Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Alfred Hitchcock: Part 4

Little progress - I've been incredibly busy at work recently, which has taken it out of me - so I've just been tweaking and improving it, and this, I think, is pretty much the final result:

This weekend I'll make the mould...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Alfred Hitchcock: Part 3

Good news - the McGuffins are happy with the sculpt! I plan to build a full body to go with the head, and exhibit it at a McGuffin's event in September, so watch this space...

On the other hand, this Hitchcock sculpt is proving harder than I'd originally thought. You would think, "Alfred Hitchcock - piece of piss." But no - it's very easy to end up with a sort of Generic Fat Bloke, which is what I felt I had in my previous post. So, a few days of faffing about, and this is where I am - I feel it now really captures the essence of Hitchcock, as it were...

Tomorrow I shall refine it, add some minor, but important, detailing, and get on with mouldmaking. Later, I'll show what those holes in the eyeball blanks are for.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Alfred Hitchcock: Part 2

Slightly behind schedule, I had hoped to have completed it by today in time for the McGuffin's quiz, but I've only (almost) completed the sculpting of the master, so here it is:

Just need to add some fine details, such as brow furrows and eyebrows and tomorrow I can get on with making the mould (which I shan't cover in detail as it will be almost exactly the same process as for the Nick Griffin puppet, with one exception which I will cover in due course).

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Alfred Hitchcock: Part 1

My new project is Alfred Hitchcock, which I hope can be used by a local (Waltham Forest based) compaign group the McGuffins, who are campaigning to get the derelict local EMD Cinema, bought several years ago by the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), restored as a cinema for the community. The McGuffins are called thus because 'McGuffin' was Alfred Hitchcock's term for the desired object around which any plot revolves, motivating the characters into action, and Alfred Hitchcock was born in Leytonstone in... Waltham Forest! Waltham Forest is, ironically given the connection to one of British cinema's greatest directors, one of the two London boroughs not to have a cinema, hence the interest in rejuvenating the EMD, for both practical and heritage reasons.

The puppet will be made in much the same way as Nick Griffin was, so I shan't cover it in the same depth, but as a departure I have first made a smaller scale maquette (from Super Sculpey) which has helped enormously to get an idea of the basic shapes and proportions. I will scale this up around 50% or so to sculpt the fullsize version from plasticine.

Here's the maquette:

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Nasty Nick Part 6: Coloured

Ooh, he wouldn't like that, our Nick, being described as 'coloured' but, if you're reading this, fear not my bargain-bin would-be Aryan, I refer merely to your puppet avatar being painted!

There are new, more convincingly-proportioned irises in the eyes, courtesy of my old mucker Al. The jawline, upper lips and jowls were painted with more artists' acrylics, the skin tone I used earlier was mixed with a little extra brown to darken it a tad and some blue to give it a grey cast, suggestive of a mild five-o-clock shadow. The cheeks and nose were lightly dusted with modelmakers' acrylics to give a rosy cast; this both breaks up the facial colours, and helps bring out the nose especially, which was prone before to disappearing against the the background of the rest of the face. You can see the importance of these steps if you scroll right to the bottom of this page, in a photo showing the cast head with it's base tinted skin juxtaposed with the final item.

This is not a realistic way of painting a face - anyone looking for hints and tips on painting realistically (for, say, prosthetic appliances) will be making a big mistake reading this blog! But, having studied the superlative Spitting Image, I realised that for these types of figures, a stylised look is what is needed. It's all about creating an effect rather than realism.

And so, for example, the insides of the nostrils and mouth were painted near-black, to accentuate their shadowed nature, a completely unrealistic technique, but one that's vital to help bring the figure to some kind of life. Finally, the eyebrows were dabbed on with sponge.

Indeed, lacking as I do an airbrush, all colours were applied with bits of sponge cut up and shaped for whatever type of painting I was doing at the time.

You can click on all pictures for biggitude...

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Nasty Nick Part 5: Casting

Somewhat ineptly, I completely failed to take any photos of the casting process. Nevertheless, I'll try to describe it, though as mentioned in an earlier post, when it came to applying the latex I followed Lars Carlsson's superbly informative video pretty much slavishly.

First, make the skin, for which you will need liquid latex. To make painting the head easier later on, it's best to tint the latex first to provide a base colour. For this, use special latex colourants (I get mine from another London store, 4D Modelshop - £2.20 for 150g). White, a smidge of brown, a hint of red, and a dab of yellow, together with a tincture of blue, muck around until you find a colour you like. I haven't yet tried their recipes, but this is an excellent looking guide to how to achieve various flesh tones, from pale & interesting (okay, pasty) to dark as dark. When you're happy with the colour, add a little to the latex - the latex should be very pale, it darkens as it dries. Experiment first.

I made the actual skin by pouring a little of the tinted latex into one half of the mould and dabbing it around with some sponge. Build up a few layers, adding each as the preceding one dries. Strengthen the mouth area with pieces of bandage soaked into the latex. Also, it would probably be useful to add a smallish 'plate' made from a semi-flexible material (perhaps thin styrene sheet) to the lower inside of the mouth because that is where only a thumb acts upon the mouth, and the small surface area of the thumb will push through the flexible foam and rubber. The upper part of the mouth doesn't need it as the other four fingers will manipulate it.

You want both halves of the mould to have a few layex layers built up so that the colouring is fairly opaque. To create cavities for the eyes, I used the same hemispherical shapes that the final eyes will be made from and actually glued them to the inside of the latex skin exactly where the final eyeballs will need to go. Then clamp both halves of the mould together with the bungee ropes, seal around the edges outside with platicine, and pour some more latex inside and tilt the mould around to get the latex to fill the seam between the two halves. When you're satisfied with this, leave for a few hours to dry.

What I'm trying to get is a flexible foam puppet head with a cavity for my hand to go up it to manipulate the mouth. Ideally, I should have made a special core for the mould, but I couldn't be arsed. Instead, when the mould was ready with the dry latex skin coating the inside, I propped up the mould topsy turvey so the opening was at the top. I then put on a marigold washing-up glove and stuck my hand inside the mould, holding the inside of what would become the open mouth. Then I poured in the urethane flexible foam mix.

This stuff is magic! For this head I used Tiranti's Self Skinning Flexible Polyurethane Foam. Although self-skinning, the process to get it to skin is slightly more complex and is something I shall experiment with later. Suffice to say that for this puppet, I needed the latex skin.

So anyway, I poured it in around my marigold-glove-clad arm and held that arm dead still for fifteen minutes or so as the foam rose and set. It gets quite warm, but not dangerously so (though it may be hazardous without the protection of the rubber glove). When set, the glove is firmly embedded (it's the yellow thing poking out from underneath the neck) and you can slip your hand in and out. The fit was very tight, caused by the foam compressing the flesh of my hand and forearm as it expanded and cured. If using this technique again, I would wear a glove over that hand and then the rubber marigold glove on top of that, to form a slightly larger cavity. Once the foam was fully cured, which you can tell as the surface ceases to be tacky, I then removed the casting from the mould.

Then clean up the copious flashing on the seams, cut the eyelids open with a scalpel and remove the plastic hemispheres, and get painting the hair...

I used standard Liquitex Artists' Acrylics for the hair - it's surprisingly flexible and sticks well. Later, I will subtly colour the skin using similar paints in much the same way I coloured the static Stephen Fry sculpture. The eyes were made using the same technique as for the Patrick Moore eyes.

So, it's not yet finished, but here are some photos of it thus far:

Most of the skin colour is the base tinted latex, but some areas have already had some painting - the rubber of the neck was very thin causing the white foam to show through, so I painted that; I had painted eyebrows on but they were rubbish, so I've painted over them, and some other areas where the skin was too thin and the foam was showing had a similar treatment to the neck.

Also, the ear on the right was completely deformed due to some balls-up with the mould (I suspect that a pry-hole was too close to the ear so that when I shoved a screwdriver in to help prise the mould apart, the pressure of the screwdriver distorted the plaster). So I ended up sculpting a new ear, making a small plaster mould and casting a tinted latex skin. I then stripped part of the skin from the bust's distorted ear and glued the new skin on, a disturbingly quasi-surgical procedure... If you look carefully at the ear on the right (above), you can see where the new skin doesn't line up with the old; it will be patched up with latex at some point.

I'll be replacing the irises of the eyes with larger ones later, when I can get a friend to print out a sheet. I'll probably add veins to the eye on the left to give it a slightly bloodshot look (the eye on the right is, on Nick Griffin, in real life a false eye).

Nasty Nick Part 4: De-Moulding

Next day, separate the mould halves - as mentioned above, you insert screwdrivers into the cavities formed by the clay pieces you added before pouring the second half. Note screwdrivers in plural - you should have applied the clay pieces on opposing sides of the mould, and using two screwdrivers, one in each side, you apply equal force to both sides of the mould simultaneously. This minimises the chances of splitting the mould, because you will be applying a tremendous amount of force to split the halves apart. This is another nerve-wracking procedure...

Dont worry about any damage to the clay sculpture as the halves part - you'll be destroying it anyway as the only way to remove it from the mould is to dig it out. Here, you can see the start of this process:

Here's the front of the mould after the clay has been removed. Note the markings in red pen - they highlight holes in the plaster, caused by air bubbles during mouldmaking. I suspect this was due to a combination of slapdash application of the plaster and beading caused by a lack of dulling spray.

I strapped the two halves together with bicycle/luggage bungee ropes for a couple of days so that as it cured, the two halves wouldn't warp.

The mould will be strapped together in exactly the same way when pouring the latex, of which more later...

Nasty Nick Part 3: Pouring The Mould

Now that the dividing wall has been formed and the keys added, there follows the utterly nerve-wracking process of pouring the plaster. This is a horrible business as the sculpture you've spent hours or days making disappears under an opaque layer of gloop.

Before describing this, however, a quick note. There's one thing I didn't do and that was to spray a layer of 'dulling spray' all over the sculpture and clay dividing wall. This is very useful because it helps the plaster to stop 'beading' when poured onto the sculpture. As it was, I had no dulling spray and I found that the plaster ran off the shiny surface of the acrylic-sealed clay. This may have played a part in the discovery of lots of holes in the mould (to be discussed later).

First, dribble some plaster on, blowing it to try to get rid of air bubbles - air bubbles are your enemy! They are complete bastards so purge the feckers! Add more plaster to make a relatively thin layer of plaster only. Let it dry.

Then add another layer with 'scrim' - sheets of burlap (a coarse-weave hessian-like cloth) which you can just discern in the photo below embedded in the plaster. These will strengthen the mould enormously, and are similar in function to the glass fibre sheets used when making GRP mouldings. The presence of the burlap also means that if - quelle horreur - the mould should split, it won't actually fall apart into fragments. To apply it, cut it into pieces around 15cm by 10cm, dip them into the plaster to soak them, then slap them over the mould, adding more plaster as you go. Build up a couple of layers.

Add more plaster and smooth it off while it's still wet.

Bung another layer of plaster on, with more burlap, and then leave it overnight to cure completely.

Next day, turn the whole thing over - careful, it weighs a lot - and remove the clay walls and 2x4 blocks. You now have half a mould with the face buried in plaster and the rear exposed. Again, hard to see, but you can just make out the four keys as indentations around the edge of the plaster:

Now, do not rush into pouring the second half of the mould! If you do, you'll end up with a solid block of plaster encasing the sculpture and you'll have to smash it apart.

You need to ensure that the second half, when set, will separate cleanly from the first half. To do this, first liberally coat the exposed plaster which you can see in the photo above with vaseline - don't bother coating the scupture, just the plaster mould.

Then add a few small pieces of clay, around an inch long by half across, to the plaster. When the plaster for the second half of the mould is poured, these will form cavities, or pry holes, which will allow you to push screwdrivers into these holes which will help when you come to separate the mould halves later. You can see better examples here, on Richard Svensson's invaluable blog.

There are no photos of me making the other half of the mould. Partly, I was too busy, partly I couldn't be arsed. It was much the same procedure as the first half. When you've done with pouring the various layers of plaster, let it cure overnight.

Nasty Nick Part 2: Preparing The Mould

Because I want to make a flexible casting, it is necessary to make a hard mould (when mouldmaking and casting, the general rule-of-thumb is essentially that opposites attract - if you want to make a rigid casting, make and use a flexible mould). Now, for various reason which I'll go into later, I need to make a latex (rubber) skin, and for that the ideal mould material is plaster. This is because the liquid latex required to make the skin dries partly by evaporation and partly through some of the moisture being absorbed by the mould, and plaster is ideal for this.

Again, Tiranti came to the rescue for plaster - in this case, I used Prestia Classic (Dental) Plaster. In retrospect, this was a mistake, but more on that later...

Now, the mould must be made in two pieces. This means making one half first, 'blanking off' the rest of the sculpture beforehand by making a dividing wall.

First, lay the sculpture (master, or pattern) down flat on a bed of clay - this bed allows the sculpture to settle into it so it doesn't move. Note the clingfilm, used so as to prevent the clay sculpture sticking to the clay bed:

The sculpture has been sprayed with an acrylic clear spray. This is vitally important! Water-based plaster will not take to drying when poured over water-based clay. The acrylic spray therefore seals in the moist clay, giving a dry surface for the plaster to dry on.

Blocks of 2x4 wood have been laid around the sculpture - these will act as a support for the sheets of clay which will be added to create the dividing wall, as follows...

Make sure the clay wall seals the edges of the sculpture by using soft tools made of wood, or your fingers.

Next, build another clay wall around the dividing wall - this is simply to stop the plaster slopping about all over the place, and gives a clearly defined edge to the mould. One final, important note, at this stage - it's not clear in the photos (there's one on the left, between the sculpture's 'hair' and the corner of the clay wall), but around the sculpture are four clay 'keys', wedge-shaped bits of clay which will form depressions or holes in the face of the mould. When the second half is poured later, it will form corresponding raised sections which will help the two halves of the mould fit, or 'key', together accurately.

Nasty Nick Part 1: The Sculpt

I've now reached the stage where I have a virtually finished ready-to-use Spitting Image stylee puppet head of Nasty Nick Griffin, so I thought it might help other bumbling amateurs like myself if I show how I got to that stage. But before doing so, you should take a look at this video which shows the construction of a very similar type of puppet (Karius and Baktus) by make-up wizard Lars Carlsson. I found it invaluable, along with various websites linked to during the next few posts.

First, the clay sculpture. You've seen it juxtaposed with the man himself in the previous post, so here are three more views of it. This is the finished item, made from the cheapest water-based pottery clay - literally the stuff they dig out of the ground. As I live in London, I buy mine from Alec Tiranti Ltd., a superb sculptors' supply shop on Warren Street. It's cheapest if you buy the 25kg block but, fuck me, you risk your back getting it home on the tube...

As the stuff dries in air (well, the surface does, leading to cracking), it's generally advisd by Those In The Know that you sculpt quickly. Fortunately, as it took three days or so for me to sculpt it, Those In The Know also point out that you can keep it from drying by wrapping it in polythene whenever you take a long break from working on it. I would simply put a large carrier bag over it, sealed at the bottom with a rubber band. I should imagine giving it the odd light mist with a fine water spray would help.

I'm not sure how much useful advice I can give about how to sculpt - I started with a wooden stick mounted on a base, I then bulked out the stick with wire and newspaper and masking tape to make a crude 'skull' or armature onto which to apply the clay. This serves to anchor the clay, keeping it from slipping down the stick, and saves on clay. Start off roughing the gross shapes, getting the proportions right, adding detail later. Have a good browse of this forum for some great advice and to see some excellent work.

In terms of the design, if I was sculpting him again I'd give him a much fatter, bulkier neck and take in the forehead a bit, also making it squarer. I would also make a smaller scale maquette first to get the overall look and proportions right, before committing to full-size clay, but hey-ho, I'm fairly happy with it for a first attempt.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Shitting Image...

Bloody hell, it's been over a year since my last post!

Well, anyone keeping an eye on my other blogs will have noticed my involvement in a failed project (currently on hold, it will get finished, but just not for now...) and much foul-tempered ranting.

Meanwhile, a new project beckons, of which this is merely the beginning...

It's arch fat fascist twat Nick Griffin, bargain-bin Fuhrer of the British National Party (BNP) and gratifyingly smashed to smithereens in the recent, frankly bizarre, general and council elections.

It's nice to get back to sculpting, a medium I'm far happier with than drawing.

Suffice it to say that I have in mind a wildly ambitious project (which will probably go tits up as is customary with anything I involve myself with), so watch this space...