Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Kraken: The Finished Film

With this little short I've attempted to create a mood piece rather than frenetic monster action. You'll have to be the judge of how well I accomplished that.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Giant Squid: A Reluctant Puppet

In my last post I talked about building the main puppet for my Kraken poem video, and that project basically went be like a sweet breeze. Not so with one of the background characters. In Tennyson's poem, three lines are dedicated to "unnumbered and enormous polypi", which I take to be giant squid. I'd better show those, then, even if it's just for a few seconds.

I started with sculpting the head and body of the squid, making it about six inches long. I then cast it in latex from a dental plaster mould, and added extra support within it using cotton dipped in latex.

I then proceeded with sculpting the underside of the tentacles, where you find the suction cups, and I made these cups as small as I could. Now, one at a time the tentacles fitted perfectly into the body skin -however, clumped together their base became too thick for the mouth of the head. It simply meant that I had to create new sculptures of the head and body to match the tentacles. It was a long time ago I made a blunder like that.

So, here's the new head. I split it up from the body as a separate sculpture. Much easier to cast. By the way; the eyes are lens-like flat blobs of glass, ordinarily used as decoration for various potted plants.

And here's the new body. I only made a single piece mould, which meant that I had to use long, pointy tools to dig out the clay still stuck at the very bottom of the mould. I really should've made it a two-part mould.

The head and body cast in latex, supported on the inside with a cotton/ latex mix. As you can already see, this will be a pretty big puppet.

Besides the cluster of eight tentacles, the squid also has two which are at least double the length of the body. These tentacles end in leaf-like shapes which are also covered by suckers. One sculpture will represent these surfaces on both tentacles. The latex is cast in the resulting plaster mould, and is almost ready to be removed, making space for a second casting.

The long tentacles are simply two long bits of thick aluminum wire. They are covered by one even layer of soft string, which is then dipped in latex. The latex/string surface creates a perfect bond to the wires for the warty latex skin, which will go on next.

As I'm no friend of suspending puppets on wires I added a support rod with bendable joints. This will keep the puppet aloft as well as allow me to animate the entire body, if I should wish to do so.

When the support rod is set in place, the puppet body is filled with expandeble hard foam from SmoothOn. This keeps the head of the support rod fixed without adding any significant weight to the puppet.

The head is joined with the tentacles using Friendly Plastic thermoplastic. I've also stuck on a small breathing tube by rolling up a piece of latex skin.

Here's how the final squid turned out. It's painted with the PAX paint mix of acrylic paints and Prosaide makeup glue, and finished off with acrylic airbrush paints. The eye was painted entirely with the airbrush, and then sealed with Glossy Accents scrapbooking plastic. The squid is bigger than the Kraken puppet, has more moving parts and took longer to build. But that's the way it goes sometimes. Never underestimate a background player!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Building the Kraken

For a while I've been thinking about making a short video based on Alfred Tennyson's poem "The Kraken"; one of the few celebrated literary works concerning monsters. When I contacted my trusty British narrator John Hutch to have him record a voice over for my "Living Night" video, I also tossed in "The Kraken", and I duly got a number of readings varying the tone and ferocity. And so I started building my Kraken puppet. But what does the darn thing look like? Well, according to the Norse folklore it hails from it resembles an island when it lies asleep at the surface of the ocean, and it has numerous tentacles, of which it is wise to stay well clear of. Tennyson's poem makes it into an almost Biblical monster, like Leviathan, as it meets it's doom when "the latter fire shall heat the deep; Then once by man and angels to be seen, In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die."

I opted for something very octopus-like. Perhaps not the most imaginative design, but I didn't want to spend too much time choosing between too many ideas. I sculpted the body in Chavant clay, and added details as far as the head started to merge with the sac-like body.

This is the latex casting I got from the plaster mould created around the sculpture. The belly is hollow and will be filled with polyurethane foam and covered with patches of cast latex skin.

The detailing of the body was actually achieved by using latex casts of silicone imprints made from a hard lichen which is very common on sea rocks in my part of Sweden. A few years back I used silicone putty to make imprints of the very bubbly and organic surface of these lichen, and I've used these moulds to cast patches of latex skin for many puppets. It saves me time sculpting and gives me a better texture than I could produce myself. As usual, you can't trump nature in grotesquery or beauty!

The body of the Kraken is resting on an old plastic ice cream box, which is filled with the latex lichen skin casts. The body is almost finished with its covering of the latex patches, and the head has had small horns attached. These horns are made from a mix of tinted latex and cabosil, which is simply rolled between my fingers into pointy shapes.

I "only" made eight arms for the puppet, using aluminum wires and thin polyurethane foam in a tight wrap. The arms were then covered in wrinkly latex skin from a plaster mould, and a long latex strip of suction cups, previously used to build a regular octopus puppet.

Here the arms have been attached to the body using Friendly Plastic thermoplastic. You can also see the big eye (it has two pairs of eyes) added. These eyes are Photoshop art print-outs covered with a drop-like acrylic half-sphere, which I believe is used for scrapbooking. The smaller eyes are painted in later.

As the wrinkly latex skin differed a bit in appearance from the knobbly body, I added small warts all over the arms. To create the warts I dipped a long needle in tinted latex and poked the skin on the arms, this resulting in a tiny drop of latex being deposited. As you might imagine, this took a bit of time to finish.

The Kraken puppet isn't required to do much in the video. It's a lumbering monster, unfolding its tentacles as it wakes up and then making some noise at the surface before being consumed by flames. I attached a long wooden dowel to the back of its body to keep it aloft when animating it. Any big bodily maneuvers will be achieved by keyframing movements of the animation in After Effects.

Here's the puppet with its base coat of acrylic paint and Prosaide glue..

..And here's the finished puppet with a more detailed paint job using acrylic airbrush paints. The second, smaller eyes have now been painted in too.

The wooden dowel support rod has been painted a green screen green, and the Kraken is awaiting its epic death scene.
I had hoped to have the film finished by the end of this year, but I still have a bit to go on it.

Instead I wish all of ye stop-motion faithful a very Happy New Year!! See you on the other side of 2015.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Making "H P Lovecraft's The Other Gods"

I never did a behind-the-scenes video for "The Other Gods", but since people keep asking me questions (mainly about the puppets) on YouTube, I decided to make one.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Halloween Nasties!

So what the heck have I've been up to during September and October?? Well, not blogging or making anything to blog about; that's for sure. For these past two months I've been building stuff for a local Halloween show, and it took me a bit longer than I had anticipated. Here's a quick rogue's gallery of some of that work.

This is a "Myling", a child ghost eager to exact his revenge on those who ended his short life, most likely his own mother -a young woman who didn't want this responsibility early in life. This tiny specter from Swedish rural folklore was made from a store-bought rubber baby doll. I changed its face using epoxy and gave the doll a new paint job.

The poop monster, created by building up latex and cotton over bits of urethane foam. The puppet is about a foot and a half, and is supposed to sit on an old chamber pot in the final exhibition.

The man-eater monster; a companion to the poop monster and about as large. The body has an aluminum wire armature covered with fake fur and a cotton/latex mix. The teeth are cast in latex and the eyes are flat glass blobs with a painted backside. Cheap and simple stuff!

Three ghostly heads built up with latex and cotton over plastic skulls and cardboard. In the exhibition they'll be suspended from the ceiling and have flimsy bodies made from torn fabrics.

A werewolf in mid-transformation. It's a hollow latex mask covered with fake fur and crepé hair, that is pulled over the head of a mannequin. I also made a deformed hairy hand.

This is the biggest piece I created for this project; the Galloping Sow. This folkloric monstrosity is a supernatural pig with back bristles that are long and sharp enough to cut you in half when she runs between your legs. She haunts graveyards and crossroads at night. This model is a modified plastic wild boar garden decoration. I built a new face for it out of epoxy, added the rows of teats under her belly, and the back spikes, and inserted small lights in the eyes. A new paint job finished off the whole thing.

Now I'm hoping to get back to my scheduled programming of making smaller monsters for the great YouTubian void.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Feeling generous..? Wanna donate??

I once tried to crowd fund one of my projects. It was a total failure, didn't generate a dime! So now I've been looking at other options. I've started a Patreon campaign, where you can make a monthly donation to my YouTube video projects. In exchange you'll get more updates about my films, including more photos and how-to info. There's also other stuff, but..well, visit the campaign and read all about it.

I've also added a donate via PayPal button on my YouTube channel banner, if anyone would like to give a single gift to my work.

So why would you give your hard-earned money to this middle-aged Swedish dude? Well, apparently it's not that uncommon nowadays to support non-commercial Internet projects in this manner. In short; If you'd like to see more videos on YouTube, made by me, any donation from you will help me in that endeavour. It means I can say no to other work that takes time away from my film making. It means that I can delete the ads on my videos. It may even mean that I can eventually upgrade my tech park, and make better videos for your entertainment and education.

Thanks for having a look, and if you feel you can donate anything, thank you indeed!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Living Night by M R James

As you've seen in THIS previous post, I'm a big fan of English writer M R James. Besides his famous ghost stories it seems he also wrote poetry. I found this poem, alternately called "Living Night" and "A Livermere Poem", and I really liked it. I thought it would make a great, moody video. You'll have to be the judge of that :)

There are no actors in this video, just animals in stock footage clips, and my puppets; one new and a couple recycled. My narrator of choice, Mr John Hutch, reads the poem, and the ever useful Kevin Macleod has composed the music.

My plan is to make more videos based on poetry. They'll be shorter and quicker to make, which means that I'll be able to offer new content on YouTube more often. I hope my little audience will appreciate that.