Saturday, January 16, 2016

Grimlock Manor Home Haunt video for 2015!

Hi Frightners.

Better late than never!

Here is my 2015 Home Haunt video. Hope you enjoy!


Grimlock Manor 2015 Haunt Video.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Starting Madame Leota

Hello Fright Fans!

So I just posted about over analyzing your art and in that post I spoke about a project where I did just that, my Madame Leota Sculpt which is going to be used for my Madame Leota Tombstone prop this year.

I wanted to post some pictures of the beginning stages of the sculpt so you can see the process. You will see where I started then kind of peeled back and re-started and where I am with it right now. The 2 biggest issue I was having with it were the eyes and the hair. I eventually went out and bought some wooden balls from a craft store to place in as the eyes and work around and I have found it has helped tremendously however, the eyes are still slightly too close to one another. I pretty much left it as is and continued to push forward with the sculpt.

The hair was my other issue. I keep looking at it from all angles and am trying to get it to match the reference picture the best I can. I think I left it in a place where I am starting to like it but I still have some ways too go with it.

My set up is not the best but I am learning a lot with this one as I move along. I was hoping it was going to make it into the 2015 display but I started it a bit too late. The goal is to finish the sculpt and mold and cast this in a lightweight resin which I can mount on the tombstone I make for her.

Leota's stone has moving eyes at the actual attraction but my prop will just be a static prop. I may fool with the idea of creating a projection of moving eyes because it's within my comfort zone to give that a try but with many other prop build on my list for 2016 it may have to wait.

If you have any questions with what you see please let me know and I will do my best to answer them. I am no prop and simply at a novice level but I am happy to share what I have done to this point and what has worked and not worked thus far.

I hope you enjoy these initial pictures and as I progress up to the final look I will continue to share all the progress.

Back to work!


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Over analyzing your art.

Hi Frightners!

Today I wanted to write a little about over analyzing your art because I find it to be something I have done way too much of in the past and it is often the reason I find myself with a million projects that I start and stop and often times never finish.

I supposed I can put this either in terms of being and artist in general or in terms of being a home haunter because I think both will slightly vary but for today I will focus on the home haunter aspect of over analyzing what we create.

Most every home haunter starts by purchasing props to create a scene with at their home for Halloween and each year we add a little more then a little more until we realize we have been bitten by the Halloween bug and no store bought prop can help us materialize our every creative idea so we force ourselves to being making the props we want or need to create the scenes we had envisioned in our sick  and twisted minds!

It is important to remember at the very point we set out to create our very own hand made props that everyones level of artistic abilities is different and you cannot let any one image or video you see of a prop similar to the one you want to build be the reason you slow up progress on yours. It is always a learning process and that process needs to develop over time.

What tends to happen to me is that I see someone building the exact same prop I would like to create and I begin to analyze their prop vs mine. Shortly after I begin to ask myself various questions such as "why does my detail not look the same?" or "does my paint job make it look realistic enough?" I begin over analyzing everything I am doing and begin questioning everything I had planned too do. Will it be good enough? Is it good enough? These are the questions that begin to form in my head. I become so consumed with it needing to be exactly like the reference I saw that I do not even bother to work on it any more.

I recently began working on a Madame Leota Tombstone prop in which I am sculpting her face while looking at reference pictures of the original. Shortly into the process I got the feeling that it wasn't looking right and I needed to step back and rethink what I was doing. I ended up scraping the sculpt and starting over. As I got into the sculpt the second time around now taking a new direction with it I got the slight feeling the same thing was happening again! I didn't think what I was doing was terrible and liked plenty about it but compared to the picture reference it was not spot on. Here is where I began to over analyze what I was doing. Now I could very well scrap the work which I have done which would amount to maybe 2 hours of my time or I can push ahead and continue and finally I decided to do just that and continue on.

It's always hard to catch perfection. I am not sure you ever can really but you can always continue to better yourself and your skill set and learn from the experience in which case I am learning with this sculpt. My goal now is always to push through and finish and enjoy the fact that I can mark the project as being done and off my list and ready myself for the next. I can always sculpt another Madame Leota in the future and will take this one as my learning project but if I don't finish it I will have nothing to show for the time I did invest and I can never look back and say "wow look how far I have come!"

The moral of the story really is not to over analyze your art. Don't sweat the small stuff and let it hold you back from finishing what you had originally set out to do because after you finish each project you will get progressively better at your craft. You will learn new skill sets, tips and tricks to make you a better artist but that is only by doing and not by staring at a computer screen analyzing what other people are doing.

So go out and get to work on whatever new project or build you have in mind and don't let anything hold you back from creating your next work of art!


Monday, January 4, 2016

Sand casting a skull with kinetic sand.

Hello Frightners!

For some time now I have wanted to give sand casting a try. I first learned about sand casting in the book series created by Lynne and Shawn Mitchell How To Haunt Your House . I had received the first issue of the series as a Christmas gift some years ago and while flipping through it I came across the sand casting tutorial and thought how fun and useful it looked to be especially for casting smaller items.

Fast forward to today and I finally decided to give sand casting a try and I am glad I did! The catalyst for me to finally try sand casting was when my daughter received Kinetic Sand as a gift. The Kinetic Sand doesn't require water, holds it shape very well, and does not stick to anything. After playing around with it for a bit the light bulb went off in my head to give it a try and use it for sand casting.

I won't go into great detail about the process because you can easily look it up on line or check it out in the Mitchell's book but the gist of it is to find an object you want to make a casting of, press it into the sand to get the impression of the piece and fill the impression that has been left with hot glue. Once the glue dries you are left with a casting of the piece.

I choose a small baseball sized skull I had lying around and pressed it's face into the sand. It took about 3-4 glue sticks to fill up the void left behind and ensure that the glue filled it up fully and evenly with the sand leaving the back of the casting nice and flat. I would say about 2-3 minutes later the glue had cooled and I pulled the casting. Originally I had thought that maybe the kinetic sand which normally does not stick to anything would not stick to my casting but there was some slight clean up. I simply used a wood skewer to clean out the sand as best I could then ran the piece under water to get any sand that was left over off. It took a little time but the results (in my opinion) were well worth it.

I made two sized skulls with this method and while neither were perfect representations of the original they were good enough for my intended uses on tombstones and my future mausoleum build. I gave them a quick paint job each by using a base of acrylic black paint then a dry brush of white over top for a stone look.

Overall I would say sand casting is an enjoyable and easy process best served for small items that you may need a few multiples of. Larger castings aren't out of the question but you would have to test melting large portions of glue sticks in a pot for some fast pours because the time it would take to fill up a sand casted mold from a hot glue gun would take more time than this haunter thinks it would be worth.

I would be interested to see what other casting materials could be used using this technique like resins perhaps or various types or rubber or silicone but for the time being hot glue works for me. I would definitely suggest giving  this a try. Even if you don't have anything you really need to cast up at the moment it is still a fun craft to do.

If you happen to give this s try or try other methods please let me know in the comments below and attach some pictures for us to see. Have fun with it and now on to the next creepy creation for the 2016 Haunt Season!


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Building Master Gracey

Hello Frightners!

Today's post is all about my Master Gracey Tombstone Build for the 2015 Haunt.

Now if I have not stated it before I will once more...I love the Disney Haunted Mansion. It has to be the main reason I took a liking to the weird and macabre and a definite reason I love haunting.

Every year that I have done a yard display I have for the most part used the same foam carved tombstones which I created in one night back in 2012. I remember having just moved into our new home and being so excited about creating my first ever scene on my front lawn but all of my older stones were pretty worn out so I bought foam and quickly dremeled various epitaps into each stone, added some rough cracks here and there then furiously painted each. It was so late at night at one point and I had my garage door open while working on adding some highlights with some spray paint that cops had stopped in front of my house wondering what I was doing! It felt funny telling them that I was making prop tombstones for Halloween but they ok have fun shook their heads and drove along.

I made 13 tombstones that year and remember chasing half of them down the block when the winds and rains of super storm sandy came bustling through. At that very moment I vowed that one day I would make durable tombstones that would not only look real but would stand both the tests of time and the crazy weather that we can experience in NJ from time to time.

The years following 2012 I scaled back on using tombstones to go with a more natural look of scarecrows and cornstalks but this year I knew I wanted to bring back the cemetery and I had to begin the task of create a more sturdy stone so I began thinking about how I was going to go about it.

I wasn't really trying to re-invent the wheel since there are plenty of techniques that can be found on line about tombstone prop making but I wanted to think out the process for myself and find a solution that worked best for me. In the end I was going to have to store these things and I didn't ever want to have to make them again so finding the right solution was important to me.

At first I thought about a hollow construction made out of plywood which would make them slightly lightweight but heavy enough that they would not fly away on me. Where I struggled with this design idea was how I would fill in the gaps on the top and sides of the stone. If I made any unique curves I just didn't know how would I close them up. I toyed with the idea of running wood laminate around the outside as well as the possibility of using spray foam and that's where things started to click for me. I would trace my tombstone shape onto wood and cut out the same shape for the front and back then use insulation foam like I normally would to make a tombstone and sandwich it in between both pieces of wood until I got the desired depth I wanted for the stone.

I used the front of the tombstone which I cut from wood as a template to trace and cut out the pieces of foam and began layering or I should say stacking my tombstone sandwich up until I reached my desired depth. Since the foam I was using was older left over foam it didn't cut all that well so the edges were pretty jagged after being cut but that was ok, I was going to use a rasp and sander to smooth the edges out once everything was glued together.

I used a combination of gorilla glue and great stuff foam in between each layer, stacked it all together then set some patio stones on top and left it to dry. Once I was convinced the stone was completely dry I began to sand down the edgesso that everything was nice and even but there were still gaps and cracks and I wanted the sides and top of the stone to be nice, smooth and seamless so next up on my mind was how was I going to fill everything in and smooth it out?!!

When contemplating what I should used to fill in the gaps and cracks on my tombstones edges I thought of multiple ways I could do it from Monster Mud to bondo but ultimately I used what I already had on hand and that was wood filler. I knew it would dry hard so I just said the hell with it and figured this was all trial and error anyways but it worked out quite nice! I spread the wood filer on with a spatula and in areas that weren't as easy I simply used my hands. I would say it took me 2-3 passes with the wood filer before I looked at all the edges and they seemed fully filled in. Once dry I proceeded to sand the sides until smooth. I choose to not fill in the underside of the tombstone with the wood filer and instead seal it off with plywood as well in order for the stone to be able to sit flush on the above ground tomb that I would later build.

The next step (which I should have explained more towards the beginning of the write up) was the epitaph. I was able to find a good copy of the Master Gracey Epitaph online and took that into a computer program I had Illustrator and sized it accordingly. Once sized I printed it out then used the printout to trace and transfer the letters onto the wood. Originally I was going to use a projector to project the image of the tombstone and trace the letters like that but found it to be a bit difficult so I scrapped that idea fairly quickly.

After all the letters were in place I used a dremel and routers bit to router out the letters into the wood. Now I had never really used a router before so it wasn't so easy getting all the letters to be perfect especially in wood so while I wouldn't rule out doing this method again I think I would instead glue a piece of 1" foam to the front wood piece and dremel the words into it just for the ease of doing it because etching out the letters in the wood really took some time and patience but I got through it. Some of the letters didn't come out great but you could read the entire wording and after paint and putting it outside at night I felt the few flaws it did have wouldn't really be noticeable to the average Joe.

The painting process was the easiest part. Time was dwindling down so I knew I wasn't going to be able to match up the paint scheme of the original so I choose to give the stone a black base then bought my ever so favorite stone spray paint which gave it that nice stone texture. To age it up a bit I sprayed on some watered down black paint and dry brushed a few areas with some green and browns. I went back into the type and painted in each letter with black just so they would stand out and poof, just like that the stone was complete!

The next and final task was the above ground tomb the stone would sit on. Now the Disney version is actually quite nice. It is a brick base, the top edges are surrounded by a small black metal gate with golden toppers at each of the four corners and the center is real grass. The stone actually sits at the back end of the tomb in the grass.

How the heck was I going to pull all of this off I wondered?!! My time was very short and to reiterate I was also short on money so I searched around my garage and found left over faux brick siding I had used years ago on the first set of columns I ever built for Grimlock Manor. I also had plenty of spare lumber, green outdoor carpeting and rope so I decided these were the items I would use and all I had to do was find some finials online.

I constructed a frame for the tomb out of some 2 x 2s I had then covered the the front and both sides with the brick paneling but left the back open which I will get to why I did that shortly. I then covered the top of the tomb with a flat piece of plywood. Around the edges I drilled hole to fit in PVC piping which would be my fencing. I added my outdoor grass carpet to the top of the plywood, painted the PVC piping black, added my finials to the top of each PVC pipe then ran rope around each piece of PVC. I had wanted black chain but again just went with what was handy.

Now that most of the tomb was set I drilled 2 holes in the base of the tombstone and to matching holes on the base of the tomb. I inserted PVC into each hole of the tombstone then slide the tombstone into the two holes I drilled in the base of the tomb. This allowed the tombstone to sit very sturdy on the tomb and not be blown over by any strong winds. The PVC was also long enough to slightly stick into the ground under the tomb and having the backside open I was able to adjust everything so it fit nice and snug.

Once it was all in place I attached mini spot lights to the front of the tomb to help highlight the Master Gracey Stone at night. I also used the underside of the tomb to house my sound system and speakers that played my Halloween Atmosphere FX during Halloween night.

Overall it was a long build with many things to learn during the process but it was also a fun build and a prop I was fairly fond with in the end. The great thing is I can still improve upon this prop this year and make it look closer to the original by adding the various pieces I couldn't this year due to time and money but even if I don't it is still a great central piece to my forthcoming Disney Haunted Mansion themed cemetery and one I am finally happy to have built.

Below are all the progress pictures I took during the process. I hope these will help you see the process a little more clearly than maybe I explained it here and of course if you have any comments you may please feel free to leave them in the comments section of this post.

Next up is my build process for my Madame Leota tombstone. This is one I have started but is still unfinished so hopefully I can take you all along for the ride to it's completion.