Walter and Millie – an experiment with paper clay.

“Artists are just children who refuse to put down their crayons.” ~Al Hirschfield.

This post was last published in April 2019. I am revisiting it because I want to try pet portrait painting on brooches and pendants made of papier maché very soon.

Walter and Millie - papier mâché brooches

Walter and Millie – mixed media brooches. Papier Mâché, acrylics, collage, nail polish (glitter on Millie’s eyelids and in her hair.)

If you really want to have fun, try working with papier mâché or paper clay. You can buy the stuff already made as I did, or search online for an easy recipe.

Figuring how to get the paper clay to adhere to a base, preparing the base (cardboard, newspaper strips, tape), is the first, less enjoyable step. Next, shaping the clay over the base is a lengthy process. Thin noses break off, eye sockets are lopsided… Finally, after the clay has dried, I go over the cracks with water and more clay.

Walter and Millie (and other papier mâché characters in my art room) tell me their story as I paint their facial features.

Walter and Millie’s story.

Millie, a talented ballerina with a small dance company, has many admirers. They lavish her with gifts at the end of each performance. Each suitor outdoes himself vying for her attention.

Meanwhile, Walter steadfastly remains in the background, quietly holding Millie’s coat and her comfortable walking shoes. He patiently waits for the crowd to disperse. For the past year, he has walked her home every night after her show.

If she thought about it long enough, (which she hasn’t ) Millie would know that Walter is the man for her. Can’t you see it in his lovestruck eyes? He is such a kind and thoughtful young man, how can she not fall for him?

Each evening, Millie happily babbles on about the little incidents that occur backstage.  She recounts in vivid detail some of the preposterous changes to the choreography that Constance, the prima ballerina, has demanded.

Walter can hardly ever find the right moment to tell her his feelings or to discuss what the future might hold for their relationship.

And so, this young couple, has managed to find a little routine that suits both of them for the time being.

Will Walter tire of Millie’s self-centered storytelling?

Will he finally speak up about the life he sees for both of them?

Or perhaps he will simply move on as Millie’s career takes flight?

Has Millie set her eyes on one of the dashing men who wait for her at the stage door?

As you can see, the stories associated with these characters have a bit of the soap opera drama in them: they hold the promise of possible betrayals, discovery of long lost love interests, debilitating illnesses and miraculous recoveries, as well as the emotional roller coaster to which such characters are subjected.

These are the story lines evoked by Walter and Millie, a change from the songs I usually hum as I paint.

And this is how art allows us to momentarily leave our immediate world behind while opening the door to our imaginations.

Cheers from the art room!


8 Responses

    • Paper clay is a lot of fun…can be worked on flat and painted or can be moulded. PM if you would like to know the names of artists who make really neat things with paper clay. Have fun Nelvia!

  • Love the story of Walter and Millie. You must have had so much fun making up stories for the characters as you created the brooches! The paper clay brooches are fabulous! Have you made many?

    • Thanks Christine. I did make a few others around the same time…April, May 2017. They are still in my archives if you wish to see them. I liked painting them and imagining who they were, but I didn’t enjoy the rest of it so much. I still have an unopened package of paper clay…another project to tackle “one of these days”. ?

    • I leave it to your imagination….or like most soap operas, the story just goes on and on and on….

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