Thursday, October 22, 2015

Dia de los Muertos Alter Tray

Hello Friends :)

I don not usually get very personal about myself and my life on this blog. I figure people are here to see my art and process step outs...not hear about me. But today I am sharing a very personal project I did completely for myself and for the healing art brings. Lately I have been feeling death around me in a very personal way. I am still processing my best friend and partner's battle with cancer for the last year+. You go through stages when you are a care giver of someone who is that ill. First sheer panic. Then full on warrior mode to get through. You have to power through all the doctor appointments, hospital stays, scans, and chemo treatments. Now that treatment is over and he is OK...I feel some sort of acceptance of the fact that people do actually die. And also gratefulness that he didn't. But several of my family have died. Most recently my Aunt to cancer. Another Aunt is in treatment for breast cancer. My father passed from cancer as well as my Grandmother on his side. My other Grandmother has passed and I miss her dearly. And very recently my Mom's Dashound. Other people I am close to have felt recent deaths in their close family as well. A 16 year old daughter died of cancer...a Grandfather....pets. I don't mean this as a whining session. Just trying to explain why I am feeling death at every turn. It could also be that I will be turning half a century this birthday! But ultimately I am ready to make friends with death. To invite my loved ones spirits to be near me if they want. I can say to them..I love you..I miss you..I hope you are safe and happy...and please come for a visit. As I was making my project to use on this Day of the Dead (November 1st, 2015) I thought about my Grandma, my Dad, and my Mom's little dog Rocky. I will be using this tray to place their photos and favorite foods. Blue cheese and peanut butter for my Dad, a chocolate chip cookie made with her recipe for my Grandma, and a pupperoni for Rocky. Also there will be water for drinking after the long trek from the spirit world, a scented candle to guide their way, salt, and a brush and soap for freshening up. I hope my personal spirits will feel welcome at my home on Dia de los Muertos.






I started out my project with a clearance bin wooden tray from Tuesday Morning store. It was originally priced $19.95 but I got it for $5.99. It was a tiny bit beat up but since I was covering the whole tray, I didn't care. I did a bit of light sanding on the rough edges and then gave it two coats of white gesso.


While that was drying I started on my images. I thought it would be easier to collage things on to the try then to try and draw and paint on it. I cut a piece of mixed media paper from Canson to the size of the bottom of the try (for perspective) and then started to draw in pencil. Once I had my three main images drawn (a male, female and dog sugar skull figure) then I cut them out to see how they fit and laid them on the tray.


Now for coloring them in. I used Decoarts Media line fluid acrylics for color with a small brush. Why these you say? Well, I am a member of Decoarts Blogger Outreach program and I submitted my idea for this project to them and asked for products. They agreed to my request and sent me a box of stuff I asked for ...for FREE :) However, that being said... I LOVE these paints. They are highly pigmented so it just takes a little drop of paint. I own one lonely bottle of Golden fluid acrylic..and these seem exactly the same. I didn't have to mix with water to get a paintable constancy like I do with my heavier body acrylics..so no thinning of the paint which dilutes colors. Now that I have tried these I don't want to go back to cheap paint! Luckily these are less expensive then Golden so I can maybe afford a few more :)


Once all my painting with the fluid acrylics was done, I went in and added detail using my white and black Posca paint pens. I also used some of my Posca color set of pens. I used a .005 Prismacolor black pen in some places where I needed a really fine detail line.


Fitting them on the tray again...I need lots of other elements!


A common flower to see on Dia de los Muertos alters is Marigolds. It helps guide the spirits by it's strong smell. So I went for a napkin I had that had something resembling Marigolds (although could be Chrysanthemum) and fussy cut them out. I did the same with a butterfly napkin. 


I made several other flowers using a pack of paper flowers by Recollections. I sprayed them using the Media line ink sprays from Decoarts. I am having a bit of trouble taking process photos while filming video...

<~Insert photo I don't have here ~>

Next I wanted to add a blue sky with fluffy white clouds to the background of my tray. I took a scrap of the mixed media paper and tore it into a cloud shape to use a mask. Then I used a sponge to go over it, turning and moving it as needed. I used two colors of blues and a white heavy body acrylic paint from Liqutex basics to do this.


Now comes the collage part..my favorite. I used Decoarts Decou-page from the Americana line to glue all my images down. The napkins I used only a coat directly on the tray then lightly over the top. For the heavier paper pieces I put glue on the backs of the paper and the try both and smoothed with my fingers. Then brushed another coat over the top. I used the satin finish and it has a light sheen.


Once I had let my collage dry overnight, I added details. I used Inktense pencils my Derwent to make shadows around the images. I used black for the main images and mostly blues for the background images. I blended it with a wet paintbrush. I also added details using my colored set of Posca pens and other colors of Inktense. I added highlights with my white Posca.



I hope you enjoyed my project! Here are a few more close up photos.
<3 Shel







Please leave me a comment about what you thought about this project/post :)



19 comments:

  1. This is so cool. I love the idea and I hope it gives you some peace

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  2. Awesome project Shel!!! So happy the ordeal is over for him and treatment is a success!!!! Praises!!!! hugs, patty

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  3. Wow! You are so talented! I seriously love this and what a great tribute to your loved ones who have passed.

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  4. Nov. 1, is All Saints day for me. It was with great excitement years ago, that I discovered day of the dead, it's relation to halloween, and to my surprise, All Saints day. I read how halloween was the night when all departed souls were closest to earth and would actually visit those they loved. Your tray is amazing and I might lay out my dad's favorite cookies, grandma's glass of "tea", and my mother and father-in- laws ice cream, and a treat for my rocky. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you Nanette :) I hope that your loved ones spirits come and visit when you leave out their treats! It would be lovely to feel them and their love surrounding you for the day.

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  5. Shel, your tribute is endearing, warm, wonderfully uplifting. We all struggle with loss, and I truly understand your feelings of "death all around me". I see this tray becoming a ritual in your house, honoring those who have left in a truly beautiful way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it helps...

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    1. Thank you Sylvia <3 I do plan to use this tray each year. I am borrowing that ritual from another culture but it really resonates with me and my life. I put the tray downstairs on the table and told my family my plan and a few eyes did roll...lol.. but they will get on board soon I am sure!

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  6. Shel, this is a wonderful post, and certainly explains your challenging times over the past year. I'm delighted to hear that your partner has come through the other side so well, and that you can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

    I have lost a number of family, friends and acquaintances through my life, including a daughter in a house fire, and totally understand how it can seem so overwhelming at times. I think creating things in the studio calls to that part of us that can process, grieve and heal, and your Day of the Dead tray is a great example of that.

    Sending you big hugs...

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    1. Thanks so much Win <3 I agree...just getting in the studio and getting loss in the color and texture can sure help us. I can sure feel a sense of relief from doing this project with a lot of thought during the process. Hugs to you as well!

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  7. Amazing project Shel, and very personal! I sometimes feel I don't share enough of my life on my blog, even though I want to. I don't think we should worry about what we think other people want to see or read when they visit your blogs. It is our space to express ourselves on the web. Some people choose to keep their lives private, others publish their innermost feelings. Both are fine, as long as that's what they want to do. We've had a recent experience of death as well - my husband's mother died at the end of July and he found it very hard to accept it. However tragic and depressing, death is part of life. Celebrating the Day of the Dead is a way of coping with it and offers some sort of healing. As does art making!

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    1. Thank you for your insightful comment here +Zsuzsa Karoly-Smith :) I do tend to over think everything I put out on the web. I am naturally very introverted and don't share a lot with anyone. That can get lonely though and having an online community of friends is so enriching. I read a post of your's the other day that included comments about how your life was as a child living behind the iron curtain. That was fascinating as I love to hear about differences between my life and others. Your's is different then mine but yet we ended up very similar in our art. I vote you share more of your personal life on your blog :) :) :)

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  8. I thoroughly enjoyed watching you create this tray. You are right about all the detailing.
    You wrote a very touching narrative and the finished project really shows your feelings. I love that you did the whole dog body. Absolutely fantastic piece of artwork.

    georgiabloomers@yahoo.com

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment +georgiabloomers :) I am glad you enjoyed my video of the process. It is not getting many views so I am greatful for the love you are giving it :) This was a very personal project and it was a bit hard to release it into the world...but I am proud of how it turned out.

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  9. Wonderful post Shel. It can be very difficult to share personal things with the public. This is a hard topic for anyone to tackle. May your loved ones know peace and you find comfort in the love and memories you share.

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    1. Thanks so much +Peg Robinson for your kindness. I am a very private person so yes a bit hard to share personal feelings. But it seems people like to know the meaning behind art sometimes...so here I go!

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  10. Shel,
    I am so sorry for the hurt and pain you have been going through and so glad to hear that maybe you are on the other side of it now.
    The way you are dealing with death and the tribute dod tray you have created is fabulous! I am sure the spirits of your loved ones have stopped to rest and will remain as you have made it so welcoming for them.
    What a beautiful tray you have made- so well done!
    Peace& blessings to you Shel.
    Love and hugs,Jackie xo

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Thank you for your comments. I read every one :)