Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Creating a Bird Splicer Mask Inspired from Bioshock Part 1

I wanted to continue my post on the Labyrinth mask I am working on, but unfortunately I just wasn't able to get enough work completed on it to fill a post. I'll save it for next week and this week I'll go over the first part of my Bird Splicer mask I'm making inspired from the game Bioshock. I started this mask not long after my Labyrinth mask; it soon becomes apparent in mask making that you will be working on multiple masks at the same time!

When I was making this mask, I didn't know I would be making a blog about mask making, so sadly I don't have many pictures of the original stages. I started the mask with another simple plaster cast of my face but added some cardboard frills! I made the shape of the beak I wanted from the side and drew it on cardboard. I cut out the two sides and glued them together, bending it where I wanted.

You can attach any cardboard pieces with plaster wrap as well as wrap the cardboard to make it sturdier. It will get loose from the moisture at first, so you will have to hold it until it begins to firm up. The cardboard also becomes very pliable at this point, so if you wanted a more organic or rounded shape, not is the time to do it.

Still attaching the pieces

Once the beak was attached, I started with the feathers on the rear side of the mask. This is not meant to be an exact replica of the mask worn in the game and so I had initially wanted to leave the back feathers out. But I found in my homework that the back feathers actually help to balance the the large beak in the front and so I decided to add only half of them.

When I was done with adding all of the features, I realized that there were way too many rigid edges and this mask, the beak especially, needed to be smooth and shiny! So, I thought of using celluclay, but after a quick experiment, found it wouldn't be what I needed. I moved onto the Original Sculpey polymer clay I had purchased for just such needs! If you've never used polymer clay, it's definitely different, but the major thing you need to know is that in order to smooth it, you use isopropyl alcohol. You can use any normal clay tools as well, but I find paper towels and alcohol works best.

Nice and smooth beak

 I covered the entire beak in a rolled out sheet of sculpey as well as the feathers. Once everything was secured and set the way I wanted it, I prepared to bake the clay so that it would harden. This specific clay bakes at 325 in the oven for 15 minutes. From what I read, there are no toxic gases released during the baking process, so I used my own oven. Others tend to use separate toaster ovens specifically for this purpose. Make your own decision on it.

In the oven - ready to bake
Once it was done baking, I let it cool for awhile. The next step was to sand down the rough edges and gesso everything in preparation for painting and hot gluing items onto it later. The next step was to sew the sequins onto the felt which will eventually cover the facial part of the mask. Sadly you'll have to wait until next Tuesday to see the progress on this mask, but this Friday I'll show you how to sequins!

This piece is now available for sale on Etsy HERE or you can contact me directly for purchase.

This is part 1 of this post series - please check here to continue reading part 2. 

Thanks for Reading and Happy Creating!

If you found this post helpful please share it with your friends! I also love a comment! You can get up to the minute updates by following me on Facebook by clicking here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

How to Make Your Own Armature for Mask Making

There are a few ways you can make an armature, but before I get into them, how about I explain what an armature is first! An armature is technically the framework around which your mask or a sculpture is built. In maskmaking it is used to sculpt on and then the mask is removed so the armature can be used over and over again. The benefit of using an armature is not having to buy pre-made half or full masks to work from and/or not having to use your own face as a model every time you need to make a new mask!

So without much ado, here is one method you can use to make your own armature.

Plaster / Plaster Method

 This is the easiest way in my opinion and will give you a decent armature. It will not be as detailed as an alginate molded armature would be, but it's good enough to get the job done! This method involves wrapping your face in plaster wrap cloth. You can get this at most craft stores; I know Michaels and AC Moore both carry it. It's usually called Rigid wrap or Art Minds Plaster Wrap. The package will have detailed directions, but it's basically just about cutting out strips and dipping them in warm water and then applying them to your face. I use vasoline to cover my entire face, but some just use it over their eyebrows and any hair.

You'll want to get a straw and cut it into a couple small pieces which can be inserted into your nose as everything else will be covered by the time you're done and you'll need to be able to breathe. Always start with an x over your nose/brow as the package will indicate. Make sure that the mask is solid with at least 3 layers of wrap. The other important thing is to make sure you keep your face relaxed. Try to avoid laughing! Pursing your lips a little helps as well to get the shape of them.

This is how your face should look when you're done.
You don't have to wait too long before taking this cast off. By the time you're done with the last layer the first layer will be well on it's way towards being dry which usually takes about 20 minutes total. You will be able to tell if you can safely take it off by how stable it feels. Some have said to wait until it feels itchy but I have never had that sensation - plaster is ALWAYS itchy to me!

So when you think it's ready just start to move your facial muscles around. Make funny faces, scrunch your cheeks upwards, and furl your brow! It should come off pretty easily. Don't put the plaster wrap away yet though because you're not done with it yet. You'll have to build up the edges a bit so that liquid plaster will sit in it and so that it will lay flat on your desk/ surface. I used a $3.00 Full face mask I bought at AC Moore and tried to match it as best as I could and keep the edge even. Make sure to cover the nose holes as well. When you think you've got it go ahead and let it dry.

Get a small box that your mold will fit in and line it with crumpled up newspaper. Before you start mixing your plaster, insert your dry mold into the box with the face side down. Line it with lots of vasoline and get into all of the creases. Now get your Plaster of Paris (hardware store) and mix enough to fill the mold. I think I used 4 or 5 cups of plaster for my face mold.

Pour the plaster into the mold very slowly until it's all in! Make sure that mold is level! And when you're done pouring tap the edges of the mold to get rid of any excess air bubbles that might be hiding in the plaster. Let it dry - it will take a good 30-40 minutes so just go and do something else.

Once it's dried, depending on the shape of your mold, you may be able to just take it out of the mold. Or if you made the mistake I did and made a dip in your mold, you will have to peel your mold off of the armature, ruining the mold. This is how it should look when it's out though! You can know make future masks off of this armature instead of having to get your face all mucky every time!

Armature from plaster/plaster method.

The plaster / plaster method works well, but if you want a really detailed armature, the best way to go is with alginate. I'll cover how to make an armature out of alginate next  Friday and once all of the methods are completed I'll link them all together for easy reference.

Thanks for Reading and Happy Creating!

If you found this post helpful please share it with your friends! I also love a comment! You can get up to the minute updates by following me on Facebook by clicking here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An Introduction to Mask Making and the Goblin King Pt 1 (Labyrinth)

An Introduction

Some of you may know me from my paintings. I used to keep up more of an blog face for Messina Studio, but have lately kept it to facebook updates and a website. I don't think I really enjoyed blogging about the painting side of art because most of the process is done behind closed doors between me and the painting, and without a video camera, it's hard to really ever get into it on a blog. I'm also not one to speak for any great length about a painting, or art for that matter. I've always been pretty blunt and to the point. I like it - I don't like it - I really like it - I like this color they used - etc. But I'm not going to go on and on and write lengthy blog posts about it. 

So you may be wondering what I'm doing here then? Well, I have found a new interest, and since I just started a week ago, you're not too late in joining me for the ride. I am doing a painting series on masked figures, called Veiled Intentions, and in doing so I spent a lot of time looking around on Etsy at different types of masks. I realized that the ones I really fancied were ones that I could never afford to buy in the $400-1000 range and so a thought dawned on me. What if I tried making my own?

Mask Making

I did...a lot of research..and I mean a lot! Here are just a handful of the links I've accumulated. Check them out for yourself if you're interested as I won't cover everything in this post.

Mask Making Ideas and Instruction
Different Papier Mache Methods (Pulp, Paper Strip, etc)
More About Making a Plaster Mask (Plaster Masks are good templates)
Papier Mache Resource (Has lots of great info- search the forums)

The Goblin King

The first mask that I wanted to try was based on the one that Jareth (David Bowie's character) wore at the masquerade in the movie The Labyrinth.

The Goblin King

I decided to go with making a plaster cast of my face to build on.  Once I had the basic shape of the mask, I let it dry and had no problem taking it off of my face. I realized pretty quickly that I wouldn't be able to get the shape I wanted with the plaster wrap alone. Then it was time to start doing some research on what to sculpt with. I told you there was a lot of homework involved! There are a lot of choices which is good but also makes the task arduous (I know..what kind of person uses a word like that on a blog..lol).

I decided I wanted to use a sort of paper pulp or paper clay to sculpt with but I couldn't find what I needed at Michaels (local craft store) and ended up getting Celluclay. This ended up not being such a horrible thing - Celluclay only needs some warm water added to it and it's very easy to sculpt with. I'll get more into this later. Here are some of my early pictures of the mask.

The first basic shape and layout of the mask.
The Celluclay has one downfall though if you apply it too liberally, it gets lumpy when it dries. I put it on pretty thick to make the bulges, so it got super lumpy on me! The good thing about Celluclay though is that it can be sanded. This helps to an extent, but you will most likely have to do some more to smooth it out.

 To add the ridges to the horns, I used para-cord paired with a glue gun and then used plaster wrap and celluclay accordingly to shape it up. I also had to fill in some of those lumps with more celluclay. I also added some little flaps off the side of the mask. This can be done easily by mixing card stock and plaster wrap together.

 Finally! It's starting to look a lot better! This was taken after I had sanded down the last layer of celluclay and added a full layer of gesso to the whole front of the mask. Some people suggest using a mix of string gel and modeling paste, but I know I can sand gesso as well, and until it's smooth enough that I think I won't want to sand it anymore, I won't use that mixture.

Since I didn't shape the mask perfectly the first time I did it, I've had to go back with a Dremel (hand tool) and drill/sand off the edges underneath the nose. Wouldn't you know that the battery died on the Dremel and I can't find the battery charger anywhere! They are also not available for sale anywhere unless you want to pay $50 on Ebay which really sucks. I will have to find another way to get it shaped the way I'd like - maybe just a lot of sanding.

After this whole experience, I found that I REALLY enjoy making masks! I think the most rewarding experience is working with my hands and creating something out of nothing. It's an amazing feeling and I think I'll be sticking with it! Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this post where I'll show the finished mask and painting it to look like tarnished bronze.

Thanks for Reading and Happy Creating!

Please share this post if you like it and follow me on my Facebook page - Marie Messina Art -  where you can see updates on both my paintings and my masks.