Looking over my photos on my Facebook page I realized I had wanted to do a post about making lips for my masks but forgot! So here goes!
The snaky looking thing in the long moldbox on the right hand side of this pic is my first attempt at a lip for my resin wolf head. I sculpted it pretty straight because that's how I had seen other lips sculpted online. Silly me.
Above, trying to fit a silicone cast of this straight lip on my mask. You can see how it gaps underneath, between the lower edge of the lip and the jaw. No good.
Above, trying to glue the new lip on. I think that pile of clamps might be trying to tell me something....
Making a pattern for a more fitted lip. The green thing above is Frog Tape stuck to aluminum foil. I pressed a piece around the lower jaw, sketched the shape of the lip on it, and cut it out. I then made it symmetrical by folding it in half in the middle and trimming it so the two sides would match. Then I tried out the new shape back on the head (above), trimming and fiddling until I was happy with it.
Here I've built the lip up in Monster Clay. It's built right on top of the pattern thingy, stuck on around the edges with a little more Monster Clay, so I can fairly easily remove and reapply the lip to the mask or adjustments as needed.
Above, the two clay lips next to each other for comparison. The new lip is on the bottom. Very different shapes.
Gluing silicone casts of the new lip in place. Not so many clamps needed this time! (The rubber bands here are actually serving as clamps here too.) I tried using Weldbond instead of hot glue, as Weldbond is theoretically stronger and doesn't leave those lumpy ridges when it dries. Weldbond takes about 24 hours to fully cure, hence the clamps. It did a good job, but I'm not sure it does enough of a better job to justify the long wait time.
And, the new lips freshly installed. Wheee!!
To date I've purchased teeth from other craftspeople to use in my masks, but I've always really wanted to make my own. Below, a pile of attempts made over the past couple of years, made with Monster Clay (a kind of plasticine), Super Sculpey and Apoxie Sculpt.(Skully is supervising. He is a very helpful skull.) A whole lotta nope right here.
I finally settled on the Monster Clay for making the prototype teeth. I got tired of waiting for the other two to dry and/or set up in between sculpting sessions, and I got REALLY tired of trying to smooth out the hardened model with sandpaper or a Dremel. Monster Clay can be frozen to make it very hard and can be softened with a hairdryer or microwave or such to make it very soft, so it is adaptable for a variety of sculpting situations. It also smooths beautifully using rubbing alcohol or its more powerful big brother, isopropyl myristate.
Above, looking to see how the lower part of the jawset is shaping up when viewed from the side. The teeth are just loosely stuck down to the gums at this point, so I can easily move them around if I need to.
And tada! Above, a finished Monster Clay plasticine model, ready for molding. Silly me, little did I realize that this would be the first of three finished jawsets I would mold. Sucks being a perfectionist.
Above, beginning the molding process, and a tongue while I'm at it. The jawset has been firmly attached to a thin piece of plywood, which will serve as a mold board. Every little gap between the model and the mold board is filled in, as otherwise the mold rubber could find its way under the model, and float the model up on top of it while it's curing. Which would not make a very good mold at all.
Above, getting ready to revise the jawset. Did I mention how I did this three times? Seriously though, it's easier to check the fit of the teeth in the head when they're in hard resin and not squishable clay. Above, a set of resin teeth that has been Dremelled down to fit the head better, and another set of clay teeth made by pouring melted Monster Clay into the mold, called a "borrowed casting". It's much easier to tweak the teeth from a borrowed casting than trying to make a whole new set from scratch. (If I wasn't such a chicken, I could have also resculpted my original set of clay teeth. But I wanted to keep them the way they were for extra insurance.)
Above, revisions. To the right in both pictures is the original sculpt, still on the moldboard. In the middle is a modified resin casting, and to the left is the resculpted "borrowed casting". This first go round I removed the "flare" thingy from the bottom jaw, as it only really served to complicate fitting it into the resin head. I also made the plate for the upper jaw more symmetrical. You can see how the original sculpt has a bigger "bulge" on the left hand side than the right. Why did I do this, you may ask. Well, I was using a reject resin head casting to fit the teeth in, and I forgot that the resin on one side of the muzzle was much thicker than that on the other so.... in order to center the teeth in the opening, the plate had to be a lot wider on one side. Definitely not going to be the case with the average resin head! Fortunately I realized this before I got too much further into this process! A great big duh, but could have been a much bigger duh.
Above, showing all three sets of revised teeth. The top set is the first one, the middle is the second and the set on the bottom is the final version. Besides changing the "plate" as described earlier, I did a lot of playing with the front incisors. I refined them in the second set but then realized I had also made the top ones too small, so I made them bigger in the third set. After re-checking my reference pictures of real wolves I also decided the gum area above the front incisors also needed to be longer, so I also changed that in the third set. I also did a lot of fiddling with the area circled in yellow in the right hand picture, with the way those particular teeth came together. The top incisor right next to the large bottom canine also underwent a fair bit of refinement.
And since I had spent so much time fiddling with the teeth, I decided to fiddle with the mold making method as well. At the suggestion of an acquaintance I made my next set of mold boxes out of Legos instead of Tupperware containers, so I could get the mold boxes precisely the size I needed them and save molding rubber. Molding rubber is expensive. They don't call it "platinum cure silicone" for nothing. (A good source of cheap used Legos is bricklink.com.)
Above, the nose and tongue models with their squishy rubber counterparts. Wheee!!!
Checking out the fit of the rubber nose in a resin head. Lookin' good! The resin head on the right wants a rubber nose too.
And above, a pile o' puppy parts, ready for maskmaking!! I'm feeling good about the results of my endeavors here. Time to think about colors for fur!!
Last month, evil little voices began whispering in my ear and telling me that the deer mask needed big, bushy eyebrows. I stood firm and didn't give in, as next they'd be asking for hairy ears, but I did begin to wonder, maybe the eyebrows did need *something*. Here's the mask with the eyebrows in question:
The first thing I did was to print out the above photo and sketch over the then-current eyebrows with a blue highlighter, to see more clearly what I already had (below.) First thing I noticed was that the eyebrows were asymmetrical. Not that that's a big issue, I think most eyebrows are asymmetrical, but it gave me a place to begin my explorations.
Below, two sketches with symmetrical eyebrows, one with the "left hand" style of eyebrow, and the other with the "right hand" style. I didn't like either of these.
Maybe it was the smooth, unwrinkled skin on the forehead between the eyebrows that was bothering me? I tried sketching wrinkles in between the eyebrows, but I didn't like them either.
Not sure where to go from here, I decided to hit the books. Below is one of my all time favorite reference books in my mask library. It's informative, easy to use, and beautifully illustrated.
Below are illustrations for the muscles responsible for thunderous eyebrows, the corrugator (the two little arms over the eyebrows) and the procerus (the muscle over the nose.)
Below, the actions of the corrugator and the procerus illustrated. To quote from the above book, "...the eyebrow lowers, especially the inner third...The eyebrows move closer together. A cashew shaped lump appears at the inner end of the eyebrow, with a curved, vertical crease along its inside edge (a), the "frown line". A small, crescent shaped dimple appears (b), above the middle of the eyebrow. This is where the muscle attaches to the skin and so becomes a low spot when the muscle contracts......"
I decided I needed to work on my (a) frownline and my (b) dimple. (I toyed with playing with the (c) vertical fold over the eyelid and the (d) hollow at the inner corner of the eye, but that would have meant changing the shape of the eyes more than I wanted to.) So I resculpted the eyebrows and went from this:
To this. I've emphasized the dimples and clarified and moved the frown lines more into the center. I've also tried to show how the muscle pulls the skin and bunches it up over the nose, spending many hours making faces at myself in the mirror and examining the wrinkles to do so!
Below, a picture of the entire mask with its new eyebrows. I really like how the pattern of wrinkles in the center of the forehead echoes the shapes of the tines over them.
Now, I am really and truly in the home stretch with this mask. With any luck, my next post will show pictures of it finished!
The deer mask is almost there! Here it is in its current state. As you can see, the mask has more detail and a smoother surface texture than it did in the previous post. I made lips, eyelids, wrinkles, etc with a layer of Paperclay, and filled smaller irregularities with a layer of Polyfilla. Both of these materials sand beautifully, and the Paperclay can be carved, albiet gently, with Dremel alumium oxide grinding stones, on a low speed.
Below, the mask with initial applications of Paperclay and Polyfilla.
Below, with eyebrows and other details sculpted in, and antlers removed. Due to the complexity of their shape, the antlers need to be removable and replaceable for both moldmaking and casting.
At this point, I decided I didn't like the ears, and started resculpting them. I wanted the base of the ear to be longer and thicker, the tips to be thinner and more refined, and the openings to be further away from the head.
Below, the antlers in their newly removable state, attached with screws. You can see the scorch marks from the Dremel from when I cut them off initially. The ears are also more refined.
Next step, to get the antlers on straight and even again! Somehow the antler on the right side has sagged noticeably in this process, sigh.
Good thing I get so much moral support from studio assistant Ezzy.
Here's the deer mask back in June. I felt pleased and thought all I needed to do was smooth and refine the antlers a little.
While I worked on bunny masks and looked at the deer mask just sitting on my workbench for the next several months, I realized the distance from the center of the mask to the tip of one antler was almost twice as far as to the other. Some asymmetry in deer antlers is to be expected, but not this much. Not cool.
So I cut the antler between the innermost and the three outermost tines and rotated the whole thing out a little. Not surprisingly, while the tip of the antler is more properly positioned, the tines are now tilted too far back. I stapled wads of tinfoil to the antler to use as an armature for new improved tines.
Then I took a photo of the mask, which I printed out and folded in half to check the relative positions of the two antlers to each other. The bottom edge of the left hand antler obviously need work, but otherwise, so far, so good.
Then I covered the new tines with Celluclay, cut off the old ones, and refined the rest of the antler a little bit.
I got rid of the lump on the underside of the left hand antler and...
OMG! How could I not have noticed before that the tip of the right ear is at least a half an inch higher than the left ear?? So I carved the bottom edge of the antler up a little...
... and brought up the edge of the left ear.
And here's where we are for the moment.
But wait, look, the second outermost tine on the right hand antler is about an inch longer than its conterpart on the left.... AAAGGGGHHHH!!!!
I have been working on the antlers for my deer mask for the past several months, in particular on attaching them in something less than a ridiculous manner. In my mind, a deer mask is largely an excuse for a human to wear antlers, so the antlers must look good. If the antlers look "off" the whole mask will look wrong.
(Gratuitous cute pic alert!!) I started making my antlers by tracking down this set of real whitetail antlers in the wilds of eBay. Whitetail antlers in particular are more on a human scale, as opposed to say, mule deer or fallow deer antlers, which can be huge. I made a paper mache version of these antlers by taking a positive cast of them in Celluclay.
I also needed plenty of reference photos, for which this book (found on the clearance table at a local bookstore) was my main source. The picture on the cover is particularly helpful. (Gratuitous factoid alert- I also learned from this book that antlers are the fastest known growing tissue in the animal kingdom, growing at a rate of half an inch a day.)
And here we have the first attempt to attach the cast Celluclay antlers to the mask. If you compare this photo with the photo on the book above, you can see that the two short tines in the center of the rack are too short, spaced too widely and make too much of a "V" shape. You can also see that the two main beams are too horizontal. In the reference pic above, the beams are more vertical and have a gentle, shallow "C" shape.
Attempt number two. Here the beams are more upright and starting to take on some of that "C" shape, but the tips are too close together, nearly meeting over the center of the mask while on the real deer, the tips line up roughly with the middle of the ears. The ink sketch superimposed over the photocopy demonstrates this.
Attempt number three. The two middle tines have been lengthened and straightened, and the right hand antler has the "C" shape I've been trying for. However, two of the tines of the left hand antler are too short and straight, and something very funky is going on with middle of the beam. The photocopy/ink sketch of the top view shows that the curve of the beam needs to be tightened, and the end needs to move forward.
Attempt number four. I've lengthened and curved those two short straight tines on the left hand antler. I've also started to tighten the curve of the beam of the left hand antler, particularly towards the back of the mask, but in doing so I have once again moved the tip of the antler too close to the center of the mask. As the top view photocopy/ink sketch shows, it needs to be moved out again, and perhaps shortened.
And, here is the mask in its current state. At this point I'm happy with the overall look of the antlers, though the left hand antler has some weird lumpiness going on that needs to be addressed. Next I need to define and refine the mask's overall texture. Then, off to the moldmaker!
(Gratuitous factoid alert- on a trip to Wikipedia to check that my antler terminology above was correct, I learned it is now believed antlers act as parabolic reflectors, vastly improving the hearing of their wearers. I'm not kidding. We'll see if paper mache antlers can do the same!)
A challenge! A customer asked me if I could make an Alice in Wonderland White Rabbit mask for Halloween. I had only a month, and I usually need around a hundred hours to finish a sculpt, often more, and at least twenty or thirty to make an actual mask. I really didn't think I had time, but I had also wanted to make a rabbit mask anyway and see if perhaps, in the two or more years it's been since I've started a new sculpt, I'd become more proficient. So I took it on.
First, I made a clay sketch on a miniature armature, to get a basic idea of masses and shapes without having to shove around pounds of plasticine. I then used this little sketch as a reference for the full sized sculpture.
Here we are fifteen minutes into the big sculpt, and Arnold the Armature is picking up your signal loud and clear. Those little bitties on the sculpting table in front of him are snails, frogs and slugs that Isabelle sculpted after sneaking into my studio one day.
End of Day One. The armature is covered and the resulting lump is somewhat rabbit shaped.
End of Day 2. Looking a little more rabbit shaped. The little clay sketch I made at first is visible in the background.
End of Day 3. Ready for liftoff! Muzzle and brows have also been refined.
End of Day 5. Per customer's request, ears restrained, cheeks narrowed down and eyebrows refined some more. At this point I am pretty much satisfied with the sculpture.
During this project I discovered some amazing new time saving sculpting tools- the digital camera, the scanner, the printer and my lightbox. At the end of each day I would take pics of the mask, print them out in black and white, and sketch changes over them I'd want to make the next day. This helped me stay focused and saved hours of needless fiddling.
These are two sketches I did to show my customer ideas for new ears and cheeks. He opted for ears somewhat between these two possibilites.
I also found that if I took pics of the mask on one side and then kept the tripod and the stand in one place, I could spin the stand around and get a picture of the other side of the mask that when flipped over, would line up very closely to the first. Then I would print out both pictures, trace around the major lines in red, flip one picture over and then lay them down on my lightbox to see any significant differences between the two sides. This was very helpful if one feature looked "right" one one side but "off" on the other, I could tell right away what the difference was.
A pic of the right hand side of the mask, outlined in red, with an area from the left hand side superimposed in green over part of the ear.
A pic of the left hand side of the mask, outlined in red, with an area of the right hand side of the mask superimposed in green over the eye.
So I had a sculpture I liked after only twenty one hours of work, which is far as I'm concerned is unprecedented.
Next, casting and painting the mask!