Blogpost and Artwork by Natalie Parish – Bagend Studio, QLD

Thank goodness there is a second new year to celebrate in the world as I find I am always a little slow off the start in January. At our craft shows in 2019, a reoccurring request was for a Dragon Project. Dragons, a symbol of raw, untameable, ancient, energy also symbolises wisdom, strength, power and knowledge. An interesting symbol to our countrys troubled start to 2020. 

According to Chinese legend, in the middle of winter, due to a scarcity of food, Nian the Dragon would come out of his mountain hiding and feed on the people and animals in the villages. Scared, the villagers hid indoors at night, leaving food on their doorsteps lit by red lanterns in the hope the dragon would be satisfied, and lives would be spared. However, a wise man discovered that Nian was afraid of the colour red and loud noises. With this knowledge, the Chinese villagers could take back the night by setting off firecrackers, banging on drum, parading down their streets in bright red colours and chasing off Nian with their own dragon dancers.

In my dragon I wanted to emulate the movement of the Dragon dancers through an exaggerated wave in front piece by using my Stone Art Pillar techniques. I have also used oriental colours of red (vitality), gold (wealth) and black (to balance oppositional forces with a grounded) to herald in the new year and energize the commitment to those New Year Resolutions.  

Materials:

  • Chinese Dragon MDF Cut Outs & Designer Chipboard Mat 
  • Powertex Universal Medium Black & Red 
  • 3D Flex & Stone Art 
  • 3DBalls
  • Bister – natural & red
  • Easy Varnish 
  • Powercolour Red & Titanium White
  • Colourtrix Rich Gold
  • Dragon Eyes (available www.bagendstudio.net)
  • Triangle Hooks for hanging.
  • rushes, Skewer
  • Plastic Bowls

Equipment:

  • Mixing Bowls 
  • Paint Brushes (two for Powertex and two for pigment colours) 
  • Lids for Palette (or alfoil)
  • Palette Knife & flat spatula for mixing & apply 3D Flex.
  • Skewers for lifting polycotton while drying
  • Modelling tools or textures plates (I ended up spreading my 3D Flex more often than stamping–but I would like to do another using more stamping)
  • Gloves, Chux Cloth, Paper towel 
  • Gladwrap (to wrap 3D Clay &Stone Art & to cover opened Powertex bottles) 
  • Air-tight container to store clay.  
  • Watching up containers for cleaning.

STEP 1: Design Layout 

  • Collect the necessary Powertex products & equipment.
  • Set up plastic workspace area 
  • I did wing this project a bit & the steps are in retrospect the best order. I do wish I had taken more photos. It’s easy to get carried away when trying to make something work!

STEP 2: Seal the Back of the Boards

  • Seal the back of all the MDF Boards with Black Powertex Universal Medium. Start with the larger two bottom layers.
  • Also seal the top side of the two bottom layers once the backs are dry.


STEP 3: Make Stone Art

  • Pour Black Powertex Universal Medium (approx.1/2 cup) into a bowl & add Stone Art (approx.1/2 cup) & mix with a flat spatula.
  • Keep adding small handfuls of Stone Art until it forms a kneadable ball of dough that no longer sticks to the bowl or your gloves.
  • Remove the sticky ball & add a little more Stone Art to ‘flour’ the ball. Knead the clay ball well, ‘flouring’ with a scatter of Stone Art if it’s a little sticky. It is ready when pushed into a textured surface & removed again without sticking but leaving an impression.
  • Keep the clay ball wrapped in glad wrap & in a sealed airtight container to prevent hardening until use.

STEP 4: Join Bottom Layer with stone art & tape

  • Take a portion of your clay & roll out a sausage shapes that will fit along the gap between the two bottom layers of the MDF boards.
  • Apply a little Black Powertex to the sausage and squeeze the boards together.
  • Spread the squeezed sausage either side of the board to help attachment.
  • Use a hairdryer to speed up drying. 
  • Carefully flip over & even out the front side. Dont worry about the look on the front side it will be covered up later.
  • Too excited to wait for the stone art to dry, I started cracking on with creating texture. However, it was too flexible to work with, so I added masking tape over the stone art in the gap area.
  • In hindsight, I would probably tape the boards together from the start & place some tape horizontally for bracing. 
  • Cover the masking tape with Black Powertex & sprinkle stone art powder over the top to make a paste. Pat down firmly
  • Re-apply a little more Powertex to return the surface to black. 
  • NB. 3D Flex cannot be used to stick the boards together as it is a cracking clay.

STEP 5: Seal Top Layer & Face Front

  • Seal the front of the two top layers of MDF & all the Face Pieces with Red Powertex

STEP 6  Make 3D Flex Paste & Clay

  • In a bowl with a medium amount of black Powertex Universal Medium (approx. 1/2 cup), add 3D (approx. 1/2 cup) and mix with a flat spatula.
  • Add small amounts of 3D Flex until you get a buttery consistency as we are using 3D Flex as a texture paste. 
  • Use a container with a lid to prevent drying.

STEP 7 – Texturise the Fronts with 3Dflex & Balls

  • Using your spatula, spread the 3D Flex over the front surfaces.
  • Experiment dragging the spatula in different directions to increase texture.
  • Add a little more 3D Flex to your mixture to make a stamp-able clay in the same way you made Stone Art Clay earlier. I used clay on the horns & nose pieces & stamped with a modelling tool.
  • Distribute balls as desired into the top layers only (as they wont be appreciated on the bottom layer once the top layer is covering it.
  • Spray with bister to assist with cracking. I used red bister on the red background surfaces (as I wanted the red to show through) & natural bister on the black surfaces.
  • Remember, you dont need to over-do it as it will start to dry out & it is not until you embellish with colour that you will get a true appreciation of the textures created. I have included a photo of back layer with 3d Flex embellished with Red Powercolour & the front layer before embellishment as an example.

STEP 8- Add Powercotton to Face

  • Using a gloved hand, lay out sections of Powercotton & finger paint with Black Powertex Universal Medium. I tend to keep it flat, so it doesn’t tangle into a tiny ball. I do not dip.
  • Place your Powercotton onto the MDF boards. I did the cheeks, chin, eyebrows & mouth hairs.
  • I usually leave for a minute or two & then start teasing it out with skewers over the surface & adding more as required. It is a little time-consuming, but the texture effects are worth it.
  • Use the flat end of your skewer to attach the lower surface of your Powercotton for adhesion. I usually do several pieces then come back to my first piece to tease out the top layers with the pointy ends of the skewers when it has adhered a little.
  • Again, it is difficult to appreciate the effects until you have embellished with pigments.
  • Experiment dragging the spatula in different directions to increase texture.

STEP 9  Embellish & Assemble the Face

  • Pour a small amount of Easy Varnish into a lid or alfoil palette. 
  • Palette out the matt Powercolours & metallic Colourtrix pigments of your choice. I used Red Powercolour and highlighted with Rich Gold Colourtrix.
  • With a very dry brush take up a small amount of Easy Varnish onto the brush tips and criss-cross your brush onto the palette to load the varnish into your brush. 
  • Pick up a small amount of the pigment and criss-cross your brush with it into the palette to create a paint. Repeat process using colours as desired.
  • Take portions of your clay & create small sausage shapes that will fit along the base & underside of each of the front facial sections.
  • Paint a small amount of Black Powertex Universal Medium to the surface before attaching.
  • Use a spatula or modelling tool to flatten the edges of your sausages & firmly attach the clay to your MDF
  • Paint a small amount of Black Powertex Universal Medium to the top of the clay before positioning piece into place & spend time working & spreading the clay out to attach to the MDF. (You can touch up with pigments at the end.
  • Similarly, use a small clay ball with a very small amount of Powertex Universal Medium to attach eyes by squeezing down firmly into place.

STEP 10  Assemble Body

  • Using a larger portion roll out a long thick sausage shape & divide into at least 3 pillars.
  • Shape the pillars slightly to broaden the tops and bases to increase adhesion surface area.
  • Placement will depend on personal preference & may require more pillars or differing sized pillars to get your artwork balancing right. I used three pillars with the middle being the shortest to create movement in my piece.
  • Take your time testing positions.
  • Once happy it will sit right. Place a little Powertex on both sides of all clay sausages/pillars to assist with adhesion.
  • Gently press shapes together focusing on clay points of attachment.
  • Repeat this process for the Face & Claw piece.
  • Leave to dry & stabilize.

STEP 11 – Hanging Hooks & Touch Ups

  • Take a very small portion of your pre-made clay and create a square to lay the base of the triangle hook into.
  • Using a little bit of Powertex, on the underside of the clay as a glue, place the clay square in the centre of the back of the base MDF. 
  • Press triangle hook down into the clay square to secure and cover the hook’s base with clay making sure that the hook can still swing free.
  • Splay sides of the clay square to improve attachment to MDF.
  • Depending on the end position, you may need a second hook.
  • Leave at least 3 weeks for the clay to cure before hanging.
  • Touch up your piece, spills or lack of colour, or hiding clay by embellishing with pigments.

ngs.

Congratulations you’re finished! 
 
Where will you hang your dragon to bring you prosperity in 2020
A dragons energy is perfect for an office space but place it behind your desk to support you and not in front of you in opposition. If this position is lucky enough to be an eastern wall, even better as both dragons and the element of wood are represented. If your piece will live outside garden/courtyard then remember that Dragons love water, so maybe near a water feature. Or guardian on your front door.
 
See you next month for some March Magic.
Natalie Parish 
www.bagendstudio.net

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