Friday, August 30, 2013

Double Drac

Meanwhile, our son has caught the Halloween spirit and got out his Dracula costume to try on. He wants to go as Dracula for at least part of Halloween this year, so he can match my costume (aww!). So I dragged out mine, and we took a couple of pics.

"Give me candy or I'll suck your blood!"
Creepy capesLove the demon eyes!

Weeping Angels- Phase 2

Yep, I'm confident enough to call it Phase 2. Got 3 torsos built, and a complete set of arms. Also cut the wire for the remaining two sets. And I've got a plan for molding the hands. We've got the stuff to make Monster Mud (drywall joint compound mixed with latex paint), so as soon as the other Angels are built and everyone's been fitted, we can start final assembly- maybe this weekend?!

 Hard to see in this photo, but she's got her arms on. I'm planning to rework the shoulders to a more sloping design, right now she looks like there's a lot of padding.

 Speaking of padding, my first attempt at forming her shape didn't work out so well. The plastic bags I used expanded and gave her the appearance of- uh- enhancements...

From the side, you can see the arms- and the issue I mentioned above. For some, completely unrelated, reason, she has a tendency to tip forward. SpiderWitch has promised to help bring her back into balance.

Progress, painful painful progress

Got the logs for the fire done, and finished the torsos for the Angels. All in all, a pretty productive day. However, it came with a cost- I look like I lost a fight with a bobcat thanks to the chicken wire. That stuff is just EVIL!!! Both legs, both arms, hands and feet are covered in scratches where the wire rolled back on me. But, I think it was worth it overall.

Finished cutting the logs, shaping them, and painting them. Did a quick light test to see how they look:
 The lights are orange and a red-violet color which looks very pale in the photo. The logs have the red lights inside them, while the orange lights are gathered into a pile in the center beneath the cauldron.

 I think I need to cut a few more holes in the logs to get the glow I want. Also some shorter strands of lights, or fewer of them. But now that the prop is basically done, I can play with the lights as I get time.

The cauldron is a nice glowing green- it's much brighter and lighter in real life, but this is also an interesting color. You can't see any of the cauldron detail, or the logs, but that's okay- they're more for the daylight when the lights are turned off.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Updated Logs

Took an x-acto knife to the logs this afternoon, trying to make more of a charred effect. Didn't like it. So I took my pocketknife to the other log, for a much better (more random) effect. I'll put the first log in the back of the display.

 In the first pic, you can see the cuts I made with the x-acto knife. I need to paint it to touch up the edges, but the cuts are too evenly spaced- too "perfect". Not quite the effect I wanted.

Here it is without the flash. Much more light than previously, but the pattern is just- odd.

 So here's the new test log- I haven't painted it (I haven't even decide if I'm going to cut it in half), but I did cut some grooves into it. More light and in more unpredictable patterns. It's a bit more promising, we'll see how it looks with paint.

Again without the flash. Lots of light showing through the grooves, gaps, and the cuts I made with the pocketknife. More random. But it's HUGE! I'll probably cut it in half, maybe thirds.

So the foam logs aren't PERFECT, but they're better than nothing. I can put some real logs with them and it'll help the illusion- plus, the cauldron will be sitting on top of them and that will hide some of the imperfections. If I were to do this again, I think the key would be either the pattern of the foam, or putting some kind of exterior mold on while it's being sprayed or drying.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Glowing Log Effect

After a quick trip to Lowes, we started working on the fire for the cauldron. Following the tips I've labelled previously, I created the chicken wire forms:

About a foot square

When that was done, I stuffed them with plastic bags, which were stuffed in turn with plastic bags:
One filled bag stuffed into each end was sufficient.
Once complete, I sprayed them all with expanding insulation foam. Great Stuff indeed!
I had several people stop in the middle of the road to ask what these were!
They turned out bigger than I had planned, so I cut one in half, then folded it into a smaller cylinder. The foam had no problem bending.

Once dry, I sprayed them with a base coat of flat black, followed by a top coat of textured spraypaint- it didn't really look like the can, but worked well enough I guess:
Not too bad.
 Next step was to wait for nightfall to do the lighting tests. The captions below explain it.

LEDs on, with flash

LEDs on, no flash
Photoshopped the first two images to highlight the details
Added the cauldron, then photoshopped two images together

Overall, this was a pretty easy and effective project. The logs look close enough to the real thing during daylight, and at night it'll be too dark to notice anything beyond the lights. The amber LEDs aren't going to work though- I'll try again with orange and/or red.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gotta stay off the internet...

Okay, I've finished one project of six...and I'm about ready to add a couple more!

First up- I've found the way I want to do the fireplace for my new cauldron, courtesy of Halloween Forum

It uses expanding foam and chicken wire to create a "log", which is then detailed with textured paint and stuffed with lights. The end result is shown below:

Pretty sweet

The next project is a great way to cover the garage door:
Simple, but effective

Images courtesy of the original owners, posted at Halloween Forum. If you're interested, stroll on over to Eerie Acres Cemetary and check out the rest of his stuff. The guy who posted the log tutorial doesn't have a site, but he goes by the handle OctART at HF.

At this rate, I'll NEVER finish!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Weeping Angel- Phase .5

Bought the angel costumes, plus a set of feather wings (the ones with the costume were pretty poor), and a Greek goddess costume. So we'll have 3 distinct angels. Next step is to stuff them, make the armature, and start working on the dresses. I'm thinking of stiffening the material with starch to hold a basic shape, then slowly applying the mud to it.

Meanwhile, we need to take measurements of SpiderWitch's arms and transfer them to cereal boxes to cut out forearm/upper arm templates- we'll tape those, mache them, then smooth them out and paint them. Still have to figure out hands.

Also started work on the fire for the cauldron- it's going to be foam and chicken wire "logs" with lights shining from inside.

I'll get the stuff for the camera mount when we get the PVC for the armatures.

So- 1 project down, 3 others in various stages of prep, and 2 to start.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Weeping Angel- Phase 0

Yep. Back to the drawing board.

I took the body mold of SpiderWitch and shot it full of GreatStuff expanding foam. Trouble is, it didn't expand as much as I thought it would. I stuffed the leg openings with bags and taped them shut, then started spraying the foam in through the neck and an opening in the tape along the waist. I had visions of the foam expanding, the suit filling, and me frantically trying to keep it from spilling all over the lawn.


Oh, it expanded. From about the width of a straw to the width of my finger. But that was it. I'd need about 5 cans to fill the entire model. And I'd have to layer it in there, bit by bit.

Okay- back to the drawing board.

We don't really need a figure underneath- just something to give body to the dress. So we're going to build an armature to hold the figure, stuff shopping bags with paper and then stuff the dress, and use cardboard/papier mache for the exposed skin parts (should only be arms/neck. Then the whole thing gets coated in Monster Mud and paint and sealant and waterproof, and...

Meanwhile, much as I LOVE Halloween, I've got another project I can't wait to start:
At 5 feet tall, it's bigger than SpiderWitch
I've been in love with space as long as I can remember, and for me the most beautiful expression of humanity's ambitions to take our place in the stars comes from the Saturn V rocket. Your cellphone contains more computational power than all the computers combined which sent the astronauts to the moon. So we're sitting here, watching HBO's From the Earth to the Moon, and I can hardly wait to build this beauty. Our son shares my obsession (how many 5 year olds find a rock in the woods and tell you "It's anorthacite- a piece of the original lunar crust!" and demand it comes home with you? He tells me he's going to go to the moon when he grows up- I hope and pray he's right.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Cauldron Update- 2

A cloudy but warm day today, so the family went outside to work on projects. SpiderWitch worked on some gardening, then drafted me and junior to help spread bark. Junior drew chalk pictures, and I worked on the cauldron.

I started off with a brown wash (the color was actually "Espresso", so a light coffee-color) of thinned acrylic. This toned down the black and gave an all-over brownish patina look to the cauldron. Then I put brown, red, orange, and black acrylic on a small plate and dabbed my brush into it, before stabbing it randomly over the cauldron. This gave me a mottled appearance as the colors blended into different shades and hues.

When that was dry, I went over it with a mix of red/orange/black which created a dark red-brown color; thinned down, it made a great wash. The colors on the cauldron blended together a bit more and the whole cauldron looked like a single piece of battered, rusted metal.

Not the best shot, as the colors are too dark.  

Better- you can see the blending.  

The other side  
When it's completely dry I'll see if it needs any touch-up. Don't want to keep messing with it, so I'm going to limit it to any really glaring issues.

EDIT: Took a look at it in sunlight- it's fine. Looks like an old, beat, rusted, fire-baked cauldron.

The layers of rust really show here  

Not as much red on this side, but it still looks like it's been burned in a fire.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Weeping Angel- Phase 1

Put the final coat of primer on the cauldron this afternoon- but that was the run-up to the main event: creating the body cast for the Weeping Angel.

It took about 2 hours start to finish, with a lot of sweating and swearing. It was a lot harder to wrap the duct tape "tightly" on the plastic wrap than I'd thought it would be. The tape kept wanting to take a curved path instead of straight around, so I ended up with either extra layers or gaps, depending on which way it went.

All in all though, it turned out pretty well. We forgot to put baby powder on before applying the wrap, so it stuck to her skin and peeled off reluctantly- and painfully. But we now have a silver suit which had the rough shape of my SpiderWitch :)

Tomorrow we'll try to stuff it and see how it looks, then try and apply the papier mache. Hopefully it'll give us a smooth finish to work with.

View from the back

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer in the Pacific Northwest

Ah, summer in the Pacific Northwest!

It rained today. A lot.

Which means no work got done on the cauldron. Oh well, the finish looks good, so I'll blast it again tomorrow, maybe through some sand on it after I paint it just to texture it a bit more. I'll start the detail painting this weekend, if all goes well.

Meanwhile, found an angel costume which comes with a dress and wings:
Sold at retailers everywhere
Cut the sleeves off and we'll be in business. Hit the dress with the spray starch, ditto for the wings, and then texture them with monster mud to prep for the final paint job.

Meanwhile, I'm truly amazed at what passes for "angel costumes" these days...what kind of angels are we talking about here? Nothing I'd put in my front yard, that's for sure...

...may have to get one or two for SpiderWitch however.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Cauldron update

Weather didn't cooperate- instead of bright, warm sun I had not-so-warm overcast starting to rain. Anyway, I got a couple of before/after pics:
One side of the cauldron showing the "rust"

The opposite side

After a quick coat of Krylon primer/paint

Nice coverage, I'll add some sand and finish painting it tomorrow

So far, so good. The crud isn't peeling off, it seems like it's holding on pretty well, so I'm confident it'll hold up to drybrushing. Another coat of primer/paint to lock it in, then detailing.

Meanwhile, SpiderWitch picked up some plastic wrap, duct tape, and styrofoam wig heads- now we can start making the body forms for the angels!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Halloween 2013

Started work on this year's add-ons today.

1) While the glowing green cauldron effect looks great at night, by day it looks like a cheap plastic cauldron. I'm working on that, with a technique I found at Dave Lowe Design. Some sites have posted their failed results, but either they didn't use enough glue or they didn't wash the plastic with a degreaser dish soap before they started. Mine worked fine- now to paint.

2) If I have time, I'll work up a fire for the cauldron- at least a bed of glowing coals. Next year will be better.

3) I'd like to create a camera rest or two for people who want to take timer pics. The past 2 years we've seen many people taking pics sitting in the graveyard. Great, I LOVE this! I wish they'd share them with me! Anyway- if I can work up a rest at the appropriate height and distance, without it screwing up the aesthetic, I think that would be useful. And I can put slips of paper with links to the blog, inviting them to share ;)

4) Vortex fog chillers- several great designs out there, going to try a couple to see how they work. The pics and vids I've seen have the perfect groundhugging quality I'm looking for.

5) I've got some extra scene setter, I might run it around the other side of the yard to enclose the courtyard on 3 sides- manage the fog better and control my light. Plus it helps create that sense of claustrophobia many people possess without realizing it.

6) The sine qua non, the ne plus ultra, the big enchilada...Weeping Angels! Don't know what they are? Go here to find out. All  you really need to know is this:
I know, right? (Photo property of BBC)
We're going to make1 in the resting state (normal statue) and 2 in a variation of this with the hands gradually moving away from the face and the head turning to look at the trick or treaters. If you don't know what they are, it's just a statue you might see in a graveyard. If you DO know, you'll know how frickkin' scary these things are. I'm not even a fan of the show! But after my wife showed me a clip, oh SERIOUS scare fun!

Halloween 2012

Learning from the previous year, we settled on a graveyard theme- tombstones, spooky music, ominous fog, that sort of thing. If you read my first rant- THAT. The goal was to create an atmosphere of foreboding, a sense that something was going to happen, but no idea what. To engage all the senses, assaulting them with multiple inputs and overwhelming the central processor to the point where the primal brain takes over.

It was a complete success.

We have a lot of little ones in the neighborhood, so it can't be too scary, and a lot of teens and tweens, so it can't be too cheesy- we went right down the middle. The younger ones had no problems, but the older they got, the more they hesitated. The nervous laughter, the false bravado, the joking, you could really hear the tension in their voices as they approached the door. With the blinds angled just right, I could see out but they couldn't see in- so most of the time I'd wait until they were about to knock, then yank the door open. Most jumped. Some stood in shock, dinner-plate eyes, unable to even remember why they were there. A few ran. Excellent...

Some of the returning kids were bringing friends, and played up their status as "veterans." One young man happily informed me "I was here last year, remember me?" Ah yes, I thought- you were the one in the costume. I told him I was glad to see him again and thanked him for coming. Another young lady asked why I was dressed as Dracula again (another one displaying her "veteran" card). Her friend slapped her arm. "Duh, it's Dracula's castle! What'd you think?" What indeed. Their reactions make it all worthwhile. Just for one evening to create for them a world where the imagination reigns supreme, where Hollywood hasn't spoiled the surprise by spelling everything out for you- where you provide the monsters...

Dracula and his Spider Witch

The front entrance, a few minor changes this year  

The rose spotlight died and all I could find was red. Blood red.  

Badly lit, but it shows off our green glowing cauldron.  

The red spolight casts MUCH deeper shadows than the rose.  

View from the street before the foggers get going.  

The green and red spots mixed to create an effect similar to old 3-D movies.
A bit disorienting in the dark and fog...  

Fog is starting to get going, but it's lifting too much. Need to work on that.  

A bit better. Dark, sinister shadows. Fog. Where's the Ripper?  

Light and shadow, red and green, haze and clear. The eye can't keep up with the changes and the pupils keep expanding and contracting.  Hard to detect motion, but the eye keeps thinking it sees motion- creating "ghosts"...