Wednesday, March 9, 2016

What Is It?: Building "It"

The monster puppet for "What Is It?" is no different from most of my other puppets, but it does have certain things that makes it unusual. It was built pretty quickly, but as it turned out I still had some work to do on it.

The head was actually the only new thing sculpted for this character. I made it in Monster Clay and created a plaster mould that covered all of it except for a small portion of the back of the head.

The armature, created out of aluminum wires, was as thin as I could make it. The creature is supposed to be some kind of humanoid with several spider-like aspects. The torso was re-used from a mould made for my Jersey Devil puppet, but pulled tighter around the armature. The limbs are covered with cotton dipped in tinted latex. The feet are also built up in this same way.

The limbs, including the neck and back, were detailed by sticking small bits of wrinkly latex skins cast in skin texture moulds. Before the liquid latex used as a bonding agent sets up I press down in some of the wrinkles with a pointy tool. That adds extra depth to the features and makes the puppet look even more gaunt.

When I'm happy with the overall look of the build-up, I go over the puppet with a grey layer of PAX paint, laying it on as thinly as possible.

This is what the puppet looked like when I finished it late last year. But the poem I'm adapting into a YouTube video says that parts of the creature are covered in thick bristles, like the hairs you'll see on a spider if you magnify the animal.

These bristles or hairs are bits of yarn are dipped in latex and rolled between my thumb and index finger, until they become pointy, and then they're left to dry. As the puppet was covered with a paint that's a mix of glue and acrylic paint I couldn't use latex as a bonding agent between the hairs and the puppet. Instead I used a flexible quick-setting superglue to attach the hairs, and a pair of tweezers to stick them in place on the arms and the head.

Most of the puppet animations were achieved in front of a green screen, but a few of the shots needed a small bit of set; a dungeon. Several years ago I did a clay sculpture of a stone wall, which was then turned into thick latex skins to build a set for my film "The Mewlips". I still had the plaster mould and simply cast two new skins (I had thrown away the old set, because it took up so much room).

These latex skins, supported with paper towels soaked in latex, were mounted with contact cement on thick cardboard, and then dry brushed with light grey PAX paint. As it turned out, in the animated shots the walls are hardly visible, but you can sometimes glimpse them, and it's a good thing they're there to add atmosphere -much better than a plain black background.

And this is what the finished It puppet looks like when it comes leaping out of the darkness in some of the scenes. The two last ones are in fact shot in front of the stone wall set.


BlacknickSculpture said...

Great looking puppet!

Richard Svensson said...

Thanks! It was basically designed by Jeff who wrote the poem, or at least the limbs of the puppet. I added other spidery touches, such as the multiple eyes.