Sunday, October 11, 2015


Welcome Ghouls, Goblins and occasional Zombienosers!

I've got a real treat for you - I hope. May I present...

Yep, the hookah king in the flesh, ...well, not exactly flesh. He's made of a combination of several materials - I got creative with some help from Home Depot. So grab a paper and pad, there will be plenty of notes to jot down on this one. I hope you'll enjoy....

T'was a dark and stormy night...

Not really. It was the middle of a sweltering summer. Anyway, after my Wizard of Oz series I had planned on doing a series of fairytale characters for quite a while, but this was one I particularly was looking forward to. Last year I had made my version of the Cheshire cat, named "Scruffy" and this was its follow up.

So I started with the large mushroom that the character would sit upon. I cut a short wood block and circular piece as a base armature for the mushroom.  I then proceeded to use "Great Stuff" gap filling spray foam to create the mass of the mushroom's top. You can find this at most home improvement stores like Home Depot.

Below you can see how high it foamed up after I left it alone for an hour or so.

I used a long razor blade and cut the foam into a mushroom shape. It's really a quick and cheap way to build mass. Then I screwed a hole through the bottom of my plaque base and screwed the stem to it. Easy!

Next I drilled a hole through the foam and into the wood stem. Then I jammed a thicker guage armature wire in it and secured it with 5 minute epoxy. I bent the wire forward and positioned it where the torso would sit then sprayed more foam to create the body and tail of the caterpillar.

Since I knew I would attached the arms and head later, I needed to shield part of the wire so I had room to attach them. I simply taped a paper towel around it so the foam would rise beyond that point.

I had the head already sculpted and set it on top after I carved down the foam a bit. It needed more refinement, which you can see below.

When I got it close, I attached the head to the armature that ran through the entire piece and also added some epoxy putty to attach the armature for the arms. He looked pretty wimpy at this point, but I knew I'd be adding some more material to bulk him up a bit. After that, I sealed the foam with an epoxy resin, which would also help to re-inforce the solidity of the piece and make it durable (pictured below, right).

I next cut some soft polyurethane foam and made a form for his chest and upper arms, added his hands (which are made from Sculpey and got a little too hot when baking) and slipped on his would-be sleeves for the hippy outfit I had planned. I was happy and satisfied with the results so far. 

To smooth out the sharp cuts on the foam I glued some panty hose around his belly and torso. It created a funny little collar that I left on longer than I had to because he was looking rather snazy. The black paint on his face is just to fill in the deeper crevasses.

At this point I gave him a preliminary base coat paint job. Then I pulled the panty hose over his head for protection from more foam work I would do. I added folded cardstock paper to act as gills for the mushroom and secured with more Great Stuff foam around the edge of it.

The next step was to even out a lot of the uneven surface. To start this, I added a layer of bondo over the body and mushroom then began the tedious task of sanding. 

Once I got it smooth I went ahead and based out the color, first on the body and hands, then on the mushroom. This allowed me to clearly see how rough it still was and I had to go ahead and add some spot putty to repatch some of the more offensive areas (and I don't mean his private parts). You can see the miniature hookah I built on the bottom right photo.

You know, after a day of sanding you really begin to hate life. This is what led me to go ahead and do the final paint job on Leopold's head. The result was encouraging so I decided I would keep the sanding hell going all the way to the finish line. This revealed some more touch up work I had to do to smooth out the body and mushroom. I used spot putty for these minor adjustments. I also went ahead and drilled a depression in the mushroom where I wanted the hookah to sit coiled in his tail.

After this I went ahead and based out the body and the mushroom again to see how it was looking. I painted some test patterns on his back because at this point I wasn't sure what kind of pattern to use. I also finished the paint job on his hands. I was working on several pieces at the same time so that's why you see the guy in the yellow bunny suit laying in the picture. His name is, "Skippy". 

So I went ahead and painted his body, still knowing I would have to refine the pattern on his back (which is my Zombienose moniker). The next step was to start adding his little hook feet and the grass on the artwork's wood base. I made the little feet with Magic Sculpt and also beefed up his chest a bit with it. Using Magic Sculpt I made little mounds on the base and pushed plastic grass into them. I also drilled a small hole in the base and slid a plastic flower in to fill out the scene. 

Finally, I was reaching the home stretch with this project. Around this time I decided I wanted him to wear a hippy shirt with some kind of vest as he was toking away on his hookah so I enlisted help to fabricate this. The shirt was fitted and looked good, but because the fabric was sheer the arm forms needed to be constructed to hide the armature wire. I painted his chest up to match to his head and body. I also started applying some red paint to the mushroom and blackened the base to visualize the completed piece. 

Once again, I was satisfied with the progress and relieved it would soon be finished. I added a bit of gravel and painted some spots on the mushroom head before I moved on to a set of glasses for my new friend. I made them simply and quickly using these metal curly trinkets I found at Joann's Fabric and Craft store. You'd be surprised at how much frustration can motivate your progress! Anyway, I just cut out the curly middle portion and bent the loop. I also found a bag of doll googly eyes, which I used for the lenses of the glasses.

To fit them I modeled the earhooks with Magic Sculpt and glued each side on before I bent an extra curve to use at the nose piece. The plastic doesn't actually magnify his eyes but the curvature distorts them enough that it appears to. 

Unfortunately, I didn't document the Hookah build as thoroughly as I should have. The base and body were simply made with miniature ceramic and glass bottles that were permanently attache together. The top portion was made with a couple of 1/12 scale plastic drinking glasses glued end to end. The flower dish was in a pile of trinkets I had and the finishing touches were done with other parts like the ball chain made for ID bracelets used for the trim. Looking down upon the caterpillar, you can also see the details of the pattern I painted on his back. Note: the hookah is NON-functional!

Nearly complete, I simply added more gravel by applying 5 min epoxy to the base and tossing the gravel onto it. I painted it to break up the color and added a few pebbles and rocks too. The final touch were the drawer handles I added in order to lift the artwork without actually touching any of the details. 

And finally... after all of that.... it was done. Don't smoke or you'll turn blue, kids.


Here's the video:


Also, please feel free check out my friend's short film on Youtube: