Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Halloween that sadly didn't happen.

So a while back a friend contacted me about dressing as JFK and Jackie O. post-assassination for Halloween. They were looking for some gory effects to gross out their friends, but that wouldn't wreck their vintage threads. This was 11 days before the big day.

When she heard about the classes I was taking she thought she'd ask me for some costume advice with her husband. I detailed several low cost tips and techniques to produce the effect that I thought they were going for and where they would be able to obtain it all.

Unfortunately, their efforts didn't produce a blood splattered couple of epic proportions like I was hoping. They ultimately abandoned the idea due to lack of supplies and timing. But there's always next year!

What follows is a FaceBook conversation that details all the necessary steps to successfully produce the effect yourself, in theory. I think it also plays well if you put it into the hypothetical perspective of her being a Producer and Halloween being a movie, and what I can provide in a limited time frame with a limited budget. Same process, but should you expect the same results? If anyone feels up to utilizing this advice, I would love to post pictures of your results.

Here's the question that sparked it all...

Anyway, I hope this helps and maybe inspires someone to try it themselves.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hand Casts & Clay Sculpting Part 3

Here's the exciting conclusion of my clay sculpt and mold pour. I was very happy with how my mold came out from last week, and by giving it the appropriate time to cure I knew there wasn't any moisture left in my mold, meaning no more exothermic heat. I had previously painted about 8-10 layers of liquid latex over my sculpted mold and now was to see if everything would go accordingly to plan. I decided that I would go for a laceration look to the piece over the burn, which in my opinion would need the coupling of another make-up to achieve for my limited time in class.

Here's the appliance piece ready to peel.

Which using latex, it has a distinct characteristic of wanting to stick to itself. When pulling the latex it's important to powder the top and underneath of your piece as you gently, gently, ever so gently peel your piece away from the mold. Imagine this is the President's daughter that needs her band-aid taken off, that's how important it is to be gentle.

If you don't use enough layers of liquid latex, your piece can be frail and susceptible to tearing. I started simply rolling along the edges and spinning the mold so eventually the middle piece was the last piece to pluck out.

Here's the final piece, pulled and powdered. It's roughly the size of a coffee cup lid.

To apply the piece, I dabbed a bit of ProAide on the middle of my hand and a bit on the underside of the latex piece. It's important to apply your prosthetics from the middle and work outward as you apply ProsAide. This insures that your edges are flat and you have the room for adjustment considering you're applying this to a moving person.

One key thing to remember is to stipple around the edges with liquid latex. This adheres the pieces further, but most importantly blends the edges of the piece out to the rest of the applied area.

Once adhered, I began trying to find my skin tone among the options of mask grease paint. You may remember that by adding a drop of GP20 to your kit make-up. I always have the hardest time trying to match my skin tone. Being Italian and German, I get a flushed pale olive hued skin tone in the winter. I tried my best by blending highlights of shadow to contrast the effect.

Remember to blend and stipple beyond the piece and your stippled latex. This helps blend the rest of the skin to the effect.

I've gotten to the point where I'm comfortable with the skin tone and ready to move onto the effect.

Here I began painting into the crevices of the sculpted piece with a dark brown. Take your time because blending with grease paint is a chore and cleaning it an area you mistakenly applied to is even worse.

After laying a dark brown, I then began applying a brighter red to give the look a depth thanks to the duality of color.

There were a few edges that didn't seem to want to stick right, so rather than scrapping it all Carl suggested adding slight bruising. If the eye was going to travel there anyway because of faulty application, then make it travel there to see an effect instead.

I applied a darker purple and blue to create my bruising, but to cut the deep look of it I then applied the base coat of my skin tone to feather out the edges. This crafted a nice, under the skin kinda look for the bruising.

Also I put a small dab of red along the "ring" of the piece. My hopes were that by taking a torn sponge and wiping away from the effect that I would be able to create a look of red soreness.

At this point I was pretty happy with this and decided to apply blood. This worked best by gently filling the crevices of the piece and letting any over flow go where it may.

Here's a close up of the piece all bloodied out. Overall, I was extraordinarily happy with the piece. It's the perfect size to apply to a hand, face, forehead, or chest. Perhaps next time I would sculpt it a bit higher to allow for deeper crevices, but the thinness really allowed for the maximum in believability for a satanic laceration. The maximum for someone who's never done it before...

Here's my finished piece in all it's glory; taken with a proper digital camera. Here you can appreciate the depth (as in measurement) of the prosthetic. Thanks again to awesomely talented Jacqueline for the pic. I definitely need to invest in the tools to properly document my work better.

Removal is fairly easy. Some gentle peeling and a wipe down with Bond Off leaves your skin smelling like cinnamon and another pass with a baby wipe and it's like it never happened. You're left with a piece that can be tossed away or save for posterity's sake.

Another student did a festering bullet wound. I particularly like the vein work she painted on that extended past the applied piece.

This claw scratch from another student was amazing in its application. The edges are so faint that it truly looked believable.

Next week we'll pour a gelatin prosthetic of our molds to show how different materials can yield different results from the same mold. Only 3 more classes left to go...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Do you like Free Stuff?

Click here to go to my other blog Z for Zombies where you can enter to win free artwork done by me. Contest deadline is Tuesday, December 1st. Become a follower and leave a comment. The other site has all the fun, juicy details.

Free is my favorite four letter word.

Hand Casts & Clay Sculpting Part 2

From last week, we quickly finished our sculpting and began the process of adding reservoir walls to our pieces. These are the second set of steps to produce a mold of our sculpted piece that be can than cast from producing our very own Prosthetics.

Make sure your "keyholes" (the small dime sized circles) are clean and clear. These give your mold depth to settle in rather than just floating on top of your clay. Think of it as the one connection between your base and your casting material.

Fellow classmate Cindy Sanabria sculpted a a ravaged bite mark. I'm eager to see the cast of this as the prosthetics from this can be used to show a healed bite or a fresh attack with the application of blood.

Here's Jacqueline Olszewski's bullet hole. She was sick last class and missed out on the beginnings, but quickly caught up and actually surpassed some of the other students to make her mold. I think she had to take off last time because she's secretly a super-hero and the universe needed saving.

Here's my "Mark of the Beast" sculpture with reservoir walls all built up. The Reservoir Walls are just what they are named after, they keep all your casting material inside, on the area you want cast. Check to make sure all your edges are firm (about a 1/2-1 inch thick) and don't have any holes. You don't want it to ooze like a sieve when you could have saved your headache by checking twice. Mine didn't need to be this highly built up, especially around the center, but I didn't want to chance anything with my first pour. And of course this is where the majority of your clay will go to during your build.

That glimmery shine you hopefully see along the outside of my sculpting and the keyholes is an application of petroleum jelly. This is our "releaser", and ensures that our casting material, in this case Ultracal 30, won't "lock" to our base. You don't want to pour your mold without it, because then you'll have two joined pieces (your mold & your base) when you remove the clay. This is avoided by simply applying with a small paint brush.

Next you mix your Ultracal 30 with water until you have a honey like consistency. Take a paintbrush or your hand and begin applying. If you use a paintbrush, make sure to have a cup of water to dip into and rinse as the Ultracal dries and can cling to your bristles.

A flurry of dabbing the material gently into the mold is needed to push out any air bubbles that can get trapped inside of your pour. BE GENTLE. The clay underneath is still very susceptible to pressure and you don't want to jab a thumb into it all, ruining your sculpture underneath. Dab and then fill in the rest of your reservoir. Give your mold a gentle shimmy (a gentle back & forth twisting of the hand base) to make sure the Ultracal settles properly.

Everyone got their hands dirty as they poured their molds. As the material began to "kick" the consistency changed from a honey like substance to more of an oatmeal. Adding more water and a bit more Ultracal and mixing thoroughly brought it back to a workable state. The key to remember here is once you mix, it's time to work.

The family that cures together, stays together. 30 minutes on the clock until we can touch them again.

After roughly 30 minutes of curing time, my pour is ready for the "scratch test". Simply take your fingernail and scratch along the surface. If it's not ready, you'll pull back a finger of glop. Don't rush this process and don't pull your mold before it's ready.

And here's the "pull". I simply pulled away my reservoir of clay, releasing my Ultracal 30 mold. It was still warm from the curing process, but ready to be work on. Any clay you have left over can be saved; simply remove any excess Ultracal fragments first. You don't want to go into your next sculpting project and cut yourself on a rogue shard of plaster.

After scraping away some clay from the nooks and crannies, my mold is ready for casting. All in all I am very very pleased with how my mold turned out from my sculpture. It's not too deep and not too big, which will lend itself to easier application to a wide array of body parts, i.e. hands, forehead, etc.

I began applying layers of liquid latex to my mold by simply dabbing on with a torn sponge. Remember you want to apply the thickest coverage to the center and spread out to the rest of piece. This will give you a more feathered edge that will be easier to blend when time for make-up, which of course adds to the believability of your effect. Think of your application like dropping a pebble in a pond; build the layers out in size like a ripple.

Now the liquid latex simply dries until it's ready to be peeled off like a band-aid.

And banished to the dungeon til next week, when I'll pull the latex with powder and brush and apply. Then I will have my very first sculpted prosthetic to apply and paint up. From this mold I can also pull silicone and other materials as I need. I'm not sure which make-up treatment to start with first; the burn or laceration. Any thoughts?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Old Pics & New Perspectives

I recently stumbled upon some old camera pics that I felt compelled to share. When I first seriously decided to approach learning the art of make-up and specifically special effects make-up, I struck up a cherished friendship with David Kalahiki on the set of a feature film, THE IMPERIALISTS ARE STILL ALIVE. David was serving as the Key Hair Artist, but I quickly learned that he is a ninja of both hair and make-up. He and I shared friends from previous jobs and I mentioned my intention of disembarking from my current production track as an Assistant Director to pursue what I felt was a more challenging and rewarding career as a Make-Up Artist.

David was more than helpful with tips about schools and the latest in a wide range of products I never knew existed. I asked if he would show me a few things since I was unable to afford the the cost or long term commitment to schooling at M.U.D. or Empire, two institutions of cosmetology in New York. He was gracious enough to endure my pestering questions and invited me to his home where he showed me a proper make-up kit and the necessities of the trade.

David even indulged me further. One day he called me and asked to assist him at the 2009 Robin Hood Gala Fundraiser. This event was to be hosted by Jon Stewart and include guests like Anna Hathaway, Eli Manning, and performances by Aretha Franklin and The Black Eyed Peas. I was flabbergasted. What would I be "assisting" with?

The Challenge: Transform

Comedian Jon Benjamin .........................................TO....................................................Bernie Madoff

I was a bit nervous to say the least. I felt a bit out of my element, but David assured me that it would be a learning experience that could not be duplicated in his apartment or a classroom.

To age Jon's face, we used a combination of applying liquid latex to to his face, mainly his jowls and mouth line to give that ragged hound dog look and to over-exaggerate his crows feet at his eyes. This is done by stretching the areas of the skin, applying a few layers of liquid latex and allowing to dry while the skin is stretched. Once it is dry, release your grip on the skin. The skin will bounce back with a wrinkled look that adds years to a person's face.

David blended darker tones along the cheekbones, temples, and neckline to add to the older look of sagging skin tissue. This accentuated the cheeks and forehead. Following this a lace front wig was applied that seemed to match the hairline seamlessly. Additional strands of like colored hair were adhered to the top point of the forehead to match Madoff's dramatic widow peak's.

Adding Bernie's signature eye-wear and a red velvet smoking jacket with his prison number from our friends in Wardrobe and we had recreated America's Public Enemy #1.

David and Jon had previously worked together on Demetri Martin's show Important Things with Demitri Martin which made the experience a lot more comfortable. Jon Benjamin was a true gentleman and a treat to work with. Being a HUGE fan of HOME MOVIES (he's the voice of McGuirk) and his other works, it's refreshing to witness how fun, vibrant and down to Earth he really is as a performer.

Jon's turn as Bernie Madoff was a huge hit, as he phoned in the benefit "live" via satellite. Many in pre-production felt that his skit opposite Jon Stewart would fall flat, with Bernie's legal troubles unfolding daily in the news. Nothing quite like watching a man that ripped off millions help raise funds for charity. Hilarity conquered all as our Bernie regaled the crowd with his current predicaments while incarcerated and Jon Stewart steered the ship to a port of absurd gut busting laughs.

All in all the benefit raised $56.5 million for New York charities and I was fortunate to work with funnyman Jon Benjamin and I got to meet Jon Stewart afterwards to thank us on a great job well done. All this on top of getting paid as a Make-Up Assistant! A true win-win scenario.

I can't begin to thank David enough for his integrity and good nature. He's a beacon in a fog of questions and doubt. If he's reading this I ask one thing; When's Salt coming out to play again?

David's IMDB film credits can be found here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hand Casts & Clay Sculpting

For our most recent class we worked on hand casts and clay sculpting. This was a continued lesson of our life casting and introduced the beginning process of designing our own prosthetics.

To begin:
1) Prepare your model. Wipe excess dirt and grime with a baby wipe. Apply moisturizer beforehand if they have sensitive skin that is susceptible to drying out.
2) Mix up your algaenate and pour.
3) Create your Mother Mold with Plaster Bandages.
4) Time for Pour Up. This is used with Ultracal 30 same as our previous Life Cast.
5) Set up Palette for Sculpting.

The step you don't see pictured before this is the mixing and application of our Algaenate. This is poured over the hand and smoothed on. Use gloves as it tends to get messy. You can also apply with Popsicle sticks or whatever's handy.

The algaenate should be the consistency of honey. The more water you add to your mix, the less time it will take to cure, meaning the less time you have to work with it. Since it will be runny, reapply any excess by applying back onto the hand. As it dries add texture by touching the outside of it with your fingers or stick or whatever. This texture will help the plaster strips grip to the algaenate in the following steps. A fingernail scratch test will let you know when the material is set and ready for the next step.

Once the Algaenate is dry, take about eight 12 inch strips of plaster bandages and dip them in water. Warmer water will cause the gypsum to activate faster speeding along the process. Make sure the water is wrung out thoroughly as you apply the bandages. This creates the mother-mold to your softer algaenate mold.

Apply the strips roughly to the wrist, overlapping any application of algaenate. Your plaster mold should envelope your original casting. For a hand you'll use about half a roll of plaster bandages. When doing say a head, you'll use about 8-12.

Once the plaster is dry, flip the hand. Exercise caution as you don't want the two molds to separate quite yet.

You can have your model wiggle their way free, but be prepared to cut them out if necessary. Though this is basically chemistry, it's not an exact science. That's what makes it so damn fun!

Once free and clear of your model, you now have a mold of their hand. Algaenate has a tendency to shrink, so for the best results an immediate casting is necessary.

Prep your mold on a workable palette. Save yourself time and headache by having the materials needed for casting ready before this step. Now the area near the wrist is now like an open drain. To prevent any leakage of Ultracal 30, plug it with a damp paper towel. This will keep your work station from resembling a dirty puddle.

As you saw from the initial pull of the mold, some of the fingers were connected by the casting. You can "chase" or remove them with a pair of cuticle scissors. By doing so this opens the mold for a proper pouring.

Once the wrist area is secure you're ready to pour your Ultracal 30. A steady even pour will ensure maximum results.

A thicker mix pour at low height helps combat the air bubbles that naturally tend to form from mixing your materials. Be sure that you don't overfill, this wastes our material and turns into a messy clean-up.

Carl floated more Ultracal 30 into the mold, making sure it got into the crevices from the fingers.

Take caution with your fingers as they have a tendency to break. When the casting material is still wet you can add small strips of wires as fortification. Cut your wire to fit and push into the fingers. Make sure there is room to cover them with additional plaster. Be sure you're doing this before the plaster starts to kick. You don't want to start digging wires into your mold as the material begins to set, leaving you with a hand casting that is unusable.

From this we pulled an almost exact double of our model's hand. It's important to remember the plot of MULTIPLICITY here. You're making a copy and from this copies of copies. Your best results will come from your very first pours. Consider it a generation of degradation.

Now on to sculpting. We used a simple 4 grade oil based clay. This can be found in any art supply story. The heat from rolling it in your hands makes the clay more pliable and easier to work with. Baby wipes take off any residue, so don't wipe it on your clothes since it can stain. You really only need a small amount. Notice the pen in this picture for scale.

We began our build-ups on ready made hands. You ultimately want your sculpture to be as thin as possible. Thicker prosthetics are fine for other parts of the body, but the hand is a place of maximum flexibility. You want to deliver a piece that will not inhibit movement. Thin is also important because when the piece is applied the edges are going to be the dead give away seen on camera, ruining the illusion. Clean edges are easier to cast and to apply.

The Steps are:
1) Rough out your clay and begin your pattern.
2) Smooth out your edges.
3) Feather your edges. Smooth. Repeat and repeat. Feathering consists of smoothing the clay to its thinnest possible consistency and removing the excess from the edges of your piece.
4) Create your wound. Take your time, this is the most important step. These are the same fundamentals as working with wax.
5) Texture. Stipple if needed, add depth. This will add believability when viewed on camera.
6) Wash. This is meant to remove fingerprints and smooth any imperfections. This is done with denatured alcohol. Use caution with this as it's a known irritant.

Most of the class opted for continuing our previous lessons, sculpting bigger scars and gashes. One sculpted cat scratches while another student worked on boils and blisters. I was inspired by AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON and began a sculpting of a pentagram. This is an iconic image seen in countless Hammer Horror films and other scary stories of evil and damnation.

My idea was to cast a prosthetic that could yield to looks upon application and painting; a singed branding or a lacerated cut. It's important to remember when creating your sculptured wound what caused the injury in the first place. This will help with size, placement, and the overall direction of the piece.

I used a quarter-inch sculpting loop to smooth away the excess areas of clay and a Popsicle stick to edge out the lines of the design. I did stumble upon one huge problem when I thought I was complete. The design I sculpted went clean through to the casted base model. This meant that each individual piece would come out as a casting versus one solid piece. Not to worry, it's only clay. I smoothed out the piece, added more clay and started over.

I realized that to be able to cast a one piece prosthetic that I needed to build up a thicker layer of clay and only sculpt to a layer that still had a thinner build-up of clay underneath it. Basically cutting into it without cutting through it. This would guarantee a one piece prosthetic yielded from the casting versus the 11 small pieces I would have had from the previous sculpting. I also had to continue past the casting area to give the piece an edge for adhension when applied as a prosthetic. The previous sculpting would have basically given me a patch like a sticker, when I really need the farther edges for blending with make-up later on.

Next week I will add a build-up of clay around the base of the hand, separated by a small reservoir. This additional clay build-up is designed to save in the amount of material used to cast the piece, meaning it will be just the piece I sculpted and not the entire hand that I sculpted it on as a base. I am very eager to cast it, but more excited to see it applied. Hopefully both instances (burn and cut) that is was designed for will produce the results I'm looking for.