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Celebrity Mask

May 29th, 2010

Recently I posted a mask that I had created to be donated to this year’s Un-masking the Mind charity auction. You may recall that I mentioned having the honor of ‘decorating’ a couple of masks autographed by certain celebrities. Well, the first of these is finally complete.

Jay Leno, the host of The Tonight Show, was kind enough to autograph this mask for the charity. My design is based on his status in nighttime television and his love for cars/motorcycles. I used a crescent moon to represent his nighttime hosting duties. The ‘clouds’ around the moon are made with denim because every video or photo I ever saw of him around his auto shops or riding his bikes usually had him wearing denim.

Lunar Leno

Lunar Leno – Paper mache’ and denim mask – Completed 5-28-10

©2010, Don Michael, Jr.

I had asked that the mask be painted with black gesso before it was autographed, and that the autograph be with silver sharpie. Well, they complied and this is what I had to start with.


Using a sheet of drawing paper I quickly drew out my crescent moon shape and transfered it to cardboard which I then cut into shape to use as forms for what was to come next. Notice I have a blank mask here with the autographed one. All tests were done to this one before anything ever touched the other.


I wrapped the blank mask in foil and created my forms around it using good old-fashioned masking tape.


I then wrapped the entire form in foil and proceeded to paper mache’ing the moon shape using brown wrapping paper and acrylic gel medium. Notice that the face is left unpapered. You’ll see why soon.


The mask started getting claustrophobic, so I busted the foil around its face and proceeded to release the paper mache’ from the foil – after it had dried, of course…


Here’s where my butt starts to pucker… Now it was time to start attaching the ‘horns’ to the original autographed mask. I had a limited area in which to work, and I wanted in no way to mess up Mr. Leno’s autograph. BTW, I had put two coats of acrylic matte varnish on the mask to protect the autograph before starting this process. The cardboard crescent beneath the mask and ‘horn’ is only there for placement. It goes away after this step.


While the paper mache’ was drying on the autographed mask, I used the lunar mask form as a model to create and wrap foil around the ‘clouds’. The ‘clouds’ are made of wadded up packing paper. You can see the strips of denim I have cut and torn to be used in the next step.


Using the denim like paper mache’ I adhered the strips to my cloud forms. You can see that this workstation in my studio is getting a bit cluttered as this process continues…


While the denim mache’ was drying I painted the final mask entirely in black gesso, being careful of Mr. Leno’s name. Before starting to put color directly onto the Lunar Leno, I did a few tests with other paper mache’ masks I’d created in a recent flurry of experimentation (mentioned here). The mask on the right was my original intent of creating a ‘chrome’ look, but I found it unsatisfactory. The chrome look did not work with the organic nature of the paper mache’ – chrome needs a totally slick, manufactured feel with no wrinkles, dips or crevices. So, I decided it was time to rethink this part of the plan and the mask on the left was brought into play. Thankfully the color experiments with that one gave me something I could work with.


When I laid all the pieces together I realized that although I like the way the strips of denim looked, they seemed a little too ‘busy’ for what I wanted for this mask. They seemed to compete with it… (This photo actually looks better than it appeared in real life.)


So, using those denim ‘cloud’ pieces as forms, I wrapped them in foil and proceeded to adhering full pieces of denim to each. Regrettably, my camera was out of action during this process since my wife and daughter had gone over to my oldest son’s apartment to see the four newborn kittens. With the Dad of this family being such a bonehead the proof of these kittens was accidently deleted from the camera. Luckily, my daughter had taken photos with her cellphone (although they’re not as good a quality as the ones from the camera), so Dad was able to escape the doghouse…

Cammy n kittens

Whew! I was worried there for a minute…

OK, back to Lunar Leno. Attaching those ‘cloud’ pieces to the mask was one of the most labor-intensive feats of brain wracking activity I have had the pleasure of taking part in in a long time. But, attached, they are…


After getting everything put together I used a gloss acrylic varnish on the front, and used black gesso to clean up everything in the back. Once again (like in my previous mask), as I took photos of the back I noticed the inversion of the face. I don’t know why the camera cannot see the concave nature of this and wants to make it convex, but it does… Cool, huh?


This took me about two weeks to complete, and was totally distracting – but in a good way. I am certainly looking forward to getting back to canvas for a while, though…

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27 Comments for 'Celebrity Mask'

  1. Technobabe Said:

    This turned out so well, great idea. This was quite the process, and you sort of were on the spot to produce with the autograph already in place. Yikes. I can’t tell how many kittens are there.

  2. Ken Malin Said:

    WOW! Nice job. This is very nice. Thank you so very much for all of the effort put in to producing this amazing piece. I think I can speak for the whole IICSN family in saying THANK YOU very much. I’m still trying to master drawing stick people.

  3. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    Technobabe… Thanks. You’re right, it was QUITE the process, and was very challenging – but fun. Oops, I forgot to mention that there were four kittens (I’ll fix that in the post), and according to my daughter they are all cute…

    Ken… Thank you, so much! It is my pleasure to take part in this cool event. I hope we are able to raise even more money for the school this year. Good luck with those stick people… I believe in you. 🙂


  4. Dan Kent Said:

    Amazing to watch this step by step. I don’t know that I’d have the patience to work on something like this for 2 weeks. Wow. Great patina on the final mask!

  5. Lee Huddy Said:

    Holy cow! What an amazing piece of art!! Just reading the step by step process made me tired. It’s obvious you put your heart and soul into this creation. I can’t wait until the auction begins. Thank you so very much for supporting our school. I can’t even paint by number. 🙁

  6. Peggy Said:

    Very cool, Don. I love it. 🙂

  7. Sharmon Said:

    I think the mask turned out well, Don, and I can’t believe all the work that went into it! Thanks for sharing the step-by-step process, as I am always curious about how things are created. kittens are awesome, but I already know how they’re created…:)

  8. hallie Said:

    Great post, Don. Most people see a finished piece and have no idea how much thought and work went into it. Beautiful.

  9. Stan Kurth Said:

    From one bonehead to another: Your work is astounding, not to mention the fact that you share this with such incredible detail & thought. I’m guessing the original chrome look was for Leno’s love of cars and scooters. I think even with a smooth chrome finish it would have been a lot harder to incorporate the sig. The color and various textures and shapes assembled are perfect.

  10. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    Hey Dan… Thanks! The patina in a mixture of the black gesso, Iridescent Silver, and Iridescent Copper – all from Golden. As for patience, does this make me a virtuous man? 😉

    Lee… Thank you! I’m really glad you like it. Stop and catch your breath now…. I, too, am looking forward to the auction and seeing all the masks that are being created for it.

    Peggy… Thanks!

    Sharmon… The work was fun. I’m glad you like the mask and enjoyed seeing the process. Thanks.

    Hallie… Thank you. Sharing these steps helps me to ‘revisit’ what I did, while helping me to figure out new ways for the future. I’m glad people don’t mind going along for the ride…

    Stan… Well, we boneheads must stick together, you know… Thank you! I’m really glad you like it. You’re right about the original chrome look. And you’re doubly right about incorporating the sig.


  11. Celeste Said:

    Very good solution for the “Jay Leno persona” –the signature looks very cool on it. Your design came out just right!
    Congratulations to momma kitty. she looks a little non-plussed, however.

  12. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    Hi Celeste… Thanks! You’re right, Jay’s signature is pretty cool. As for momma kitty, she had an 11-year-old girl hovering over her just itching to hold her babies… I think I’d feel the same way. 😀


  13. Deanna Said:

    Oh my goodness. It looks amazing. Thank you so much.

  14. AlleyZoom Said:

    Very Nice… I know you have a lot of blood, sweat and ripped jeans in this projects. It turned out Amazing. Good-on-ya!

  15. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    Hey Deanna… Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks also for getting Mr. Leno’s signature on it. I’m glad you got to go back stage and meet him recently.

    AlleyZoom… One of the funnest parts of this project was the ripping of the jeans. The blood and sweat I could have done without… Thanks!


  16. kathy Said:

    Fantabulous!! (a new word created in honor of your work) I like where your imagination has taken you.

  17. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    Yay! My Kathy is back! Hope you had a great Memorial Weekend. Thanks for all the great comments. I’m going to have to start a Cartwright Dictionary to keep up with all these words you keep coming up with. You are an artist on every level…


  18. Kathleen Krucoff Said:

    Whooo wheeee Don! Love the step by step, seeing your process. I LOVE this. You did such a wonderful job. And when you started talking about the use of masking tape, you made me think that you are the MacGyver of the painting world!!! I’m waiting for duck tape next. 😀

    Beautiful work. Glad you were given a reprieve on the kitty photo too.

    Looking forward to see your next work.

  19. Peggy Stermer-Cox Said:

    Hey Don! Coolness! I like the title and the interesting way you tied in your subject. I hope it does wonderfully well at the auction. Cool kitty photo too!

  20. Suzanne Berry Said:

    You oooze creativity!! Another incredible concept and interpretation! congratulations on your continued success and non-stop wonderfulnesss!

  21. Dana Cooper Said:

    Love seeing the process and reading about what went into this beautiful mask…and it looks like you had fun, what could be better?

  22. PAMO Said:

    I agree with all of the above comments! You have a remarkable ability Don to meet people where they are at and customize a gift of yourself just for them- and I mean that on every level.

  23. Sandy Byers Said:

    Your passion shines, Don. Thank you for sharing so much of it with us because we all learn from seeing what you do. And, even though I don’t do mask work, I am inspired by the way you creatively move through your studio.

  24. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    Kathleen… Thank you, so much! I’m glad you enjoyed seeing the progression. The spirit of MacGyver lives on…

    Peggy… Thanks! I had a feeling you could appreciate the kitty reference.

    Suz… Thanks! The wonderfulness is your swell comment.

    Dana… Thank you. It’s ALL about the fun.

    Pamo… What a cool thing to say. Thanks!

    Sandy… Thank you, and it’s my pleasure. I’m glad you and others get something from this. It’s cool to be able to share the fun.


  25. Heather Said:

    KITTENS!!!!!!!!! Yep, I love cats, kittens and all things feline. I want a tiger, but I’m not allowed one – something to do with the law – I don’t know. I was recently at the wildlife reserve, and asked to take one home, but they refused. As my friend said: ‘How dare they! Do they not know who you are?’ My sentiments exactly. Anyway, KITTENS!!! So cuuuuute! That was a weird tangent, huh?

    As for your masks, I love the one on the left in the photo of the three masks. It’s fabulous that you got Jay Leno’s signature, and I hope you make lots of money from it!

    Can you check my site again, and see if you’re still having problems with Safari? I’ve uninstalled some plugins to try and eliminate the problem, so your feedback would be most welcome!

    H x

  26. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    Hi Heather… So, how do you feel about kittens? 😛 Thanks for your comment on the masks. I like the way that left one turned out, as well. It helped me decide how to finish out the one with Leno’s sig. I hope it does well for the school.

    I checked out your blog and left a comment. Everything worked fine this time. Thanks!


  27. Heather Said:

    Well, I couldn’t eat a whole one! 😛

    Glad you got through in the end. I take my readers problems seriously! 😀



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