Thursday, February 28, 2013

Father of Serpents

The talented Joe Broers brings us this excellent idol of Yig. The sculpting of the head dress, belly plates, and base detail really stand out. I wish I was half this good at pushing clay.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Darth Invictus

Please join me in giving a warm welcome our newest sponsor, Darth Invictus. That's the moniker of George Cookus, one of the few Lovecraftian artists working in genuine metal. His Etsy shop has some wonderful Mythos castings, like this solid pewter Cthulhu idol.

He also has a number of bronze pieces, including both the Lovecraft and Derleth versions of the Elder Sign.

If you've been looking to pick up a Cthulhu idol I'd like to suggest his rather unique DIY piece. It's a plaster casting thrown from the same mold as the pewter figure above, ready for the paint job of your choice. In addition to his Lovecraft items you'll find a variety of resin movie props and a selection of scientific and medical gear, including a vintage syringe set.

It's a pleasure to have him on board, and my sincere thanks for his sponsorship.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gelatin Makeup Appliances

Allen Hopps returns with a tutorial on creating wounds and skin appliances with gelatin. As with his other videos the materials are cheap and readily available at your local box store.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Buried Treasure

This is another obsessive project where I spend an unreasonable amount of effort trying to capture a particular look for a prop. In this case, I wanted to duplicate the appearance of a fired clay idol that had been buried underground for a long time.

I'm certainly not the first person who's tried to duplicate the patina of an excavated artifact.  In fact, reproducing the combination of dirt and soluble salts that accumulates on those items has been a favorite of forgers for centuries.  Get the patina right and you can turn a 2 piastre clay figure from the souvenir stands of Cairo into a genuine archaeological find worth considerably more to a gullible tourist.

Unfortunately, I couldn't use the traditional approach of placing the "artifact" in the water tank of a toilet and waiting for the whitish haze of lime and salts to develop naturally.  That process takes months, although the results will pass even close inspection.  Worse, my material of choice was cold porcelain clay.  When dry it does an excellent job of duplicating the mass and hardness of real clay, but it's considerably easier to work with.  It's also water soluble, which means exposing it to water once it's dry will just turn it back into a malleable lump of PVA and cornstarch again.

That meant the patina had to be a combination of surface texture and a convincing paintjob.  Sculpting the actual idol went relatively quickly.  I wanted something primitive, but not too crude.  There had to be a certain refinement to the lines of the piece.  I eventually settled on a shape that looked like a ball on top of a curved cone.  I wanted to have as few features as possible so that it could pass as an odd skull fetish or maybe a decorated hand tool.  At the same time there had to be enough detail that someone familiar with the Mythos would recognize it as far more than a glorified hammerstone or pestle.

Here's the final result. I'm skipping the entire sculpting process, mostly because it looked terrible right up until I applied the final paint job. It probably didn't help that I tinted the clay a dark reddish-brown, so it looked uncomfortably like a lump of...well, something unpleasant.

A view from the right. Building up the texture of the encrustations was a two step process. On the first pass I stippled the entire surface with paper clay thinned down to the consistency of heavy cream. The second application was a spot application using a thick, intentionally lumpy mixture. The entire piece is about six inches long.

This shot gives a better look at the contrast between the terracotta base surface and the patina treatment. I wanted the reddish brown "clay" of the idol to peek through the accumulated salts and lime.

The patina buildup is heaviest on the face area of the figure, but the eye sockets only have a light layer of calcium haze.  That seemed to make sense if the idol had been dropped and then buried.  The weight of the head would have positioned the idol face down and tilted at an angle, leading to more buildup on the lower surface.

Click through on this shot to get a good look at how the final paint treatment came out. The base coat was a thin layer of terracotta over the existing red/brown surface of the idol. On top of that I did a wash of thinned white paint to produce the hazing effect, followed by drybrushing with burnt umber, light tan, and a touch of white.

All in all things turned out pretty well.  The result looks convincing, but the patina buildup may be a bit heavy.  I should knock it back with a light wash of terracotta. What I found interesting is that this style of patina is applied exactly the opposite way of a normal finish.   Normally you start with a dark basecoat and apply increasingly lighter highlight layers.  In this case the dusty appearance comes from starting with a midtone base and then a pure white wash, followed by a darker layer of burnt umber and a light drybrushing. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fonic Font

The Japanese RPG "Tales of the Abyss" is a bit of an odd beast, featuring a surprising amount of worldbuilding for what's essentially a series of tactical engagements.  It's not quite my cup of tea, but the game does include a nifty fantasy font that's ripe for re-purposing- Fonic.  In-game it's the symbolic language used to control magic.  For prop creation is has the advantage of being obscure enough that it doesn't suffer from overexposure.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Missing In Action

For some reason Blogger is eating comments.  I specifically remember approving a comment yesterday on the Antimatter Games Cthulhu that complimented the sculpt for incorporating Lovecraft's "scaly" description.  That's why I wanted to reference it in today's post about Bestiarius's work with its similarly scaled interpretation.  Lo and behold, the original comment has vanished. 

I apologize to anyone who may have taken the time to leave a comment, but never saw it show up.  I always approve them, save for the rare occasions when they're personal attacks or have excessive profanity.  That's only happened a handful of times in the past five years.  Hopefully I'll have the issue straightened out soon.

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Bestiarius Edition.

Back in January I featured a Cthulhu sculpt from Bestiarius that I was chagrined to learn had already been recycled.  Now he's tackled it again and the figure is shaping up to be even better than the last one.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Antimatter Edition.

Antimatter Games brings us this beautiful, "Elder God". The 90mm figure is a terrain feature for their "ShadowSea" underwater miniatures game. The original sculpt was done by Tabletop World, and the excellent paintjob is credited to E. Louchard.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Van Helsing Vampire Hunting Kit, Part II

Following on from yesterday's post, today we have more of Dale Bigford's impressive Van Helsing vampire hunting kit. Part of what makes it so eye-popping are the massed ranks of items. It's proof of the "quantity has a quality all it's own" adage often attributed to Stalin.

In this shot alone there are over three dozen storage bottles filled with all manner of herbs, powders, and parts.  There are even more cased away in the smaller storage boxes.

This is a brilliant touch- stakes made from a variety of woods. It's embarrassing to confront a supernatural creature and realize it's impervious to the stakes you have on hand. This helps cover all the bases.

A variety of potions and pre-mixed alchemical preparations.

Another example of planning for contingencies- a selection of wards, amulets, and religious symbols.

My thanks to Mr. Bigford for sharing his work.  It's a unique take on a well-worn idea that must have taken an incredible investment of time and effort to put together.  You'll find a full album of the case over here.  It includes a closer look at the multitude of boxes and storage cases nestled inside the main trunk.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Van Helsing Vampire Hunting Kit

I think this is the first time I've spread a project over multiple days because it was so big.

Dale Bigford is the creator of this immense vampire hunting kit, which takes the tropes of the genre and turns them up to 11. Out of the dozens of kits that have been featured here this one easily takes the top spot in terms of size and the number of items included. The sheer amount of work assembling everything and then carefully packing it up in an orderly fashion is mind-boggling.

Here's Mr. Bigford talking about the inspiration for the kit:

"My friends and I were drinking wine watching an old Hammer Horror Dracula movie (Peter Cushing is the ONLY Van Helsing) in Germany (military) in 2008. Eventually my friend turned to me and said "you've got a box of vampire killing stuff right?" I answered "no...but why don't I"? So I started to build one...and it got outta hand. I just finished it this week. I didn't slave over it everyday for four years, but hit ALLOT of european antique/flea markets, did ALLOT of work and here it is.

One thing that always nagged at me was this:
When Van Helsing shows up in these eastern european countries he always has very little ON HIM yet always has whatever equipment is necessary. How could this be? In the age of steam ships, trains and carriages the answer was simple: A train case or steamer trunk.

I wanted to go for the look of a converted/heavily modified clothing train case (complete with added victorian-style upholsetered back padding and heavy leather straps (which only the BURLIEST of assistants could shlep through mountain passes or abandonded cemeteries).

It also was important to show a kit that, after the passing of the great doctor, passed through many hands from the latter 19th-20th century and continued to be modified/added to as new knowledge came forward and different techniques were tried. Modified when/as/how it could be in the disheveld, chaotic life of someone who KNOWS vampires exist.

I admit in this day and age laser-sighted automatic pistols and high-powered stake guns are more effective, but they utterly lack the romance of the Victorian period."

We start with an overall shot of the trunk that provides a sense of just how large it is.

I love this touch. A backboard with shoulder straps makes perfect sense for transporting something this big. In my mind I can see the put-upon assistant straining under the weight of the thing while the good Doctor obliviously waits for him to catch up.

The first set of panels opened to expose the interior.

Stakes and spikes to the left, tools and weapons in the center, materia and components to the right. The one detail that really stands out to me is that everything is tied down or otherwise restrained. Far too many artists ignore that basic usability factor.

A closeup of the tool panel.  The one critique I have is that the patina of the wood varies so much, but that's a trifling issue.

You can never have too many wooden stakes or iron spikes. One of the legacies of my youthful exploration of abandoned buildings is an appreciation for the utility of heavy spikes in defeating doors, windows, and locks. They're incredibly useful tools for breaking and entering. More importantly, a spike in the jamb keeps a door from closing. Getting in and out quickly no doubt comes in handy when hunting the undead.

I'll have some more shots of Mr. Bigford's case, including a closer look at the dozens of material components, tomorrow morning. If you want to jump ahead you should be able to browse the album over here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Brand Edition.

Michael Brand brings us this intriguing Cthulhu sculpt. It's actually a gaming miniature, although that seems a bit of a misnomer given the massive size of the figure. It's being offered as a premium for an already funded Kickstarter project.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Wildling Helm

Artist Paul Hersey brings us this nicely done Wildling Helm. I like how it captures a very organic feel without being too Giger-ish.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Nasilnese Font

Dan Smith brings us Nasilnese, a fantasy font developed in conjunction with David De Lane Snow. The letterforms are an interesting blend of an Oriental brush look and cuneiform.

Friday, February 15, 2013

From Shadow Shrouded Yuggoth

Jason McKittrick brings us this selection of artifacts from Yuggoth. All the pieces are nice, but I'm absolutely in love with the "Haunter in the Dark" idol. It's a beautiful design. All of these items are only available until Sunday.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Forlorn Foundry

I'm proud to welcome Forlorn Foundry, our latest sponsor. It's the brainchild of Josef Von Stauffenburg, an artist and metalworker who brings to life some amazing occult and gothic items in bronze.

This bronze skull is available as-is or with custom features like horns. It's an impressive piece of work in terms of both the quality of the sculpt and its sheer size.

Mr. Stauffenburg offers a variety of smaller items, ranging from candlesticks to offering bowls. While their visual appeal is obvious one thing I can't reproduce here is the physical presence of these pieces. A "bronze finish" is one thing, but nothing compares to the heft and feel of real metal.

It gives me a great deal of pleasure to have Forlorn Foundry on board as a sponsor. These are exactly the kind of unique items I love, and I think you'll share that enthusiasm. If you browse the website you'll find some interesting features, including a blog that has details about Mr. Stauffenburg's upcoming appearance on the television show "Oddities".

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cthulhu Dagger

The talented Brandon Zimmerman brings us this unusual artifact.

This ceremonial dagger was uncovered in 2009 outside the small town of Santa Margalida, on the island of Majorca, Spain. This area, known as the Son Real Necropolis, is an 800-square-foot mass gravesite that dates from the 7th to the 4th century BC. It is located on the small rocky coastal headland of Punta Fenicis and served as a mass burial site where the remains of over three hundred people, including woman and children, were found.

The dead were discovered along with over a thousand strange and unknown weapons, jewelry, and everyday objects, all themed around an apparent octopus-headed creature or god. The origin of the people buried in the necropolis is not clear. Scholars believe it to be a remote settlement of Ancient Romans, or an isolated Pagan cult who worshiped a god of the sea.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sculpting Foam

Professional propmaker Eric Hart brings us this video covering the basics of sculpting foam. There's one incredibly useful tip in here that he glosses over, no doubt because it's such an ingrained part of his workflow. Calipers. They're invaluable for making sure sculpted features are properly aligned and have equal measurements. Even a cheap little school compass will do.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Propnomicon Curse

This weekend yet another movie I was peripherally involved with fell through.

I'm starting to think there's an actual curse involved. I've provided some small props or faux documents to over a dozen filmmakers working on Lovecraftian projects of varying size. After four years of doing this not a single one of them has actually produced a final product. Not one. I know the film business can be tough, but this is ridiculous.

Mind you, not all of these efforts were shoestring budget affairs. I expect a high failure rate from the "Hey, lets make a movie" crowd. It's possible to produce a good short film with sheer enthusiasm and effort, but I understand when people get discouraged by the amount of work involved. It's the projects that spend tens of thousands of dollars shooting hours of footage that boggle my mind. How can you spend all of that money and then let the whole thing crumble into dust when post-production and editing begins? Sweet fancy Moses, at that point most of the difficult work is done. Once you have a hard drive filled with video you should at least be able to put together a rough edit using just a laptop.

Not to get all "get off my lawn you damn kids", but one of the reasons I'm so disappointed with the failure of these projects is my own history. I did my first "film" on 3/4" U-Matic videotape using in-camera edits. I nearly wept with joy the first time I was able to get a real editing suite with A/B roll capability and a character generator powered by an Apple II. One of my first assignments out of college was building a state of the art production suite that allowed the editor to use a mouse to set up his edit log. A mouse! We spent almost $100K on that suite, and my smartphone now has more image capture and processing capability.

I have just one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers. Make the damn movie. Even a film that sucks is better than a movie that never gets made.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Arkham Imports

VonMeer brings us this letterhead for Arkham Imports and Exports. This is the kind of document dressing that has a plethora of potential uses.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Thing, Redux

Phil Bolton brings us this set of props based on the original 1951 production of "The Thing From Another World". The collection of papers from Dr. Carrington is a perfect companion piece to one of the surviving alien pods.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Cthulhu Necklace

The talented Stuart Williams brings us these well done Cthulhu necklaces. I quite like the black and green finish.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Circles of Power

We've discussed before how difficult it is to craft a prop tome. Actually binding the book isn't that difficult, but getting to that point requires collecting a huge amount of material to fill the pages. That's why I was so happy to get an email from Nick Storm pointing me toward Clint Warlick's collection of summoning circles. They're a great resource for anyone crafting eldritch scrolls or tomes. Because of the clean presentation they can be used as-is as book plates or processed with some erosion filters for a more rustic appearance.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Woit Edition.

Martin Woit was kind enough to send over some shots of this outstanding Cthulhu idol. I wish I had half his sculpting talent.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dead Fairy Pupa

Dale Bigford was kind enough to send over some shots of his latest effort- a cased fairy pupa.

"Here's a project I made a few months ago: A dead fairy specimen in a display case. It was "collected" by the "theoretical anthropology dept" of Aberystwyth University, Wales in 1932. The fairy never hatched as it was killed in its cocoon by a late frost that year. The cocoon itself is comprised of a natural gum-like substance shrouded with leaves and filled with the silk of the pupa."

It's an absolutely brilliant concept that builds on the equally clever idea of insectile fae.