Introduction: Average Bear Paper Mache Mask

About: I Build Monsters.

For those of you playing along at home, this is a follow-up to the Perfectly Ordinary Bunny mask from earlier in the month. Since my main motivation for this mask was to practice what I had learned on the previous one, there are many similarities, and I'll be referring to that Instructable along the way.

My other motivation, equally tied to the Perfectly Ordinary Bunny mask, was to use up the clay. I made a batch of Paper Mache Clay for that project, and the recipe makes way more than I needed for the bunny mask, but I didn't want it to go to waste. So rather than allow the clay to languish in my refrigerator until it became sour and gross, I wanted to start another project right away.

What really interested me in this mask, and made it a joy to work on, in spite of the sense of repetition, was the promise of the paint job. While I was making the bunny mask, I had many ideas for how such a structure might be painted in weird or interesting ways, and it was all I could do to restrict myself to the simplicity of my original vision. Returning to this form allowed me to try out one of my other ideas, specifically, to combine the 2D and 3D elements in this particular fashion.

Step 1: Building the Mask

I'm not going to go into a huge amount of detail here. The lion's share of this process was identical to the bunny mask, so I will mostly just point out where I diverged from that one.

After making the traditional plaster gauze base, I applied the first layer of clay much more delicately. I used small fingersful of clay, lightly moistened with water, which I pressed into the surface of the gauze and spread as thinly and smoothly across the face as I could. I got much more even coverage this time, a thinner base layer, and I didn't have any of the spreading problems that occurred when I applied the clay skin to the bunny mask.

I also learned a lesson about sanding, which was that the clay dries harder than traditional paper-strip mache, and initial sanding ought to be undertaken earlier in the drying process for maximum effect.

Choosing a character for this mask wasn't easy for me. I wasn't sure how vivid or complete my final paint job would be, so I wanted a cartoon character who would be immediately recognizable in silhouette when you looked at them head-on, and there are only so many who fit the bill. I didn't want anyone as name-brand or potentially political as Mickey Mouse, nor as modern-era as Bart Simpson. I had used Bugs Bunny as a template for the first mask, but had not included any of his features, so I briefly flirted with the idea of using Bugs again for an interesting side-by-side treatment of the same silhouette in two completely different ways.

Yogi ended up providing what I needed, a less obvious choice but still sufficiently active in the public consciousness.

Once again I quickly free-handed the silhouette onto a piece of poster board. This time, feeling a little more confident in my abilities, I skipped the step of attaching the mask to a separate flat surface, and instead affixed it directly to the drawing of Yogi Bear's head. And where I had reinforced the structure with a wire mesh the first time around, this time I figured that was unnecessary because I didn't have to worry about the extremely tall ears snapping off.

The faceplate was built in with manila strips and the whole thing sealed with a layer of paper mache, and once that dried I applied a thin layer of the clay over the whole flat surface. Then the entire structure was coated with newspaper strips and sanded down.

The ribbon ties were affixed to the back in exactly the same manner as the bunny mask, except that one point I accidentally Krazy-Glued the pad of my left thumb to the tip of my middle finger. That was a variation on my original design.

Using what I learned on the first mask, I was able to approach each step of this one using less clay, and the result was a faster drying time and less trouble with curling (though I did still need to keep the flat areas weighed down during portions of the drying process). Overall, it fought me a lot less than the bunny mask did, and has a smoother, flatter surface.

Once I was happy with the structure, I gave it a black base coat.

Step 2: Hey There Boo Boo, What Say We Get Our Faces On?

I chose a black primer because I honestly didn't know how much color coverage I was going to use. Would it be the light hand I had employed on the bunny mask? That's how I started. I found the general layout - I needed the eye openings to be at the bottom of Yogi's eyes, and that determined where all the other features would be arranged. Then I began to lightly color in the face, trying to strike a balance between the cartoon and the three-dimensional human features, and eventually decided that I would take a much heavier hand. I still allowed the edges of the color areas to be soft, fading into the black primer, but I fully painted over the human face before I began to deliberately enhance it with highlights and lowlights based on the color areas in which the features lie.

The idea is to make it so that you see Yogi Bear when you look directly at the mask. You know there's something wrong, you can see it's distorted, but maybe you're not quite sure what the problem is. Then as the angle changes, the human face immediately pops out at you, and kind of screws with your perception.

I drew in the lines of the mouth and muzzle just like a cartoon, then subtly adjusted the shading of the upper lip to give it a little more weight. I added three levels of shading to the spots where the whisker-dots would go before I painted them in. Meanwhile, I kept revisiting Yogi's nose area, adding paler and paler greys to the bridge of my human nose and the flare of my human nostrils. I was very cautious because I didn't want the human nose to visually dominate the area, but I was actually able to add quite a lot of white to the highlights before reaching critical mass.

Step 3: Go Steal Some Picnic Baskets!

I have mixed feelings about this mask, which will probably evolve over time, and I may even come back to edit this later after I have ruminated. Sorry, if you came to this Instructable because you saw the mask and you wanted to make a copy of it, this whole thing has probably been pretty unsatisfying. Not a lot of step by step photographs, and most of the important steps are not even included here, they're actually contained in the Instructable for the Perfectly Ordinary Bunny mask instead.

But I made this mask for my own reasons, and I've come away with a certain amount of satisfaction.

I wanted to continue working with the paper mache clay, to further embed into the muscle memory of my fingertips the particular ways that the clay must be prodded and slid in order to achieve my goals. I have done that, and I feel that I have learned more from the second mask. There are specific ways in which I did a better job on this mask.

I wanted to experiment with a type of paint job, and I wasn't sure what it was going to look like. But I wanted to see it. Now I have seen it, and I think it's pretty cool, so in that respect I was successful.

However, I'm less excited for this mask than I was for the bunny mask. The bunny mask was so recent, and this one is obviously a variation on the same theme, so it's less satisfying because I just made something similar. It's not as new or original.

And even though the bunny mask was literally based on the silhouette of a well-known character, none of the striking features that signify Bugs Bunny were included in the final mask. I had borrowed the shape, but the final product felt (to me) like my own creation.

Here, I think the very fact that I succeeded in my goal has actually made me feel less of a connection to the mask I just made. When you look at the mask head-on, you really do see Yogi Bear, and that makes it feel less like my own creation.

If I had just used a generic cartoon bear, or other type of animal, it might have felt different, but at the same time I think the effect is more pronounced in the viewer because Yogi Bear is a well-known character. It's easier to sell the illusion because you already know what Yogi looks like, so your mind helps to fill in around the imperfections in a way that it would not if I tried the same technique on a purple cow or a sassy fox that you had never seen before.

Anyway, that's just me thinking too much about stuff you probably don't care about. Bottom line is, I do like this mask and I highly recommend trying out that cool paper mache clay recipe. Aside from my own desire to practice, I'm not sure exactly what I have achieved here. Is it funny? Creepy? Confusing? All of the above? Let me know what you all think.

Halloween Contest 2017

Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2017