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.

Monday, August 31, 2015

New Home Page!

I've finally revamped my old, sad home page, with a big help from my buddy Daniel Blohm. It's still a work in progress, but a little at a time I'll get there. Go check it out HERE :)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

An Art Book of Frightful Fiends

This post will be very different from the usual stuff I'm talking about on my blog. This time I'll be plugging a self-published book, something I usually do on other blogs, Facebook, etc. But, since my drawings ARE such a big part of my creative self, I think I should mention it here as well. This is the bok in question: "The Spectres of M R James."

Since last fall I've been re-reading the works of British scholar and author M R James (1862-1936), and entertaining myself with drawing images of the very imaginative ghosts, demons and monsters, who usually make their appearance during the part of the story where the "Jamesian Wallop" (so named by Will Ross and Mike Taylor of the M R James Podcast) occurs. This is the "booo" moment of the tale, and it's always a very effective one.

So, a good question is: Doesn't this book, then, ruin the whole story if you haven't already read it? It might, yes. On the other hand, the images and the quotes, which accompany each illustration, might also arouse your curiosity and prod you into finding and reading the whole thing.

At any rate, I made this book simply to entertain myself in the hopes that my enthusiasm may be infectious to those who are M R James newbies. It's a labour of love, and I enjoyed the work immensely.

The book is published through, and is 59 pages long, A5 paper size. I've made three earlier books via Lulu, and I'm generally very happy with the publishing arrangements. You upload your own book file, and set the price yourself. Depending on what paper size you choose, your book may or may not be eligible for distribution on Amazon and other venues. This book was entirely created in an A5 Word document, saved as a PDF file and uploaded in Lulu's online book-making machinery. All images are RGB JPGs in 300 DPI resolution. If all this reads like Swahili, Mandarin or Klingon to you, drop me a message, and I'll explain the process in more detail, and in simple English.

Now, if you after reading this blog post find that you can't possibly go on living without owning this little book, you can find it on Lulu right HERE.

And if you're wondering about if I've considered adapting any James story for a film, the answer is yes. I'm preparing the first one to be made this fall, with a short filmed poem almost completed.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

D & D Monsters: Beware the Umber Hulk

While working with our RPG world film, John and I kept adding more and more of that vast menagerie of cool monsters, until we realized that we could go on with the creature encounters without really getting on with the story. Even so, here comes yet another ugly brute!
I decided that having these classic monsters and not creating a Ray Harryhausen-style monster brawl between a couple of them would be a sin indeed. Thus the owl bear now makes a second appearance, and encounters a foe to grapple with, namely one of my favourite D & D monsters: The umber hulk.

Again I looked to the original first "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual" from 1977 for inspiration. There, the umber hulk is a slightly comical monstrosity that looks like a cross between a beetle and an ape. It's got two sets of eyes, huge mandibles and a burly body. What's not to like?? In later monster manuals the creature has been given a big makeover, and though it may look cooler in terms of the number of details, I think it has lost some of its charm and personality. My umber hulk puppet would turn out to be a cross between the cherished original concept, and my own added details.

I sculpted the head in Monster Clay, but soon realized that I was making it way too big if it was going to tussle with the owl bear. So I sculpted a new head, which was slightly smaller in size.

As you can see, the smaller set of eyes were small smooth beads, the bigger insect eyes were a pair of plastic buttons with a knobbly surface. I found these, and lots of other buttons suitable for both puppet eyes and other decorations, at a local sewing machine shop.

The head was cast as a loose latex skin from a plaster mould. Limbs were created by bonding together lengths of aluminum wires using sewing string. Friendly Plastic helped merge all the bits. Fingers were made by wrapping thick cotton string around aluminum wires and coating these with tinted latex. I'm thinking of making a stand-alone tutorial on building up hands and fingers, as a few people seem to have issues with this.

The mandibles were really just the one, sculpted in Monster Clay and cast twice in Smooth-Cast 300Q plastic, using a DragonSkin Pro silicone mould. Just before the quick-setting plastic gelled, I lowered a bit of folded aluminum wire into it to create a joint.

More Friendly Plastic was used to hold the mandibles in place from inside the head skin, as well as adding strength to the head. A piece of aluminum wire was also added to the lower lip, to make the mouth open and close in animation.

The armature in itself is, as usual, a straightforward deal. The aluminum wire and Friendly Plastic construction makes it very light weight.

Besides the head, the feet were also sculpted in clay. It's actually just the one sculpture, cast twice in latex. The inside of these latex skins were padded with polyurethane foam and a cotton/latex mix.

Some people seem to have problems finding thick, soft foam to pad the puppet body and create the muscles. As I've mentioned many times before I simply use old cushions and mattresses found at garage sales and donated by friends. But here's another alternative.
I buy thinner sheets of very soft foam used in kitchens to soak up moisture under drying racks. Usually, I use these for smaller puppets, or when I build up bulk on thinner limbs.

But you can also glue bits of this thin foam together. Four bits make up a pretty thick single piece, and you can thus decide exactly just HOW thick you'd like the bits to be. I use a very soft and flexible contact cement to bond the foam pieces. You can also use foam spray glue (which I can't get hold of in Sweden at the moment) or perhaps also rubber cement, which I haven't used in this application.

Here are two examples of the layered thin foam padding. You can create very precise shapes using this method, though it takes a bit longer than using bigger bits.

Here's the puppet with finished foam muscles padding. As you can see, I've used bigger pieces on some parts of the body.

Using older plaster moulds with various skin textures I've created big and small patches of latex skin to cover the foam body. Adding drops of tinted latex helps create interesting textures and patterns.

The finished puppet has received a uniform layer of dark grey using tinted latex drybrushed thinly over the surface of the body. Deeper crevasses have kept their black hue, adding depth and shadow to the character. More drybrushing, using lighter shades of blue grey and reddish brown, adds more details. Both sets of eyes are now covered with transparent scrapbooking liquid plastic.

This puppet ended up slightly larger than I had preferred, but its still workable, and the umber hulk now provides the owl bear with a great wrestling buddy. Play nice, boys!