Happy Halloween! Got to thinking today about Halloween's past, October's past and making all kinds of sculptures and figure displays, and latex masks in the past. Wanted to write a quick post to share some of those fun projects from Halloween seasons past.
In 2014, I created a silicone bust for the "Art of Horror" show at Burlington's S.P.A.C.E. Gallery. It was the first time I'd ever been involved in an art gallery show and it was a lot of fun. My piece was inspired by the great H.P. Lovecraft story "The Shadow over Innsmouth". Its one of my favorites. I won't get into re-hashing the whole tale, but it has my highest recommendation and is a great first taste of Lovecraft if you're not familiar. Anyway, I wanted to do a version of one of the Innsmouth residents, someone who had "the Innsmouth look" or "taint." They are transforming over time into a sea creature, a Deep One, and so I wanted to capture this guy at a moment during that process.
I'll explain more but here's a quick look at the finished fellow. Photo by Kelly Schulze, Mountain Dog Photography.
First, I re-read the story. And by the way, there is an EXCELLENT audio book you can find on iTunes- make sure its the one read by Phil Reynolds. Any of the HPL read by Phil are great. Anyway, I tried to refer back to some of the descriptions in the text and put those key traits into the sculpture and on through the finishing.
Here's the actual text I pulled and saved on May 28, 2014:
When the driver came out of the store I looked at him more carefully and tried to determine the source of my evil impression. He was a thin, stoop-shouldered man not much under six feet tall, dressed in shabby blue civilian clothes and wearing a frayed grey golf cap. His age was perhaps thirty-five, but the odd, deep creases in the sides of his neck made him seem older when one did not study his dull, expressionless face.
He had a narrow head, bulging, watery blue eyes that seemed never to wink, a flat nose, a receding forehead and chin, and singularly undeveloped ears. His long, thick lip and coarse-pored, greyish cheeks seemed almost beardless except for some sparse yellow hairs that straggled and curled in irregular patches; and in places the surface seemed queerly irregular, as if peeling from some cutaneous disease. His hands were large and heavily veined, and had a very unusual greyish-blue tinge. The fingers were strikingly short in proportion to the rest of the structure, and seemed to have a tendency to curl closely into the huge palm. As he walked toward the bus I observed his peculiarly shambling gait and saw that his feet were inordinately immense. The more I studied them the more I wondered how he could buy any shoes to fit them.
A certain greasiness about the fellow increased my dislike.
I think their predominant colour was a greyish-green, though they had white bellies. They were mostly shiny and slippery, but the ridges of their backs were scaly. Their forms vaguely suggested the anthropoid, while their heads were the heads of fish, with prodigious bulging eyes that never closed. At the sides of their necks were palpitating gills, and their long paws were webbed. They hopped irregularly, sometimes on two legs and sometimes on four. I was somehow glad that they had no more than four limbs. Their croaking, baying voices, clearly used for articulate speech, held all the dark shades of expression which their staring faces lacked.
Here's the sketch that I worked from:
I grabbed an old Ultrcal lifecast in my collection - one that went down to the collarbone, and modified it out of a neutral pose into something interesting and starting slapping clay on it. I used what I had on hand, and in a week or two, wished I had used WED or even Chavant. Alas, I was committed. Over the summer, I poked around on this, on and off until I liked it. And...was running out of time to get it done for the show. Since this was a personal project, it kept getting put off because of work and family commitments. Here's a little gallery to show the sculpture going from rough to ready for molding.
This was done prior to me opening The Arcana Workshop and having a proper shop, so it was really a classic garage monster. I set up to make the mold in my garage and soon stunk up the place with resin and got the neighbors wondering what I was up to. The mold detail coat was done with "bondo-resin" (a mix of catalyzed bondo and polyester resin). Then I used more resin and fiberglass matte to complete the mold, which was done in sections.
The skin was brushed in - can't remember which brand. I used either/or a thixotropic additive (to thicken the silicone so it doesn't all run and puddle up) and an accelerator to help catalyze it fast, again so it wouldn't run. I like to add artist's oil paint to the silicone to tint it and control the level of translucency.
By the way, I'm listening to some great old John Carpenter music as I write this on Halloween.
I painted it outside because of using a nasty solvent - Naphtha. Works great to break down the silicone to a sprayable consistency, but awfully bad for you. So glad and lucky to have a big spray booth to paint in at the Arcana Workshop nowadays! So here's a quick breakdown on the paint -
Translucent silicone caulk is the base - its gotta stick to the silicone and it's gotta be translucent to look good. I love either Shinetsu KT45 or in this case, I think it was GE SCS 1200. Again, artists oils for color, then naphtha to thin. I use an HVLP gun for basing out and doing some spatter layers. Then airbrush the details and even brush paint some things.
What really sets this guy off are the little details I think, Especially some punched hair. What's punched hair? Well, you take hair and a modified sewing needle, and in my case a pair of reading glasses, get some music going to get in the zone, and punch the hairs into the silicone skin with at the needle. One or two at a time.
Conceptually, as this Innsmouth resident transforms into a Deep One, he sheds what little hair he has, and his skin becomes greasy. With some more silicone caulk, SCS 1200 and Dow 734, I added to that effect. I had some 11th hour troubles with the eyes and had to completely scrap the first pair and go for these during the night before I had to deliver the piece. Ah, and should mention my friend, Mike Ridge, hooking me up with this nice rough wood for the base. The base wants to evoke the wharf and fishing culture of Innsmouth.
Here's a last little behind the scenes look, with a few shots of the finished piece. And after the gallery show closed, he made a cameo appearance at my table for the Vermont Comic Con. This was a really fun piece to create and explore my take on a piece of Lovecraft's mythos. And being a part of the gallery show was a new experience that I enjoyed. It was inspiring to be amidst many talented Vermont artists.