Sometimes boundaries nudge creativity

24 Oct

Oh, the candies of my youth in glorious array at B.A. Sweetie's!

Well, well, well. The biggest Halloween expenses used to be the candy–now decorations and costumes carve way into the wallet. While fun to drive by, is it as satisfying to just pick things up and fork over the dough? The Thrifty BonVivant says, “Not necessarily.” But first things first. Get candy that drives you back in time–you can buy nostalgic delicacies in quantity or just for a taste at the best standard candy store in Cleveland, B.A. Sweetie, at 7480 Brookpark Rd. Oh yes–get your Razzles (first it’s a candy, then it’s a gum!), poprocks, Zott’s–everything from candy dots to all Pez flavors to those wonderful flying saucers (only really beloved by Catholics, who find their waferlike exterior–they’re filled with little candy balls–carry Communion nostalgia). Once that buying spree is underway, it’s time to reduce expenses and unleash creativity.

Villefane is a master! Click his name in the text to see more.

Pumpkins? You know you don’t have to buy a host of plastic decorations if you have skills like Ray Villefane. Get yourself to a grocery and unleash your temporary, site-specific artist. Now, not everyone is a Ray Villefane. But surely you can put aluminum foil braces on a crooked pumpkin smile? Look at any cartoon in the newspaper and try to reproduce the simplified features (all right, don’t look at Rex Morgan, MD or Mary Worth) of the character–no matter what you end up with it will be distinctive, and the candle inside (a votive in a glass makes it simpler) will create the spooky effect effortlessly. Did you know the jack o’lantern tradition is an Irish one, but in the Olde Sod it was done with a parsnip? Carved bananas may be on the scene, but a hollowed out parsnip? Tricky. Be thankful for the pumpkin.

Is anything more frightening than a flying monkey?

Yard decorations? If no neighborhood child thoughtfully decorated your trees with a cobweb of toilet paper, consider quick stencils and chalk. A quick trip to Pat Catan‘s will find you inexpensive yet discounted sidewalk chalk that the rain will wash away soon…probably very soon. Skeletal feet walking to the front door? Black cats (or florescent orange ones) arching their backs along the sidewalk? Albino bats via soap on the storm door? There are images you can quickly print out, cut out, and fill in all over the Internet–you don’t have to buy stencils.

Thank you, John Tenniel, for one of my favorite costume inspirations!

Costumes? Ah, one of the joys of my youth. I was lucky enough to live near a man who worked in the marketing division of Borden’s, who had an unending supply of large light cardboard posters–Elsie the Cow may have been on the front, but flip her and…well, the possibilities were boundless. One of my favorite costumes was a gardener from Alice in Wonderland–tights, a hoodie, and a well-painted sandwich board, and I was a star. And all for free. See what’s in your wardrobe, and what some paper can do.

Avast! She was a pirate wench skull a few years back, when Johnny was freshly putting on his eyeliner

Paper? Did someone say papier-mache? There’s still time to make your own mask. It’s surprisingly easy–we learned how in jr. high. Get some light card and cut strips about 1.5 inches wide. Form a loose but overlapping oval from under your chin to the top of your head and staple it. Leave it in place, and arrange about three strips across your face (especially across the nose!), and staple them to the first loop. Then take it off, and add two vertical strips. To this network you’ll add torn strips of newspaper dragged through a flour and water paste of oatmeal consistency (not too soggy, mind). Build it up so you have a face, leaving open areas for the eyes. Start this today, and you’ll go at an easy pace. Basic mask one night, let it dry the next day, and you’ll be ready to lay down a base coat of color. Use acrylic paint–Pat Catan’s has a cheapo small kit that will work just fine. The following night, additional color, and some elastic stapled across the back to hold it in place. I had fun with a flowering Day of the Dead mask–a quick but memorable (and easy) piece that was lots of fun, with just a base white acrylic coat and some Sharpie work–hey, the old hoodie and tights (or sweat pants) still works! The Huffington Post has suggestions for ten literary characters–but you may need to pin a footnote onto your back.

Need some last-minute inspiration? Go to Gordon Square in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood this weekend–the annual Dias de los Muertos exhibit and parade opens at the Cleveland Public Theatre East Campus (the old church) on 6205 Detroit Ave. There’s a great Day of the Dead celebration, with a parade at 3:30 pm and exhibits of altars, paintings, masks, pan de muerto (skulltastic bread), performances and more from 11 am to 10 pm. I’ve been to others–great fun. There’s nothing like Dia de los Muertos, the Latin celebration meant for All Souls Day, when skeletons come alive, dancing and carrying on.

Impressive results, but simple carries it off graphically

Can’t be bothered to make a costume or mask, but want to be a thrifty standout? If you have some time before your party or before you send a little one out, make a minor expenditure for major impact: face/body painting. It takes care, but not as much skill as you might think. Just don’t assume you can’t do it. Not free–you have to buy some theatrical makeup, but it’s not usually too costly. You can get it in Cleveland at Erie Street Theatrical Svc at 1621 E 41st St, in Strongsville at Cleveland Costume and Display at18489 Pearl Rd, and in a number of other spots in the Yellow Pages–or get a kit of very basic colors at Pat Catan’s or Michael’s Crafts. There are some great tutorials online, like this simple but effective one for a child pumpkin ghoul http://dearcrissy.com/halloween-face-painting-tutorial/

I id a similar one in a theatrical makeup class--just a few colors is all it takes.

Felines can be surprisingly effective, as can abstract designs–here are 30 great examples of face painting. You may get so very involved in it that you chuck your day job and become an artist specializing in body art and the subsequent photography. So use Halloween to experiment a little! What could be more Bon Vivant-like? Just be careful where you sit.

For your...ummm...adult Halloween parties

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