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Tiny Frida Kahlo

Something a little different from me today. I’m going to show you how, and why, I made this tiny paper collage, framed portrait of Frida Kahlo.

A tiny Frida Kahlo portrait made from cut paper collage. The portrait is in a tiny frame made from gold card leaves.

It started with the frame

I’ve been dabbling here and there in 1:12 scale miniatures for a little while now. About 6 months ago I bought some golden frames online that I planned to use for mini paintings and mirrors. But they turned out to be just flat printed shapes. Not even card, but just paper.

very flimsy

They were very cheap and it was my fault for not reading the description / reviews more carefully, so no great loss. But I didn’t want them to go to waste, and I still wanted some nice golden frames. Perhaps they could be used as a base for some frames with more dimension?

A plan formed

I took a bunch of them and just played around sticking different things on to make them a bit more 3d. String, beads, sequins, scrunched up tissue, messily artfully placed blobs of hot glue.

Felt like it could go either way at this point

Some of them looked promising, some looked awful, some warped terribly. I left them all to dry and then painted them gold. I tried a few different paints but they either didn’t cover well, didn’t stick, or were a weird colour. I ended up dousing the frames in far too much Revell enamel #94. Then left them to dry again.

To avoid wasting paint (it’s a tiny little tin) I only painted those that seemed to have some promise

The paint was beautifully gold! and shiny! but showed up every imperfection and stray bit of glue. It also soaked into the string and made it look rough and scruffy. I tried to improve things by embossing some details on the plainer frames and adding a wash of sepia acrylic ink.

The result was… not great.

Hideous

After they were all dry again, two of the frames were good enough to keep and the rest went in the bin / a scraps box. The two “successful” frames were ones where the whole original paper surface was covered with beads or sequins.

a 1:12 scale mirror made from card, tiny plastic gemstones, and gold paint.
A mirror
A paper collage portrait of a tiny Frida Kahlo, in a gold steampunk frame, on a turquoise tile background
Kinda steampunk?

HOWEVER! The little beads and sequins keep falling off and I keep having to superglue them back on. I can see that this technique could have worked better if instead of haphazardly firing out a million messy tries, I’d carefully glued beads etc in a nice planned out way. No way I’m ever doing this again though, zero out of ten, do not recommend. So…

another approach

I remembered that I had a bunch of gold leaf shapes that I bought from a factory shop inside a paper mill about 17 years ago.

I knew I’d find a use for them eventually.

I thought that if I cut them in half to give a straight edge for the inside of the frame, and then layered them up, it could look quite effective.

There were lots of bonuses to this method:

  • I could use double sided tape instead of glue so less mess, no warping, and no drying time
  • quick and easy
  • I could lay out different arrangements first without sticking them down, until I got something I liked
  • No glue and no paint meant my toddler could help. (She loves popping pieces out of sheets like this.)
apparently I forgot to take any photos of just the finished frame

This is actually the second frame I made this way. After sticking together the first frame, I realised that I didn’t like the white of the edges of the leaves and so I tried to colour them in with a light brown marker. It was annoying and time consuming to do this on the finished frame so I started again and coloured around all the edges before constructing.

What to put in a frame?

Well, since I’ve already shown you the tiny Frida Kahlo portrait no less than four times, then you can probably guess. I momentarily considered a landscape or abstract, but thought a colourful Frida portrait would suit the frame best. I had been planning to paint it in acrylics but remembered this slightly speckled yellow card I had and knew I must use it. I googled a few of her photos and self portraits to get the key details and just freestyled with some scissors.

The monobrow and flowers in her hair are obviously iconic, but the portrait didn’t some together and look like her until I added the earrings.

details, details

I love the end result, the colours and style feel perfect. The finished portrait measures 5cm x 7cm and with the frame measures 9cm by 12cm across the widest tips. The portrait and frame are a brilliant match. I wonder if it’s common for artists to make a painting to suit a beautiful frame, rather than the other way around?

So, where is this tiny portrait going to hang?

the smallest room

I have some sort of doll house shelves (like a bookcase that is vaguely in the shape of a house) and I’ve been meaning to do something with it for years. I’m starting with the smallest room. The bathroom, and also the literal smallest room. I’m making plans and will design the décor around this portrait.

Who wouldn’t want Frida to watch them brushing their teeth?

There will be bright colours and patterns. The turquoise tile background you can see in some of the images is a file I downloaded from vecteezy.com (free but attribution required so here’s a mention and link) and will possibly end up as the floor. I’m looking forward to making the sink, but have no ideas yet for how to make a toilet.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little diversion into what I get up to when I’m not drawing and my family are not making me do stuff with them.

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