Tag Archives: Drawing

Day Four, Blogging 101: Identify your Audience, Exploring New Elements


This particular assignment encouraged me to examine the audience, demographic and the readers who may visit the blog. This is a very interesting exercise that involves writing for an intended audience or reader in mind, although I dedicated two days to brainstorming in order to determine, who is reading Black Calavera?

While I don’t have a particular person in mind, I hope to share the research I’ve undertaken over the past few years with the outside world. Now that I’ve switched to my focused state of mind, I would imagine the ideal reader as a skull enthusiast or an artist with a strong interest for skulls.

The second component involves introducing a new element to the blog and I wondered whether there is something new I can possibly explore that is different to what I’m familiar or comfortable with. I was intrigued to explore illustration or drawing that is something that I haven’t practised for about a year now. For two whole days, I sat beneath the heater with a pencil and an old sketch book that was recently discovered in the bottom of a cardboard box; this basically summaries the length of time I haven’t practised my sketching.

With two to three attempts, a sugar skull illustration was finally created! I can be rather picky, although the objective of the exercise involved experimenting with a different medium and the test determined that I can push beyond my comfort zone.  With additional practise and persistence, the sugar skull illustrations will improve over time. This is the starting point anyway and the sketchbook will hopefully provide new ideas for upcoming projects.

Why Sugar Skulls?

The designs are incredibly inspiring and there is a fascinating cultural association with the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival that is unbelievably admirable and highly creative. For those who are unfamiliar with the Day of the Dead, this vibrant celebration welcomes the spirits from deceased friends and relatives through decorative altars, sugar skulls and other creative events, as referenced by Regina.M.Marchi.1

The sugar skulls are highly colourful, although I’m intrigued to explore the decorative designs in black and white. Another fascinating subject, is the interpretation of death and how would one describe this ambiguous subject? This is something I’ve questioned over and over again, although death is one of those mysterious occurrences that is a natural process of life, although the thought is relatively daunting at times.

I’ve actually awakened from a good night’s rest and realised that I perceive the world through my own point of view and one day that’ll eventually disappear, when death approaches. This is actually difficult to explain, although I experienced a sudden wave of anxiety when I realised that there is an ending, there are some things in life that are unavoidable and death is one of them.

So where do we go from here? Good question, well I would love to explore how others interpret death, perhaps this’ll transform into an exciting new project, you’ll have to wait and see.


1.Regina.M.Marchi, Day of the Dead USA, The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenon (USA:Rutgers University Press) p.26 

Andrea Benge


Everybody Wears a Crown – Andrea Benge

Amazing Skull Paintings by Andrea Benge

While I was browsing through the internet, I discovered the works of Andrea Benge, a contemporary artist who works with watercolour and coloured pencil. I have noticed quite a lot of skulls within Benge’s work and the colourful illustrations adds a stylised aesthetic that I do find visually interesting.

The style and the subject matter within Benge’s paintings also reminds me of tattoo art; in fact these particular artworks would make amazing tattoo designs! These paintings are very similar to the  designs I have seen displayed within the tattoo parlours across the city.

In “Everybody Wears a Crown”, Benge has juxtaposed the skull wearing a multicoloured crown along with colourful paint strokes and paint splatters that adds a very interesting effect to the overall image. In a way Benge has combined beauty with morbidity through the artist’s technique; the paint strokes deliver a vibrant and decorative appearance that contrasts with the grimacing skull within the very centre of the artwork.


In Depth of Grief – Andrea Benge

What fascinates me about this particular artwork is the paint that seeps from the eye sockets; in a way the skull appears to be crying and the paint distorts the original context or symbolic meaning behind the skull.

“The Depth of Grief” is another painting by Benge that features decorative patterns and swirls on the forehead of the skull that is juxtaposed with a blue rose; the designs are very similar to the colourful hand crafted skulls from the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration. During the festival, celebrants decorate wooden, ceramic and papier mache skulls that establish a reunion between the living and the deceased.

The painting also reminds me of the Momento Mori, a 15th century art style that confronted a person with their own mortality. The skull was often juxtaposed with clocks, hour glasses and other still life objects; in a way Benge’s work is a contemporary version of the Momento Mori!

These two particular artworks are my favourite from Benge’s collection, they’re bight, they’re colourful and they have skulls, what more could you ask for!

For more information please click on the link below.



Black and White Skull

5/9/12 – Black and White Drawing of  a Mexican Skull

This week I decided to draw another Mexican skull within one of my notebooks. In the past, drawing has never been my area of expertise although the work in progress that I have complete so far has enabled me to draw a basic outline of a skull. For an entire year, I have been trying to teach myself how to draw a skull and I thought this would be a great starting point.

The drawings have also provided ideas for the style of the make up that is used to create my own interpretations of the Mexican sugar skulls. The drawings have initiated a close analysis into  the different patterns and designs within the Mexican skulls. There are at least four questions that I am currently trying to find the answers for.

1. Why are there circles around the eye sockets?

2. Why do the Mexican skulls have a love heart shaped nose?

3. Why is there a cross on the top of the forehead?

4. Why are the Mexican skulls decorated with flowers or other floral patterns?

In the “Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico”, Carmicheal and Sayar explain that religious iconography from the Catholic church was introduced to the indigenous community during the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century. The image of the cross, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ were included into the Day of the Dead Festival that has become an emblem of Mexico’s national identity. These images are also included into the Ofrendas that invite the spirits to the celebration each year through the colourful decorations and designs. According to Carmichael and Sayar, the dead extract the essences from the Ofrendas that also include  food, water and the person’s favourite possessions.

Carmicheal and Sayar have also conducted interviews with local Mexicans who provide a detailed description about their own culture and heritage in terms of the Day of the Dead celebration. Maria Antonieta explains that the Spanish Invasion and the indigenous beliefs within “pre Hispanic Mexico’ have influenced the Ofrendas that are associated with the Day of the Dead.

Artist Unknown: Example of a Mexican Ofrenda

Antonieta quotes “As with most ofrendas pre – Hispanic and Spanish merge. We always burn incense, because it purifies; when it rises, it carries our prayers to heaven. There is a cross because Christ must be present in all ofrendas and candles. Flowers have been an important since the pre Conquest times; Cempasuchil flowers are like the sun; they guide the souls of the dead to earth”. (Antonieta, Carmicheal & Sayar, 2003) Antonieta’s explanations may provide the reason as to why the Mexican skulls feature religious symbology and floral patterns or designs.

I am still unsure why the Mexican skulls have circles around the eye sockets or why they have a love shaped nose, although I am determined to find the answers to these questions. I also attach all of my drawings to my wardrobe door that allows me to take a step back and actually consider the shape and the design of the Mexican skulls. Last Tuesday, when I have in bed I had a dozen skulls staring directly at me, which was a strange experience. It was the first time that the skull has invited me to consider my own mortality. I was suddenly aware of my existence that is something that I haven’t experienced before.

Carmichael, Elizabeth & Sayar, Chloe “The Skeleton at the Feast, The Day of the Dead in Mexico” (Texas: University of Texas Press, 2003) p.120-121

Image Citations:



Danie Mellor

29/7/12 – Piccaninny Paradise, 2009

Yesterday I was reading through the readings for my Art & Censorship Class at Melbourne University and I had discovered the works of Danie Mellor. According to the Karen Woodbury Gallery, Danie Mellor is a contemporary artist who explores a range of different art forms and styles that have been exhibited in Victoria, Canberra and New South Wales.

There is limited information about the Piccaninny Paradise, however Danie Mellor’s website explains that the artist explores the cultural and historical heritage within the indigenous culture. Picanninny Paradise there are at least four miniature figures on the top of a skull that becomes the main focus within the overall image.

One could argue that the skull is also juxtaposed with native flowers and birds within the background that may symbolise the lifestyle within the Aboriginal community. Perhaps the image provides a juxtaposition between life and death through the placement of the skull and the animated figures that also reflect the indigenous culture in Australia.

The skull and crossbones may also symbolise the European settlement in Australia who had changed the cultural and social values among the indigenous community. According to Christian Emden, Catherine Keen & David. R. Midley “The skull and crossbones was used by a few European armies in the fifteenth century to symbolise death and was later adopted by pirates” (Lang, Emden, Keen & Midley, 2006)

Mellor’s work features fine detail that is emphasised through colour, tone and composition. When I had discovered the image for the first time, I did not realise the smaller figures within the image, that may alter the viewer’s perception of the overall image. I have only seen Mellor’s work on the internet, although the artist’s website also explains that Piccaninny Paradise is made from “glitter and Swarovski Crystal” This is a very interesting choice of materials that may provide the image with a reflection or a different dimension. Perhaps the artist is combining beauty with death in order to provide a unique perspective of the human skull.

A couple of important questions were raised in class yesterday that did encourage me to consider how artists represent indigenous communities. The presentation had asked….

1. Can we speak for indigenous cultures?

2. Are all artists able to represent any culture?

From a personal perspective, it depends on the culture and the lifestyle. Representing other indigenous cultures can become quite complex and the artist must be aware of the historical and the political beliefs within a particular community. It also depends on how the culture is represented on the artist’s behalf especially within a contemporary context.

Nakikko Nakajima explains the role of censorship in contemporary art with response to the moral and social values within the community. There is a conflict between gallery spaces that want to display contemporary works of art and the cultural or the religious beliefs within the community. I do believe that contemporary artists should have the freedom to express social, cultural and historical contexts.

One could argue that the whole purpose of art is to challenge or provoke certain ideologies within the contemporary culture. If the artist did not challenge the values or the beliefs from the viewer, what would be the point? Isn’t art supposed to provide another perspective or interpretation on a particular idea?

In relation to the second question, there are contemporary artists that have explored different cultures within a different context. In Melbourne for instance, The Mexican Day of the Dead Culture has become an extremely popular representation that is evident with bars, restaurants and art galleries around the city. Can globalisation provide recognition for a particular community or culture?

Regina Marchi explains that the globalisation of the Mexican skulls in the USA has allowed other cultures to experience the Day of the Dead festival. According to Marchi “In this age of intensified globalisation and cultural – pollenization, it is not possible to maintain neat categories of ethnicity and corresponding cultural practises. Day of the Dead in the United States illustrates how diverse groups of participants are deepening the hybridity of an already hybrid subject” (Marchi,2009)

Perhaps globalisation allows artists to represent different cultures, culturally and historically. Prints, posters and other forms of merchandise allows artists to experience the culture without visiting the country. The Day of the Dead imagery in Melbourne has allowed me to understand Mexico’s cultural heritage and national identity. Has globalisation transferred cultural and spiritual values from a particular culture into a commercial product?

Karen Wood Gallery, “Danie Mellor”, Karen Wood Gallery, 2012, http://www.karenwoodburygallery.com/artist/danie-mellor/45 (Accessed 28/8/12)

Danie Mellor Official Website, “Piccaninny Paradise”, Danie Mellor, 2011, http://daniemellor.com/portfolio/?p=143 (Accessed 28/8/12)

Lang, Peter in Emden, Christian, Keen, Catherine & Midgley, David. R (eds), Imagining the City: The art of urban living (Switzerland: Academic Publishers, 2006) p.302

Nakajima, Makiko (2011) ‘Contemporary Art and Censorship: The Australian Museum Context’, The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, vol.3, issue 4, 129-146

Marchi, Regina.M. The Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenan.  New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2009. p.112- 113

New Skull Drawing

18/8/12 – Using Wardrobe Door as a Work Station?

On Saturday night, I decided to draw another black and white Mexican skull on a sheet of lined paper. For some reason I now have an obsession with drawing skulls and the image always seems to be at the back of my mind. The image of the skull has become almost impossible to avoid over the past few months and the shape of the skull is now ingrained into my memory.

I usually need a reference or a photograph for drawing although I can now draw the skull from my own imagination. At the moment I am experimenting with different patterns and designs that I could use as a reference for my photographic work that I will produce towards the end of the year. I’ve decided to use my wardrobe door as a notice board that is used to document work in progress and visual observations.

Once I began to attach drawings, photos and notes to the wardrobe door I was able to actually see what I was working with instead of having all of my work spilling onto the floor. It is interesting to view the drawings from a distance and each day the work provides different ideas or concepts for the project.

My interpretation of the skull varies each day depending on what kind of image I am looking at Each day may provide a different perspective that may change completely in the next week or the next year. For some reason I do not think of death once I am confronted with the image of a skull which may reflect my culture or generation.

I am confronted with the skull day in day out through commercial art, design and popular culture, although would these particular art forms provide an explanation as to why I am desensitised towards death?

Drawing and Sketching

16/8/12 – Work in Progress: Using the skull as a way to Improve my own Drawing Skills? 

Over the past few months I have been sketching the image of the skull in my visual diary and my note book. At the start of the year I wasn’t able to draw anything at all now I have the skull ingrained into my mind. When I sketch I am now able to create the shape of the skull from memory, which is something I haven’t been able to do before.

Drawing is not my area of expertise although I have been practising different styles, patterns and designs over the past year or so. Below is a list of images that I have been currently working on, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to use some of them for my photographic work.

April 20th – I remember drawing on the train with my boyfriend who was teaching me how to draw a skull. I had just used a notepad that I had received from a conference that day and for some reason I wasn’t able to draw the mouth of the skull. I then realised that I was supposed to draw inwards in order to create the jawline. I was always drawing the jawline outwards and I was always wondering why my skulls were out of proportion.

July 3rd – For some reason I like to draw on the train because it takes an hour to get to the city and the trains are incredibly slow. The skulls are still out of proportion and the jawline still needs adjusting. At this particular stage I still wasn’t too sure how to draw the shape of the skull although my second attempt was an improvement.

August 9th – Last week I found a box of Copic markers in my Boyfriend’s cupboard and I was impressed with the quality. I decided to draw a black and white Mexican skull with the Copic markers, which provided some interesting tones around the nose and the jawline. This drawing is a huge improvement from the last few sketches and I was actually pleased with the results.

The black and white skull also relates to the title of my research project, “Black Calavera”, the english word for “black” is merged with the Spanish word for skull, which is also known as “Calavera”. I have decided to use black and white for all of my skulls and the the drawings could be used for a body of work. The Mexican skull is the best drawing i have produced so far, although one eye socket is larger than the other.

For some reason I don’t like to draw with pencils, I find them restrictive and when I am using a pen I tend to make less mistakes. With a pencil you can keep redrawing the same shape continuously although with a pen you only have one chance to creates something that your happy with. This statement is always stored into the back of my mind and once i begin to pick up the pen, for some reason it seems to work. Of course I have ruined a few drawings although I keep redrawing the same image with the pen until I have achieved something that I’m happy with.

August 10th – Last weekend I went to a birthday party and there was a large table in the middle of the hall full of pens, pencils and paper. I wasn’t expecting there to be arts and craft at the party although I had enjoyed drawing or sketching in the afternoon. There sheets of black paper and I decided to draw a Mexican skull using a gold pen. The eye sockets actually remind me of old sovereign coins and the rendering created an interesting composition. Again there is one eye socket that is larger than the other but hopefully I will fix this particular issue in my next drawings.

August 15th – Last wednesday on the train ride home from Melbourne I decided to draw another Mexican skull. I was pretty tired and it was pretty late when I had caught the train, although I was quite bored so I decided to create a quick sketch. I do intend to continue with the sketching in order to develop further ideas for the project and the work in progress has provided an excellent opportunity to improve my drawing skills. I still have a long way to go, although I do remember the advice I had received when I was a child, “practise makes perfect”. Stay tuned for further updates!