Dia de los Muertos (Part I) | Skillshare Projects

Paula Chan

Designer, Photographer, Baker, Rock Climber!



Dia de los Muertos (Part I)

3 August 2015

This is the first part of the "Pattern to Portfolio" August 2015 Challenge.

I have been wanting to do some kind of art for Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) for a long time, and every year it comes up on me before I know it. It is celebrated from October 31 - November 2 with origins in Mexico, but some in the US only celebrate the final day, November 2.

Death is not something to be feared in this culture, but rather, Dias de los Muertos is a time to remember and honor those who came before us, and offer prayers to help guide them on their spiritual journey. I am finally getting a jump on things and creating my Day of the Dead art! Yay!

Since this is supposed to be a nature theme, I will start with the flowers and some of the other nature elements of the holiday. The colors will be bright and cheerful, not somber and morose. This is a celebration, not a funeral.

4 August 2015

Mood Boards:

Flowers: Marigolds, Gladiolus, Purple Cockscomb


Monarch Butterflies


Skulls, Skeletons, Catrinas


Papel Picado and Tin Ornaments


First Sketches:


Found it was better to sketch with a pen than a pencil. That way I don't erase something which might be good that I won't be able to get back. Actually found it more freeing. I can always clean up and refine my drawings later when I digitize them.

I'm a bit behind. A lot of work and family obligations. Haven't finished my first repeat pattern yet, or even finished drawing all my motifs! Hope to get caught up by next weekend.

9 August 2015

Finally had some time to work on this (relatively) undisturbed. First up was digitizing the marigolds, the most important flower for Day of the Dead. The whole flowers and loose petals sprinkled are used for decoration. Tried two versions, both highly stylized.


Adding color and refining:


The next flower is purple cockscomb. Marigolds and purple cockscomb are the most common flowers used to decorate the ofrenda (altars) and the graves. Cockscomb also comes in other colors, such as yellow and light green, but purple provides a nice contrast to the marigold's bright yellow. I have drawn some of the leaves as well.


There are two types of cockscomb, one more plume-like and this one used in Mexico, which looks like brightly colored brains!


The three on the left were done using the image trace method on a photograph. As you can see with the top one, using more colors produces an image that almost looks just like a photo.

The second one was done with fewer colors, the shapes outlined, then the whole illustration simplified. This was still too complicated to use, and I wound up tracing selectively by hand for the final illustration at the bottom right.

The bottom left was done playing with the recolor tool. I decided to keep several of my experiments in case I want to use them for another project some time. It was really interesting trying all these different things I had never done before! I never knew you could image trace color photos!

Here is the pallette I came up with after narrowing down and consolidating the number of colors for my motifs. Using several shades of yellow, even though subtle in difference, gave my marigolds far more depth and richness than just one flat color.


And here are my motifs. Monarch butterflies are thought to be the souls of children who have died.


And finally, the Finished Repeat Pattern:



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