It’s been a week now since Elsa’s “Best Date Ever” and we figured it was good time to rekindle the magic of that experience… and cast some more plaster heads. We left StudioFX101 not only with plaster casts of our faces and the original algasafe mold and “mother” but we also we able to make durable silicone molds of those faces that we could use to make a whole army of us’es.
As expected, the fragile alginate originals had shrunk and crumbled during the week in a way that looked pretty cool but which rendered them useless. Note the three inch gap between the hard plaster “mother” mold and the now-shrunken alginate head.
The guys at StudioFX101 had a several great ideas about attaching handles to the faces. One was to use large washers to anchor the handles and another was to bend the shafts of the screws to diffuse the forces caused by lifting the heads by the handles. We assembled our materials from what we had on hand.
We chose to tint the plaster with a bit of dry tempera paint. Elsa chose blue which looked a bit ghastly and I chose red which looked… frankly it looked delicious, like soft-serve strawberry ice cream. We followed directions, more or less, but our plaster was far thicker than what we used last week. We used a disposable brush to ease it into the molds’ details.
Before long, the plaster heated up which indicated it was curing. Once it cooled, we demolded.
So maybe we weren’t exactly as professional as the guys at StudioFX101 and perhaps there were a couple mistakes made, but before long we had a couple more heads that might not be perfect but were quite good. I mixed up a dab of plaster and patched the pinholes in the casts.
When, oh when will this madness end? I dare not guess. I know the next step for me, though is to start sculpting a mask on my new pink head. To be honest, I was a bit afraid of messing up the original cast. I’ll sure post my progess. In the meantime, I intend to try applying some weird paint effects on the, ah, “test” cast, the one that turned out looking less like my beloved Elsa and more like a zombie with decaying flesh.
– by Elsa L.
What makes for a memorable date experience? For me, the best dates are unique, perhaps extravagant and indulgent outings, where I get to experience new sensations while bathed in the attentions of my loved one and possibly attendants. The very best dates conclude with baubles or other memorabilia that recall the outing so I can savor it repeatedly.
Last Saturday, my Beloved Doktor took me to Studio FX 101 in Troy, MI where we spent the day in a spa for special effects. To remind me of the experience, I left with not only a plaster cast of my face but a silicone mold with which I can make many more. I will replay this date for a long time to come.
When my beloved Doktor asked me to participate in this experiment, I mean, date, I agreed without hesitation. We are both fans of the show Face Off, and I knew he’d extensively researched the processes involved. I prefer an experienced partner when seeking new experiences. We were greeted by Nick and Mark, the enthusiastic and personable owners of Studio FX 101, upon our arrival and welcomed with coffee and bagels before getting down to business. The shop is bright and tidy, and the team rigorously follows safety measures which made me relax thoroughly and enjoy the day. A skin test with the products assured me there’d be no adverse reactions, and a thorough presentation of the procedures let me know exactly what to expect.
My beloved Doktor could barely contain his enthusiasm. Grinning somewhat uncharacteristically with that newly shaven face, he was hardly recognizable– even to me. The Doktor volunteered to go first into the “hot seat,” or as I can verify from personal experience, the “cool-and-oozy-then-warm-and-heavy seat.” He was swathed in plastic, and his hair, eyebrows and eyelashes were covered with thick cream conditioner.
Then I got to pour mold compound down the sides of his head and over his face. Nick made sure the nostrils were kept free. Suffocation can so ruin the romantic mood, I find. Alga-Safe starts out only slightly thicker than milk but almost immediately, the liquid transforms into increasingly thicker versions of itself.
We used our hands to move it around my sweetheart’s face covering the entire surface and scooping the dripping substance from his chest back up to the top. Do note: the human nose is ingeniously designed for this activity. Drips naturally cascaded around the nostrils.
After the Alga-safe set up, we applied medical grade plaster-laced bandages over his now unrecognizable visage. Once the plaster cured — a mere 10 minutes at most– we gently freed him from his cocoon.
As he cleaned up, our instructor mixed up plaster and filled the mold. Soon enough we were admiring the resulting cast.
After a pizza lunch, it was my turn. My eyes were closed through the process which heightend my other senses. The alginate running down my face was the first bizarre sensation; it felt really cold!
I had wanted to maintain a slight, enigmatic smile for posterity but I lost track of that idea pretty quickly. For a few minutes, I was strangely occupied with keeping my eyes closed. Very soon, however, the weight of the alginate made it clear that opening my eyes accidently wasn’t possible.
In preparation, we’d learned a few hand signals which I used in response to questions, and I also had a pad and pen where I conveyed my concerns such as when my nose felt runny. I wanted to blow out hard but I didn’t want to puff crudely into an unseen face.
I also was concerned about my ear getting covered, but the instructor assured me that my orifices were safe. While my mold cured around my face, my beloved murmured reassuringly and the time passed fairly quickly.
When the mold was removed, it felt like getting a really intense facial treatment! My eyes felt somewhat sensitive to light for a few minutes, and my hair was, frankly, kind of disgusting. The heavy coat of conditioning cream that kept the alginate from sticking wasn’t all that difficult with soap and water in the utility sink.
Once the mold was complete, it was time to cast my plaster double. A handle was added to the curing plaster to made it easier to pull from the mold as well as to carry and display.
As an unexpected bonus, we were able to make silicone molds of our plaster faces. The Alga-safe used for the initial mold is somewhat fragile and capable of making only a couple casts. Silicone is far more durable and allows the opportunity for multiple casts in a wide variety of materials. Silicone is a two part material and we added a bit of color too, blue for the Doktor, red for me. Before we applied the first layer, the mixed silcone went into a vacuum that sucked out any air bubbles that would create pinholes in the cast. Then we poured on the first layer.
The first coat of silicone looked particularly cool over the plaster faces.
After the third layer of silicone and the hard plaster “mother” mold we made around it cured, we demolded our faces.
You might ask what a girl would do with a plaster cast of her face. The best date I had last year with the Good Doktor was to Theatre Bizarre. Though we were adequately costumed, we want to up our game for this year. A plaster cast of our faces will allow us to make form fitting masks and prosthetics that fit far better than any off the shelf false face. StudioFX101 offers sculpting sessions for just this kind of custom creature-making.
My plaster face sits on my dining room table, a memento of an unforgettable date, and every time I walk past it, I imagine the fantastic, personalized mask I’ll make using it. And sometimes, I think of the fun I’ll have with the Good Doktor this year at Theatre Bizarre and at numerous conventions where cosplay is encouraged. The VERY best dates are the ones that lead to MORE remarkable dates.
There’s nothing wrong with bone colored bones but you’ve got to admit that it’s a bit the over-obvious choice. This weekend I decided to spice up my collection of skulls with a bit of color. These same techniques, I suppose, could be used to spruce up the crummy dime-store paint job found on Halloween decorations and make them more realistic. Personally, I get enough realism in my everyday life.
A fortunate find prompted this project. Last Friday I found skulls on sale on the Halloween Store — human, adult-sized hard plastic skulls for $3.50 a piece. I suspect they were mismarked because when I went back today to buy ALL of the remaining stock, they were priced at $7.00. Lucky for me I bought two at the cheaper price.
When I brought them home and put them with the skull I had lying around, I was struck with a need to see vibrant, Dr. Phibes, acid-trip color on them. I choose red, green and yellow in honor of a stop-light. I used an Xacto knife to clear away the seams then I gave the skulls a good rinse to remove any grease or mold release compound.
PRIMER: The first thing I noticed is that my skulls weren’t identical. The new skulls were hard plastic but the one from last year was cast in expandable foam. Foam is a wonderful lightweight material but I’ve had bad luck using spray paint on it. The solvent eats away at the foam… which creates a lovely Lucio Fulgi-type zombie look but I wanted to preserve the actual form of the skulls. I opted to put a base coat on the foam skull using a house painting brush. The choice of brush was appropriate because I used leftover latex house paint for the base coat. It was a nice off white and would have been perfect if I’d been going for a bone-colored effect. It also was perfect for the yellow.
The hard plastic skulls I knew would stand up to spray paint. I own an actual art-quality airbrush but I don’t crank it out very often because I also have a remarkable collection of spray paint cans that were confiscated from a high school grafitti artist some years back. I selected a nice green and red enamel from my hoard and hit the hard plastic skulls with a good coat. Remember not to smoke around spray paint and if you enjoy breathing without a mechanical device shoved down your throat, try to spray in a well-ventilated area. I used my front porch which allowed for this neat exchange with my neighbor:
Q: “Whatcha painting there?”
A: “Human skulls.”
The enamel turned out to be glossy which might have been a problem. I’ve found it a bit difficult to get paint to stick on top of enamel unless the surface has been dulled down or unless the paint has a similar kind of solvent. I decided not to fret about it but I did let the base coat dry overnight.
THE FUN PART: I could have left the skulls with a simple base coat but I really wanted to take advantage of all that texture and modeling so I prepared to start dry-brushing. The idea of dry brushing is to build up light colors on the raised areas by scrubbing a brush with very little paint on it, literally a “dry brush.” It’s best to use a low-quality or otherwise sacrificial brush for this technique. Thought it’s hard on the brush, the effect is rather subtle. It’s great to do in layers, moving from a tone near to the base coat gradually lightening it.
YELLOW SKULL: The yellow skull obviously needed a base coat of color before I could dry brush it. I chose a orange-yellow for the base coat since I figured the yellow highlights would show up better in contrast. I did some brushing, added a bit more yellow, did a bit more, added more yellow. The final brushing was a dusting of pure yellow but the overall effect is similar to cheese popcorn. I rather like it.
RED SKULL: Normally, you’d lighten the tone of a paint by adding white. But with red that kind of breaks down. Adding white to red results in pink and the effect is more that the red is washed out or faded. If that’s the desired effect, great. I wanted a vivid, glowing color however. So I “lightened” the red by adding drops of yellow. The resulting color is closer to scarlet. I stopped before the dry-brush color was actually orange. The result is a color that has intensity while not feeling tired.
GREEN SKULL: I liked the lurid glow I got using yellow to lighten the red, so I tried the same effect with the green. I had created by own green by mixing blue and yellow anyway. The resulting light green was SPECTACULAR. I mixed up an extra large batch to use elsewhere since it was particularly vile and nauseating.
I broke ALL the rules as I mixed these colors by the way. I added dry tempera pigment to liquid acrylic and vice versa, all layered over that shiny gloss base coat. I knew I was going to need some big guns to keep everything from flaking off. I hit it with a bit of clear lacquer. I finished up two cans – one was Floquil “Figure Flat” and the other was Krylon “Satin” lacquer. No, I didn’t mix them on the same skull. I really like the subtle sheen of the satin finish for the bone, though I am usually a fan of dead flat. Once the first coat of sealer dried, I re-examined the paint, added a final daub or two and once it was dry, hit the skulls again with a good coat of sealer.
I kind of wish I had a whole shelf of skulls now, each painted a different color of the rainbow. But at least I have a good green and red skull which will be perfect for Christmas.
A friend of mine is teaching a class on Sociology Through Zombies. Her classroom desperately needed a sign that warns, “Danger, Zombies” so I made her one. I found the perfect raw materials at the local Halloween Store. I find that when I shop I have to look past the paint and notice the form of the objects. The paint on manufactured goods is much better than when I was a kid but I have yet to find something that couldn’t be improved, if not perfected with a bit of hand painting and a touch of tender loving gore. This zombie sign was no exception. I should mention here that I have had NO art training since finger painting in grade school.
What attracted me to it was the fact that the major features were actually embossed into the plastic. That meant that even after I sprayed the thing down with Rustoleum Primer, I would only obliterate the cheezy plastic graphics while retaining the shape of the sign itself. I first gave the sign a good scrub with warm water and a drop of detergent. This wash gets rid of any grime or mold release compound that might inhibit good paint adhesion.
Once it dried overnight, I hit it with a nice even coat of Rustoleum Sandable Primer. It comes in different colors and since I was going to go for a “wood” type grain on the boards, I opted for the Rusty Metal primer which was a russet brown. Again, I let this dry.
Next, I base coated the major features with a bit of acrylic paint. I bought these paints at the dollar store but the ones from a craft store would work just as well, I’m sure. I wanted a white base coat for the zombie flesh to help make it pop out from the darker tones of the sign’s background. The goal with base coating is primarily to set the contrasts, that is, the light or dark tones. If you can also start working in the base color for the different objects, that’s great too.
Color comes next. One of the tricks I’ve picked up over the years is to blend my own colors whenever possible. This allows me to get not just the exact hue I want but also a variety of colors just around that ideal color. Something a bit lighter is great for highlights; something deeper, for the shadows. Here is where I play. The other trick is to stop when you think it still looks “rough.” The few times I have more ruined something it was by over working the surface. As the paint dries, the colors tend to cohere better too — somehow, it’s magic to me — so by letting the piece dry thoroughly overnight you’ll be able to see it with fresh eyes. I also don’t hurry. I try to allow myself a week to complete any of these re-paint jobs so I can just stop and look at it again the next day. This really allows the opportunity to layer on some coolness.
I don’t use a fancy brush either at least not at this point. Most of the initial painting I did using the metal handled “acid brushes” I found at the hardware. If I was really snooty, I’d perhaps use some scissors and trim them but the bristles helped me get a loose, illustrational feel which is what I was going for.
The second trick is to apply a “wash” of darker tones that is loose enough that it will settle in the hollows like real shadows. One technique I’ve learned through trial and error is to darken colors without adding black. Adding black tones down the paint when often, I want the same color intensity. (And I only sound like I know what I’m talking about.) Instead of black, I’ll make a darker tone by adding a bit of the chromatic opposite of the base color. That’s the color on the opposite of the color wheel. So I add a bit of green when I’m darkening up red, for instance. It doesn’t work all the time and if I go too far it turns into brown… but it’s always an interesting kind of brown. Experiment. Once I get the color I like, I thin it with water and wash it over the surface with a wide brush. The one I used for this sign was a three inch, house painting brush.
The wash will increase the contrast but it will also tend to muddy up the highlights. I usually go in with either some dry-brushing or painting with a finer brush to make the detail pop. Dry brushing is one of those tricks that produces near miraculously cool effects. Load your brush normally then remove most of the paint by stroking back and forth on a scrap of cloth. When there is just a very, very little paint left on the brush, “scrub” it back and forth on the piece. The residue of paint will attach to the high points of the surface, in this case the edges. Dry brushing works extremely well on textures surfaces like plastic models or masks. Since the dry brushing is such a thin coat of paint, it dries very quicky. I was able to hand paint a bit of detail at the same sitting. I tried to have a long, controlled stroke for the lettering on the word “Danger” but I used an intentionally jittery collection of dots for the word “Zombies.” I mixed a few dots of zombie flesh green in there too, but I think the effect was too subtle.
I know I should have painted the biohazard symbol but honestly, I didn’t want another bright color taking attention away from my zombie.
Final thing is a couple coats of flat lacquer. Make sure the paint is good and dry before add ing th sealing coat because any moisture caught under the finish will cause a weird dusty color. Use your best spray painting technicque going from side to side in a gentle light coat. Don’t stay in one place long enough for the lacquer to pool up. Better make several light passes than one thick one. In retrospect, I wish I’d used the “satin” finish instead of the dead “flat” one but it’s fine. Let it dry over night.
I was tempted to add a bit of strength to the flimsy plastic by gluing the whole thing to a piece of corrugated cardboard but I didn’t.
The sign looks great in the classroom too and provides a gentle reminder that all that book learning is fine… so long as you also stay prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse.
Thirteen songs are enough to anchor a good party mix. Not everything here are tracks you’ll love but mix and match. It’ll all turn out OK. The idea of these themed playlists is that a lot of folks end up with lame costumes, not because they can be anything but because they can’t choose. Help them. Throw a Halloween party with a specific theme. This playlist is for a lycanthropic party. Show movies with the sound turned down. Serve theme-related snacks – for werewolves, I’m thinking lamb and that means gyro sandwiches. You got the idea. Run with it.
1) (The Obvious) – Werewolves Of London (2007 Remastered) by Warren Zevon off “Excitable Boy” or “Genius.” It’s the obvious track because everyone knows it and it’s clearly related to the theme. It’s got the same name at least as a classic werewolf movie, though as with all of Zevon’s tunes, he was likely referring to something else entirely. Give in. It’s got to go on the mix somewhere. At least the live version linked here has enough novelty and verve to remind us what made the song a classic in the first place.
2) Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival. This tune was linked forever to the werewolf mythos through “American Werewolf in London.” If you don’t want to be SO obvious about it, use the very servicable cover version of Bad Moon Rising by Raspuntina.
3) “Hungry Wolf” by X off Under The Big Black Sun. Classic X, driving beat, tight harmonies that made it almost as much as folk as punk. Personified wolves.
4) Will the Wolf Survive? by Los Lobos (get it? “the wolves”) A band from the other side of L.A. uses wolves as a metaphor for the difficulties of human life. Relatively profound lyrics and a catchy tune.
5) She Wolf by Shakira off the album of the same name. A bouncy latino-pop track from that lady who, I swear, has an extra vertebra in her spine.
6) Dire Wolf (Remastered LP Version) by the Grateful Dead. The studio version is on “Working Man’s Dead” and that rendition at least has relatively clear lyrics for those unfamiliar with the tune. A gabillion live recordings as well, most of them with a bit more verve and life. A jaunty rhythm and an odd, singable chorus “Don’t murder me.” the song tells tale of a card game with a 600 pound wolf.
7) Born To Be Wild by Steppenwolf. This has no explicit werewolf references, other than the “wolf” in the band’s name which is actually an artsy reference to a German novel. Blue Oyster Cult does a version and live they used to ride a motorcycle onstage. The idea of a biker gang of werewolves actually has been turned into a movie “Werewolves on Wheels (1971)”
8 ) “My Werewolf Mama” by Lenny Bruce – This track often is played by Dr. Demento but I wrestled including it because it’s just so darned corny.
9) I’m a Werewolf, Baby by The Tragically Hip from their first EP Tragically Hip – The Hip are a solid act. Their lyrics are literate, their music is blues-y and raucous rock and their fan base is rabid– that is, if you’re from Canada. North of the border they’re more popular than the Beatles but in the U.S. hardly anyone has heard them. This track isn’t their best tune by far but heck, it fits on the list.
10 ) Lil’ Red Riding Hood by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs – I knew this song primarily through a version my brother in law would croon. Research it unearthed some fun details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lil’_Red_Riding_Hood
11) “Du riechst so gut” by Rammstein – This track is a bit of a stretch but the video is all over the RotKäpchen (er, little red riding hood, in German) thing. If you’ve got the ability, stream the video too. The title translated is “you smell so nice”
12) Werewolf by the Five Man Electric Band. Obscure track from the mid 1970′s that I think I can bet no one at the party will have heard. Tells the tale of a boy gone feral and his family’s attempts to cope. Using a gun.
13) I Was A Teenage Werewolf (1989 Digital Remaster) by the Cramps. Heck, if you’re pressed for time, you could drop on a whole album of the Cramps. There’s a movie link of course to Michael Landon (Bonanza, Little House on the Prairie) in the title role.
And one to grow on:
“Little Pig” by Dale Hakwins — “I’m a wolf and I wanna come in…”
Worms are the ideal finger food, high in protein, plentiful on earth, green-friendly.
But if the folks you’ve invited are simply not cool enough to devour the real thing, try these amazing simulations. The technique is elegant and the effect is perfect.
These squiggly wonders are jell-o formed in drinking straws. Once set, run straws under warm water for a moment to loosen and use a rolling pin to extrude.
Yuck and yum!
Music provides a solid foundation for the best parties and Halloween parties are no different. But there are so many different kinds of “Halloween” oriented music – it would never be appropriate to put them all on the same party tape. And furthermore, some songs might be obvious to one person but obscure to another. So I wanted to start this thread about various different kinds of music for different kinds of Halloween parties.
Different kinds of Halloween? Why not? There are clearly different styles of music and a whole party could be designed around these themes to create a distinctive Halloween party that isn’t just the same old costume party.
Progressive Rock (70′s Era)
The obvious choice here is “Tubular Bells” by Mike Oldfield, otherwise known as that creepy music from “The Exorcist.”
But only slightly farther afield is pretty much anything by Goblin. They did the soundtrack work for Dario Argento’s weird nightmare slasher movies, like Suspiria. Some of their work is a little hard to find but I stumbled across much of it on eMusic, that cool DRM-free download site or also discs can be got at Amazon. There are a couple nice collections CDs available on Amazon if not elsewhere, for instance “The Fantastic Voyage of Goblin: the Sweet Sounds of Hell” that I have linked below. Goblin’s music is also available from the iTunes music store so you can check out their weird, disturbing sounds before purchase. The advantage of prog-rock is that the track play on and on for hours it seems, just adding a layer of mood.
The campy glory of “The Phantom of Paradise” and Paul Williams likely belongs on this list too:
Since I don’t know where else to put him, I think that the demented genius of Alice Cooper stands up pretty well here. The songs are shorter, MUCH catchier and they all have lyrics. Alice was more like a song-and-dance performer than a really true rock and roller in my opinion anyway, hence not all of his work, though is really very creepy but he’s GOT to put in an appearance. Must have tracks would include: “Welcome to my Nightmare,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” maybe even “How you Gonna See me Now?” or for some slightly edgier stuff, maybe “Cold Ethyl,” “Go to Hell”… what other Alice just screams Halloween to you?
A Halloween party themed on this 70′s Progressive Rock playlist would look a lot like that party sequence in Roger Corman’s “Masque of the Red Death” – very trippy, a psychedelic masquerade with lurid colors, veils, bells, smoke, European style commedia masks… Weird appetizers on silver platters. Maybe a hooka, tassels, pillows, brocade.
Other ideas? Chime in!
Music provides a solid foundation for the best parties and Halloween parties are no different. But there are so many different kinds of “Halloween” oriented music – it would never be appropriate to put them all on the same party tape. And furthermore, some songs might be obvious to one person but obscure to another. This thread is about various different kinds of music for different kinds of Halloween parties.
Different kinds of Halloween party? Why not? There are clearly different styles of music and a whole party could be designed around these styles to create a distinctive and memorable Halloween party that isn’t just the same old costume party.
Moldy Oldies –
The signature piece for this style of Halloween party would be the Theme Song to “The Munsters.” There are two totally different songs, the first one is fine but the one from the second seasons totally rocked. Another obvious track would be “You put a Spell on Me” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins… or heck, for that matter, just about ANYTHING by this master of bone-through-the-nose crooning. Other tracks to include would be any version of “Dead Man’s Curve” by Jan and Dean. There is also a whole crop of new psycho-billy bands that would fit with this category quite well.
If the Moldy Oldie playlist was extended out to a whole Halloween party theme, costumes should be restricted to 50′s era horror movies or perhaps any horror movie that could have been seen in a drive-in theatre. For instance, any monster or noun that completes this phrase: “I was a Teenaged…” Snacks could be popcorn and that chalky orange pop that all the drive-ins used to serve.
Here is a short list of songs but please, help me out here. What are other essential tracks for a “Moldy Oldie” Halloween Party? What are other snacks or decoration ideas?