Saturday, September 13, 2014

Second Skin - Rubber Mask Making

Greetings Earthlings. It's a very busy time for me so I apologize for the blogging postponement. I have been shipping out some art and have 2 shows lined up for October and one in September - more info about that toward the bottom. Anyway, I begin this new edition with my process for making a latex mask of one of my characters.

The first things you'll need is a form to sculpt on. Fortunately I have a headcast that I can use for this process.

First, I drilled a hole in the lifecast nose and inserted a piece of brass stock to support the clay nose. Then I cut some WED clay into slabs and slapped it on the head cast. I used a small mallet to pound the edges even and begin the basic form.

I placed some scrap round stock (the black bars) where my eyes are on my lifecast so I could design the sculpture around eye holes for me to see out of. I used a rake tool to chop the clay down and even out the form. 

Next, while still in a rough form, I began to add some details to the ears, eyes and mouth. 

At this point I was still unhappy with the head shape - you must sacrifice a lot in order to make this mask wearable by a human being. I wish I could stretch my neck so it matches my artwork better. 

Now I begin to smooth out the surface and refine the details, not that my design is highly detailed. The magic will be in the paint job. 

Ok, smoothed him. Added a mole or two as well.

Now to build the dividing wall in order to mold the mask in two halves. I used White Clay to make the dividing wall, remembering to add keys so each half of the mold will always fit together correctly and in the same position (the keys are place atop and next to each ear on the dividing wall).

Now comes the fun part. I laid the bust down on a piece of foam (in a plastic bag) and dribbled an intial splash coat of  Hydrocal plaster onto the sculpture. This is to ensure the mold captures all of the detail of the sculpture. (yeah, right. What detail?) 

I built up the stone up to an inch thickness and let it solidify and set. I had my first half of the mold!! Then I removed the clay dividing wall so I could do the same thing to the other side. Below is a view of the back side of the head that has yet to be molded. I painted on a layer of petroleum jelly onto the plaster wall and proceeded to splash more Hydrocal onto the back side. (I could'nt lay the mold down on it's face because the nose is so huge!)

Next I pried apart the two halves and you can see all of the WED clay stuck in the mold. Yay, I get to spend a good 30 minutes digging out that long clay nose!

Luckily, a lot of it came out in one big chunk. Unluckily, the muzzle of the face and the long, long nose didn't. I used a wood tool to scrap out the rest (a wood tool so it wouldn't scratch the surface of the mold) and then blasted it with a water hose to dissolve the water soluble WED clay to drain out of the deeper areas.

After it was finally cleaned out I cast it in slip rubber latex. I did not fill the mold with latex and let it set, which is the common practice. Instead, and to make it easy, I just slushed a layer of latex, poured out the excess and let it drain. I let it set an hour, then repeated the process slushing a second layer of latex. When the excess drained I then let it set over night. The next evening I pried apart the two mold halves once again to reveal the latex mask.

My next step was to trim off the flashing around the seam and the neck openng. Then I cut out some holes so I can breath and see, not to mention hear! Have mercy! A mask is a big rubber bag you slip over my head after all!

Did I mention that I made two different versions of these things?

Next, I completely removed what was left of the seam line, which is where the latex leaked between the two halves of the mold when it was closed. I did this with a rotary tool and a fuzzy drum bit, lightly grinding the excess latex flashing away and being careful not to sand too deeply into the surface. From that point I mixed some rubber cement with oil paint and went ahead and painted the masks with a predetermined base color. This base coat seals the mask and when that's fully dry I then airbrush some of the color using acrylic inks.

(if you ever paint with rubber cement, NEVER do this indoors! I made the base coat by thinning rubber cement with it's appropriate solvent and then mixing in some oil paint for color and thinning that. One important thing, apply the base coat with a brush.)

I added some more rubber cement paint tinted red to the nose, eyelids and lips to ensure you will never see the latex color if those points become worn.

Finally, I got to the actual painting phase. I added some refinement by airbrushing some acrylic inks. I may add a bit more. It's funny how toy-like these masks look. 

Almost done! For the final step I used sil-poxy (a clear & flexible silicone adhesive) to gloss the eyes and give them a more 'life-like' look. It's clear, glossy and flexible. Below you can see the eye holes I cut out where you can see out of the mask.

So thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the birth of these masks. They will be available for sale at Hallowbaloo this month, along with some of my other work. Click the link below for more info!

As October approaches I'll provide more info for my other shows (including my Australian debut!)


Please check out Jordu's work at Schell Sculpture Studios. He also teaches classes if you're interested!