Making a Scarecrow for Halloween

In the past, Tina and I have built original Halloween costumes for our son that were usually in a lighter, more whimsical vein. Coin-operated vending machines based on cardboard boxes were our specialty, but now that our son is older and taller, it has become nearly impossible to find a box we can cram him into. Besides, we’ve run the gamut of fun vending machines. What else is there? So now we are keeping more with the spirit of the holiday and are leaning more towards the sinister.

The scarecrow was my idea, and it started with a drawing.
I started this drawing after I completed the Cosmic Maaaaannnn cartoon for my wife’s birthday card. I enjoyed using the Pentel brush pens and markers, and I started cooking on the drawing above. I forget whether the drawing came first or the idea of doing a scarecrow costume did. Either way, the costume idea and the drawing overlapped feeding one into the other. I wanted to replicate the look of this cartoon in three dimensions. Tina and I kicked around ideas for materials and started placing orders for burlap, paints and a few other items.

The costume started with a papier-mâché mask purchased at an art supply store. It was cut down and an exaggerated brow ridge was built up with angled struts made from a cereal box and then covered with more papier-mâché. The tricky part was finding newspapers to use. They’re as rare as hen’s teeth in this digital age. Tina did manage to find some free weekly publications.

Once the papier-mâché base for the face was complete, I started to glue the burlap to it with a hot glue gun and started to form the wrinkles and folds by pinching the fabric and liberally applying white glue and holding it together with clothes pins. The great part about doing this is that it didn’t have to be exact or symmetrical. Our monster is supposed to look like a farmer threw him together so being sloppy and somewhat crude is the order of the day. This requires the bare minimum of artistic ability.

Of course, it is handy if you know how to sew. Tina broke out the battered old Kenmore sewing machine and fashioned a poncho-like tunic that was going to be our monster’s main costume. I did scout the thrift stores for extra-large flannel shirts for a typical scarecrow look, but they turned out to be rarer than newspapers. We would have had to buy new, and it was cheaper to fashion the burlap poncho. It’s a good thing we bought 4 yards of the burlap because we ended up using most all of it.

As I was “sculpting” the burlap mask gluing together various wrinkles and convolutions, Tina used a chunk of a cereal box and acrylic paint to make a set of teeth for our scarecrow. Once they were dry, I installed the teeth and started painting shadows and highlights into the scarecrow face. Once again, this was all crudely done with mainly cheap foam brushes we had laying around the house. My thought was to exaggerate both the shadows and highlights as one would for a character on the stage of a theater. Lloyd was going to be wandering dark streets in this outfit so we wanted to make an impact right off the bat.

Tina also made a pair of gloves that were fashioned by tracing around our sons hands, cutting out the fabric 4 times for a top and bottom and sewing the halves together.

The final part which was a pain in the neck but really sold our scarecrow as a scarecrow was the addition of the straw stuffing which was actually raffia purchased from an art supply store. It was attached to the burlap with hot glue and there were some bits that were threaded through the fabric.

We gave ourselves plenty of time to get this together. It’s always a bad idea rushing things and we like to stop, stare at the thing and maybe vary the approach. I was trying to do something with LED eyes that just didn’t work out, for instance. It wasn’t a big deal, and there was no need to panic. We accomplished most of what we had in mind so I count it as a win. We gilded this particular lily until the day before Halloween in a low-impact sort of way, and we were happy with the results.

He was a big hit with the neighborhood. The neighbors loved it.

I think they were also relived not to see another store-bought Barbie® or Ken® costume.


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