Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Orc Horn and Other LARP Stuff

These past two weeks I have been exhausting myself (always an interesting experience) by making a bunch of stuff for an upcoming local LARP event. In other words, lots of people dressed up as orcs, elves, etc, running through the woods. Among the things I built was this orc horn, something I hadn't done before. The people arranging the event couldn't find a big imposing-looking horn, so I volunteered to build one.

My idea for the horn-construct was a traditional one, as far as prop-making is concerned. I built up a basic smooth shape using Chavant clay, and decided to cover it with paper and glue papier maché style.

However, I opted to use latex instead, since time was suddenly of the essence, and latex would set up faster that the wallpaper glue traditionally used for this kind of work.

I tore up small bits of newspapers and fastened them to the clay horn by painting the latex over the paper with a sponge. When the first layer was finished..

..I added another using tinted latex, so I could see if I missed any spots.

 When these layers had set up I cut a slit all the way down the latex/paper skin with a scalpel, and simply peeled it off like a banana skin. Liquid latex was used to seal the split.

Of course, the horn as it was so far was far too soft, so I reinforced it by pouring SmoothCast 325 into the horn, and slather it around by turning the horn. The plastic was tinted a dark brown to cover up the newspaper printing on the paper. I did this two times to add sufficient support.

The next trick was to add exterior support too, and a smooth bone-like surface. For this I used another type of plastic called Epsilon Pro, which is mixed up and painted onto a soft surface to add a hard shell around it. Two layers of Epsilon Pro created a very smooth and durable surface for the horn.

As I had also tinted the Epsilon plastic a dark brown, the resulting look was quite nice, I'd say.

But to make it an Orc horn we also need to adorn the horn with some crude metalwork. I built up a clay shape around the opening of the horn using Monster Clay soft, which is very quick to work with, and fine if you don't need very complex details in your sculpture.

The white surface you see here is the bottom of a paper plate, and it's there for a good reason.

 Onto the paper plate surface I poured DragonSkin Pro silicone to create a base for the silicone mold that would go around the sculpture.

One truly indispensable tool in my workshop is my little turntable, on which I built up a Monster Clay base for the mold making process.

The horn sculpture was turned upside down and placed onto the clay base, and clay walls were built up around the sculpture to contain more silicone that was poured around the horn.

The final layer of silicone was thickened with a special chemical agent and smeared on like butter. This was done to quickly build up a thickness of the silicone. Trying to save that ever away-slipping time again..

A middle section was created in pretty much the same way, using clay containment walls and DragonSkin silicone.

Finally, the mouth piece was sculpted and a small wooden button added at the very top to create the desired look.

This time, again to save time, I simply used a roll of soft carton to create a containment wall for the silicone.

All these sculpted bits were cast in SmoothCast 325, using silicone molds that had been dusted down with aluminum powder. This powder stuck to the darkly tinted plastic, and created a dull metal surface that would never rub off.

The final horn was sandpapered for a more organic, dull look, and the "metal" bits were weathered using black airbrush colors. And how does this magnificent instrument sound? Well, when I blow in it, it either sound like a distant breeze or a smattering fart. I hope the Orc who'll be wearing this can make more noise with it. You can possibly make out that two metal rings have been added to the top and middle sections. These are points where a leather strap will be added.

I also cast 16 latex Elf ears, and 11 Orc and goblin latex masks, some of which are shown below. 
It's quite a lot of work hauling big plaster molds around, and I don't plan on participating in any such project again. I started making LARP masks and props way back at the start of the 2000's. A big LARP boom was occurring in Sweden then, and although this hobby isn't practiced by as many anymore, there are still ambitious fantasy role playing events popping up in the Swedish woods around this time of the year. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Carcosa Project: The Guard

The next finished creature for the Carcosa project, now called "In the Court of the Yellow King", is a guard that will be standing beside the throne of the eponymous monarch. I wanted something that was humanoid, but also slightly animal-like, and inspired by the various monsters in Heironymus Bosch's paintings. That was, at least, the feel and style I was trying to emulate.

What I came up with was a take on the ever-popular creepy plague doctors of bygone ages, where a bird-like mask was supposed to protect the wearer against the ravages of the plagues that visited Europe. I sculpted a torso in Monster Clay medium grade, which also included the actual mask, made up by a beak in leather and goggles with leather straps and buckles.

Here's the tinted latex skin cast in the dental plaster mold made over the sculpture. To make the mask seem even more leathery I added a thick thread along the seam of the "mouth". This thread was crochet yarn soaked in latex and cut into small bits. One end of each bit was dipped in latex and pressed against the beak until it stuck. Latex was then applied to the other end, which was bent down against the lower part of the beak. No real sewing necessary.

I cast most of my puppet parts in open single-piece molds, which means the some parts of these molds can go quite deep in. In the case of the Carcosa guard it was his beak that could cause trouble, as the rest of the skin dried fast, while the tip of the beak was so deep down into the mold that it could take days to dry out. Let me introduce you to one of my best additions to my workshop ever: A boot drying fan. I simply stick one of the nozzles into the mold I'm casting latex into, and turn it on, having it run for about 30 minutes, or so. That usually does the trick, but if the deepest parts of the mold still have wet latex after that, I just give it a second run.

The armature for this puppet is very basic. No moving parts for the head, and no other added bits except what's needed for a normal humanoid figure. Crochet yarn hold together double aluminum wires, and globs of Friendly Plastic joins the various limbs.

The padding of the body was also a fairly quick affair. I added very few actual muscle shapes. The deep green piece covering the back is the softest one, while the lighter green bits are fairly sturdy, as I wanted them to shape the outline of the body (and keep it), and the yellow foam is strips of  polyurethane, perfect for gradually building up shapes.

Covering the body with patches of latex skin, however, took longer than I had anticipated. And I don't know why really. I just sat for several days fiddling with this, and also adding bits of tissue paper and cotton dipped in latex to the body. The finished patched skin was given a light rubbing of PAX paints, while the beak and goggles were painted using brushes and acrylic colors.

I wanted an unconventional gear for the guard, so I decided to give him a big leather girdle to accentuate his saggy body. The girdle shape was sculpted in soft Monster Clay and cast in a single-piece mold.

I also gave the guard a pair of thigh-high leather boots, joined to the girdle to give the whole arrangement a slightly "kinky" look, for the lack of a better expression. The better part of the boot was sculpted in Soft Monster clay, and again a single-piece mold was created for it.

A monster in one of the Bosch painting wears a funnel-shaped tin hat, which looked both kooky and strange, so I decided to make one for my guard. This hat was glued together from bits of thick paper, and the covered with black-tinted latex. Spikes made from latex and cotton was then attached to it, and the hat was finished by dry brushing aluminum paints over it.

I also cast a few extra latex details for the various accessories worn by the character: Belts, straps, buckles and bits of riveted metal. These casts all came from a big mold I made years ago for another project. I had simply sculpted all these things in Chavant clay on a flat surface, and poured Ultracal 30 gypsum cement over it.

Lastly I wanted to give the guard a nasty-looking pole weapon to lean against. The handle is a wooden dowel used to support potted plants. It's been painted with a brown Warhammer paint wash (wonderful stuff, by the way.) The blade is thick paper covered by Epsilon coating epoxy from Smooth On. This material sets up semi-flexible, and is surprisingly sturdy. When the epoxy had set up after about four hours, it was painted with aluminum spray paint, and weathered with some black acrylic airbrush paint.

I'll probably add some more little details here and there before the character gets animated. He won't be called upon to do much in the film, just move about slightly, but I hope he'll be effective nonetheless, and add to the overall atmosphere of the piece.