Archive for the General Category

Monster Sculpt!

Posted in Design, General, Halloween, Horror, Masks, Pictures, science fiction, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 26, 2017 by Jim St Ruth

My latest monster mask sculpt!

As usual, this was sculpted in Monster Clay on a Plaster of Paris life cast of my head.

The ring of clar around the edges of the sculpt is flashing and a wall, behind which I’ll build another wall made of water-based clay, before making the mould with plaster.

The cuts with the short slashes across them will be stitched with string once the mask is cast and painted; they’ll be wound stitches.

I’ve got a little more refining to do, mostly clean up… but I’m happy with this for now.

Note On Final Detail:

To create a subtly bumpy surface, I took a makeup sponge and applied a little white spirit (mineral spirits in the US, I think). Then, dabbing all over the sculpt where I wanted this detail, the clay begins to soften, and I just kept going until the texture was right… and stopped before the clay got outright mushy.

If you try this for the first time, be aware that a makeup sponge can hold a lot of white spirit. It’ll easily run down the model, which might not be a problem… but slight glances with the back of your hand can smear previously-created detail. Caution is the watchword.

Painted!

Posted in Design, General, Halloween, Horror, Masks, sculpting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 25, 2017 by Jim St Ruth

So the finished mask came out well, though it was a little rough in places. My basic process is down now, and I know I just need to be a little more cautious when I’m filling the mould with foam. The mask was baked for 4.5 hrs in the end, and I left it to cool well before removing it.

Some pics of the airbrushing and a little stippling, though please note that this isn’t actually affixed to my face, and that there isn’t any makeup on my skin; so it hasn’t been blended in, and the opening around my eyes and mouth are clearly lose.

Cracked Mould… and Repair

Posted in Design, Fantasy, General, Halloween, Horror, Masks, sculpting, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 18, 2017 by Jim St Ruth

Things went far better than my nightmares predicted!

Yet when I tried to pry the mould from the sculpt and its underlying life cast, the damned thing split into four pieces; three large pieces and one sliver along one of the main splits, right between the three pry points that I’d put into my flashing.

The solution was easy, and it’s worked really well:

  • I repositioned all of the four pieces together, which thankfully slotted together with mostly only hairline cracks visible on the inside of the mould. There were some larger chunks missing, creating some small, ragged-edged holes… Also, I realised that one of the nostril cavities had broken off.
  • Using Modroc bandages, I patched across the seam lines, then ran a ring of bandage around the whole of circumference of the mould’s outside, to add further strength. I then let this dry for a good half hour.
  • Mixing small batches of dense plaster, I then filled in the holes and the hairline cracks, only doing an inch or two’s work at a time. Moistening the surrounding plaster first, I applied the new mix, dipping my index finger in some clean water, and using this finger to remove excess plaster. Keeping that finger clean is important:
    • I didn’t want to spread the excess plaster.
    • The mould’s existing plaster soaks up water like a sponge, and this dense plaster is only in small patches, so it dries out  very quickly. A wet finger keeps it damp just long enough to smooth it out and remove any excess.
  • To restore lost wrinkles I used a pen-shaped sculpting tool with a firm, rubberised tip. Repeatedly dipping this in water as I worked on each small section, I was able to ‘sketch in’ in the wrinkles. It’s worth noting that usually I’d have to be aware that I’d be trying to created the inverse of wrinkles; as this is the mould, I’d need to texture in raised lines that would turn into the groves on the final mask. However, the ‘sketching’ I did was only shallow, and it matched the surrounding texture. I was very lucky here; the fine detail I was recreating was already faint lines and groves around where I was patching.
  • I then mixed a small batch of plaster and applied it in a relatively thin layer, around 3-4mm thick, on the whole of the outside of the mould. This covered the Modroc gauze completely, preventing me from snagging it in the future, and giving a little more strength to the patched seams.
  • Once this was dried, I found the broken nostril piece, and used a *tiny amount of superglue to stick it back on. Be careful if you need to do this; you don’t want glue seeping out of the join and into the mould itself. This can retard curing with liquid latex, at least, and leave thin spots in your creations… With foam latex, I’m not sure, but I didn’t want to take the risk. I then smoothed over the hairline joins with plaster, and used plaster to smooth over some ragged parts of the nostril, to reduce the risk of tearing when it comes to taking foam latex from the mould.

So here are pics of the outside and the inside of the mould.

casterinner1castouter1

This is now being left to dry for another day or two before I try and do my second ever run with foam latex… but this time, I’m confident I can reuse the mould for multiple runs, that the mould isn’t going to have to spend an hour in the over getting up to temperature to allow the foam latex to actually bake, and to be damned careful when I’m opening up the mould.

I was too eager. I’ll be more patient in the future. This *is a learning experience, and it’s fun… so don’t panic if this happens to you. Take a step back. Consider your plan of action. Make sure you have everything you need ready for use before you start… and maybe a glass of wine waiting for when you’re finished!

New Sculpt

Posted in Design, Fantasy, General, Horror, Masks, sculpting, Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 17, 2017 by Jim St Ruth
My new sculpt, which is now ready to be cast. The wider strip around the top and back, with the weird-looking bumps, is flashing, which will give me some room to trim down, so an area that can suffer damage both for the mould I’ll create and the final mask. The weird bumpy bits are pry points to cram a chisel into, to get the clay and the life cast out of the mother mould once it’s dry.
 
I’m now getting a little nervous, because this next step (moulding) has been my screw-up point before. *This time, I’ll not make it overly bulky. I won’t use a release agent either, because with Monster Clay that just seems to make the plaster for the mould drip off, allowing air bubbles to form.
 
I think that the thing is that, after seven months of working with Plaster of Paris, I just don’t like it as a material. Its sets too quickly, and my anxiety makes me panic, hence one of the reasons for the screw-ups.
 
So: planning, taking it slowly, don’t make the mould too massive, apply two layers of Plaster of Paris so I can work with it as it’s still a fluid, and apply modroc bandages between the two layers to add strength to my small-mass mould.
smaller1
I’m now working with foam latex, rather than liquid latex… so my last mask failed because my mould was so huge that the latex didn’t cure in the oven. The bake time is 2-3 hours, and I realised that a lot of that time was spent just getting the plaster mould up to temperate… Hence the planned smaller-mass mould this time.
My fingers are so over-crossed that I think I might need surgery.

Mask V2: Paints, Casting and Varnishing

Posted in Design, Fantasy, General, Halloween, Horror, Masks, sculpting, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 27, 2016 by Jim St Ruth

Here’s my finished second mask, painted and varnished!

mask1jimstruth2016

Bob II, as he’s called, was cast in liquid latex in a Platsil Gel 25 mould.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s perfectly possible to cast liquid latex into silicone, but there are some things to be aware of:

  • As there’s no porous plaster mould to absorb the liquid latex’s water, it will take a long time to cure and dry. Bob II took a whole 48 hours in a well-ventilated room. I left it in my work area over night with the window closed, and there was very little change to the curing process by morning – keeping the window kept things moving along.
  • Smaller areas, and areas where the latex has been applied more thickly, will take longer to cure… So, whilst the main body of the mask is fine, you can peer into those horns and see that the latex is still a very obvious white. It will cure. Just leave it be. Don’t be tempted to look; you’ll separate cured latex from non-cured… although this can give you some nice severed horns with suitably ragged edges. Just be careful!
  • The liquid latex won’t work with silicone with the dwell method of casting. Since there’s no plaster, you won’t get a skin forming around your negative. It’ll just sit there. Instead:
    • Get your liquid latex and add some latex thickener – check instructions on the bottle for the right amounts, as too much will just slow the curing process even more.
    • Pour this latex into your mould, but don’t worry about filling it up to the top. Just use a decent amount so that you can slush the latex around in the mould. Swish it around so that it gets to cover every part of the mould, then drain it into a pot.
    • Leave it thirty seconds.
    • Drain it again into the pot. What we’re looking to avoid is pooled latex, which will cure much more slowly. You don’t need to worry about it being a very thin coat. Just be aware of it gathering, and try to drain it. If it does pool in areas that are hard to drain, or there are areas that refuse to be coated, don’t worry. For the pools, use a cotton bud and gently spread the latex out. Don’t push the the latex so that it touches your negative, as this will drag on any latex skin and mush up the detail you’ve spent so much time sculpting.
    • Leave it 5 – 10 minutes. You’ll most likely see gaps in the latex, where the material’s surface tension has pulled the latex away from the underlying silicone. Don’t fret! Leaving the latex for those few minute will have started the curing process a little. It’ll be thicker, but still soft, so don’t touch it!
    • Repeat the process of swishing with liquid latex, sloshing it around so that everything’s covered. My castings have been fine at this point. Those gaps in the latex have disappeared, and everything’s been covered.
    • Drain back into the pot and leave for another while – 15-20 minutes.
    • Repeat the process 3 – 5 more times. You won’t really be able to gauge how thick the latex is but, as long as you’ve not sloshed it around the edges of your positive too much, it should be nice and thin there, and thick enough on the rest of your mask.
      • You’ll need it thin around the edges to blend the mask into your skin – I haven’t blended the mask at all in the picture, it’s just sat on my melon.
    • You might get ridges that do appear to be thinly covered, just dip a cotton bud in latex and lightly drag the bud over them. This will cover them to your satisfaction, though you might need to repeat the process a few times.
      • Very thin areas on the interior of the mask (away from the edges) will tear much more easily when you remove it from the mould.
    • Leave the mask overnight, and carry out a quick visual check the next day.
    • The edges of the mask might start lifting away from the silicone. Lightly dust these edges with baby powder to stop the latex sticking to itself if these edges start dipping inwards/ folding over.
  • The mask is ready to remove when all the whiteness has vanished. Brush the inside with baby powder again, and gently tease the mask out of the mould, limiting how much you pull. I’ve found teasing it out and lightly brushing at any stress points with a large, soft makeup brush that’s been dusted with baby powder helps a great deal – again, it stops the latex sticking, and the bristles will help detach the latex from the mould in a very gently fashion. Work with the shape of the mask, not against it, and don’t hurry! Take your time!

A Quick Note on Painting and Varnishing

I used acrylic paints in an airbrush, thinned with acrylic thinner for air brushes. You can use water as well, but that tends to make it much thinner, and getting that particular mix right is difficult. If you spray with it being too fluid, it’s easier to get unwanted spatters.

I didn’t bother sealing the mask first, which is fine, but there’s another note for caution. If you don’t seal it and your airbrush is at a higher pressure, it will blast into the mask, creating little tears and open bubble formations. You can choose to seal with a 50/50 mixture of Prosaide (a medical-grade adhesive) and water. Apply this gently with a sponge, to prevent unwanted stippling and brush strokes on your mask.

The finished paint job will need sealing, as although the acrylics will stick, if you accidentally scratch them, they will peel. The acrylics will also be liable to damage by UV light, making the colours fade over time.

Varnishing works to solve this. Both Liquitex and Golden make varnishes for acrylics, in both matt and gloss. Just make sure you get one that sets to transparency. They’ll make your colours really pop, keep your paint safe from scratches and stop them fading.

Bob II was varnished with Golden Polymer Medium (Gloss) in a thin layer.

You can clean your brush with plain water if it’s still wet, too – bonus!

Writing: Fear of the Second Novel

Posted in General, opinion, Personal Development, writing with tags on March 2, 2013 by Jim St Ruth

So I like to write. I’ve written one book, Darkness Fell and the Demon’s Sceptre. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve even managed to sell to a few people that I don’t know and had my first royalty cheque (£10.71 doesn’t sound like much, but believe me it’s a huge confidence booster)… but the tales of other authors abound. The fear of the second novel looms and, if I’m honest, for a long while I was trapped by it.

Many people say that the second novel is the hardest. Why wouldn’t it be? You’ve invested a huge amount of your time and emotional energy in completing your first big story… When you finish you feel tired. Big Nap Tired. Several days are spent napping and dreaming of the future. You’ve published your first work on Amazon, iTunes or used Smashwords to handle the whole caboodle. You’re trying to plan your marketing strategy and, if like me, you’ve only the internet to guide you. You’re feeling positive. You’re on a high… and at the back of your mind you’re yearning to get started on your next writing project; another novel that you either just want to get out there or dream that it could one day top the best-seller lists on every marketplace you could ever dream of… but wait. You’ve got some ideas. You’re full of energy. Where do you begin with your next project?

This is a tale of caution, dear reader. I’m sure that it’s one that anyone who has written over a hundred thousand words of anything can relate to. This is not a tale of fear…. it’s one that, I hope, can be of aid to others and, if not, what the hell is the point? I say that with a distinct LOL, but the point is serious.

A brief, I promise you, background. I suffer from mild schizophrenia. I hear voices. I hate crowds, though I love the people in them. I shop at quiet times and hope to high heaven that the gym is quiet when I go there in the mornings. I would never harm another person. My mental state is frightening to me but, to my psychiatrist, I’m very able, not matter how or why or when or where I try to reason the details of the mental state that I’m in. When I last saw him – they’re on a six month rotation, so always new but he put it more clear than most – he looked at my Amazon web page for Darkness Fell, read the reviews and said I’d achieved quite a lot for someone with ‘my condition’. He offered to host a free version in the hospital’s library, citing reasons of encouragement to people that were struggling with similar conditions. I honestly thought ‘F*** me’ and decided it was a good idea… but the reasons behind his comment really struck home. I’d written a novel. I’d succeeded in ignoring my voices and trying to reason away their terror to achieve something that I’d always wanted to achieve.

I came home and thought. A lot. I dreamt. I enthused. I sat and thought about my next work… and almost eight moths later I was still struggling with what to do, and more importantly how to do it.

If you’re a writer, you’re aware of the power of nuance. You know that you have an idea but there are seemingly infinite ways to describe and actually write those ideas down and turn them into gripping works that will enthral even, at the least, just a single reader. You want others to be captivated. To read. To buy. To rave. To… simply just enjoy.

This is where we return to my point… you’ve done that first book and, no matter what your state of mind, I think this is highly cromulent… for, riding on that high of self-publishing, you want to continue… and that’s where the cautionary aspect of my tale kicks in.

I had lots of ideas for my second book. I story-boarded. I mind mapped. I filled countless pages of A3 paper with ideas and tried to whittle them down into something useable. There was nothing wrong with that approach. I got a lot from it… what did it was that I was so eager to continue on my high that I jumped in and started writing.

That might work for you… It didn’t for me. I wrote my starting chapter all full of energy and convinced that what I was doing was right… then I rewrote it. And rewrote it…. and rewrote it again. As of January 2013 I’d been through six months worth of re-writes, headaches, too-long napping filled with stress and worry that I wasn’t good enough to do anything else. I was always meant to improve as a writer, yet now I was stuck. Nothing I did felt right. It wasn’t good enough for me… How would it ever turn into something that I could publish, be happy with and say ‘Yes! I did that!”

My views on achievement are simple: I’m now thirty-seven, but I’m still alive. That might be a tad negative for some, but I find it’s a very soothing measure of gain; my worries pale into insignificance compared to some, but if you’re still here then that’s a biggun. You should feel proud. Life has its ups and downs and if you make it to whatever age you’re at… you’re a winner. Plain and simple.

So I went back to the drawing board. I tried to focus on what I was achieving… and went back again,

then,as if my magic, my partner Paul said a few and, frequently I kick myself for not listening to him, wise words: your first chapter has to achieve three things. You have to grab the reader (duh!). You have to establish sympathy for your main character (OK, I thought, Professor Edward Grimly-Knight is X Y and Z) and you have to demonstrate your premise… the evolving, as you initially approach it, formulae of X does Y to do/overcome Z… and it hit home. Then, just as Paul was uttering the words ‘and always you should signpost the rest of the book’ the thought hit me… Bam! Like a Spice Weasel.

Your inciting incident is always important. It does all of the above and leads into everything that follows… yet I realised the crucial point. In Darkness Fell I’d actually started at what is now Chapter Four – the first point at which my imagination as a writer had first been gripped. I loved the scene where Darkness had examined the threat posed to her. I’d written it enthused with her character… and why the hell shouldn’t I approach my second book in the same way?

In my enthusiasm to repeat my meagre success I had launched into what I love: writing… but I had missed that vital energy. That one scene that somehow highlighted everything that I wanted to achieve… and it’s so I present to you the similarly meagre words that might help focus your mind and help prevent you from falling into the Second Novel Trap.

  • What is your your premise?
  • How do you grab you’re reader’s attention?
  • How do you instil, in you’re reader’s mind, sympathy for your main character/s?
  • How do you sign post the other events in your story?

The answer, for me, was to produce a very long treatment. A treatment should normally be concise and be only three or four pages long… That isn’t what I’m doing. What matters is that you consider what is right for you. You might start at page one. You might start at page eighty-six. You might just stick some much-valued posts in the sand and say that those key points are what your story will hinge around.

What matters is that you take a step back and consider what really energises you… for therein lies the secret. You’ll not only not be held back by pre-conceived ideas or the details of your own expectation… you’ll remain free. Freedom is the ultimate weapon of the writer. By all means, and ultimately it’s a must, you should bare in mind your target audience… but damn it, write and plan and theorise what ever gets you going. Don’t be held back by the pressure of trying to repeat what you’ve done. Every work you do, no matter how small, is worth every one of the thousands of words you produce.

Just take a step back. Consider the points above. Think about the mood of your work and revel in it… for when your imagination gets going, no matter how that might be… you’ve got it.

Just don’t be limited by what you perceive or remember as what has come before. You’re fluid and your work is. Believe in yourself and don’t give up…

Your imagination is worth it.

ZBrush Panel Loops: A Saviour For Vehicle Concepting in ZBrush?

Posted in 3D, Design, General, Pictures, science fiction, scifi, Tutorials, zbrush with tags , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2013 by Jim St Ruth

I’ve got to be honest, I love to work on concept vehicles in ZBrush. It’s easy, quick and gives an artist a huge amount of freedom to develop and change a model without getting bogged down in polygon edge flow, smoothing, creasing and… well, you get the point. It saves a lot of time and hassle, and allows you to produce some really nice work.

Being just as honest, though, I’d almost given up on it. The work is always high polygon, and I always want to take the work into Maya for extra detailing, texturing and rendering: extracting a door from the model, for example, but leaving the edges of the extracted pieces nice and smooth, but low enough in polygons to easily go in and extract edges for body panels around windows, or to have enough, low-resolution pieces to start extracting out the interior of the vehicle. ZBrush didn’t give me that, and drawing new topology over old pieces just left me frustrated and, occasionally, pretty depressed.

Pixologic released ZBrush 4.5 last week, though, and it introduced some cool new features. The most useful for me, that I’ve looked into so far, addressed a lot of the above concerns… and maybe saves me from frustration and hours that seem to produce no solutions.

Click on the image below for a rough guide to Panel Loops, from base sculpt to individual body panels, with nice edges, tight corners and useful geometry, all with a reasonably low polygon count.

ComptTest1JimStRuth2013