Sunday, 20 September 2015

Octopus Face Beak Prosthetic

I got a simple brief; Octopus/Cephalopod face, but not a tentacle style Davey Jones or Illithid, no a squid beak, something entirely different.
This was from the same LARP system that asked for an Alien Lamprey Leech Monster over a year before.  So I guess I knew what to Expect.

Turns out Octopi have super weird looking beaks, alien to a anthro human style, but I picked out a few important elements and thought I would blend them into the face design.  And like a bad crafter I didn't sketch it out beforehand.
The important parts that I wanted to capture:
  1. Proper Shaped Beak (Obviously).
  2. Organic Sheath Around the Beak, ribbed for your disturbment.
  3. Flanges expanding from the Sheath to give the impression of expanding into tentacles.
  4. Smooth progression over the face and eyes.
Even with that laid out and sounding fairly complicated, it is mostly simple shapes and smooth surfaces so just a matter of proportions being correct.
This was also the last sculpt before moving house and getting my new beautiful workshop space and setting up my recording rig.

Cheap, disposable male, like all men are to me.
We start!  Basic polystyrene sculpting head, hot glued to an upsidedown Ikea Lazy Suzan, perfectly little makeshift sculpting station.
Also pictured, the important Cup of Tea, my MTG Cublet and my make up, vain thing that I am.

A sculpt in a quantum state.
The basic foundation shape is, well, strange.  This could have gone on to become anything really, and it kind of went on to become the thing that people would have least suspected.
The important part was building up enough area that I can carve the beak out and make a nice junction for the sheath. 
Also trying to find the correct angle so the face looked like it would carry on from the skull rather than just covering over the wearers mouth.



A pretty dramatic step, but it was all kind of done in one go, using a sharp edge to cut out around where I want the sheath to sit and from there it was just smoothing out the beak shape from what was left.  Oh, also building out some of dem pointed cheek bones.


Now the anatomy or detailing, even my own made up stages don't make sense to me sometimes.  
But here we start adding the sharper edges, but literally lubricating my fingers with water and 'pinching' along to create a nice sharp edge.  Then using the sculpting tools to add the creases and being nice and bold gouging out parts and creating some good edges.  
Also creating the proper hook effect around the beak.  Something to remember to do whilst sculpting like this is to add detail under the chin, it's so easy to leave that just plain but you'll regret it later.  You can do this by leaning the Lazy Susan back and resting the back of the head on a piece of foam.

And there's the thing basically done.  It was a fairly quick sculpt, all told, mostly came down to getting the surfaces smooth enough that it looked slick rather than forcing some flavour of texture of on it.
This did involve a lot of water on it, so before I could do the mould making I had to leave it overnight as I like to seal my clay sculpts with a thin layer of varnish to help with demoulding the first time.  And of course, if the clay is too moist it'll still be very soft and therefore prone to accidental interference.






Now for mould making.  
This isn't a conclusive guide as I don't know how much detail is useful detail to go into, but hopefully the photos should be pretty descriptive.  

  • We go from building wall around the sculpt that'll stop the first layer of plaster from dripping off everywhere.  And preparing a good runny mix of plaster. 
  • Then we slowly drizzle the liquid plaster over the mask making sure to capture all the undercuts, get no bubbles and generally capture all details.  I often repeat this stage twice just to be sure, and get nice thick detail layer.
  • Now I add a scrim layer, this is for strength.  The mould is quite likely to have a tough life, so for strength I soak hessian cloth with a thick mix of plaster and layer it over the whole mould, making it MUCH stronger.  It will also mean that the mould will crack rather than shatter if broke.
  • Again, this step was repeated twice just to get the mould super strong, with a lot of plaster over the top.  You can smooth down the outside with water and your hands before the plaster dries to get a nice surface on the outside of your mould that stops the hessian from fraying and getting pulled out.

Then you leave this whole rig overnight to dry, or longer if you can spare, and pry it carefully off your precious sculpt.


It's like a murder scene, as the mould brutally pulls half the face off.
Here's where we skip even more stages I'm afraid.  The mould is pulled off the sculpt, cleaned out with lots of water, a scrubbing brush and just generally has all of the mud scoured from it ... though not too hard, as you may lose detail.
Then I tend to varnish the insides of my moulds, to make it easier to get casts out and I feel it helps the moulds last longer.  Of course if your mould is full of some very fine details you may want to avoid this.



AND THERE IS OUR OCTOPUS FACE!
The top set of photos are what I painted the mask up like for the customer and the bottom is what another artist used the mask for at a LARP event called Empire, two totally different uses of the same mask.  I love it.
Also, I'm currently painting one of the masks up as a Parrot Fish as I think it's close enough in appeal to pass for that, which should totally broaden the appeal of a rather niche mask.





If you have any questions about process, think I skipped a stage you'd like to know about or simply have feedback on the article, I'd love to hear it and answer.

Thanks for reading this far through, I hope any of this was useful to you, if it was let me know either here or on my FaceBook page of the same name.



-Vicki
ArmouredBrownies


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