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.

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