Tag Archives: Sugar Skulls

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

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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.

Reference

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


UV and Black Light Sugar Skull Designs

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#1 UV Sugar Skull Body Paint by Matt Deifer – http://goo.gl/mcsOEM

Last Week, I discussed my favourite sugar skull makeup designs that feature a range of highly creative and decorative patterns or styles. Over the past few days, I’ve discovered a series of sugar skull designs that are created with ‘ultraviolet / black light responsive makeup and body paint.’ These particular materials do create some spectacular, fluorescent patterns that provide a very artistic depiction of the Mexican Sugar Skulls.

While there is a limited number of UV or black light sugar skull makeup designs online, I’ve discovered at least ten different styles that feature a high level of detail, intricacy and craftsmanship. At first, I struggled to search for some of the artist’s names or websites and I’ve spent a good few hours searching for all the relevant information. It’ll be interesting to see whether the UV sugar skull makeup / body paint becomes a fashionable or popular trend, only time will tell. The black light and UV paint would definitely compliment your next Halloween outfit or celebratory event, you’ll immediately stand out from the crowd.

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#2 UV Sugar Skull Makeup by Krystaltips – http://goo.gl/K9r6Vv

What is Black Light Paint?

Before we get started, I thought I would briefly discuss the concept behind back lights or black light reactive paint. I initially researched UV makeup, although I suddenly discovered the term, ‘backlight’ that did create some confusion to begin with. According to Mark Chervenka, black light is another term or definition for ultraviolet light that is “invisible to the human eye.” However, the black light converts the fluorescent source into a “visible light” that features a different “wave length” compared to the lamps / electrical equipment within our households, as referenced by Chervenka.1

The black light is used for a range of creative or artistic purposes that does produce some fantastic results within a dark environment. David Cay Johnston from the new York Times explains that Joseph and Robert Switzer invented the visible, ‘fluorescent paint’ that is commonly known as Day-Glow. Robert Switzer severely injured his left eye, while he continued to unload packaged goods and he was confined to a dark space; this inspired the young chemistry student to experiment or research UV lighting.

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#3 Hybrid Black Light Sugar Skull by DRE Images – http://goo.gl/0U7sP5

According to Johnston’s article, the paint was used for the ‘warplanes’ during the Second World War that enabled the troops to “operate at night from aircraft carriers in the pacific.” The armed forces used ‘bright panels’ in North Africa in order to highlight their goodwill or friendliness to “Allied Dive Bombers.”2

David Johnston suggests, “ultraviolet light goes in and its energy is converted into visible light emitted by the chemicals in the paint, creating the bright fluorescent quality.”3 The technical procedures and the back story is fascinating; the black light paint is now used for many artistic, creative and inspiring projects including the bright and colourful sugar skull designs.

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#3 UV Sugar Skull Makeup by Agnieszka Grzelak – http://goo.gl/clKG0V

Black Light Photography

I’ve recognised many photographs that display black light or UV lighting and I began to research the actual process or equipment used in order to create these particular effects. Don Krajewski from the XOIND Studios recommends using a ‘black light’ in order to highlight the intended ‘subject’ as well as a particular material that will react to the black light. Krajewski also suggests experimenting with the manual camera settings including the exposure, ISO and lighting as well as the distance in order to achieve an artistic or stylised effect.

Krajewski’s article features some very useful suggestions or recommendations that’s definitely worth viewing if you are interested in UV / black light photography. WARNING: If you wish to experiment with this particular lighting, just be careful with the type of lights you are using, as there are certain sources who claim that UV Lighting / black lights can burn the skin, cause cataracts and radiation. Krajewski suggests UV-A lights for photography and this particular light source is often used for clubs or other specific environments; overall the article does provide some very knowledgable advice, it’s just something to keep in mind anyway.4

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#4 Whispering Ghost, Blacklight Makeup by Lotoff – https://500px.com/Lotoff

Black Light: Conclusion

The black light paint and the dark background does provide a very dramatic effect that intensifies the overall style. From a personal perspective, the UV makeup significantly highlights the vibrant sugar skull designs as well as the fine, intricate detail. Lindsay Adler suggests that people may associate black light photography to a ‘party or a rave’ and there are certain elements including motion or movement that can create a level of interest and spontaneity. If the idea is executed in an artistic or creative manner, the image can feature some outstanding effects, although the UV lighting often isolates the main subject, it just depends on the intended meaning or style.5

I began to question whether the UV sugar skulls establish a closer association to death? I personally believe that the vibrant patterns and the dark background provides a very interesting composition between life and death. The decorative designs aestheticize the concept of death and the skull becomes a subject of beauty. This is such an interesting area of discussion that I’ll investigate over the next few weeks.

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#5 UV Backlight Sugar Skull by Pieke Roelofs – http://photoandgrime.com/

Since I’ve explore the sugar skulls, the black light paint / makeup has become an area of fascination that has provide a level of inspiration. While, I’ve focused upon the history and the overall process, it’ll be really interesting to continue researching this particular subject. Here are some other designs or photographs I have discovered; this is all for now, although I shall return shortly, goodbye for now.

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#6 Brittany Couture – http://goo.gl/Tt5kHs

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#7 Duende ‘rfs – https://www.facebook.com/duenderfs

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#8 Black Light Sugar Skull Makeup by Katie Alves – http://goo.gl/zxcMdD

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#9 Lucy Chippindale – http://goo.gl/SVsj5L

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#10 TiffyQuake – http://goo.gl/IAZ89I

References

1.Chervenka, Mark, Black Light Book (Pittsburgh: The Black Light Book, 2007) p.8 – 13
2.David Cay Johnston, “Robert Switzer, Co-Inventor Of Day-Glo Paint, Dies at 83,” Aug 29, 1997, The New York Times, 2015 (Accessed 18/2/15) http://goo.gl/HWySdw

3.Johnston, “Robert Switzer, Co-Inventor Of Day-Glo Paint, Dies at 83”
4.Don Krajewski, XOIND Studio Blog, “UV or Black Light Photography,” Mar 17, 2012, WordPress Blog (Accessed 18/2/15) http://goo.gl/D4aSN7
5.Adler, Lindsay, Creative 52: Weekly Projects to Invigorate Your Photography Portfolio (San Fransisco: Peachpit Press, 2014) p.77


Top Five Sugar Skull Makeup Designs

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Sugar Skull Makeup by Lindsay Hancock 

At the beginning of the year, I explored a range of inspiring, black and white makeup designs featuring the human skull. The post featured my favourite design and I briefly discussed certain patterns or styles that I find particularly inspiring. Today I thought I would briefly analyse five different sugar skull makeup designs that I admire; this task has been rather challenging, as there are so many fantastic styles or designs online. Before we get started, I thought I would briefly mention the cultural associations related to the sugar skull face painting.

Since 2012, I developed a fascination for the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival including the sugar skulls that have significantly increased in popularity within contemporary art and popular culture. I decided to conduct some additional research online, where I discovered hundreds or even thousands of photographs featuring various sugar skull make up designs.

According to Elizabeth Carmichael and Chloe Sayar, these vibrant, hand crafted sugar skulls are designed for the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration, an annual tradition featuring a range of activities, decorations and memorials that welcome the ‘departed souls.’1 The Day of the Dead is often celebrated on the 1st and the 2nd of November that reflects both European and Pre Hispanic traditions, as referenced by David Carrasco and Scott Sessions in The Daily Life of the Aztecs.2 I began to question the growing interest in the sugar skull makeup, why do we paint a skull onto our face? and why do we choose sugar skulls as the primary design?

Margo DeMello investigates certain activities and decorations that are prevalent within the Day of the Dead celebration including the skull face painting that, “one again, represent the dead symbolically.” According to DeMello, the Spanish were perturbed by the Aztec’s optimistic perceptions of death and “this is reflected in the skull imagery used by celebrants today, which universally feature smiling skulls.”3

This is their most distinctive quality, the sugar skulls are colourful, vibrant and creative; they provide a positive approach to death and the designs have deeply inspired various cultures from around the world. So here are my five favourite sugar skull makeup designs, enjoy!

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#1 Black and White Sugar Skull: Blair Earcret and Amanda.A.Hughes

As soon as I conducted my research into the sugar skull makeup / face painting, I was instantly inspired by this particular design. Blair Eacret and Akins Hughes have created an inverted skull and the overall style is very unique compared to the other sugar skull patterns that I have discovered online.

This is one creative, yet intriguing design that immediately captured my attention and the artist(s) have successfully created a very interesting perspective in regards to the sugar skulls through the use of black and white makeup or face paint. There is limited information in regards to the process and I have struggled to search for a website or a social media page. This particular design would work really well as a professional photo shoot or a makeup tutorial!4

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#2 Elvis Schmoulianoff: Vegan Makeup Artist

While I was searching through my Facebook news feed, I discovered a very admirable sugar skull design by Elivs Schmoulianoff, a professional makeup artist who sources “cruelty free cosmetics,” as referenced by the artist’s website.5

The dark lines or patterns significantly contrast with the bright, vibrant colours; these particular elements successfully create a very striking design. The yellow and the red just compliment each other perfectly and the dark outlines exemplifies the circular patterns around the eyes, chin and forehead. While the design is beautiful, the eyes or the pupils feature a sinister appearance, which provides a very unique composition.

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#3 Sugar Skull Makeup Tutorial by Lindsay Hancock

This is one incredible, yet colourful sugar skull design by Lindsay Hancock who has created a very instructional video tutorial in regards to the overall style. Hancock is a professional makeup artist and stylist from Los Angeles with an extensive modelling portfolio, as referenced by Hancock’s website.6 As I continued to watch the sugar skull tutorial, I was amazed by the different tones, pigments and gradients; they definitely add a very interesting dimension. The final result is very impressive and the photo shoot presents a very shiny complexion that compliments the colourful sequins around the eye sockets and the wig.

This is properly the most colourful sugar skull I have encountered and the style does remind me of a Barbie doll or Nikki Minaj. In one of the photos, Hancock stands in front of a bright, purple backdrop covered in glitter, although the colours are very overpowering at times; In my personal opinion, the makeup does work really well against a white / silver backdrop. Overall the tutorial, the photo shoot and the final result features a very distinctive and eclectic representation of the Mexican sugar skulls.

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#4 Sugar Skull Advertisement for Jose Cuervo

Now this particular design was a surprise discovery that caused me to stop everything completely! According to LEVINE/LEAVITT, the sugar skull make up is designed by Alex Box who has ‘collaborated’ with a very talented photographer, known as Dimitri Daniloff in order to create an advertising campaign for Jose Cuervo.7

The patterns and the gradients are very smooth / refined and the elements contrast with the monochromatic colours and the dark backdrop. There are shadows along the model’s cheekbones that definitely adds definition to the design, the actual shape appears relatively similar to the human skull. This is a very fascinating campaign that has inspired me to try the tequila for myself.

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# Royal Sugar Skull Tutorial by Jangsara

Last by not least, I present a very informative, yet interesting sugar skull tutorial by Jangsara. The site presents a list of instructions in regards to the shading, the definition and the decorations. The design is minimal compared the other styles that I have researched, although the shading around the cheekbones does remind me of the human skull. The actual shape appears similar to the skull, although the sequins do add a decorative element to the design.

While I do admire the sugar skull makeup, the roses are quite distracting and a simple, dark background would elevate the overall design. If the roses were smaller, they properly wouldn’t interfere with the main focal point. Overall the tutorial and the final result is very inspiring, creative and compelling.8

Overall, these are my favourite sugar skull makeup styles and the decision was incredibly challenging, as there are so many impressive designs to choose from. I’ll intend to create an additional post with all the sugar skull designs that I have recently discovered over the past few weeks. It would be interesting to research some male sugar skull designs as well in order to create some variation. I hope you enjoy the post and stay tuned for further updates.

References 

1.Carmichael, Elizabeth and Sayar, Chloe, The Skeleton at the Feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico, (Texas: Texas Press Printing, 2003) p.6
2.Carrasco, David and Sessions, Scott, The Daily Life of the Aztecs, (California: ABC-CLIO, 2011) p.249
3.DeMello, Margo, Faces around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia of the Human Face, (California ABC – CLIO, LLC, 2012), p. 58-60.
4.MuchPics, (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/NmNW3J
5.Elvis Schmoulianoff: Make Up, Wigs and Body Art, ‘About,’ (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/pifYhI
6.Lindsay Hancock, YouTube, “Sugar Skull Makeup Tutorial,” 31 Oct 2012 (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/4pBjgG
7.LEVINE/LEAVITT, “Jose Cuervo by Dimitri Daniloff,” Nov 12, 2010 (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/CM3gJC
8.Jangsara, “Tutorial: Royal Sugar Skull,” Sept 16, 2011 (Accessed 12/2/15) http://goo.gl/Zd9qcP


Zombies, Skulls and Skeletons parade through Melbourne for the Annual Zombie Shuffle.

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About a week ago, I attended the annual Zombie Shuffle in Melbourne, where thousands of individuals paraded through the streets dressed as flesh-eating zombies, skeletons and other pop culture characters. Many enthusiasts commenced their journey at the Treasury Gardens in Fitzroy and the various costume designs were extremely impressive to say the least!

The level of creativity and imagination was definitely inspiring and I began to frantically take photographs of undead, Disney princesses, skeletons, bridesmaids, nurses, surgeons, cheerleaders, policemen, convicts, school girls and many others. In fact there were so many different zombies, I didn’t know where to look next! It was great to see different age groups attending the event; children were dressed as Zombies along with their parents, while others brought their dogs along for a leisurely walk through Melbourne.

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During the event, I noticed several attendees mixed amongst the gore and the simulated blood with skulls painted onto their faces. I began to ask myself whether the skull is still a popular icon within the contemporary visual culture or everyday life in general?

From a personal point of view, the Zombie Shuffle allows the public to explore the concept of death within a satirical or entertaining manner. The event encourages the community to display their own creativity or imagination and it is interesting to examine the way death is represented.

There was one character in particular who was dressed in an old-fashioned outfit along with the black and white skull makeup. I raced over to take a closer look and I couldn’t stop taking photographs, this costume was definitely my favourite one! While I tried to search for a place to rest, I discovered a young woman with the most extraordinary skull makeup, the overall detail was admirable and the suit complimented the intricate design. I couldn’t leave without taking at least one photograph!

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As I continued to walk through the Treasury Gardens, I recognised a green sugar skull zombie; the colours were amazing and the vibrant designs were certainly intriguing. The make up merged elements of Western popular culture with the Mexican sugar skull designs; these two particular styles provided quite a unique interpretation.

I must admit everyone who attended the Zombie Shuffle looked spectacular and the crowd was throughly entertaining! Towards the afternoon, an amazing ‘percussion group’ known as Maracatu Estrela do Mar paraded through the Treasury Gardens onto Collins street along and the members of the band were wearing black and yellow sugar skull makeup.

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Enthusiastic photographs frantically joined the crowd of zombies that were leisurely following the band down the street and I suddenly began to develop the art of weaving in and out of large, overcrowded groups who began to walk or run besides members of the Zombie Shuffle.

The band in particular was definitely a highlight; I admired the vibrant, sugar skull face paint and the positive atmosphere from the crowd. Maracatu Estrela do Mar reminded me of the Dia De Los Muertos: The Day of the Dead Festival in Mexico and the band provided  a unique twist to the overall event.

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As the crowd reached Federation Square, the Zombie Shuffle collided with a Women’s rights protest and I suddenly found myself in-between a completely different group all together. I would have loved to have stayed to the very end, however I lost my sense of direction and I decided to search for the nearest train station.

Anyway, the Zombie Shuffle was an exciting, exhilarating experience that featured amazing, yet gory Zombies, a fantastic band and a spectacular audience! I would definitely recommend attending the Zombie Shuffle next year for sure!

zombiewatermark31 Check out the Black Calavera Facebook page to view photographs from the event.

https://www.facebook.com/BlackCalavera22

https://www.facebook.com/maracatuestreladomar?fref=nf

https://www.facebook.com/melbournezombieshuffle

ABC, ‘Undead roam Melbourne Streets in Annual Zombie Shuffle,” October 11 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-10-11/zombie-apocalypse-arrives-in-melbourne/5806796


Entry into the 2013 Kodak Salon

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Photograph by Charlotte Pridding, 2013

This year, I submitted one of my photographs into the Kodak Salon, a photographic competition that is exhibited at the Centre of Contemporary Photography in Melbourne, Fitzory. The Kodak Salon encourages a range of photographers to submit their own work into this annual competition, the photographic prints are exhibited at the CCP gallery for at least three to four weeks.1

The Kodak Salon is based in Australia and there are twenty different awards across various disciplines. According to the official CCP website, the Kodak Salon is inspired by a particular style used in Paris during the 1800’s, many galleries and exhibitions in France would display the artworks across the wall from top to bottom.2

There were some amazing photographs on display and there were a few artists that have incorporated the skull into their own work. I decided to submit a print I had produced at the very start of this year, the title of the work ‘reassurance’ features a photograph of myself at the beach with a skull painted onto my face.

The photo was inspired by my Honours research project that explored the growing interest in the skull within Melbourne’s urban / street culture. I started to develop an interest for the Mexican sugar skulls that I discovered in many bars, restaurants, shops and galleries across Melbourne. These colourful and decorative ornaments inspired me to create a series of black and white self portraits that depict my own personal perspectives of the Mexican sugar skulls that are commonly associated with the Day of the Dead Festival.

Once I completed my degree, I continued taking photographs of myself in various locations in order to discover my own interpretations of death and the depiction of the skull in the contemporary visual culture. I’m still searching for a specific answer, which has been rather difficult as my own personal interpretations do change on a daily basis.

I decided to enter the photograph of myself at the beach that questions what happens after death, what happens when the human body deteriorates? Does everything suddenly turn to darkness or do we move from the living world to a completely different place? It’s really hard to tell as there isn’t one definite answer, how can we define death if we have never experienced it before?

Of course everyone has their own interpretations, I’m hoping these photographs will hopefully provide the answers to all of my questions.  So that pretty much summarises everything at the moment, I’m currently working on another project at the moment that I would love to share to you all once I’ve completed everything, so stay tuned! 🙂

If you would like any further information please click on the links below.

http://www.ccp.org.au/

http://www.ccp.org.au/kodak_salon_faq.php

Other Links

http://blackcalavera.com/

https://skullsproject.wordpress.com/about/


Sugar Skull Wallpaper Designed by Emily Evans

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The other day, I discovered another interesting photograph on Facebook that features Day of the Dead, Sugar Skull wallpaper designed by Emily Evans. I was rather intrigued by the pattern and the design, as soon as I signed into Facebook, I instantly clicked onto the photograph and I just could not take my eyes off the golden sugar skulls.

The pattern does feature a unique style and the dark background effectively contrasts with the sugar skulls, especially the detail around the eye sockets, the nose and the jaw line. What I do find particularly fascinating about the sugar skulls are the eye sockets, when I view the photograph for an extended period of time, the different shapes and patterns appear to rotate.

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After ten to fifteen minutes, I actually believed that the eye sockets were rotating, in a way the wallpaper does create an illusion. Every time I view the photograph, I always find a different pattern or design that I haven’t noticed before, there’s always something new to discover. The wallpaper is rather elegant, the design isn’t too overpowering and the sugar skulls do feature a very creative and decorative style.

When I discovered this particular photograph, I just imagined myself using the wallpaper within my own bedroom or bathroom, it would just complement my collection of sugar skulls that I have produced over the past six months. In fact I’m so impressed with the design, I would even use the wallpaper in my lounge room!

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So who has actually designed the sugar skull wallpaper? Emily Evans is a “medical illustrator” based in London who combines her own medical knowledge with creative and imaginative designs. There is limited information in regards to Emily Evans designs, although I have wondered whether Evans has combined both her artistic and scientific knowledge in order to create the sugar skull wallpaper.

The sugar skulls are a unique choice and I have wondered whether Emily Evans has simply recreated the skull due to it current popularity within the contemporary visual culture. I have also questioned whether the wallpaper has any connection to Mexico’s cultural or historical heritage, where sugar skulls are often decorated especially for the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration that reunites the living with the deceased.

At the moment, I just have so many different questions and I am determined to find the answers, stay tuned for the second half of the post! For more information please visit Emily Evans official website for further information. All photographs are sourced from Emily Evans Website.

http://www.emilyevansillustration.com/day-of-the-dead-sugar-skull-wallpaper-anatomy-boutique/

http://www.formfiftyfive.com/2013/04/emily-evans-body-of-work/


Skull & Crossbones Doona Cover found on Sugar Skulls Facebook Page

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While I was casually browsing my Facebook page, I discovered a very interesting photograph that I just had to share with the rest of the world! The image features doona and sheet sets with the skull and cross bone printed onto the very front; as soon as I found the image I had to refrain myself from buying the entire set. What isn’t there to like about the quilt cover and the pillow cases? The skull and crossbones do create a very interesting pattern and design on the front, I mean how can you go wrong with skull printed quilt covers?

At the moment, I just become excited at the thought of having this particular quilt cover in my room, it would match my bedroom perfectly as the walls are decorated with photographs, paintings and illustrations featuring the human skull. So many of you are properly wondering where I have found this particular image, well as you may know by now, Facebook has the capability to combine very interesting and very useless information all in the same place. Well Sugar Skulls is a very interesting Facebook page that sells products and merchandise online, the items for sale are skull related which does make internet shopping rather entertaining.

Sugar Skulls also sells a range of t-shirts, jackets, jumpers, handbags and other fashion accessories, there’s even baby clothes available for sale! If you like skulls or sugar skulls, you’ll definitely enjoy browsing through this site, in fact my Facebook wall is constantly updated with photographs and illustrations that I find rather inspiring.

I have wondered why there is such a large demand for a skull printed quilt cover? Don’t get me wrong, I am in love with this particular design, especially the colour! I began to read the comments and there were several Facebook users who were hoping to order the quilt cover online, the skull has become a popular symbol and it’s used absolutely everything, I have even seen telephones in the shape of a skull!

Well anyway, if you love the quilt cover as much as I do, I would recommend visiting the Sugar Skulls Facebook Page for further information.

http://www.facebook.com/SugarSkulls.com.au?fref=ts