Friday, November 22, 2013

My Lovecraftian Alphabet part 3: The Ghoul

It's taking awfully long between my blog posts, isn't it? I've therefore decided to make shorter posts, hopefully once a week, so those of you really interested in my craft will have something to look at more often.

Anyone familiar with H P Lovecraft's short story "Pickman's Model"? It's about an artist who paints horrific tableau's, often depicting creatures Pickman calls ghouls. One painting in particular is especially lifelike, and the narrator eventually finds a photo showing the monstrous ghoul portrayed. Pickman later disappears.
Well, he does appear in my Lovecraftian alphabet film, as does a ghoul. In other words I had to find my Pickman, and build a ghoul.

A Chavant clay sculpture was created for the body and head of the ghoul puppet. A latex skin was cast from a plaster mould made over the sculpture.

I.m very happy with my results using armatures with single thick aluminum wires, instead of several wires braided together, so I keep constructing them this way. I wanted really defined, sinewy muscles on the ghoul, so I used a mix of thin sheet foam for bigger, softer areas of the body, and latex-soaked cotton strands for the harder, bonier sections.

It takes a bit of time to build a puppet up. I spent a full week working on just the muscles and covering them up with patches of cast latex skin. I'm thinking more and more about sculpting whole puppets in clay and casting them in silicone, though that process calls for a lot of time and patience too.
As you may see there are some white areas around the eyes on the puppet here. I painted the latex skin with my base paint before putting on the eyes, made from black plastic balls. That way I wouldn't smear any paint on the eyes.

Here the puppet is covered with a thin layer of white base paint, more precisely PAX paint (ProsAide glue + acrylic paint). You can see the eyes better here. I painted a gold-coloured iris around the hole in the plastic ball, thereby creating a weird-looking eye that can be swiveled around by putting a needle down the "pupil" and twisting the ball. The teeth are just small pieces of cotton dipped in latex.

So, here's the finished ghoul puppet, hopefully looking every bit the sun-hating subterranean graveyard-dweller he's supposed to be. Lovecraft describes them as "rubbery", with canine features and hoofed feet.

Ghouls eat corpses, and when we get to Lovecraft's epic "The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath" we find out that Pickman has also become an eater of the dead, slowly turning into a ghoul himself. Not only that; he's the chief of the ghouls. My plan was to simply make a nasty-looking monster; not to have it look biologically plausible. But my aim is always to have the overall finished puppet seem believable, the same way the tail-swishing, upright-walking dinos in old "King Kong", though now scientifically outdated, SEEM to our minds to be moving the way a dinosaur should move. In other words, I'm just trying to make good monsters.

What about Pickman himself then? My artist friend Niels Elley, who in an earlier project of mine played Gandalf, brought his smock, and his brushes, and kindly stood painting in the empty air for a few seconds in my green screen room. I later added a Photoshopped background, with a canvas and an easel, where I could place my animated ghoul. Thus, suddenly both the artist AND his art turns to observe the observer.


BlacknickSculpture said...

Excellent work Richard. The attention to detail on the musculature of the ghoul really stands out!

Richard Svensson said...

Thank you! This puppet is slightly larger than my usual creations, allowing for more details.

David P. Geister said...


I am finally able to start animating again this week after a one year absence. Needless to say, your post came at a perfect time! Thanks for sharing.

Richard Svensson said...

I'm very happy to hear that, David!

Brento said...

A little fur and this guy could be brilliant werewolf! Looks awesome!