SLAM – Queen of the Mantis Flies – Part Two

An Art Queen in the Making

In Part One of this story, I explained all about the Art Slam at the Kitsap Mall, and how I obtained a mannequin to decorate.

In part two I will detail the process of decorating my mannequin.

A Queen Needs a Good Head on Her Shoulders

From the moment I had seen the mannequin, and realized it had no head, I had decided that I was going to give it a paper mache, non-human head.  I thought over a few different options, but in the end decided on an insect head.  I knew I needed to start the head first, so the paper mache could thoroughly dry while I worked on the rest of the mannequin.  I protected the mannequin’s neck with plastic wrap, because I wanted to be able to remove the head, and I made a paper mache sleeve on the neck base that I would attach the head to, allowing it to slip easily off the mannequin when desired.

Sexy, But Dangerous Art

My first thought was that it would be a dragonfly head, and that I would craft dragon fly wings for it as well.  However, I started looking at closeup pictures of different insect heads, and I decided that I liked the more dangerous look of the praying mantis head.  The mating habits of female mantis, devouring the male during mating, along with the mannequins clearly female, clearly meant to be alluring body shape, it all seemed to work together too well.  I just had to do it.  In the end though, I didn’t do a pure mantis head or dragon fly head, I ended up mixing features of both.

The Art Queen, Coming of Age isn’t Always Pretty

Of course, in its early stages, it didn’t look like an insect at all, rather it looked like a certain aspect of the human anatomy, which I’ll let you figure out for yourself.

Insect head started
The paper mache head doesn’t look insect like yet, it looks more like a certain part of the human body.

Now, my first effort at attaching this beginning structure for the head failed miserably, I found the head on the shed floor, the neck base still attached to the mannequin, but eventually I got it to stay.  Even though it was attached better the second time, I added a neck brace fashioned from an oatmeal box, the mannequin wore the neck brace whenever I wasn’t with it, to give the head more support until it dried.  Plus, as I added more structure to the head, the additional facial parts also added strength and more adhesion to the neck sleeve.

This Queen Needs Her Modesty

She looked funny wearing the neck brace, even funnier, an elderly friend visited one day and was so embarrassed by her undressed state that I had to start draping a table cloth on her when I wasn’t actually working with her.

Mantis Queen mannequin with neck brace
Here my mannequin is sporting her fancy table cloth dress, in order to not offend the sensibilities of an elderly friend. She also sports her neck brace, to help hold up her head.

 

I also took a few photos without the neck brace and table cloth.  The head in the following photo is completely formed, but I did add a a few more layers of paper mache over this for strength.  Once those layers were done, I would move the head into the sun each day, and put it away at night.  If paper mache is painted while there is any moisture left in it, the sculpture will mold and rot from the inside out.  Luckily, we had a solid week of temperatures in the upper 80’s and low 90’s.

Here she is without the table cloth dress, the head is now fully formed, and from this point on it sat drying in the sun daily while I worked on the rest of the mannequin.  You can see that there is paper mache on the arms too, but the next photo will show more detail.
Here she is without the table cloth dress, the head is now fully formed, and from this point on it sat drying in the sun daily while I worked on the rest of the mannequin. You can see that there is paper mache on the arms too, but the next photo will show more detail.

The next photo shows the paper mache work on the arms, you can also see the neck brace a little.

Queen of the Mantis Flies, arms
I decided that spiked cuffs on her arms fit with her sexy but dangerous persona.

After all the sculpting was done, I needed to begin painting her.  First I coated her all in green, I had already started on one arm before, but then decided to finish the sculpting work first.

mannequin painted green
I started the painting work by painting her whole body in the same metallic green that I had earlier put on one arm.

After giving her green “skin” I started painting on her clothes, much to the relief of my elderly friend.

Mannequin with clothes painted on
I started out giving her a fancy bodice and bikini type bottom in acrylic paint.

I continued to add further details to her outfit.  I also began putting some designs on her legs, first patches of gold glitter, and then little curly cues.

Mannequin with painted clothes
Her clothes got more and more elaborate as I worked with her. Notice the flying insect on her bodice.
Mannequin, clothes painted on, progress photo.
Back view of her outfit while it was still in progress.

While this was happening, I was also forming her wings. When the wings were almost done, I wanted to make sure the head was dry all the way through, so even though it had already been in the sun in nearly 90 degree weather for days, I decided to put it in the oven at 150 degrees for about six hours.  Then after that, it spent another day in the sun before I finally started painting it.

mantis head drying in the oven
Paper mache insect head drying in the oven

For the eyes,  I used a hexagonal hole punch and some reflective scrap booking paper to make little “tiles” to put on the eyes.

The mantis head propped on a can of spaghetti sauce while being painted and having the reflective hexagons put on the eyes.
The mantis head propped on a can of spaghetti sauce while being painted and having the reflective hexagons put on the eyes.
insect head sculpture.
The eyes were a real challenge, and they didn’t come out perfect, but they came out pretty good.

So there are some progress photos.  Next, the finished piece, I decided to call her Queen of the Mantis Flies, since she was kind of a cross between a human, a mantis, and a dragonfly.  I looked up “mantis fly” and they actually do look rather like a cross between a dragonfly and a mantis.

A real Mantis Fly
A real Mantis Fly

The Queen in Her Glory

Queen of the Mantis Flies, finished sculpture, whole body, front view.
Queen of the Mantis Flies, finished sculpture, whole body, front view.
Queen of the Mantis Flies, finished sculpture, whole body, side view.
Queen of the Mantis Flies, finished sculpture, whole body, side view.

 

Queen of the Mantis Flies, finished sculpture, whole body, back view.
Queen of the Mantis Flies, finished sculpture, whole body, back view.
If you look carefully, you'll see I put my signature on the back of her head.
If you look carefully, you’ll see I put my signature on the back of her neck, right by the base of the skull.
I also put my signature on the lower back of the mannequin itself.
I also put my signature on the lower back of the mannequin itself.
Notice her gold and beaded collar, she might be part bug, but she's a bug with bling!
Notice her gold and beaded collar, she might be part bug, but she’s a bug with bling!

If you would like to see this, and the other “artequins” in person, stop by the Kitsap Mall in Silverdale Washington, from August 8th to the 12th 2015, they’ll be on display in center court, near the Barnes and Noble.  Should you be interested in purchasing her, or any of the other artequins, there will be information about a silent auction while they are on display.

Check out the Queen of the Mantis Flies, part mannequin, part sculpture, all awesome! Click To Tweet