Thursday, October 25, 2012

New mold/new sketches

Hey everyone.  Yesterday I opened the zombie mold and everything looks pretty good.  The only problems with it are that part of the right ear broke on a spot, and there were a few bubbles on the gum line. These are fairly easy repairs though.  I'm out of latex so I'll buy some later today and see about casting a mask this afternoon.  Very exciting.

In the mean time, while brainstorming for ideas, I made some rough sketches of the next project I'd like to tackle.  I used a lot of reference material from Fangoria, the art of Warcraft, and even the new 6th edition Warhammer rule book.  I'm thinking about ordering The Art of Diablo from Amazon as it could be very useful for reference.

I have never sculpted a demon before so I thought I'd give it a try.  My plan is to have the sculpture finished by tomorrow night, (Saturday afternoon at the latest) and begin the mold by Sunday morning.  My husband and I are planning to go to Monsterpalooza this weekend, so I'm not sure how all of this work is going to fit into the schedule.  Maybe if I sculpt really fast we'll have enough time for everything.

Monday, October 22, 2012

B is for brains

I started a new zombie head sculpture last week. I've been using WED clay a lot lately and I have to say, unless I become rich and can afford buying a whole lot of Chavant, I think I'm going to stick with this stuff.   It may be relatively high maintenance trying to keep it from drying out, but you can sculpt pretty fast with it. Besides, I really like it's tactile quality; it's much different than working with oil based modeling clays.  I've tried using Van Aken and I found it to be super messy and I overall don't like sculpting with it as much.  Here are a few sketches I did before getting started on the sculpture.

Here are a few pictures of the work in progress.  I'd say it will probably be ready to be molded by early afternoon tomorrow.   


Barbara Maitland

Note: This is a continuation of the Beetlejuice masks of Adam and Barbara Maitland which I started in the previous post.

For the Barbara mask, I used a dummy head to sculpt on top of.  In the movie Beetlejuice, Barbara contorts  her face by stretching her upper and lower mandible outward, making her mouth look like a gigantic beak with teeth.  In order to successfully sculpt this shape, I needed to use a wire armature as a support structure, and sculpt around it.

For this project I used Amaco Permoplast oil based modeling clay.  Something I forgot to mention in prior posts is that I use a dedicated toaster oven to warm up and soften the clay to speed up my sculpting time.  Since the modeling clay comes in blocks, I cut them into workable pieces using a drywall knife and gradually heat up small amounts of clay at a time.  This makes the rough out stage go by much faster.  I filled in the negative spaces and began roughing out the general shape of the head.  Similarly to Adam, the Barbara sculpt wasn't very challenging.    Once the desired general shape of the sculpture was achieved, I began sculpting all the details.  

The mold process was tedious, to say the least.  I made a four part mold using Ultracal 30 and a lot of patience.  I also molded the tongue separately. 

It wasn't perfect but it would do the job effectively. After I pried the mold apart and cleaned any clay that had stuck to the crevices, it was ready to be cast out of liquid latex and polyfoam.  Once the mask dried and was ready to come out of the mold, I noticed the seams weren't great and the mask had mold lines everywhere.  I tried my best to repair these, but some of them were just to big and noticeable.  I sewed some together and patched others with latex to make them less apparent.  Then I painted the mask using Liquitex acrylics mixed with a Polycrylic protective coat. 

The eyeballs were made out of ping pong balls that were painted and glossed with 5min drying two-part epoxy resin.  I also cut a hole in the back of the throat for visibility which I hot glued a black screen to.  Then I hot glued a store bought wig I got from a local Halloween shop that looked similar to Gena Davis hair in the film.  And there you have it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Adam Maitland

In Tim Burton's 1988 film Beetlejuice,  a couple of recently deceased ghosts, Adam and Barbara Maitley, try by all means necessary to scare out the annoying new home owners, the Deetzes.  In one particular scene, the Maitland's case worker, Juno, advises them to haunt their house using their talents and frighten these tenants away.  Taking her advice, Adam and Barbara stretch their faces into exaggerated cartoonish monsters and return home. 

Adam contorts his face by pulling his nose downward and forcing his hand through his mouth and out of the back of his head.  For this project, I used a life cast of Jack's head on which to sculpt.  The elongated version of Adam's nose required a wire armature to support the weight of the clay and maintain its shape without drooping forward.  I began roughing out the general shapes using Amaco Permoplast oil based clay.

Once the sculpture was complete, it was time to make the mold.  I laid the sculpture on a large pillow and sculpted a clay wall running vertically across the profile.  After the wall surface was smoothed down, I added registration keys and pry points along the edges of the wall.  Then I released the surface of the sculpture by using a mixture of petroleum jelly and mineral spirits.   

To make the first half of the two-part case mold, I first painted on a detail (or "beauty") coat of plaster on top of the sculpture using Ultracal 30 gypsum cement.  This layer is called a beauty coat because its applied  with extra care to ensure coverage of every last bit of detail on the sculpture surface.  It's applied thinly and evenly with short, dabbing strokes.  At the first application of plaster, the mixture separates and pools in certain areas without wanting to grab on to the surface.  This is due to the release agent that was  painted on beforehand.  However, as the ultracal starts thickening it becomes gradually easier to apply.  The first two layers of Utracal are painted on this way to ensure the piece is covered completely.  After that, the subsequent layers can be reinforced using burlap or hemp.  I go the cheap route and try to scout for coffee bean burlap sacks around my neighborhood.  Some coffee shops that do their own roasting in house will give them out for free.  After the first half of the mold was complete, I flipped the piece, removed the clay wall around the sculpture (with the exception of the pry points), then repaired any dents or damages on the sculpture that might have occurred during the mold making process. I brushed the petroleum jelly and mineral spirits release mixture to the plaster wall as well as the sculpture and then followed the same steps I used to make the first half of the ultracal mold to make the second half. 

This particular mold was relatively large in comparison to other plaster molds I had made in the past.  Not having extensive experience making cement molds (most of the large molds I'd worked on up until this point had been fabricated out of silicone or fiberglass) made it difficult to determine the necessary thickness it required to hold up while I pried it apart. Sure enough, one side was much too thin and it cracked right down the middle of the mold, rendering it useless for an effective casting (see image above, left side).  Not only that, but the piece sustained a  significant amount of damage during the pry stage and would need to be resculpted in order to make another mold part.   On the plus side, now I had a better idea of how thick the mold needed to be and I gave it another go.   This time with successful results as you can see on the image above, right side.

The next step was casting the mold out of liquid, mask making latex.  I bought some latex from Monster Makers as well as some expandable polyurethane foam to fill the nose, ears and mouth so the mask wouldn't deflate while being worn.  Monster Makers is a useful supplier of mask making materials for people who are starting out.  They are a one stop shop, have all the necessary tools you'll need and they sell very informative instruction materials.  However, everything they sell is outrageously overpriced and if you do a little research, you can find the same stuff for much less. 
Later, when the latex and foam were dry, I pulled the piece from the mold (my absolute favorite part).  It's very rewarding to see the product of a well made mold.  I trimmed the flashing, cleaned up all my edges and the mask was ready for a test drive.   

So far so good.  When the time came to paint the mask, I used Liquitex acrylics mixed with a Polycrylic protective coat.  I basically went for the same color palette used in the movie, which consisted of pink flesh tones.  Around the eyes I hot glued black screens for visibility. I also hot glued craft hair around the back of the mask, as seen in the movie version. 

And there you have it.  Stay tuned for the making of the Barbara Maitland mask.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Kuato lives.

Kuato: What do you want, Mr. Quaid?
Douglas Quaid: The same as you; to remember.
Kuato: But why?
Douglas Quaid: To be myself again.
Kuato: You are what you do. A man is defined by his actions, not his memory...

Kuato (dying): Quaid...Quaid.. start the reactor.  Free Mars..

For his Halloween costume, Jack chose to be the psychic prophet, Kuato, (because there is no better way to host a Total Recall themed party than to dress up as the leader of the mutant rebellion).  Our party was less than a month away and there wasn't much time to do an elaborate makeup, but because Kuato's features are rather basic the sculpture process didn't take very long.  His head was sculpted out of Amaco Permoplast oil based clay.

Once I was relatively satisfied with the sculpture, I made a clay wall around the piece and poured an Ultracal 30 gypsum cement mixture to make the mold.  To properly mix Ultracal  30, first you pour the desired amount of water into a mixing bowl or container you wish to use. Then slowly sift the cement into the water and do so until the surface of the mixture begins to crackle.  This means you have a proper water to Ultracal ratio and its ready to be mixed.  Ultracal 30 is recommended where extreme accuracy is required as it has the lowest expansion of any rapid-setting gypsum cement available. I chose this particular molding method because I knew beforehand the piece would be cast out of latex.  Liquid latex naturally dries through contact with air, and since gypsum cement helps absorb some of the moisture in the latex, it speeds up the drying time.  After several coats, I pulled the positive out of the mold.

If I remember correctly, I believe the hair came from a stuffed animal I found at the thrift store.  It was adhered to the latex head using 100% silicone caulk.  I painted the latex head using a skin tone I had previously matched to Jack's skin using Liquitex acrylic paints. Kuato's palette for his skin has a wider variety of color then that of his brother's, consisting of deeper reds, purples and blues.  I tried to capture that in the application process.  Finally I applied some two-part epoxy to several parts of his face including his eyes, nose and mouth.  This was to give him a slimier, more grotesque appearance.  

About two hours before the party, it was time to turn Jack's stomach into a freakish, mutated man baby.  The application process was rather simple.  Because I hadn't sculpted a body to go with the head, my plan was to just fabricate him out layers of cotton, acrylic paint and latex. I stippled liquid latex on the lower, left half of Jack's chest and abdomen and adhered Kuato's head to it.  I then used Karo syrup  to glue clumps of cotton to Jack's abdomen, and then painted them with watered down flesh tone acrylic paint. Since I didn't have time to sculpt or fabricate arms, I cut a pair from a stuffed animal I found a the thrift store.  They were later painted and adhered with several coats of latex.   

This was a fun project and it didn't really require a lot of time or effort.  Though it wasn't the most sophisticated of makeup jobs, it got the point across on a time crunch and was a huge hit at the party. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Get ready for a surprise!

I started taking fabrication of Halloween costumes pretty seriously in 2007. That year, I made myself into Scarab, the assassin in David Mack's graphic novel Kabuki (unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the actual costume). The following year, I made myself into Bender, the robot from Futurama. The year after that I was Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000.  And in 2010, I dressed up as Ellen Ripley from Aliens (inside the famous power loader she operated to defeat the alien at the end of the film).

I saw my husband for the first time at a Halloween party he was throwing at his house in 2009.  Those who didn't know him personally knew him as the guy who owned an impressive collection of old arcade games.  For the party, he would turn them all on, leave the front door open, and his house would fill up with people in a matter of minutes. Two Halloween parties went by and we never actually spoke to one another.  I only remembered him as the video game wizard, and he knew me as the girl with the elaborate costumes.  Ironically, after the second party, we struck up a conversation at a local bar and finally we both had the realization and made the connection. The rest is history.

Last year, Jack (my husband) and I decided to dress up together for the big yearly Halloween party as characters from the original 1990 movie, Total Recall. There is a scene in the film where Arnold Schwarzenegger's character, Doug Quaid, disguises himself as a large, red haired woman wearing a yellow dress (played by actress Priscilla Allen) in an attempt to pass through Martian customs incognito. While running through standardized security questions, the officer asks her, "Have you brought any fruits or vegetables?". Obviously not having been programmed with a response to this question, the voice module inside of the mask malfunctions, replying with the answer to the previous question the officer had asked her, which was "two weeks". The large woman continues repeating the words, "two weeks" several more times as she is prompted to speak by the officer, and begins going wonky, twisting her lips around with her hands and jabbering uncontrollably. This draws the attention of just about everyone at the security checkpoint, and then something amazing happens.  The large woman steps back while repeating the phrase and jabbering, presses her ear like a switch, and her entire face splits open into several mechanical segments, one after the other, revealing Quaid underneath. My plan was to make a fully articulating replica mask, complete with the dress as my costume.

I started making sketches as early as March, began sculpting in April, and by late May I had a good likeness on my piece.  Back then I documented my progress on a public forum called Makeup FX.  For sculpting heads and busts, I use a dummy head I glued down to a lazy Susan.  If you are on a budget and don't already own  a rotating sculpting stand, a lazy Susan is definitely the way to go.  I also used Amaco Permoplast clay that I purchased from Columbus Clay Company in Ohio.  It's a pretty basic, very inexpensive, non-hardening and non-toxic modeling clay.  

Once I was satisfied with my work, I began the molding process. Typically the mold line on a piece like this would run along the sides of the head, starting at one shoulder, up the ear to the top of the head and down the other side.  However, because the mask was intended to open down the middle of the face (like it does in the movie), I placed the clay mold line running vertically down the middle of her nose.  Then I sculpted registration keys all along one side of the clay wall.

Here is another handy piece of information: if you are on a budget, you can make an inexpensive silicone mold by using 100% silicone caulk from your local hardware store.  It's almost just as effective as buying expensive mold making silicone products, but at a fraction of the cost.  A few things to keep in mind while using caulking products; first, you should be in a well ventilated room when applying the silicone. It releases acetic acid as its cures, and though it's non toxic, it can be irritating on the eyes and nose.  Another downside to using silicone sealant is that each layer can take several hours to cure. However, you can accelerate the cure time by spritzing each layer with some water.  Once a side of the mold is complete, I removed the clay wall and painted a mixture of petroleum jelly and mineral spirits to the silicone flashing.  This is to prevent the silicone from sticking to itself as I start working on the other side. For this particular project I used four sticks of caulk for each side, and the last layers I reinforced with cheese cloth to give the mold more strength.  Afterwards the silicone molds were complete, I backed them with a burlap reinforced hydrocal mother-shell. 

The next step in the process is to cast the piece.  For this particular project, knowing what material to cast the mold in was very tricky.  The mask needed to be made from a material that was lightweight, but hard enough to hold its shape when opening and closing.  A friend of mine offered to give me some of his Smooth-cast 300 resin he had left over from a previous project. The shelf life of this particular casting resin is drastically reduced after opening, and since it had been sitting in his house for several years we weren't sure how it would react.  We mixed the appropriate quantities and poured it into the mold, while manually rotating it as it hardened.  After about twenty minutes of cure time, we pulled out a pretty solid positive. However, this is when problems began.

After taking the piece home, I couldn't get any primer to stick to it.  I literally tried everything.  I read forums in which people discussed similar issues they had encountered, and followed the recommendations others had written in the comments. I tried using Plastikote and polycrylic, based on work experience and advice I read about in forums. I tried stripping the cast using different techniques, in hopes that paint would stick. I sanded the piece multiple times with varying grits, I soaked it in simple green, cleaned it with alcohol, acetone and dish soap.   I was practically throwing my money away buying every product I read about to make this work.  In a desperate attempt, I applied two part epoxy on a small area of the surface, just out of curiosity. Instead of hardening, the gooey mess just stared back at me, mocking me. Anything and everything I applied to the mask would either delaminate, wouldn't dry, or it slid off.  This is the price you pay for using old casting resin.

At this point I had no choice but to cast the mold out of something else.  It should have been clear from the beginning that the mask needed to be cast out of fiberglass.  Fiberglass is actually a very simple material to use, you can find it at almost any automotive store, and it typically comes with a set of instructions.  So that's what I did, and it worked like a charm. 

 After successfully priming it (I almost cried), I used a Dremel with a cutter wheel to cut the fiberglass mask into strips.  The face opened down the middle and each  bilateral segment separated horizontally,  starting at the top and working its way down.  Each segment on the face is secured on the back of the mask by a small hinge. To ensure the pieces lined up correctly after having been cut apart  I super glued magnets on the edges of each segment. 

The mask was painted using Liquitex "Basics" acrylic paints.  First I base coated it with a general skin tone I mixed to match my own.  The base color was gradually darkened or lightened using varying degrees of browns, reds and yellows for shadows and highlights.  The eyes were coated with two-park epoxy to give them a glossy feel.  Finally, the entire piece was finished with a coat of Polycrilic protective enamel. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mr. Wink and the Troll Market

If I had to recommend one DVD collector's box set to anyone who's ever been interested in the making of movie monsters, it would most definitely be Guillermo Del Toro's Hellboy II: The Golden Army.  You don't need to be a fan of Mike Mignola or Guillermo Del Toro to appreciate it for its artistic achievement.  There are so many scenes I could discuss, though I will mainly focus on the creatures that appear in the Troll Market sequence (which is by far my favorite).

In a series of events that lead the BPRD (Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense) to search for the mysterious and secret entrance to the Troll Market, they find its hidden location underneath of the Brooklyn Bridge.  The crew enter the market, only to discover an underground parallel universe that had existed beneath the surface all along, filled with the most diverse crowd of supernatural creatures ever imagined.  It's a fantasy world reminiscent of both the cantina scene from Star Wars IV: A New Hope, and the mutated, oxygen deprived Mars citizens from Total Recall. Here they find trolls, goblins, orc-like creatures, elves, hideous witches, fairies, you name it! In the Collectors Edition DVD, there is a short behind-the-scenes documentary, titled "Troll Market Tour with Guillermo Del Toro", in which the director walks around the set, describing (in detail) each artistic component that made this sequence possible.  It's unreal.

While Hellboy traverses the Troll Market, one very prominent creature that he confronts is the ferocious yet subtly endearing Mr. Wink. Mr. Wink is a giant, tusked troll whose primary weapon is a retractable, metal fist that he can launch from his forearm, shooting at his enemies like a cannon. Mr. Wink was designed and created by industry sculptor Mario Torres and played by creature performer Brian Steele.  

Back in 2009, I became fascinated by this creature's appearance, and chose him as my first attempt at sculpting a bust.  With very little knowledge of appropriate materials and techniques, I chose to sculpt him in Super Sculpey.  As I mentioned in my previous post, Sculpey is extremely user friendly, but for larger projects where you need a lot more material, Sculpey becomes an expensive choice.  I can't exactly recall how many boxes I used, but it was something like five or six in total. 

For this project, the armature and the stand were welded together in one piece out of aluminum. That being the case, the bust was permanently secured to the metal stand.  I began sculpting the general shapes of the snout, eye sockets and the back of his head.

Slowly, the features became more refined, and I could start adding details like wrinkles around the brow lines, eye lids, and snout.  I also started texturing the hair and adding teeth.  Mr. Wink lost one of his eyes in a previous battle, so the right eye socket is an empty cavity surrounded by lumpy scar tissue.  His right eye ball is made out of two-part, self hardening Apoxie sculpt.  

Mr. Wink's bust was far too large to fit into the oven in my apartment. I hardened the polymer by hitting it with a heat gun for about half an hour, which seemed to do the trick.  After priming the bust with Automotive primer, I base coated the sculpture with a dark blue-gray color of acrylic paint, followed by a light wash of black paint to create depth in the wrinkle lines and crevices.  The highlights were painted on by dry brushing lighter tones of varying grays and blues.

His good eye is base coated with an orange color I mixed , then highlighted with a couple of different yellows.  The tufts of hair on top of his head and sideburns were painted black with subtle streaks of gray.  The application of paint on both his tusks and teeth had a similar color palette consisting of varying degrees of beige and bone colors and finished with a brown and deep red wash.

He might not look exactly like the original beast, but I'm happy with the end result.