Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Shivering Blimps

Today we have a very picture intensive post as I practically give a step-by-step how-to guide of this mask I am making. I've been taking lot of pictures along the way, pretty much because I live my life as if it were a how-to guide.

Here goes!
(It's cool because everything was uploaded in the opposite order I wanted.)

Light behind the mask to show the cut out eyes.

I took that dremel tool to the mask and cut out the eyes. It was hard work, and actually kind of scary. Almost right away I lost control of the tool a bit and nicked the side of the eye on the right. It seemed like after that, nothing would cut as smoothly as I wanted it to. The eyes turned out quite a bit shorter than I wanted them to, since the dremel couldn't make holes small enough to reach the very edges of the design. I think it still looks pretty great.

Close-up of my handy work, showing the nicked eye and mask thickness.

I decided that I wanted to paint the inside edges of the eye holes black to reduce any glare on the wearer. Doing that turned out to be an awesome idea aesthetically, because it made it seem like there was no edge to the eyes. They were just black shapes on the mask, but with an eery feeling of depth...

Tape around the front of the eyes, ready for painting.

I put tape on the front of the mask over the holes to make sure I wouldn't accidentally paint over the edge. It worked really well, but any little nicks or chips I caused with the dremel got filled in a little bit with black paint. It was nothing too serious, though.

Detail of the opposite side of the mask, with freshly painted eyes and tape still applied.

In that last picture there are a lot of deep crags in the mask. That's because I covered my mask form with plastic wrap to make sure it would pop out without problems. You can also clearly see the yellow spots that plague my mask. Next time I'll use the right kind of flour.

The otherworldly abyss of the keaton's gaze.

I hadn't marked where I would paint the ears yet, so I did that after I painted the eyes. I love this clay material because it is mostly just paper. I can use a pencil to draw on it no problem, and so long as the area is smooth it will erase pretty well. I just have to be careful not to touch the pencil markings, because it will smudge off.

First coating of yellow paint.

I put very little effort into staying inside the lines when I painted the very first layer of yellow. I knew it would go on thin enough that I could still see my pencil underneath, and that the black paint would easily cover its color. Unfortunately, the paint was also thin enough that you could still see the yellow spots underneath. I ended up with 2 and a half coatings of yellow paint. The third coat I just kind of put paint wherever I thought the spots still stood out without any regard as to whether the paint had dried there yet or not.

Black parts all painted.

The black was fun to paint with because it went on with such a solid color, but that also meant I had to be really careful to make nice edges. If there's one thing I learned from painting the garage however many summers ago, it's that a wet brush will make the sharpest lines. If there isn't enough paint on your brush, your edges will get thready, and your lines will be wobbly as a result. A steady hand was important to make good lines and edges on this mask, because I couldn't use painter's tape. The surface had far too many imperfections.

Black cloth stretched and taped over the eyes.

When you put the mask on and breath, all of the air comes rushing in through the eye holes and right into your eyes. I found that out shortly after cutting out the eyes and I sucked an nice big cloud of mask dust right into my eyes. I also didn't want the flashes of any cameras going off and illuminating the face behind the mask, ruining the illusion of painted-on eyes. So I put a black material behind the eye holes to catch most of the wind and block most of a camera's flash. The material is really opaque, but very stretchy. If you stretch it tightly both ways, you can see through it well enough to read the expression on a person's face, but text messages and digital clocks are a different matter.

Felt lining in place.

I spent a lot of time cutting out pieces of black felt and getting it to fit snugly inside the mask. Then I used a felting needle to make it one nice, big, form-fitted piece of felt. It fits pretty well, except I couldn't get it to go all the way into the deep nose. It'll be fine, so long as nobody tries to punch a finger through it. It won't be a big deal if they do, though. I'll just be irritated because it was a lot of work.. I also made sure to cut out eye-holes in the felt. Those were seriously last second, I forgot that sometimes people need to see.

I haven't glued the felt in yet, which is a really good thing because I have just now realized that I haven't sealed it yet. I'll want to do that soon, because the felt will collect moisture from your breath, and then hold it against the mask for a long period of time. That might make all of my handy work mushy and terrible. I'll have to take the black cloth out, though. What a pain, it was difficult to get in there, what with the stretching and the taping.

I need to figure out a way to attach the strap. I decided on this nice length of black suede I've got, which goes nicely with the theme of black I have going on inside the mask. What I want to do is glue it so that it runs as a band along the inside of the mask, just above the eyes, but I can't find a glue strong enough that will be safe to breath. What I don't want to do it drill holes, because that will mean that I have to make ugly knots on either side of the mask with the strap. There isn't enough room inside to hide the knots, so they would have to go on the outside.

What I think I will end up doing is taping the strap down nice and firmly where I want it along the inside, maybe with some white glue underneath, and then drill holes and thread it through there. I'll loop the strap through the holes a second time, to give reinforcement and prevent it from getting so tight that the tape lifts out. If that gives me trouble, then I can just pull the strap out and do the big ugly knot thing.

Alright! I am almost done. Just a little bit left to go!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Strange Settings

You can see how much the ears have improved in this picture, compared to the last one. That's from all the "filling" I did. Unfortunately, I think I might have ruined the perfection of the face part a bit trying to fill it all. Oh, well, I am done fussing so much over smoothness. I'll just have to apply a thick layer of paint, I guess.

I can safely say that the clay has completely dried by now. I thought it was dry a couple days ago, when I took the form out of the back. But I have since learned and grown as a person. Back then, I was afraid to lift it by the ears. Now, I think I could swing it around by the ears and use it to kill zombies and it won't so much as chip. This clay has dried to be really, ridiculously hard. I talked to my dad about it a bit today, after using a really pathetic and weak grinding tool I have to determine some eye holes. All he could do was say "Drywall is really hard. Drywall is hard." and then pull out his proper grinding tools and show me how to use them, so my work might go a little easier.

I think they are called dremel tools, actually. Not grinding tools.

Griffin more or less requested that I make it possible to see through the mask, and I told him I'd see what I could do, but no promises. And that's exactly how I went about determining eye holes--No promises. I first made a sort of bad attempt and figuring out where my eye are on the back of the mask. I marked it with X's, and then drilled part way through the mask on top of those X's. This way I could shine a light through the holes in the back of the mask, and the front would glow in those spots, but there would be no actual markings on the front. Then I marked on the front of the mask where I wanted the eye holes to go, using the glowing spots as guides. You see, earlier I wasn't sure if my eyes would in any way line up with the eyes on the front of the mask. I thought the mask sat too high on the face to do that. But the spots I marked are at just about the thickest part of the mask's eyes, so everything worked out perfectly. It just won't offer a very wide field of vision, or a very clear one for that matter. So I wouldn't suggest wearing this while driving, or crossing traffic, or while standing in a place crowded with people whose eyes are at the same level as the tips of the ears.

Tomorrow I want to even out the design of the eyes a little more, and then use the dremel to cut them. Then I will use the dremel to smooth and even out the edges of the mask, to give it a really nice and professional (and not absolutely shoddy) look to it. Sand it, paint it, waterproof it, line it, strap it, done. Oh, I guess I'll also have to drill holes for the strap. I guess it's time to get that part figured out.

I'll tie a strap around it tomorrow and see if I can whip my face about without it sliding off. Your face goes really deep into it, so I'm not too worried about balance and things like that. Just a way to make the strap nice and tight and still be comfortable. Maybe a ribbon. Maybe elastic attached to a leather belt-like thing, like my monogoggle. Maybe just a thin leather strap that you tie, because I have a lot of that lying around. Maybe Velcro. So many choices!

Okay, maybe not Velcro.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I didn't get to work on the mask at all today because it was raining (boo). All I want to do right now is sand it with the fine sand paper, and then decide where to cut it and stuff. Then sand it more. Paint it. Finish it. Love it. Cuddle it. You know the drill. I need to go out and buy some thin black fabric to put on the opposite side of the eyes. I don't really know what sort of fabric to use, so I hope that whatever I choose works out well. And then dad wanted me to get a gift card for a friend of his, so I guess I will go do that tomorrow. Especially if it is rainy.

You know what? Google is my worst enemy when looking up mask making technique things. Unless I want to make a mask out of a paper plate, that is. I feel like there is a lot of information out there that just isn't accessible unless you are willing to spend a lot of money or apprentice or are just super serious about it in some way.

I went to the dentist today. I don't think a trip to the dentist has ever taken so long for me. It was over two hours long. To be fair, it was a new dentist for me, so I guess there was a lot of stuff they had to do as first time patient things. But looking back, most of it seemed really routine. I hope it doesn't take that long every time. Anyways, I went in because of a pain in my tooth. It's been there for a really long time, but I haven't been thinking about it because for the past few years I've associated all dental pain with my braces. But my braces are off now, and the pain is still there. As it turns out, the root of one of my teeth has deteriorated and broken, and I will probably need a root canal. She referred me to another doctor who is better at this sort of stuff.

It makes me a little sad that there are even more problems with my teeth. Most people just have to worry bout keeping them clean to avoid cavities. Me? Pfft, keeping them clean is the easy part. In fact, the dentist wouldn't stop talking about how rare it is for her to see patients that actually take care of their teeth as well as I do. No, my worries come from expensive surgeries and rare problems. I just have to endure some serious pain and drugs, everyone else just has to remember to floss and maybe get braces. Uncool, universe, way to screw me over like that.

Today has been full of a lot of emotional ups and downs, and thinking about my teeth has put me in another down. I think I will go eat some ice cream and curl up with a happy TV show. Let's see if I can't get myself out of this funk before I go to bed tonight.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


No new images of the mask today. But that's because there has been no significant visual improvement on it. I sanded it down, kinda, and found out that it sands down to be so smooth you almost think that it is made of silk. It's pretty neat. But the surface of the mask is a little bit lumpy, so there are a lot of divots that are rough and horrible and keep the mask from looking like perfection. I tried to fill them in today, but not with much success. I sanded it down a little bit, but there is a lot more to go. After I finish sanding I will cut holes in it for eyes and for tying on the strings that hold it to your face. And then I will paint it, and then I will line it. And then it will be done.

I foresee a lot of problems happening when I try to line it.

I also haven't put any thought into how it will be attached to a head. Hmm...

I just went ahead and searched up the definition for "divot." I realized that I had never heard the term used by anybody other than me, and I wasn't even sure that I was using it right. I was not. It is what you call the bits of ground that are torn up by a golf club when you swing too low. Now I know. And now I should stop saying divots to describe small impressions in things, because divots are actually dirt.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Driven Sane

Oh man, those ears look so crappy in that picture, how have I not noticed before.

It's dry enough now that I can pick it up and hold it, and that is just plain lovely. The reinforcements I've added to the ears seemed to have worked very well. They stay up without any problems, and I think you could even hold the mask by them if you really wanted to. I wouldn't suggest it, though. Not until it is completely dry, at least.

The clay was taking forever to dry, and I was getting to get a bit worried it would take me a month just to finish it. But then I had a brain wave (the kind that makes you slap your head and go "OH DURR") and started pointing a fan at it. Within just a couple hours the surface was dry enough that I could touch the mask and not stick to it. It is a very tacky clay. I let the fan run for a few hours, but I turned it off when I went to bed. Might as well save energy, y'know?

I was going to put it outside this morning and let it dry in the sun and the wind, but I got very paranoid about the weather. Google says it is supposed to rain a lot today. And there are wet spots outside everywhere. And then I started to notice just how humid it was outside... Yeah. It was outside for maybe 20 minutes before I freaked out and brought it back in.

I just spent some time adding clay to the edges of the mask to smooth them out a little bit. I can't decide if those are going to be the actual borders of the mask, or if I am going to cut into it a whole bunch. I think it'll all come down to how close I want the ears to be to the edges of the mask. Because really, I could go either way right now. The fresh clay has been drying long enough that I can touch it now and not get stuck, but it's still very pliable. I think I will take it all outside in a couple hours once the fresh stuff is ready, and try sanding it a bit. I hope that part works out well, I have never been good at sanding things.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Yellow Coffee

Masks! I tried to make one today. It's drying right now. I'm pretty sure it will take a couple days for it to dry completely so I can paint it. It turned out pretty big! Here, let me show you a picture of it.

This new paper mache clay material is very interesting to work with. I messed up the recipe a little bit, so there are all of these really big yellow and orange dots in the clay, but I'm planning to paint it all yellow anyways, so it's not a problem. I hope it sands down smooth enough, because even in its 'smooth' state it looks pretty rough. The ears look like they're going to be too heavy for the dried clay to hold... I just went back to add some more support to the base of the ears (Which has also made their shape a bit nicer), but I worry that won't be enough. And resting the ears on bowls like that is causing some major indents to show up on their backs. I'm thinking that once everything is completely dry, I will flip it over and work more on the ears. And then wait another day or two for it all to dry. And then finish it. And then maybe do something productive for once.

If this material isn't to my liking, then I want to try plaster strips. It will be very interesting. But I like how I don't have to worry about little bumps or wrinkles in my mask form, or if I decide that the shape just isn't up to snuff, I can change it right then and there. So long as it isn't too dramatic of a change.

Whee! I hope this mask turns out well.