Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Making a Book Cover Illustration

If you're curious about what I'm up to when I'm not making films, then here's a little video about one of my illustration jobs.

Friday, December 1, 2017

"Feather of Owlbear": A D & D Fan Film

This project started way back in 2014, but now it's finally finished. I made a few puppets inspired by the original 1977 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual, and they're all covered in previous posts on this blog. Here are links to all of them:

The Owlbear.
The Rust Monster.
The Beholder.
The Umber Hulk.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Halloween Weirdos

Some people have been telling me for years to make a YouTube Halloween video, and this year I finally made one. I spent a week on the project, and used mostly older puppets, but a few unused ones snuck in there too. Here's the video:

But I managed to make two new puppets. Here's the first one.

This is actually a quite old latex cast I found in one of my stashes of stuff-I-should-throw-away-but-never-does. Originally it was supposed to be a Mewlip (featured in my Mewlips video), but I decided to go in another direction with these creatures and discarded this design. However, I had already cast this latex skin and added the two reflective bead eyes. Since the skin was in good shape despite the years (latex will, as you know, start to crumble after some time) I decided to use it for one of my new Halloween puppets. I added sheets of polyurethane foam on the inside of the skin, using liquid latex as a bonding agent, to bulk it up a bit.

I also bulked up the aluminum wire armature with some foam wrappings. Cotton and latex was used to build up muscles on the lanky arms, and a pair of latex wings were attached to the back of the armature. You can see the whole wing-making process HERE.

Here the puppet has been given a skin made from patches of latex skin cast in plaster molds. The nails are made from thick paper dipped in latex.

And here's the finished puppet. I also placed a wing nut in the puppet's posterior, so I can attach a flying rig.

Here's the second original puppet in this video. It's a lanky, pot-bellied zombie with a slightly (or maybe very) cartoony look. Like with the other puppet I had already sculpted the torso and created a mold for it. I can't actually remember what I made the sculpture for, but I thought it would fit right in here, and it did. As you can hopefully see in this photo the cast latex skin has been padded with thin sheets of polyurethane, and the armature has also been padded in the same way. Also, this guy has a wing nut in his butt.
These two puppets are very simply and quickly made, but perfectly functional in every way. What cuts down the construction time in this case is that none of the puppets have articulated faces. No rotating eyes or jointed jaws.

The finished goofy zombie. Both these guys flut past the camera so quickly it'd be a waste to just use them once. No idea what the future holds, but I'm sure you haven't seen the last of them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Monday, September 4, 2017

H P Lovecraft's "Memory": The Apes

Continuing from my previous blog post; my other animated character in my adaptation of H P Lovecraft's "Memory" is an ape, who actually played many apes in the finished film.

It's very rare that I do a puppet which is anthropomorphic or based on real living things, so I relished this opportunity to create a puppet character which took huge inspiration from real life, at least to an extent. In Lovecraft's prose poem there are "little apes" living among the crumbling ruins of a very past civilization. It is implied (at least in my mind) that these apes are actually us; humans who have de-evolved into more primitive beings. So, I didn't want to make these apes entirely like the apes of today, the gorilla, the orangutan and the chimpanzee. Instead I looked at reconstructions of prehistoric man, and the various links from ape to man. I specifically focused on Homo Habilis, and took inspiration from that ancestor of ours.

I sculpted the front of the head and torso as one piece in Monster Clay medium grade, which both gave me a good overall feel for the character, as well as creating the base for the latex skin covering the most important parts of the puppet.

Here's how the latex skin, cast in a dental plaster mold, looks when it's trimmed and cleaned up. As you can see I've also added eyes, made from black plastic beads and placed in latex sockets. There are some apes and monkeys who have strange black eyes with golden irises. That's the weird look I wanted for my ape. To add some support I've stuck thin polyurethane foam dipped in latex on the inside of the skin.

To create the mouth I sculpted the teeth in clay, and used a quick-curing silicone paste to cast a mold around it. I then melted some of the thermoplastic I use for my armatures, and pressed it into the teeth mold. Before the plastic had cooled I also stuck some aluminum wires into the mold, creating the joints for the jaw.

The teeth were attached to the mouth by pressing in more thermoplastic into the head cavity, and then simply attaching the teeth to that "subskull" along with the aluminum wires. There is also a thin copper wire wrapped in sewing string and latex inserted into the upper lip, so it can be drawn back to expose the teeth.

That was actually the complicated part of the puppet-making! The padding of the aluminum wire armature was done with my usual mix of thin polyurethane strips and cotton dipped in latex. You can see a screw sticking out from the ape's butt. That's an attachment point for an animation support arm, which I actually never used.

Thin tinted patches of latex skin was attached to the foam using latex as a bonding agent.

I thought this original skin hue was too strong, so I drybrushed the puppet with tinted latex to bring it down to a more natural grey/pink.

Here's how the finished ape turned out. The fur is fake and cut from an old coat. Instead of making a pattern from the fur, which is attached to textile, I cut small clumps of hair and glued it on in sections, using latex as a bonding agent. This created a kind of distressed, natural look of wear and tear that you can sometimes see with adult apes. I have explained the process in another post, and apart from me using a silicone glue in that description, the method is exactly the same.

There is another character in this film, a genie who travels along the moonbeams and interacts with the demon who lives in the valley of the apes. This role is played by a real person, Henrik Daleke. He actually played this part in a production of "Aladdin" I made with a bunch of people with slight disabilities some years ago. The genie in the "Memory" film is made up from discarded takes from that production. I only used Henrik's face and warped it in After Effects to make it look fluid and strange.

H P Lovecraft's "Memory": The Demon

I continue my Lovecraftian adaptations with a prose poem called "Memory". I found this text a long time ago in an anthology, and really liked it. It's very vague on what it's really about, but it has a dreamlike quality, and some underlying themes which will make the reader figure out some things on his/her own.
I just finished editing the film, and will shortly post it on YouTube. Here's some info on one of the puppets featured in the film.

The title "Memory" actually refers to one of the characters in the tale; a demon who apparently goes by that name. There are no descriptions of the creature, so I went with my own ideas, deciding to create something that looked old and withered, but also regal.

I only sculpted the torso of this puppet, using Monster Clay medium grade and my teeny tiny loop tools.

Dental plaster poured over the sculpture created a mold into which I could then add tinted latex. I supported the inside of this latex skin with cotton dipped in latex, creating a sturdy leathery feel.

To create that "regal" look built up a sort of crown between the shoulders using tooth picks.

The toothpicks were then covered with cotton and tinted latex. I decided early on to not have a head or face on this character, mainly because I didn't want to bother with animating a face. But it also meant that I could make a creature that looked a bit more abstract than most other characters.

The puppet has my usual aluminum wire and thermoplastic armature, with threaded bolts in the feet.

Most of the body was padded with bits of thin polyurethane foam soaked in latex, and cotton dipped in latex. The latex-soaked foam created a material that is almost clay-like. When it has dried you can press it together with your fingers and shape it pretty well.

The demon has a pair of very traditional devil wings, almost as if ripped from a church wall painting. I won't go into the making of the wings, as I've talked about this many times. But I'll refer you to my YouTube video, which says everything you need to know on the subject.

I normally sculpt my skin textures or get them from a surface like old leather or a fruit. But I sometimes create an texture by first starting it as a negative sculpture, if you will. This is much faster than creating a normal sculpture. In other words, I carve or etch a negative pattern into clay, in this case medium grade Monster Clay. 

When that's done I build up a clay containment wall, just like when casting an ordinary sculpture. I add plaster, first by brushing it in to avoid air bubbles, and then pouring in the rest. The plaster has cured, and here you can see what the actual skin texture will look like. 

But you can't cast anything into this plaster casting, so I'll have to make another mold on top of the plaster cast. I choose to do this by mixing dental silicone and curing agent, and squeezing down this silicone paste over the plaster cast. But, if you use a sealing or release agent, you can cast plaster over plaster.
Just be aware that any slightly unprotected sections might stick, and then you're goose is cooked, so to speak. You might break off a portion of your mold, and you'll have to start over again. Which is not a big deal, really. This dental silicone paste sets up in a few minutes, and I can peel off the mold pretty easily. So, to cast latex into this silicone you can wash the mold with some alcohol, if you feel that silicone oil is making the surface very slippery. Or use a dulling spray, which is what I do. In this case here I've actually done neither. I just sponged in tinted latex and it seemed to stick just fine. After a couple thin layers of latex I'm dabbing the surface with talcum powder to make the latex skin easier to remove. Then I can just peel it off. This particular skin was used on the legs of the demon.

Here's the demon puppet pieced together, skin, wings and all. Now it'll get a light drybrushing of tinted latex, as well as some silvery acrylic paint on the chest area.

And here's the demon as it appears in the film, with a head made up of stock footage fire, fixed up in After Effects to look weird and alien.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My First Vlog

So, I've started a vlog (like everyone else), talking about stuff that interests me. I'll be doing one of these every once in a while, and I'll hope you'll find them entertaining, and maybe even a bit enlightening too.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Making a Little RPG Monster

For a few years now I've been illustrating a Swedish fantasy role-playing game for kids. Now we, the people involved, are starting a Kickstarter campaign to fund the further development of this game. We decided to film a short sequence set in the game world, and featuring one of the weirder monsters; the "hopper". As you can see in the film still above, it's basically a huge eye on legs.

I didn't have a ready-made eye big enough for this puppet, so I had to make one myself. I decided against using a wooden ball since I've always ended up with visible wood grain, having to cover that up with layers of white paint. Instead I used a metal "marble" as a template for the eye. I pressed the metal ball down into a piece of soft monster clay, just enough for it to not move when pushed.

An old paper toilet roll acted as a containment wall for the DragonSkin Pro silicone which was poured around the ball to create a mold.

Using a new plastic called Rhino, cheaper than the usual products from SmoothOn which I normally use, I cast this bone white ball. What you see here is the top part, which will actually be the back side of the finished eye. I could've used this indentation to create an eye lens, but small air bubbles ended up on this side, so instead I used my Dremel tool to grind down a lens area on the opposite side. I didn't have to cut the silicone mold to get the plastic casting out. It took a bit of prying, but Dragon Skin Pro is flexible enough to allow for some seemingly impossible feats.

I used acrylic model hobby paints to create an iris on the ground down area. With a scalpel I then etched in tiny white lines spreading out from the centre.

For the actual lens I used Glossy Accents scrapbooking plastic. It's basically an air-drying plastic which sets up clear. The cured plastic, fed from a bottle, is slightly flexible, so you can scratch it with something sharp. Resin is preferable, but more expensive, generally a hassle to use and smelly.

I sculpted the front half of the hopping body in medium grade monster clay, mostly using small loop tools. I used the original metal ball as the eye and built up the clay around it.

Here's basically my set of hopping parts before assembling them. From my sculpture a plaster mold was created, and skin-colored latex poured into it to cast a skin, reinforced with a cotton/latex mix. The metal ball was used once again to create an eye socked by smearing silicone clay around it. I could then pop the plastic eye into the silicone socket. The fact that a small portion on the back of the eye was gone didn't hinder the eyeball from swiveling around perfectly. The silicone socket was then attached to the body skin by pressing down melted thermoplastic over the back of the socket and onto the inside of the body skin.

The rest of the puppet construction holds no surprises. The legs were made from four 2 mm aluminum wires each, attached to 4 mm threaded nuts in the feet. The toes were wrapped in yarn and then covered with tinted latex.

A simple wrapping of soft and thin polyurethane foam created the basic shape of the legs, and a very thin foam moist rag was used to produce a smooth outer layer before applying cast latex skins.

I built up the back of the hopping with foam and latex skins. I actually didn't paint this puppet, but simply gave it a light dabbing with a bit of foam dipped in the tinted latex. The toe nails were cut from thick paper and also covered with the latex.

It's remarkable that you can actually get a few subtle expressions from a puppet this simple. It's like using an immobile wooden mask; depending how you show it to your audience, you can make it speak and emote.

Here's the clip the hopping puppet was made for. It appears at about 00:40. This video is all in Swedish.