so I thought it would work well for cutting the styrofoam. It worked okay, the knife definitely struggled, but it got the job done.

I wanted to remove the brain area to put my nest in.  I dug at it with an Xacto knife, some metal tools, and my fingers. I finally got enough out.  Between the cutting of the head, and the digging out the brain section, my studio was a styrofoam mess. It was clinging to everything.  I had to dust-bust my work table and the area rug once I was done with the styrofoam part.

 There were a lot of rough parts on the styrofoam and I wanted to smooth these out. I knew I was going to build my nest with paper clay so I used it to cover the styrofoam as well. I did put a light coat of liquid gel medium on the styrofoam, to help the paper clay adhere to it. I rolled out some paper clay with a brayer and wrapped sections of it around a brush handle to build the nest. 

I did some sanding to even out the texture and used a pointed sanding tool to help shape the nest. I forgot to take pictures when I painted him. I put a coat of gesso on everything. I painted the nest gray and brown, then put white on top, so the interior holes are dark and give some depth.  The rest I painted white. I then stamped text with alphabet stamps and Stazon ink.  Since the head isn't flat, the letters did not stamp completely, and I filled in the missing parts of the letters with a black ink pen.

I had a box in my stash that I wanted to use for this project. I had to cut about 1/4" off of the neck of the head to fit it in the box.

I painted the interior of the box with gesso, then with acrylic paint. It was okay that the paint transition wasn't well blended because I added a layer of tissue paper later that would soften  the look of it.

After painting my box, I was so sad to see that the sides of my box had bowed from the moisture and pulled apart at the corners.  I had to fix this.

I cut some wood pieces to use as shims to prevent the clamps from damaging or indenting the sides of the box. I put wood glue in the corner seam and tightened the clamps. I wiped away any glue that oozed out of the corner seam, as this needs to be done while it is wet, or else I would end up with permanent glue globs.

Here is my tissue paper. I stamped it with a rubber stamp (bee/wasp?). I inked the stamp with Stazon ink, then stamped multiple times before re-inking to get the feel that some were in the distance.

I used my favorite mixture of half fluid medium and half soft gel medium to glue the paper down. It is very important to make sure there is glue covering all of the backside of the tissue paper as air pockets are very noticeable. Also, a light touch is needed as the paper can tear very easily when wet. I did apply a coat of medium on top as well, once the paper was in place. The Stazon ink I used to stamp the bugs will not smear when using water based mediums on top of it. I did the back and two sides with one piece of tissue paper, and did the other two sides with separate pieces. This left some half bugs at the seams. I cut some additional bugs out of the tissue paper and applied them on top of the half bugs so that the bugs would be continuous at the seams.

I needed to make a bug to put inside the head. Originally I made one using a T-pin I wrapped with wool roving, and wet felted it by hand.  It was a brown blob with no shape and rather too large, so I decided not to use it. I took another T-pin and added paper clay to the top of it, and shaped a head and a body. I did add some Apoxie clay where the T pin stabs the head in order for it to stay in place, and once dry I painted the Apoxie clay white.
Ugly felted bug
Final paperclay bug

I had some Angelina fibers that had been ironed together to make a sheet, almost like paper.   I put a coat of gel medium on both sides as the fibers where a little loose. Once dry, I stamped my bug image on it, then cut out just the wings from it.

Then I used E6000 to glue the head into the box and it was done! This project ended up taking a lot of time because it required a lot of drying time between steps (paperclay items, painting the box and head, re-glueing and clamping the box,  etc). I think it looks great though and just love it!


  1. Karen C sent me to your blog. Am happy to catch up on your art creations. This looks interesting.

  2. Hi Ginger, is this one of the pieces you plan to submit to a gallery? Speaking of nests, a robin has built a nest in that garden cabinet on the deck. I am afraid to take pictures. It might require that I use a flash. The baby birds did not have their
    eyes open 2 days ago when I peeked. Mom

  3. Jan, it is good to hear from you. You should let me know what you have been up to!

  4. I did submit this to the WOW show at the Core gallery. Hopefully it will get in! Show starts Friday.