Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cthulhu Plaque

Simon Lee brings us this intricate Cthulhu plaque. Given his work on "Pacific Rim" there's a good chance he'll be contributing to Del Toro's "At the Mountains of Madness" if and when it ever moves forward.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Under the Skin

The creative team behind the indie film "He Took His Skin Off For Me" have posted a detailed tutorial on creating a skinless arm. The required materials are a little high end, but the results are spectacular. Via Eric Hart.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Down in the Dark

Hungarian artist Tibor Keri brings us this prehistoric angler fish specimen.  It features some beautiful texture work.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Doom That Came To Kickstarter

You may remember the Kickstarter for "The Doom That Came To Atlantic City", a lighthearted Lovecraftian take on Monopoly. Sadly, it's imploded in rather spectacular fashion.

"The Doom That Came To Atlantic City, a board game that raised nearly four times its funding goal on Kickstarter last year, has been canceled as the founder admits that the whole thing was "beyond his abilities."

It's the worst possible outcome for a Kickstarter: People love the idea, supporters throw truckloads of money at it and then a year down the road, it all falls apart amidst accusations of wrongdoing. That's exactly what happened to The Doom That Came To Atlantic City, a Kickstarter project that went live last May with a goal of $35,000 that ultimately raised over $122,000, but that has now plunged into oblivion."

You can read the full story at the link, but it's pretty clear that the blame for this disaster rests on Erik Chevalier. He outright lied to the project's supporters that they were kicking in to fund production of the game when, in fact, he was using the money for...well, no one is exactly sure. He's admitted using the cash to pay for his relocation to Portland, but beyond that the details of where the funds went are a mystery. One place they didn't go is to the game's creators. They licensed production of "Doom" to Chevalier's company and haven't seen one thin dime from the fund drive.

The boardgame wasn't something I was interested in, but I have to admit to having a major jones for the game pieces sculpted by Paul Komoda. He's an incredibly gifted artist and his interpretations are some of the best I've ever seen. Sadly, the master sculpts are in Chevalier's hands and he's apparently ignoring attempts to return them.

Which brings me around to answering a question I've been getting a lot lately.

What's up with the "At the Mountains of Madness" prop Kickstarter?

Put simply, it's on hold until I can be absolutely sure it will go off without a hitch.

If you were part of the Miskatonic University or Arkham Sanitarium Kickstarters you know that I take even small projects seriously. In those efforts there wasn't a lot of money on the line, but the fact remains that there was money involved. People expect something in return for their cash, and rightfully so.

As a prop collector I've learned that the failure rate for short run projects is unbelievably high. Time and again I would front money for an item only to hear a litany of excuses about why I didn't have the goods or a refund. An illness. A death in the family. A divorce. A family crisis. After a while it became obvious that the propmaking community either had the worst luck of any demographic in existence, or was infested by scam artists. In the end it didn't really matter what the reason was. I was out money and didn't have anything to show for it.

When I did my previous Kickstarter projects I vowed I would do everything in my power to not be one of those guys. I took care to budget the print runs accurately and account for the additional cost of shipping. I made sure to include everything I needed to get the packages out the door, from mailers and shipping labels to plastic baggies. When I totaled everything up I added an additional ten percent to cover any unforeseen problems.  I tried to plan for everything.

And, after all that, I still took a bath on both projects.

My printer died in the middle of running off mailing labels.  Ka-ching!  My mailers were undersized and had to be replaced.  Ka-ching!  My estimate of overseas shipping costs was wildly off target.  A very, very big Ka-ching.  By the time all those little glitches were totaled up what were supposed to be break-even projects turned into money pits. 

I haven't mentioned any of this before because it frankly didn't matter.  I had an obligation to provide what I'd promised, and those complications were my problems, not the donors.  Given the relatively small size of the projects I could absorb the financial hit without too much pain. 

The "At the Mountains of Madness" effort is a bit different.  Even with most of the design work already done it's going to require a significant investment for printing and manufacturing, not to mention the absurdly high shipping costs for a larger package of stuff.  If there's a glitch anywhere in there it's likely to cost significantly more to fix than the previous projects.

That financial risk is dwarfed by a much bigger potential problem- my sketchy back.  Things are looking good on that front.  Under the guidance of my cruel taskmasters I've lost 45 of the 100 pounds I have to drop (Yay for me!  Squats rule!), but that extra weight is still putting too much stress on an already dodgy musculature.  I just can't chance taking anything major on until the odds off my back going out are minimized.  Believe me, there are few things more likely to distract you from fulfilling a Kickstarter than invisible goblins plunging red hot daggers into your lower back. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Dwarven Bow

Folkenstal brings us a recreation of a Skyrim weapon I haven't seen before- the Dwarven Black Bow of Fate. The craftsmanship is impeccable and the presentation, featuring soul gems and the Skyrim map, really shows it off.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Legacy of Dr. Moreau

Artist Patrycja Cichocka brings us this wonderful human/animal fetus prop. The figure was created for a production of "The Island of Dr. Moreau".

What makes it even more impressive is that it's not just a static prop, but an animatronic figure.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Elven Blades

Artist Brendan Olszowy brings us these beautiful Elvish knives


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Gaff of a Different Sort

So I'm looking at the site's stats and notice an influx of visits from an, uh, adult domain catering to transexuals.  Now, I'm cool with everyone living their lives however they want.  That's what freedom is all about. 

But why the sudden interest in Propnomicon among the intersexed?

The gaffs.  In particular, the combination of the words "latex" and "gaff".  Much to my surprise a latex gaff isn't always a Fiji Mermaid or shrunken head.  It's also a device used by cross dressers to make their manparts disappear.   From a quick Googling it appears there's quite a bit a craftsmanship involved in making the more upscale ones.

I probably won't be posting a link to a tutorial on making one of those anytime soon.

Animating Cthulhu

Richard Svensson shares a very cool project- re-creating Cthulhu as an old school stop animation puppet.

Lovecraft fans are quite vocal about their dislike for half-baked or totally erroneous interpretations of Lovecraft's visions. Hollywood has rightly taken the brunt of this critique. Amateur filmmakers usually avoid taking on stories that demand the recreations of Lovecraft's more elaborate creatures, instead focusing on tales that are driven by suggestions and atmosphere. I enjoy taking the other route. However, instead of burying myself in pictorial research on Cthulhu I just jumped into the creation of my puppet, opting to work as fast as I could, simply driven by my impressions of the character. The head sculpture in Chavant clay was not overworked. I added three eyes on either side, and stopped as soon as I thought I had captured the essence of the monster.

He does a great job of documenting every part of the build process, including this nicely done sculpt for the head.

Having grown up at the tail end of the stop-motion era I have a real fondness for the technique.  It's fascinating to see Cthulhu brought to life as a traditional armature puppet.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Faking It

If you want to create faux artifacts and items that look real you need to duplicate the look of the genuine article.  Luckily, we're able to draw on the knowledge and expertise of an entire profession dedicated to that very thing.  I'm speaking, of course, of forgers.

As usual when I bring this subject up I'll point at that forgery is a scourge in the world of art and artifact collecting.  That said, the people cranking out all those fakes have developed an incredible amount of technology and expertise that propmakers can draw on.  Unfortunately, they're notoriously close-lipped about exactly how they accomplish their work  The next best thing to consulting them directly is getting tips from the experts that help identify fakes. 

Australian collector Louis McWhinnie has been kind enough to share some of his advice at his website.  It's a good general introduction to the subject of artifact forgery and has some great insights.  The first reaction to a lot of it will surely be "Authentic drill holes?  Isn't that a bit over the top for a prop?"  In most cases, yes, there's no doubt it's excessive.  But it's also an incredibly immersive way to to demonstrate what that high-level Archeology skill is good for in a tabletop or live-action game:  "Your examination reveals that the hole in the jade amulet has an odd hourglass shape, characteristic of being drilled with a friction drill in primitive conditions."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rorschach's Journal

S'wak Props brings us this incredibly detailed recreation of Rorschach's Journal from the film adaptation of "Watchmen". The amount of work that went into this, from gathering references for the diary entries right up to the final binding, is just stunning.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Carved Cthulhu

Copper Centipede brings us another one of his hand-carved Cthulhu idols

Saturday, July 20, 2013

That Voodoo That You Do So Well

The prolific Jason McKittrick has done another limited run of Mythos voodoo dolls.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sculpting Tentacles

The Eye of Error serves up this excellent tutorial on sculpting tentacles.  It's aimed at miniature enthusiasts customizing figures, but the basic technique can just as easily be used with polymer clay or cold porcelain for prop idols and statuettes.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fossilized Fae

Julianne Sizemore brings us this well done fossilized fairy. She did a great job on the contrast between the rough stone and smooth bone.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Children of the Night

Ann S. Koi brings us this stylized Nightgaunt figure. It has some wonderfully subtle texture work.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013


There are times I just weep for my lack of sculpting talent, taking some small comfort in the fact that I'm steadily getting better with every project. Then I see something like this and it sinks in just how far I have to go.

This amazing mantis creature is brought to us by sculptor Fernando Kuhlmann and painter Joe Dunaway. The level of detail in the sculpt is simply stunning, and the whole thing goes to another level thanks to Mr. Dunaway's paint job.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pickman's Model

Gage Prentiss brings us this unusual anatomical model recovered from the studio of Richard Upton Pickman after his mysterious disappearance. The skull shows an intriguing similarity to the creatures in his more scandalous works.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Making A Shrunken Head

No home is complete without a shrunken head.  David Gagné has been kind enough to share a detailed tutorial on creating a modern version of the traditional tsantsa. One that thankfully doesn't require going to war with a nearby tribe.  Part One is here, and Part Two over here.

When I say "detailed" I mean it. He covers every step of the process, from the initial sculpt, through casting the latex skin, surface finishing, and the punching of the hair. It's easily the most comprehensive guide to making a shrunken head I've ever seen.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Star Stone

This Elder Thing star stone is brought to us by Reuben C. Dodd. It was molded from air drying clay for an upcoming live action event.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The White Wand

Julian DiMarco was kind enough to send over this work in progress shot of his latest project, a wand carved from alabaster.  It's a beautiful piece of work even in it's unfinished state.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Elder Book

Jussi Leinonen brings us the Elder Book, a nicely done leather tome.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Creating Cthulhu

"Alexthemoviegeek" brings us a detailed look at how he created this impressive Cthulhu costume

It's not a Hollywood-level creation, something he readily admits, but it's still quite a piece of work. To be honest, these photographs taken in bright sunlight do it a disservice. Even multi-million dollar movie animatronics benefit from obscuration. No one is better at creating practical creature effects than the masters at the Stan Winston Studios, and you'll see them using dim lighting and atmospheric effects to cover up a multitude of sins in films like "Aliens" and "Jurassic Park".

Something like this serves as a good baseline for what an amateur can accomplish with even limited materials.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Touch of Nephren-Ka

Jason McKittrick brings us the mummified arm of Nephren-Ka. The glass display dome is a great touch.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Shoggoth Assembly Edition.

Shoggoth Assembly brings us an interesting interpretation of the traditional Cthulhu idol. Here's the original master sculpt:

Followed by a casting in opaque resin with a nice stone finish:

And a trio of idols in translucent resin:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

From the Mountains of Madness

"Bigbella1976" brings us this fantastic Elder Thing sculpt.  Everything from Lovecraft's descriptions of the aliens is here, from the "feet" that ultimately lead to their discovery to the branching tentacles.  Even the wings appear accurate, with just two of the five on display.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Shining Trapezohedron, Take Three

Mystic Prism offers up another take on the Shining Trapezohedron, this time fired from clear glass. Their earlier versions featured a red/black interpretation in boiled glass and one crafted from polished obsidian.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Gentry Edition.

Shaun Gentry returns with a new Cthulhu idol, this one a more dynamic take on the traditional Lovecraftian pose.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Unholy Relics

The prolific Jason McKittrick has another limited run prop set. This time it's the "Implements of the High Priest", a mythos amulet and bone sacrificial knife.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Carnivorous Nautilus

Professional gaff artist Rick LaRue brings us this specimen of the carnivorous nautilus. The mouth is just amazing.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mad Props

Insanity is a defining feature of encounters with the Mythos.  Protagonists regularly spiral down into madness, slowly losing their grip on reality as they discover more of the horrific truth dwelling in the shadows.  Dean Adelaide has a nice look at conveying that descent via increasingly erratic writing in notes and documents.

Armed with these I started playing around with manipulating the shapes of the letters. I did this in two main ways — firstly by warping the glyphs using a wavy-shaped envelope. That gives a kind of overall impression that the writer is struggling to make the normal letter shapes due to a “disturbed” state. The other distortion I tried involved adding in lots of extra points around the glyphs and randomly jittering them around. This gives a “shaky” effect, like the writers hand is unsteady. The samples below show what these look like for light, medium and heavy versions of the font. Most of the text is distorted by the “wave” effect; the bits circled in red are treated with the “shaky” effect, and the sections circled in purple have both effects applied.