Thursday, 29 November 2012

Preliminary sketches

These are some abstract pattern sketches I spent some time mucking around with last night.  I did some stylized sea foam and wave patterns.  They're just preliminaries, so they're a bit rough around the edges (they're also rough around the edges because they're mostly scribbled freehand with a stylus), but I hope to use these ideas as decorative elements at some point.  I'm thinking it would be nice to do more with abstract decorative elements.

This one's based on sea foam

And this one's based on waves

This is why you shouldn't keep a computer in your bedroom.  Every morning I wake up and tell myself I will go to sleep at a reasonable time tonight so as not to feel like shite the next morning, and every night I muck around on the computer until the wee small hours.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Random cool photo of the day

It's a may bug standing on a roll of masking tape.  I'm particularly fascinated with the fur on its back and the veins in its wings.
This random cool photo was brought to you by Wikimedia Commons.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Painting faux jade

In this post I'm going to describe how I got a jade effect on my mask.  Searching Google trying to figure out the best way of doing this tells me there are a few people out there who want to know how to paint faux jade, so I'm going to share my method.  
Here's the finished product

I started out painting the whole thing white.  Not just any white: bright titanium white.  The white base coat can be a little patchy, but not too patchy.  I've then got viridian, ultramarine, and yellow ochre.  I've put some splashes of ultramarine and yellow ochre on the white, and splashed a watered down mix of white and viridian on top, with some darker viridian areas.  I've used a brush with stiff bristles in a stippling motion, which helps the paint to layer and blend nicely.  It also makes sure you get a nice stone texture with no tell-tale brush strokes.
These pictures show a close up of the blotchy blue and yellow undercoat, and a close up of the final effect before I glazed it with structure gel (I'll get to that in a minute).


I finished up by smoothing structure gel all over the surface.  The gel dries smooth and translucent, which gives some depth to the stone effect.  The secret to getting it on nicely is long, gentle strokes with your finger and not too thick of a gel layer.  You can always do another coat.

A wash of very dark red-brown is also helpful for showing up the mosaic effect I put on the skull, and adding some depth to the "jade".  This wash really improves the realism of the effect, but if you're doing this you'll need to make sure it's very, very thin.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Experimenting with teeth

This time, instead of eyes, I’m mucking about with teeth.  This one is a human molar made with polymer clay.  It has a little hole drilled through it so it can be put on a string.

In general I’m not a big fan of using polymer clay to make teeth.  Polymer clay on its own isn’t very strong or durable, so it’s not a great choice for teeth even though it is easy to get a nice shape and colour with it.
These teeth are made of paper mache.  They’re made by laminating about thirty-odd sheets of tissue together with glue, and they dry like concrete.  However, you get a certain amount of shrinkage and they’d need to be really aggressively sanded and carefully painted before I could get a result I would be happy with.  As you can see, the surface is very irregular – this is because of uneven shrinkage as they dried and there’s no way round that.  I don’t like this and frankly I can’t be bothered spending an afternoon sanding these things.  I have a shortcut.

What I’m going to do is wrap the teeth in a thin layer of translucent polymer clay and bake them.  As I’ve discussed before, you can bake paper with polymer clay without encountering any problems because the temperatures needed to bake polymer clays are well below the combustion point of paper.

Here they are after baking.  Yes, they are saber tooth cat teeth.  Why do you ask?

To be exact, they're homotherium teeth.  Homotherium was one of the more successful saber tooths.  It survived for around 5 milion years, during which time it colonised Eurasia, Africa and the Americas.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Stone mosaic effect

I've decided I want my mask to have a stone mosaic effect - either jade or turquoise*.  How do you get a mosaic effect with paper mache?  Well, it turns out this is quite simple.  You get a hole punch and remove the little paper circles that are in its collection tray, then you glue them all over the surface of the thing you want mosaicked.

Fundamentally, this is a lazy little work-around that prevents me from having to tackle the irritating task of smoothing the paper mache surface so it resembles stone.

*This really depends on how the paint effect works out.  I'll be shooting for jade, but who knows?  I've never done a jade effect before.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mayan skull mask

The main project I'm working on at the moment is a paper mache mask.  I think it's a safe bet that nearly everyone reading this has made a paper mache mask at some point, probably at school.  It's quite a relaxing task and reminds me of the very few occasions when I didn't completely hate being at school.  And that makes me happy on a whole other level, because it reminds me that I never have to be at school again but can still make a paper mache mask if I want to.  Seditiosus 1, School 0.
I'm actually making a series of masks for the purposes of partying like it's the end of the world this December.  You know how it is: you have a few drinks with some mates, someone says "Hey, you know what would be really cool...?" and it all just kind of snowballs from there.
Here it is half finished, and it's already gratifyingly creepy.

The eye holes are lined with thin cloth that works on essentially the same principle as a two way mirror.  The wearer can see out of them, but other people can't see in.
Here it is when I first started it.  With the shaping for the eyesockets and very little else it looks like it's wearing spectacles.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

More things I really like

Today's theme is skulls.  Lots and lots of skulls.  Halloween may be over, but the Mayan apocalypse is just around the corner, as the conspiracy theorist in your life has no doubt already informed you.  In honour of the event I'm having a Mayan themed party and have invented a special chocolate-chili cocktail that promises to have truly apocalyptic after-effects.  Mayan art strongly appeals to me (it's the skulls, in case you hadn't figured that out yet), so this is a great opportunity to dress up in kick-ass costumes while demolishing the aforementioned cocktails of doom.

Here's a skeletal underworld god:

Image from the Dresden Codex, by way of Wikipedia

Here's a skull covered in torquoise mosaic:

Image from Realms of Chirak

This little guy is my favourite.  There's just something about the idea of a skull with eyes.

Image from Frontiers of Anthropology

I definitely have to do something with the skull-with-eyeballs theme.  Watch this space.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Things I really like

I'm mostly going to spend this post showing you some cool photos of things that are really inspiring me at the moment.

I’m currently excited about mappae mundi.  Probably the most famous one is the Hereford Mappa Mundi, created around 1300AD and pictured here.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
No, they didn’t think the world really looked like that. The mappa mundi wasn’t a “map” in the sense that we understand the word. In fact the closest term we have today would probably be “infographic” –mappae mundi were visual encyclopedias and typically distorted the landmasses in order to show Jerusalem in the centre of the world (it being the Holy Land, and thus the spiritual centre of the world), with the places farthest away from it out to the edge of the picture. The point of a mappa was to show kingdoms, events, and prominent people from all over the world in one convenient image. Symbolism was more important than accurate geography, which is why you find Jerusalem at the center and the garden of Eden (depicted as a little round island) up top in the east where Jesus is shown as the lord of creation.

This one is the Psalter Map from the late thirteenth century.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

And this one is the Vinland Map, also courtesy of Wikipedia.  It’s either a medieval map showing the part of North America the Vikings visited and called Vinland*, or a sophisticated 20th century forgery.  If you’re interested, Ohio State University has a good and very comprehensive summary of the scientific evidence to date.  It concludes that the map is genuine.  My personal view is that the map is more likely to be genuine than a forgery, but that’s not really the point of this post.  The point is that I want to play with the map.

I want it in relief, with some added extras, because as medieval maps go the Vinland Map is pretty crappy. It's just an outline with some place names and notes. A lot of early cartographers were artists and designed their maps to be visually appealing, but this one is intended to show landmasses for the purposes of navigation and that's it. There's no symbolism in the Vinland Map, and the only story it tells is a story about geography.