Sunday, October 16, 2011

We've got to find Jack! There's only 365 days left until next Halloween!

Well, not quite, unfortunately. 15 days and counting, and the pressure is on.

I certainly didn't expect to be making the first progress entry of 2011 on October 16th. What happened? Well, a combination of two factors; the first being real life commitments. The bane of Halloween costume making, which demands so much time toiling over rolls of wire, pots of paste, scraps of newspaper and scribbled blue-prints (for those costume elements that aren't composed completely off the cuff). The second factor has been the bigger of the two, but the more unexpected one: this has been my hardest costume yet.

This year's choice of character has been long since telegraphed. As we drew closer to the eve of Halloween 2009, when I putting the final touches to my portrayal of T-1000, the idea hit me. It was to be the following year's costume, before I ultimately chose to pursue a different character under the Disney umbrella in Emporer Zurg. It was therefore passed on for another year, bringing us to Halloween 2011. My choice was none other than the Mayor of Halloween Town himself:

The hold up has essentially boiled down to difficulties in crafting the Mayor's head. This has been the surprising obstacle, as I have successfully crafted what very well should have been more difficult heads (I'm looking at you, Alien). How hard could it be to make a cone? 

To detail every hiccup that has permeated the project so far would produce a quite unwieldy post, so I'll summise by saying it has essentially involved: 

1) Creating the usual wire/papier mache frame;
2) Deciding that the frame wasn't wide enough and too tall;
3) Building a second frame around the first 'failed' frame;
4) Realising how much the second frame sucked, hard;
5) Almost conceding that a third frame would have to be created, before:
6) Figuring out that the first frame was not, in hindsight, so bad and could be rescued with some work.

The intial wire work:

After drawing the features on, I realised that the framework was too narrow and too tall. I chopped off around 4-5 inches from the top and began to build the second frame from what I thought would be the corpse of the failed first attempt:

That is as much as I am willing to illustrate with regards to the second attempted framework. I put more effort into it than I care to remember before realising that it was doomed to failure. It was, however, a necessary step in the project as it made me look back more fondly on my initial attempt. I suddenly saw potential in that first attempt that I wish I had seen before casting it aside (but thankfully, at least, not casting it to the dump). 

I tidied up the top of the head, which had been so unceremoniously scalped a week previously. The head was still a little narrow in my eyes, so I spent some time moulding it into more of a cone shape by fleshing out the wire base. By laying the head on its side and pushing down gently on one side I was able to widen it little by little. The recovery process left it looking like this:

Finally, it was time for the first layer of papier mache:

The next step was figuring out where I should be cutting the mouth, as this would be my window to the outside world from inside the confinements of my new head. To do this I had to draw the features on with penil as accurately as I could so I knew where to cut. Having completed this task I had no confidence in the accuracy of the results; but I took a leap of faith and cut. The mouth hole had to be tidied up with a further layer of papier mache, and a base coat of white paint was applied. From there it was time to start the real paint job.

Tim Burton's social commentary on multi-faceted politicians was the first step to be negotiated in the paint job. I had to draw a dividing line to separate the Mayor's fleshy, happy-go-lucky expression from its pale, irritable counterpart. With the film on in the background, I found a scene where the division was portrayed clearly and hit the pause button:

I then painted the happy side its flesh-toned colour, and topped up the irritable side with a fresh layer of white. When the head was dry, I drew on the features somewhat nervously with pen (the surface was too sleek to draw on with pencil). To put it mildly, this involved a little trial, error, and painstaking further layers of corrective paint. When I was finally happy with the features, I used a felt-tip pen to draw the features permenantly on. Following this, I simply painted in the features on both sides, giving me:

The penultimate task on the paint job was giving the happy face its rosey cheeks. Using the helpful suggestion of my girlfriend, I used a very mildly damp sponge to dab the red paint onto the cheeks. Simply painting the red on with a paint brush would have made the colour too intense, where it should be quite subtle. I'm not sure to what extent I achieved this subtlety, but I was happy with the results:

I thus have the head all but finished; the only task left to complete is covering the hole created by his gaping smile. Since this is also my only way of seeing my surroundings, it also has to be at least somewhat see through. Damn practicalities.

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