Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Creating Prop Crates

Artist Paul Roman Martinez shares how he created some very nice prop ammunition crates.

"Then I needed to make the label look like it had been sitting on the crate for decades. I printed out the label on presentation paper. Photo paper would fall apart in the next step and regular paper wouldn’t have provided a clear image. Then I boiled some water and put some tea bags in it, getting it nice and dark. Above are the tools I used. A blow dryer, a couple towels, tea, and a wooden spoon. I dipped the paper in the tea and as I held it for a couple seconds I could actually see when the tea began to be absorbed. I pulled the paper out of the liquid and blotted it dry then dried it for a few seconds with the blow dryer. Not all the way dry, just not soaking wet. The reason for that has to do with the next step."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Oil Aging Bottles

"SheCreatesStuff" has an interesting tutorial on using oil to age and discolor glass bottles. Her inspiration? Seasoning cast iron cookware. What makes this technique different from using a matte spray or tint is that the result is food-safe. That means grungy potion bottles you can actually drink from.

"I used flaxseed oil on my bottles because it is a "drying oil" which would give a hard finish while still being food safe. It gave a yellowish sheen that was exactly what I had been looking for. Since organic flaxseed oil is what I'm already using to season pans, I thought it was ideal. My first experiment was with canola oil which gave the right sheen but was sticky. So do yourself a favor and use a drying oil. If you are simply aging bottles for display, you can use linseed oil instead."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Middle Earth Tableaux

Timothy Stewart Shinn brings us this nicely done tableaux of artifacts from Middle Earth. The coins are a great example of fan-produced work. These are some of the best versions of the Tolkien-inspired money produced over the years.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Shan Edition.

A pair of Cthulhu idols from "Shan". These were apparently done as bookends and cast in a short run distributed amongst a group of friends. They're a good example of what I've taken to calling the "Cthulhu Underground"- the hobbyist sculpts and castings that have extremely limited, unpublicized runs. There are dozens of these projects floating around. For the most part they're totally off the radar until, as in this case, someone posts a picture of them that Google eventually indexes.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Daedric Dagger

Dennis Mejillones turned a 2 x 4 board into this Daedric dagger from Skyrim. Browse his album to see the dagger's creation, its molding, and the casting of multiple resin copies.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Key from the Sea

Steven L. Rowe brings us this wonderful Cthulhu pendant. The twisted prism shape on the bottom is a nice touch.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Storm

A sandstorm catches a caravan crossing Beni Hassan in 1922.

A snapshot from the "Masks of Nyarlathotep" project.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Antarctic Exploration Map

Another bit of ephemera for the Mountains of Madness project. This time it's a map of historical exploration routes from the New World Atlas of 1922. The high resolution PDF version is available over here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Centipede Edition.

It's rare that I feature multiple Cthulhu idols from a single artist.*    It's even more notable when it happens just over a week since I posted his last one.

I absolutely love this carved Cthulhu idol from Copper Centipede. At first I couldn't quite put my finger on why I found it so interesting, but then it hit me. It looks like a woodcut illustration turned into a three dimensional figure. It's a really interesting effect.

*Off the top of my head only two other artists have had their idols featured twice- Jason McKittrick and Brandon Zimmerman.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Stones

Primatoide Futile brings us these engraved protective tokens bearing various Lovecraftian sigils. She does a nice job of recreating the look of stone using Super Sculpey.

If you're ever tempted to try something like this with real rocks, like the polished river stones available at craft stores, I would suggest going very low tech. It can be done with a Dremel, but you'll go through bits like crazy. It's actually easier to use a nail mounted in an X-Acto handle to patiently scribe the figure into the stone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Shrunken Head

Australian artist Luke Polti brings us this wonderful shrunken head. What really stands out is the incredible detail of the stretched skin. It's a difficult effect to pull off, but Mr. Polti nails it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Great Old One, Part Deux

Dylan Thomas has posted the finished version of his Cthulhu bust. The work in progress sculpt was featured back in July.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Prince of Lust

Marc Green brings us this token of Asmodeus, the demon of lust. His sculpt strikes just the right blend of handsome and horrific.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Black Book

The talented Jason Soles brings us this corrupted tome of dark knowledge. I far prefer his approach to the "book with a face" depiction of the Necronomicon than the "Evil Dead" inspired works.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Cthulhu Amulet

Brandon Zimmerman brings us this corroded Cthulhu amulet. It reminds me of a naturally occurring lump of metal that's been hammered into shape by hand.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Have You Seen the Yellow Sign?

Polish artist Sulik brings us this Yellow Sign pendant. It's cast in silver and features the glyph designed by Kevin Ross.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Tome

Marilyn Girling brings us this faux tome. The interior is a secret storage area. The cover treatment uses Sculpey and paper mache to reproduce the look of an old leather grimoire.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prop Radio Equipment

Allen Hopps once again brings us a fantastic tutorial. This time he's creating a complete set of prop radio gear from a pile of cardboard boxes and some stuff from the dollar store. I'm continually amazed at his ability to turn junk into interesting props. This particular project would be ideal for all kinds of Lovecraftian live-action games. The only way I can think to improve it is backlighting the dials the same way Dava Lowe did for his Mongotron.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Centipede Edition.

Copper Centipede brings us this  wooden Cthulhu idol. It has a wonderfully primitive and mysterious feel, helped by the fact that it doesn't have any distinctive cultural design elements.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Lovecraft Letters

No, this post isn't about H.P. Lovecraft's extensive correspondence.

The FBI is now asking for the public's help in finding the writer behind a series of anthrax threats that have been sent out from the Syracuse, NY area for the last 15 years. What makes the matter of interest, beyond the fact that I live in the general area, is that many of the letters include quotes from H.P. Lovecraft.

One peculiarity stands out about the letters — many of them contain passages from the writings of H.P. Lovecraft, an American author of horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially the subgenre known as “weird fiction.” He died in 1937.

Lovecraft’s guiding philosophy was what he called “cosmicism,” or “cosmic horror.” It’s the idea that the universe is hostile to the interests of mankind, and his stories often express an indifference to human beliefs and affairs.

Capone read three of Lovecraft’s books, looking for clues. Some of the letters include a hand-drawn eyeball, which might be a reference to a specific Lovecraft character, Cthulhu, Capone said. It’s a gigantic creature that lives silently under the ocean, waiting for a cosmic time to rise up. In one story, Cthulhu’s described as having tentacles coming out of his face and one all-seeing eye. Many of the letters include little drawings of daggers with dripping blood, Capone said.

He’s hoping someone might recognize the Lovecraft references and call in a tip.

Here's a scan provided by the FBI of some excerpts from the threat letters.

Not suprisingly, investigators expect that the person behind the anthrax threats has extensive experience with the mental health system. The one quirk of the FBI's flyer that seems unusual is that they don't include any of the quotes from Lovecraft used in the letters.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Unknown Specimen

This is a followup to the Mongolian Death Worm gaff back in May. The basic idea behind this series of projects is to create a sideshow-style gaff using techniques and materials that would have been available in the early 20th century. For this one I used the same materials as before- paper, flour, glue, and cotton fiber.  I did make a slight change to the mache recipe by adding boiled linseed oil to the mixture.  Once again the only cheat is the use of teeth made from epoxy putty. Surprisingly, that one modern material turned out to be a drawback, but we'll get to that in a bit.

The whole idea behind these gaffs is to create something that meets modern standards using vintage techniques. In that sense they're experiments in both materials and my own sculpting ability. The original Death Worm gaff was pretty mediocre, but that was to be expected. I don't have any real artistic ability and it was my first attempt at doing detailed work in paper mache. What I do have is a willingness to learn from my mistakes and be happy with getting just a little bit better every time I try something. From that standpoint I think this specimen shows some real growth. It's not great, but it's a huge improvement over the first attempt.

Just click on the pictures to view the high resolution versions.  If you're using Firefox you can right click and then "Open Link in New Tab" to get the raw images.

Here's an overall view of the specimen. It's roughly six inches long and finished with a single detail wash of burnt umber and a coat of golden oak wood stain. I didn't use any colorants in the initial mache mixture, so before finishing the entire piece was slightly off white. That turned out to be a mistake. It made it very difficult to see details as I was working on them. Next time around I'll add at least a touch of color to the mix beforehand.

One of the biggest lessons from the first gaff was the importance of texture, so I tried to make sure this piece was absolutely covered with a variety of surface finishes. That approach worked in general, but I'm not really happy with the pebbled effect on sections of the upper carapace and forward body. Instead of that smooth look I wanted a spikier appearance with a visible point. I tried creating it by applying a dot of thick flour and glue paste and stretching it to a point as I drew the brush away, but there wasn't enough surface tension to support it.

One the other hand, the shell-like texture on the upper head came out great.  I should have used that finish on the entire carapace.

This shot gives you a better feel for the effectiveness of the different finishes on the carapace. The pebbled texure is...meh.  The lateral lines of spikes came out surprisingly well.  Each of them is about a quarter of an inch long.  I had some major concerns about them breaking during handling, but the fiber-reinforced mache paste is incredibly strong.  I credit that to the boiled linseed oil.  I added that after doing some research into the paper mache goods made during the Victorian era.  It not only makes the mache mixture handle just like clay, but it polymerizes as the piece dries and creates a resiliant composite material. 

The view from the rear. The basic structure of the carapace is good, but it would be more visually interesting if the sections flared out a bit more.

A view of the head. First, the bad. The teeth. For some reason the epoxy putty will come to a fine point when it's being worked, but during the setting up process that sharp end smooths off. If I'm going to feature them so prominently I have to find way to stop that.

On the good side there's a lot of interesting texture here. Unfortunately it's not as visible as it should be because I didn't go back and do a second detail wash to bring it out.

I'm pretty happy with how the legs came out, but there's definitely room for improvement there. My primary concern was making sure they were strong enough not to snap during handling. The answer that problem was found in Japan, of all places. Craftsman there have been producing beautiful works with paper mache for centuries. One of the techniques they used for making finely detailed hands for puppets and human figures was an armature of steam-formed bamboo. Moistened slivers of the material were bent to shape and then set using heat, after which the details of the figure were sculpted using a fine rice flour paste. It was the perfect solution, both from a practical and historical perspective.  The same technique was probably used to create gaffs in ancient Japan.

And finally, the underbelly. Once again there's a lot of varying textures that would be clearer if I'd gone back and done a second detail wash. That's a real problem for the mouth structure, where the secondary jaws and inner palps get kind of lost in this picture. In person it has multiple levels of detail reaching into the body of the beast and gives an impression of real anatomy, although I might have gone a bit overboard with the vagina dentata theme. The striations on the belly and tail came out extraordinarily well, reproducing the look of a swollen, engorged grub.

This shot also exposes another problem with the epoxy teeth- they're a lot more fragile than I thought. I dropped the specimen once, and you can see that a tooth from both the outer and inner jaws snapped as a result. That's really surprising considering they weren't directly impacted during the fall. Even more interesting is that the lateral spikes came through the fall without any damage. They're a lot tougher than they look. I credit that to the flexibility produced by adding boiled linseed oil to the mache mixture.

On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd give this attempt about a 5. There's still a long way to go, but it's a big improvement over my first try. That would have rated a 3, at best. For the next iteration I plan on increasing the level of detail so that there are multiple levels of texture layered over each other.  What it needs is more spiky bits.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Silmarillion

From artist Benjamin Harff comes this stunning recreation of the "real" Silmarillion. In Tolkien's canon the book is a collection of Elvish stories collected and subsequently published by one Bilbo Baggins. This is a copy of that book, the one you would find sitting on the shelf at Bag End.

Producing the book was a year long labor of love that involved meticulously hand drawing the initials and illuminated pages. They were then scanned into a computer and used to highlight text laid out using a conventional word processor. The text block was then hand-bound with a goatskin cover. You can read more about the creation process in this interview with the artist.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Portable Time Machine

"Osiskars" brings us this very well done prop time machine. I could spend hours playing with the functional switches and mechanisms. Then again, I never really grew up.

You can see more pictures of the finished prop over here.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Masque of Clavicus Vile

Artist Daniel O'Keefe brings us the Masque of Clavicus Vile from Skyrim. The metallic finish is produced by aluminum powder added to the casting resin.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Terminator Space Marine Helmet

The accidental theme of prop helmets continues...

Shawn Thorsson brings us a detailed build log for this Terminator space marine helmet and display. I'm not a fan of Warhammer 40k, but those that are have produced some simply incredible prop pieces over the years. Mr. Thorsson's tutorial is particularly useful because it provides an in-depth look at taking a folded paper Pepakura template and turning it into the massive helmet below.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Air Supply

Artist Andrew Smith brings us this nicely done prop diving suit. The use of a vintage microphone housing for the breather mouthpiece reminds me of a similar usage for the 2-1B medical droid in the "Star Wars" universe.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Another Rocket Pack

As a follow up to yesterday's post, a kind reader sent over a link to this rocket pack from steampunk artist "Herr Döktor". It's interesting to compare and contrast separate artists using similar materials and subject matter. It's not a matter of one being better than the other, but of different approaches. I quite like the gauntlet mechanisms on this one.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Pulp-Style Jet Pack

Artist Jeff de Boer brings us this fantastic jet pack. The uniform and his imperious expression immediately brought to mind the Nazi sky troopers from "The Rocketeer".