I love to learn about other cultures, and living in Los Angeles has definitely given me many opportunities to do so. The Mexican holiday of Dia de muertos/dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead) is a cultural holiday I’ve been exploring more in recent years, especially after my friend, Jenna, invited me to Dia de los Muertos at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
As the daughter of Korean immigrant parents who are still pretty devout with following Confucian ceremonies, I know a thing or two about honoring ancestors and dearly departed family members. Dia de los muertos is also very much about honoring deceased family members, but what I really appreciate about this cultural variation is how intertwined artistic expression is with this special holiday. For example, it’s hard for me to think about this holiday without also thinking about beautiful sugar skulls and calaveras.
When I needed to think of a gift for my friend, Jenna, I naturally thought of something sugar skull related because I know how much she loves them. There are so many beautiful designs, and I thought about trying to render my own version, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. Like I have on many occasions, I walked up and down the Michaels Arts and Crafts for inspiration, and it hit me when I found a new medium I’ve never worked with before: scratchboard!
Scratchboard consists of a thin layer of white China clay covered with black India ink. Designs are etched into it with sharp tools, and I thought, “Hey, wouldn’t this be cool for a sugar skull design?” So I bought it and naively started my project without realizing what a tough medium this is to work with! I have mad respect for the artistic marvels that others have been able to achieve with this medium (here is an amazing example). Meanwhile, my attempt above is pretty rudimentary, and I had a hard time remembering what I wanted to etch away and what I wanted to keep. Scratchboard is a real challenge when it comes to keeping positive and negative space straight! Perhaps I should just stick to face painting—it was certainly a lot easier to do :)!