Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Carcosa Project: The Guard

The next finished creature for the Carcosa project, now called "In the Court of the Yellow King", is a guard that will be standing beside the throne of the eponymous monarch. I wanted something that was humanoid, but also slightly animal-like, and inspired by the various monsters in Heironymus Bosch's paintings. That was, at least, the feel and style I was trying to emulate.

What I came up with was a take on the ever-popular creepy plague doctors of bygone ages, where a bird-like mask was supposed to protect the wearer against the ravages of the plagues that visited Europe. I sculpted a torso in Monster Clay medium grade, which also included the actual mask, made up by a beak in leather and goggles with leather straps and buckles.

Here's the tinted latex skin cast in the dental plaster mold made over the sculpture. To make the mask seem even more leathery I added a thick thread along the seam of the "mouth". This thread was crochet yarn soaked in latex and cut into small bits. One end of each bit was dipped in latex and pressed against the beak until it stuck. Latex was then applied to the other end, which was bent down against the lower part of the beak. No real sewing necessary.

I cast most of my puppet parts in open single-piece molds, which means the some parts of these molds can go quite deep in. In the case of the Carcosa guard it was his beak that could cause trouble, as the rest of the skin dried fast, while the tip of the beak was so deep down into the mold that it could take days to dry out. Let me introduce you to one of my best additions to my workshop ever: A boot drying fan. I simply stick one of the nozzles into the mold I'm casting latex into, and turn it on, having it run for about 30 minutes, or so. That usually does the trick, but if the deepest parts of the mold still have wet latex after that, I just give it a second run.

The armature for this puppet is very basic. No moving parts for the head, and no other added bits except what's needed for a normal humanoid figure. Crochet yarn hold together double aluminum wires, and globs of Friendly Plastic joins the various limbs.

The padding of the body was also a fairly quick affair. I added very few actual muscle shapes. The deep green piece covering the back is the softest one, while the lighter green bits are fairly sturdy, as I wanted them to shape the outline of the body (and keep it), and the yellow foam is strips of  polyurethane, perfect for gradually building up shapes.

Covering the body with patches of latex skin, however, took longer than I had anticipated. And I don't know why really. I just sat for several days fiddling with this, and also adding bits of tissue paper and cotton dipped in latex to the body. The finished patched skin was given a light rubbing of PAX paints, while the beak and goggles were painted using brushes and acrylic colors.

I wanted an unconventional gear for the guard, so I decided to give him a big leather girdle to accentuate his saggy body. The girdle shape was sculpted in soft Monster Clay and cast in a single-piece mold.

I also gave the guard a pair of thigh-high leather boots, joined to the girdle to give the whole arrangement a slightly "kinky" look, for the lack of a better expression. The better part of the boot was sculpted in Soft Monster clay, and again a single-piece mold was created for it.

A monster in one of the Bosch painting wears a funnel-shaped tin hat, which looked both kooky and strange, so I decided to make one for my guard. This hat was glued together from bits of thick paper, and the covered with black-tinted latex. Spikes made from latex and cotton was then attached to it, and the hat was finished by dry brushing aluminum paints over it.

I also cast a few extra latex details for the various accessories worn by the character: Belts, straps, buckles and bits of riveted metal. These casts all came from a big mold I made years ago for another project. I had simply sculpted all these things in Chavant clay on a flat surface, and poured Ultracal 30 gypsum cement over it.

Lastly I wanted to give the guard a nasty-looking pole weapon to lean against. The handle is a wooden dowel used to support potted plants. It's been painted with a brown Warhammer paint wash (wonderful stuff, by the way.) The blade is thick paper covered by Epsilon coating epoxy from Smooth On. This material sets up semi-flexible, and is surprisingly sturdy. When the epoxy had set up after about four hours, it was painted with aluminum spray paint, and weathered with some black acrylic airbrush paint.

I'll probably add some more little details here and there before the character gets animated. He won't be called upon to do much in the film, just move about slightly, but I hope he'll be effective nonetheless, and add to the overall atmosphere of the piece.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Lone Animator Is Also On DeviantArt

I can't remember if I've mentioned my DeviantArt gallery before, but I'd like to direct your attention to it, for it represents my other big passion besides puppets and film making -illustration.

I fill my gallery with monster movie fan art, illustrations of classic and pulp horror literature, and also some neat photos of my puppets and sculptures.
Some examples:

Romana encounters the wood beast in the Doctor Who serial "Androids of Tara."

Fishhead from the story of the same name by Irvin S Cobb.

 IT, vs Robot Monster; two b-movie legends slug it out!

Edgar Allan Poe's "Murders In the Rue Morgue."

Gamera vs Barugon at Lake Biwa.

Monster shenanigans in the crazy Mexican movie "Ship of Monsters."

So do stop by and have a peek at what I do when I'm not building rubber monsters:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Carcosa Project: The Little Maggot Man

 Here's a quick walk-through on yet another puppet for the Carcosa film project. This one was very simply made, and it might be something in here you can pick up on if you're a puppet-maker yourself. I now almost exclusively use Monster Clay for my puppet sculptures. I've grown accustomed to the relative firmness of this material, and I find that I can work it just the way I want to. A little bit of heat from my heat gun gets the clay soft enough to knead it into the basic shape it should be to get started on the detailing. I sculpted the body for this puppet rather quickly and at a slightly smaller scale than usual. Since this creature didn't have to move neither head nor body I could get away with a simple construction and a one-piece semi-rigid torso.

To cast this sculpture I needed a two-part mold, and I decided to split the mold along one of the segmented portions of the creature's body. The clay wall split ended up just above where the body is tapering off, so I had no undercuts.

To make sure as much of the sculpted detail as possible got into the mold, the first layer of dental plaster was brushed on with a soft, broad brush. The rest of the plaster was mixed rather thickly and ladled on with a spatula.

Here's the bottom section with a pair of improvised clay "legs" added to the torso, just so there would be two funnels where I could pour in the latex.

The whole mold has now set up, been split apart and the two sections of the torso have been cast in latex tinted white, using latex tints from Monster Makers.

Before joining the two halves of the torso I've added jointed legs and two thin metal wires to create small tentacled arms. All limbs were covered with soft string and  thin polyurethane foam to build up bulk and shapes.

And here's the finished critter. The toes are built up with cotton and latex, as is that curiously familiar worm-like appendage between his legs. Washes of purple, blue and red acrylic airbrush colors added the final touch, along with Glossy Accents scrapbooking liquid plastic around the mouth area to simulate glistening moisture.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Carcosa Project: The Byakhee

Among the many creatures dreamt up by author H P Lovecraft we find the Byakhee, which is probably one of his weirdest. In his short story "The Festival" they appear as mounts for a strange secret sect, and are described as hybrids with features from such diverse things as bats, moles, birds and decomposing humans. One of Lovecraft's protégés August Derleth also wrote about Byakhees in his story "The Gable Window", but his version of the monster is easier to grasp. I'm building a Byakhee puppet for my video version of Lin Carter's poem "The King In Tatters", and his version of the beast is something in between Lovecraft and Derleth. The sketch above is my concept of the Carter Byakhee, and my guide for the puppet.

 Medium grade Monster Clay was my material of choice for creating the head. "Black-furred and iron-beaked, with eyes of Hell" is how Carter describes it. I tried to get something that looked loathsome and I took familiar features and did something different with them. Therefore I, for example, put the eyes on the topside of the head, like a bottom-dwelling fish. The head was mostly sculpted with tiny loop tools.

The head is cast in a one-piece mold, with the mouth cavity filled up with clay. I try to make most of my molds in one piece. A clay wall is built up around it to hold the plaster around the sculpture.

Can't remember what the small cast is, but the bigger one is the Byakhee head. I'm using pink dental stone, which creates very durable molds, and which are also easy to cast latex into.

The other body part I sculpted was the underside of the body. Again I'm using Monster Clay medium grade, and various sculpting tools, among them a rubber-tipped tool.

My aim with this sculpture was to create an amalgam of different textures, making the body look like it's a hybrid of very different creatures. The sculpture is actually upside down. The warty spiky "back" will be the monster's gut.

The head has been cast in black-tinted latex, and attached to an aluminum wire armature using Friendly Plastic thermoplastic. Two reflective read beads are inserted into the latex skin and attached by pressing the soft plastic up behind them, until they stick as the plastic cools. The neck, a length of folded aluminum wire, is divided up in small sections using short steel nails as "vertebrae" held in place with crochet yarn.

To get the insect element into the Byakhee physique I'm making its front legs look like the limbs of an ant. I'm sure I could've made the claws in some very simple way, but decided to sculpt them and cast them in plastic using silicone molds.

Here's the body sculpt cast in tinted latex and filled with layers of soft polyurethane foam.

The ant-like forelegs with the plastic claws waiting to be attached. Friendly plastic holds them in place.

The various bits that make up the Byakhee puppet, including the spine. All feet have wing nuts in them to hold tie-down screws.

All the limbs, including a stumpy tail are joined with Friendly Plastic. I did attach the belly here, but pulled it off and filled it up with more foam to make it saggier.

I've covered wing-making in quite a few of my earlier blog posts, so I'll just rush through the process here. Aluminum wire frames are wrapped in soft string..

And a combination of cotton mixed with latex and polyurethane foam is used to build up muscle shapes.

Patches of latex skin are cast in old plaster texture molds and used to cover the muscle build-ups.

Here's the skin-covered arm bit of the wings, and the "fingers" have also been covered with tinted liquid latex.

The wing membranes are created by submerging the wing halfway down into cheap hobby plaster and when the plaster has set I can sponge on latex between the fingers. When that has dried I just pull the wing out of the plaster.

I made the wing membranes a little too dark, so I have painted them with a mix of latex and pigments. And as you can see the belly is now removed.

Filling up the belly piece with more foam made the creature look bloated and slightly clumsy when compared to the skinny legs.

Time to build up some bulk on the critter. I'm using a thin polyurethane foam which is manufactured to be placed under plate racks in kitchens to soak up moisture. I'm simply wrapping some of it around the neck.

The rest of the body and the limbs get a more careful build-up of foam muscle padding. Soft yarn is also used to create certain shapes.

Again, patches of tinted latex skin cast in various texture plaster molds I've made over the years are used to cover up the puppet body.

Here's the finished skin patching job.

 I used my Iwata airbrush to create a subtle mottling on the wings, but I then simply painted on the acrylic airbrush paints with a small brush.

I'm almost done with the puppet, but it's supposed to be black-furred, remember?

This fur is actually brown and comes from an old lady's hat bought at a thrift store. I cut strips of the fur and painted it black with the acrylic airbrush paints. This also created a stability in the hairs and made them keep their shape. Tufts of hair are attached using Prosaide prosthetic glue.

The teeth are blobs of melted Friendly Plastic simply rolled between my fingers into pointy elongated shapes. Flexible super glue is used to attach the teeth into the gums of the latex head. Glossy Accents scrapbooking plastic is smeared around the mouth and in the nostrils to create shiny, moist areas.

The finished Byahkee is ready to be animated. To keep it aloft while it's flying I'm attaching it to a flying rig from Animation Toolkit using a wing nut at the rear end of the puppet.

Hopefully, the finished scenes in the film will look something like this. This image is a Photoshop mash-up, with an image of the film's actor Samuel Lange riding the Byakhee as they head for Carcosa on cosmic winds.