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Stylized papier-mache skull mask. It has large eyes, a black nose hole, no lower jaw, and three curved front teeth. There are three wave-shaped structures on its forehead that curve in the opposite direction of the teeth.

Primary materials: Paper napkins, glue, acrylic paint.

I made this concurrently with The Determinist, using the same materials and techniques (they are covered more on that page). I got inspired at about 4:00 AM, ground up some napkins to make papier-mache, and immediately started sculpting on my clay face form.

My main artistic goal was to have something with a sense of movement and asymmetry. Also, whenever I had a decision to make, I opted to put less material on rather than more—which is not how I typically do things.

When a mask has eye-holes with no mesh in them, if they’re too big, I find they look silly because too much of the wearer’s face is exposed. But sometimes larger eye holes look better on the mask itself when the wearer is taken out of the equation. This issue can be solved to some degree by putting mesh in the eyes, so the wearer is hidden. Although this is not the first mask I have made with mesh, it is the first where I specifically made the eyes larger knowing I’d fill them in with mesh later on. (Still, I made the mesh removable.)

Right front of mask. There is a larger spur of "bone" behind the cheek where the jaw would begin.

Left front of mask. There is a small spur of "bone" behind the cheek where the jaw would begin.

After taking this off the face form I applied a few touch-up spots of mache. These were more for reinforcement of certain areas and smoothness around the eye sockets than to add sculptural elements. Indeed, I ended up cutting things off—originally this had long “jawbones” on either side. When the papier-mache dried they shrank in such a way that it made the mask unwearable, so I cut them off. They looked pretty cool so I might try this idea again.

I lightly sanded this with a vibratory sander, sanded by hand, and smoothed certain areas with a rotary tool.

For painting I did a slightly simplified version of something I have already done. It was a very straightforward and I’m happy with the results. The naturally rough texture of the papier-mache is perfectly suited for old bone colors.

I sewed elastic straps into the slots on either side of the mask. You can’t see the straps in these pictures because they’re curled up inside the mask to keep them out of the way.