By now more people than ever seem to have heard about "Carcosa" or "The King In Yellow" due to the "True Detective" TV show. These names have their origin in a literary mythology that is similar to H P Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, though it is far from that extensive. In essence it was all created by author Robert Chambers in his 1895 book "The King In Yellow", which is almost unrivalled in its weirdness. I'll come back to the Carcosa mythos in later blog posts as this project evolves, but like in the case of Lovecraft's tales, other authors have continued building upon them. One of them was Lin Carter (1930-1988) who wrote an elaborate poem about the strange world of Carcosa, and what happens when an Earth sorcerer attempts to enter it. I recieved permission last year from the Carter estate to adapt this poem into a film, and that's where these two puppets will appear as background characters.
These two characters will be almost nothing more than ambience in the film, they'll help establish the world of Carcosa as a place of truly strange life forms, though the creatures will hopefully also connect with the viewer to remind them of various styles of art and design from bygone eras. My idea was to build a couple of puppets just over the weekend, and have fun with the design and creation of them. Let's start with the critter I call "the goblin worm". I used Monster Clay to sculpt a head, which I suppose represents the traditional goblin or witch-like features.
I placed the finished face on a bed of more Monster Clay, and also added additional clay to secure the sculpture to this base, and remove the most glaring undercuts in the back of the sculpture. Dental plaster was then poured over the clay, and a latex copy of the sculpture was produced from the plaster mold.
Here's the cast latex face attaeched to an aluminum wire skeleton wrapped in soft polyurethane foam. The back of the head is built up with cotton dipped in tinted latex.
Patches of variously textured wrinkly and warty skin is quickly created by re-using old plaster molds. I use a small bit of polyurethane foam as a sponge to lay on the latex.
And after just a few hours I have this strange fellow added to the puppet cast. The spiky things on his head and the fangs are both created by dipping cotton in latex and simply rolling it between my fingers. The puppet will be animated wiggling across a stone floor. It had some problems with staying upright while animated, so I attached a piece of greenscreen-painted card to the belly of the puppet, and now it's working just fine.
The second stop-motion critter produced this weekend is the one I call "the foreskin monster". The original idea was to make a head on legs, probably inspired by similar creatures in the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516). It did end up a head on legs, but with a wrinkly body and a general appearence that a friend of mine likened to the male genetalia. Again, it's a Monster Clay sculpture with an undetailed area underneath, where the legs will be.
To make this casting work I had to create a two-part plaster mold, which is usually a quick job when working with sculptures as small as this one. A softer hobby clay (the reddish one) was used as a deviding wall between the two halves of the body. The other clay-encircled mold in the above images is the head mold for the goblin worm.
The head and body has been cast in latex reinforced with cotton, and with the help of a shoe drying machine the materals have set up within the hour and can be removed from the mold.
The legs are each made out of four strands of aluminum wire with a wing nut attached to each foot. Tough cotton string is holding together the wires.
To add muscular shape and bulk to the legs I use thin polyurethane foam.
The legs are attached to the inside of the body using Friendly Plastic thermoplastic. This material is very light and adds very little to the weight of the puppet. In the above photo I've built up shoes of a kind with cotton and tinted latex, and the overall puppet has been given a base coat of PAX paint (Prosaide glue mixed with acrylic paints).
The final puppet has, just like the goblin worm, been detailed with acrylic airbrush paints.
None of these two puppets can emote with their faces, and to have them basically be walking and slithering sculptures make these puppets fast and cheap to make. And that's really all they should be if they're background characters.