Drew's Blog

Dia de los Muertos

Dia de los Muertos  Halloween

Dia de los Muertos is a holiday celebrated widely across Mexico, Central America, and parts of the US on November 1st and November 2nd. It is a time dedicated to honoring and remembering ancestors and deceased loved ones through music, dance, storytelling, libations, and other festivities.

The holiday is often compared to Halloween, because the two are so closely timed. Indeed, if we go back far enough in history, we find that the origins of these holidays were linked to the fall harvest.

Additionally, this time of year had special significance for many ancient cultures. During this "period of transition", we learn, "cultures across the world remember those who have passed on by drawing an analogy between human death and the dark, cold winter months that loom ahead".

Despite these common elements of origin, the traditions and symbolism of Dia de los Muertos and Halloween are really quite different. This comes as no surprise given that these holidays evolved separately as a result of centuries of different religions and cultures colliding and intermixing.

Like Halloween, Dia de los Muertos brings sweets, skulls, and skeletons, but importantly, none of the haunting frights and screams. It is a sacred holiday that is as much about death as it is about life.

Sugar skulls

See http://ilovesugarskulls.com/ for more examples of Sugar Skull art made of actual sugar. 

A crucially important part of Dia de los Muertos is the ofrenda, which in Spanish means "offering". Special altars are created as tributes and offerings for relatives who have passed on. In addition to photographs, cherished items, special foods, and flowers, the ofrenda traditionally includes calaveras de azucar, or sugar skulls, as part of its display. Made of molded sugar and intricately decorated, calaveras de azucar are not typically eaten. Often times, a sugar skull is inscribed with the name of the person being honored.

Did you know?

Colorful skulls are iconic symbols of Dia de los Muertos and Mexican culture. But they don't all have to be made of sugar! They exist in many forms and materials-- posters, murals, sculptures, and even as make-up!

Jose Guadalupe Posada, Calavera Catrina, ca. 1912

Diego Rivera, detail from the mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park, 1947

When you see a skeleton lady dressed in fancy clothes, think La Catrina. This is the name given to a skeleton figure of a beautiful woman. This image was first invented by the artist Jose Guadalupe Posada as a social satire at the turn of the 20th century and popularized in a mural by Diego Riviera in 1947. That's a lot of art history to unpack! Read more about it here.


For your inspiration

Here are just a few of the many artists whose work explores the iconography of the Day of the Dead.




To Learn More

See Honoring Our Ancestors, and Colorful Calaveras for the Day of the Dead, two virtual exhibitions on Google Arts & Culture.

Enjoy this activity guide by the Mexic-Arte Museum and make a guide to your own family traditions.

Watch an informative video from the British Museum.

Watch an animated short film

Written by Anna Rogulina


Art-acular October!

October is a fantastic time to get creative! It’s a month that gives us a chance to play and tinker with all sorts of different materials. Just think: Pumpkin carvingsDIY Halloween costumesLeaf collages, Leaf prints, Leaf … everything!

It’s also a time when we can’t help but be inspired by nature. The world’s great painters and photographers sure have been. Autumn awes with its kaleidoscope of brilliant colors – nature’s way of challenging artists to find some way to match this splendor.

And speaking of challenges (the good kind)…. October rhymes with Inktober – an annual, international drawing project that is free and open to all! And we mean ALL – all ages, all skill levels, all styles. It’s something we’re really excited about at Drew’s Art Box, and we’d love to tell you more about it.

Highlights from Inktober

What is it?

In the creator’s own words: “Inktober is a month long art challenge created by artist Jake
Parker that is focused on improving skill and developing positive drawing habits. Every day for
the month of October anyone participating in the Inktober challenge creates an ink drawing
and posts it online. Remember to use the hashtags #inktober and #inktober2019 if you want
your art to be seen by everyone.”

What purpose does it serve?

“Inktober is just a framework to get yourself to draw better, flex a little, and/or have some fun
with your art. Inktober is a challenge NOT a contest to see who the best artist is. It’s a
challenge to see how much you can improve your art in a month, and to be inspired or to help
inspire other artists to do the same.”

We couldn’t have said it better.

Who are some interesting artists on Instagram to highlight?







And of course, there are plenty more wonderful artists floating around instagram. To find them, all you have to do is search #inktober and #inktober2019 to find an assortment of work, posted as often as every minute.

Oh, and for solidarity, here's one from Drew's.


What are the themes for this year?

Where can I learn more?

Why, here of course!

Ok, you’ve got my attention. But October is half-way over. Isn’t it too late to start?

Never! Just hop aboard and start with today’s prompt and keep drawing every day until you hit 31. You can always work your way backwards through the prompts later. You and your sketchbook will be happy for it!

What do I do when the month runs out?
Glad you asked! You can always take inspiration from past years’ prompts and continue drawing at your own pace. Or, you can check out another great group called Kick in the Creatives for even more monthly challenges to join!

Fast-forward a few weeks….I have filled more sketchbooks with cool drawings than I know what
to do with. Help?

We’ve got a plan for that. Your sketchbooks are collectible. That’s right. The Brooklyn Art
Library is a one-of-a-kind museum that collects sketchbooks from all over the world for people
to look at and admire. And you can share your story! Don’t believe us? Let’s go to the source:

We repeat: “Every single sketchbook that is sent back to us (Brooklyn Art Library, that is) is
catalogued and placed on our shelves for visitors to view.”


We wish you a happy October, and happy drawing!

Written by Anna Rogulina

The Origins of Paper Quilling

What is paper quilling?

Paper quilling is an artistic process that involves rolling thin, colorful strips of paper into different shapes and arranging them to form a picture or an abstract pattern. The technique may sound simple, but once mastered, it can be used in versatile ways to create surprisingly intricate, detailed images.

Exactly how versatile can this medium be? Take a lookie look!

Be sure to check out more work by Yulia Brodskaya on her Instagram page

How have artists used paper quilling in the past?

As early as the 14th century, Monks and nuns sought to use this form of art in their churches to decorate holy objects, reliquaries, and icons.

Fun Fact: Creating their designs out of paper and then covering them with thin gold foil or paint would have allowed them to achieve the "look" of precious metal without the hefty price of solid gold!

Sadly, over time, the gold foil known as "guilding" has chipped away along the edges of this panel to reveal a piece not in fact made of solid gold.
Bernardo Daddi, "Christ Enthroned with Saints", around 1325. Metropolitan Museum of Art. The center of this painted panel contains delicate metalwork – the likes of which paper quilling could be used to imitate.

Mass production of paper

After paper started to become mass produced in England at the end of the 15th century, the appeal (and affordability) of paper quilling rose.
By the 17th century, paper quilling was no longer limited to religious settings. Paper quilling had become a popular craft, especially among young, upper-class women who had leisure time to dedicate to a hobby. Examples of paper quilling from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries can be found on frames, ink trays, cabinets and candlesticks.
To see a few more examples of paper quilling during this time period, visit the online collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Right above is a paper quilling kit that was sold in England between 1870 and 1890. You can see that at the time, it was called a “Mosaicon” or paper mosaic. Over the years, paper quilling has had other names, too, including paper filigree, paper lace, and paper scroll.

How common is paper quilling today?

Today, this traditional technique is still alive and well. Hand-made as well as commercially produced greeting cards, scrapbooks, and even jewelry represent just some of the many contemporary uses of paper quilling. But, thanks to artists like Yulia Brodskaya, we can see that paper quilling continues to evolve as an artform. Through creative experimentation, Brodskaya is finding new ways to manipulate and arrange paper into extremely elaborate and surprising compositions!

Contemporary connections

Lisa Nilsson, "Gospel", 2016

Lisa Nilssonis a visual artist who combines her interest in science and medicine with her mastery of the paper quilling process to create mesmerizing images of the human body. Hear her TedTalk.

*This video features medical illustrations. Please use discretion if you or your child may be sensitive to realistically-rendered anatomical imagery.

  • Why does Lisa Nilsson use paper quilling in her work? What does this technique allow her to do?
  • The artist says that her works have been called both “beautiful” and “creepy.” What adjectives would you use to describe her art?
Tara Donovan, "Untitled," 2014-2015.CreditCredit
Tara Donovan is a mixed media artist and sculptor. She is known for transforming everyday materials, including paper, in ways that make them almost unrecognizable. The way she folds sheets and stacks sheets of paper and other flexible materials resembles paper quilling, only on a much larger scale. See a video about her work here

  • Tara Donovan often does not give titles to her works. What reasons does she give for this practice? Do you agree that leaving a work untitled makes it more interesting? Why or why not?
  • The artist states that she likes to work like a scientist in a laboratory. What do you think she means by this? 

Want further reading on paper quilling?

Where have you come across paper quilling? Share your inspirations in our Facebook group!

Written by Anna Rogulina