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Mixed Media Entomology

By: Von Pappe II
February 27, 2020

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Mixed Media Entomology
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Those who know me know how much I am fascinated by beetles and insects in general. If you have ever taken a closer look at these fascinating tiny crawling jewels you know what I am talking about – how could evolution create something so awesomely and intricately constructed yet so small? And why are their exoskeletons so colourful and have so many different amazing patterns and variations? Would I, as the artist I like to call myself, be able to come up with something just as beautiful (or at least close to it) if I were to create a bug myself? Well, I decided to put the rule to the test – especially as I had an idea recently on how to create small beetle wings from faux fingernails from the dollar store!!! With the use of these and some of my favourite DecoArt paints and products I felt ready to meet the challenge – and this project is the result. I hope you like my "One of a Kind“ bug! It was definitely great fun to make my own amateur entomologist specimen.

Items needed:

  • DecoArt Media Mediums and Specialty Products - Gesso - Black
  • DecoArt Media Mediums and Specialty Products - Crackle Paint - White
  • DecoArt Media Mediums and Specialty Products - Modeling Paste - Black
  • DecoArt Media Fluid Acrylics - Titanium White
  • DecoArt Media Fluid Acrylics - Carbon Black
  • DecoArt Media Fluid Acrylics - Raw Umber
  • DecoArt Media Antiquing Creams - Raw Umber
  • DecoArt Media Antiquing Creams - Carbon Black
  • DecoArt Media Antiquing Creams - Titanium White
  • DecoArt Matte Metallics 2 oz - Pewter
  • DecoArt Matte Metallics 2 oz - Aged Bronze
  • Americana Decou-Page (Glue-Sealer-Finish) 8oz - Americana Decou-Page Matte
  • Americana Decou-Page (Glue-Sealer-Finish) 8oz - Americana Decou-Page Antique
  • Triple Thick Gloss Glaze 8oz bottle - Triple Thick Gloss Glaze
  • Americana Gel Stains 2oz - Walnut
  • Americana Decou-Page Papers - Olde Worlde
  • Andy Skinner Stencils 12x3 - Shedded
  • Assorted brushes
  • Small wooden tray
  • Mini canvas
  • Old watch case (or other circular shape)
  • Faux fingernails
  • Dried used tea bag
  • Self hardening clay
  • Sculpting tool
  • Palette knives
  • Palette or non stick craft mat
  • Soft black wire
  • Cutting pliers
  • Round-nose pliers
  • Scissors
  • Sticky foam pads
  • Foamboard leftovers
  • Word sticker


Step One: Cut four pairs of short pieces from the soft black wire; three pairs shorter (to form the legs) and one pair longer (to form the feelers). Use the round nose pliers to form the legs‘ and feelers‘ ends as shown in the picture. Use one large fingernail for the abdomen and two smaller ones for the beetle‘s wings.

Instruction #1 - DA Feb20 step1
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Step Two: Take a small chunk of air-hardening clay (about the size of a walnut) and the large fingernail to form the beetle‘s body. Shape the body‘s different sections with a sculpting tool. Then insert the nails and wire legs and feelers and put your beetle aside to let it dry naturally. This may take up to half a day – depending on temperatures and climate. I put mine on the central heating and the clay hardened in about an hour. I worked on the other pieces in the meantime.

Instruction #2 - DA Feb20 step2
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Step Three: Prepare the base tray. To do so place it on the section of the Decou-Page paper you want to have on display inside the tray. Then mark the four corners‘ inner sides on the paper as shown in the close up picture (one mark aligns with a line of longitude so it is hard to spot). You put the marks around all four corners and in the spots where the width of the frame is subtracted from the outer shape of the tray – this way you can mark the inner corners after you have removed the tray. Do NOT draw an outline around the tray, because we will be adding the flaps that will cover the in- and outsides of the frame before the paper gets cut out. Add flaps around all four sides that are two times and a half as long as the frame is high. Use a ruler to finish the cross-shaped outline. Then cut along that drawn outline. You should end up with a shape as shown in the bottom image and it should fit exactly inside the tray once you have folded in the four flaps.

Instruction #3 - DA Feb20 step3
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Step Four: Using a soft brush add a thorough layer of matte Decou-Page to the tray‘s inside and place the cut to size paper in the tray as shown in the top picture. Then add more Decou-Page to the outer sides of the tray frame, fold over the flaps and glue these to the frame‘s outside. Finally, fold any excess over and glue it to the tray‘s backside. Seal the glued on Decou-page paper with a thin layer of Antique Decou-Page.

Instruction #4 - DA Feb20 step4
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Step Five: Prepare the mini canvas by priming it with a layer of black Media Gesso. Once that has dried place the stencil on top and spread a layer of black Media Modeling Paste across the whole canvas using a flat palette knife. Clean the stencil and palette knife immediately after use. Set the canvas aside to let it dry naturally.

Instruction #5 - DA Feb20 step5
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Step Six: Use a small angled palette knife to apply white Media Crackle Paint here and there on the tray‘s in- and outsides. Let that dry naturally (or on the central heating) too. Then tone everything down with a diluted mix of Raw Umber and Carbon Black Media Antiquing Creams.

Instruction #6 - DA Feb20 step6
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Step Seven: Once the mini canvas with the stenciled on black Modeling Paste has dried, add a layer of diluted Titanium White Media Antiquing Cream with a soft wide brush and only wipe it back on the raised areas with a cloth while it is still wet. If you want to use a heat tool to dry the canvas you can - but make sure you only use it gently – otherwise, the Modeling Paste will create bubbles.

Instruction #7 - DA Feb20 step7
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Step Eight: Your beetle should have hardened by now. Remove the wings, feelers, and legs that do not sit tight and glue them back in and on again using matte Decou-Page (simply use a detail brush to add the Decou-Page to the wire‘s and nails‘ ends before you put everything back into place). Now‘s also the time to sand any rough spots or edges smooth where necessary.

Use the Matte and Dazzling Metallics alongside Carbon Black and Titanium White Media Fluid Acrylics to paint your beetle. I went back and forth and painted over areas several times with different tones until I was content with the look. Of course, I paid attention to create symmetrical patterns on the beetle‘s body and wings as this is essential to have it look as close to real as possible.

Instruction #8 - DA Feb20 step8 1
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Step Nine: I decided to tone the painted beetle down a bit to have it look like an old specimen. To do so I used diluted Walnut Gel Stain and a soft brush. I also used the Gel Stain on the black stenciled mini canvas and pocket watch case and wiped it back where I found I had added too much. You can do this before or after you have created the beetle‘s underwings – which is shown in the next and final step.

Instruction #9 - DA Feb20 step9
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Step Ten: To have the beetle visually stand out from the background I added a thick layer of Titanium White Antiquing Cream to the inside of the pocket watch case. Then – just eyeballing - I cut out a pair of underwings from a dried used tea bag and glued these in place with matte Decou-Page.

For more dimension, I stacked three pieces of roughly cut to size foamboard with matte Decou-Page to mount the mini canvas to the tray . I also stacked three black sticky foam dots to mount the beetle to the watch case before I glued that in place with a generous amount of more matte Decou-Page. The stacked sticky foam pads were painted with Pewter Matte Metallics before I put the beetle in place.

I added my word sticker and covered that with Triple Thick. The beetle‘s eyes each got a dot of Triple Thick too. I also had some leftovers from the Bronze Dazzling Metallics paint on my palette and used my fingertip to loosely add these to the tray frame here and there for a finishing touch and to repeat the colour from the beetle‘s wings so everything got tied together visually.

Instruction #10 - DA Feb20 step10
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Instruction #11 - DA Feb20 finished portrait
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My beetle was such great fun to make! I really enjoyed the process and am happy with the result too! And the faux nails worked just perfectly! Yay! Thanks so much for stopping by today!

Instruction #12 - DA Feb20 fin detail 1
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Instruction #13 - DA Feb20 fin detail 2
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Instruction #14 - P1370233
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Instruction #15 - P1370231
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Creative hugs!

Be sure to visit Von Pappe II  for more projects and to learn more about Claudia.


Hi Claudia as always you make awesome work and you have incredible ideas. Wow l love this??

Susan Janicula

February 29, 2020

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