Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sketch of the Day

In trying to improve my all around skill package, I'm learnin' to draw!

I've never been able to traditionally contour, but as of late I realized that my sense of form learned from sculpting traditionally has transferred a bit to 2d shading.

So with that, I'm going to try to do a sketch a day, along with whatever else I'm doing to help the process.  It's not going to be pretty, but I hope that as improve it shows a linear progression of ability.  Onward!

Friday, June 14, 2013


Seems traffic is spiking today, so in case it's not available elsewhere, HERE'S MY PORTFOLIO!  www.cargocollective.com/jaymaloney

Thanks for visiting guys and gals!!  Check back soon for more content.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Laika Creative Challenge - Black and White Movie Monster

Hey there folks!

This month's Creative Challenge from Laika, who you may recognize as the studio that recently completed Paranorman [if you haven't seen it, what are you doing reading this?] was to create a classic black and white movie monster, or create your own.

I decided to take an existing character/setting and put a fun spin on it.  I went with kind of a Marty Feldman/Igor tone.  He's cast in foam latex over ball and socket armature that I machined.  The set is a mixture of floral foam, wire, latex, and Ultracal 30 (kinda like plaster).  I'm pretty rough with digital work right now, so there are some rough spots.  Nevertheless, I tried to replicate the overblown late 30's and early 40's lighting effect.

There he is.  Wolf-pattern baldness, lazy eye.  This guy's got it all.  

For the character, I chose Wolfman.  Specifically, the Lon Chaney Jr. 1941 version.  There's this really iconic shot of him in the woods, with the moonlight blasting him in typical 40's film fashion.  He's kind of hunched over, and its really just an image that's always stuck with me.

I started with the armatures.  I created these using a tutorial I found online.  I found that once you get the exactness down in your planning, there's really a great deal of variability that's afforded to your design.  That being said, I only stuck with one size for this build as I was really keen to just get the very basics.

But there are tons of different joints!  There are hinges, really useful for knees and elbows.  Another type is the Collet joint, which is I believe the most complicated to machine.  Step-blocks are another type.  Just like any job in animation/film, there are a few guys and gals that do this kind of work REALLY well.  Tom Brierton, Tom St. Amand, and Jeremy Spake are a few that I've noticed.

Machining, also is a term that I almost shouldn't even use to describe my work here.  The action on these is great all around, but I think that doing it on a mill is the completely proper way to go.  These were done on a drill-press, and while are sufficient for this project wouldn't fly on a long term shoot.  I'll get a hold of a mill someday!

Anywho.  Now that the armature was done, I wrapped it in plastic wrap and began the sculpture.  I used monster clay, which behaves a little bit like wax when it's cold, and is really formable when warm.  I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I prefer it to Chavant medium.  [Actual wax however is great stuff for faces and hands!]

 In the finishing process, I forgot the snap final sculpt pictures.  Sorry about that.

On to molding!  Here is my lay-up for the little guy.  This is a very important part of any creation process, and one that people sometimes overlook because, it's not a very exciting portion.  However it's so important to have a great mold because that's going to dictate your eventual seam line, and eventually, its inherent believability as a character.  Plus, I'll admit it, I like making dividing walls.

After the mold was completed and prepped for casting, I prepped the armature by cleaning off the clay and plastic wrap, and re-wrapping it again.  I had to make sure it wasn't so tight as to impede the action of the joints but also not loose as to let foam latex inside.

After that I positioned the armature within the rear half of the mold, making sure it was exactly in the middle. For my next project, I'll mold the hands/feet/head aside from the body, and use the remaining limbs as locking points within the mold for the armature.

After prepping the mold with release, I ran the foam latex and injected it behind the armature with a syringe.  Quickly I got it in the other half of the mold and snapped it all shut, tightening with a strap.

Then it's into the oven, which currently doubles as a clay-warmer and curing station for urethane plastics here at work.  I believe I baked at 185 for nearly 3 hours and then turned it off and let it cool.

Here's what I got after demolding/trimming and started to seam.  Seaming is a process where you snip off the excess foam, creating a trench which you fill carefully using thickened medical grade adhesive.  Some people prefer to use more foam latex, and to be honest I've recently been preferring it myself but this time I went with adhesive.

After the seaming was complete, I threw a little paint on the guy using spatter and a base coat, and sealed it up with matte medium.

Hair time!  Fur applications are a weak point of mine, as while I'm not bad at ventilating hair pieces, I'm not too hot at punching hair.  Definitely something I'd like to improve upon.

This hair is hand-laid, which looks good, but wouldn't do very well on set.  Additionally, there would be a good amount of "crawl," which is the king-kong like ruffling of fur that is a result of the animator handling the piece and disturbing the fur.  The fabricators on "Fantastic Mr. Fox" dealt with that to a degree using some creative solutions, but it's still apparent.  [Something director Wes Anderson actually preferred from an aesthetic standpoint].  Me, personally, I kind of like it.  It's stop-motion, these are puppets after all.  That's part of the beauty.

I realize I'm going to get some criticism for the lack of head-fur, but that was the intention since the beginning.  I wanted him to be "off," and utterly ridiculous looking.

I set up a few saw horses, and screwed some plywood on top to secure it.  The foam markers are just to get an idea of where trees will go, in relation to the puppet.  As you can see, I started fabrication of the set at the same time the puppet was being finished.

After playing around with the perspective a bit, I settled on these locations!  I secured armature wire into the floor with glue and epoxy putty on the bottom, and set about creating the main limbs in interesting shapes.

I also started marking off some of the other items and locations, keeping the actual location of the puppet more or less fluid.  I ended up having to change that up at the very end as the perspective just wasn't jiving.

Then it was latex and cotton time.  I actually didn't need to use that much, and the process was sped with the use of a hair-drier.  

Now we're getting somewhere!  I used a little fake greenery used in model sets, trying to keep to perspective as well as I could.  Fun fact, Super 77 sprays out WHITE, which is fun when you're applying it after you've already painted the majority of the trees.  Nothing a little more paint can't fix though.

If you look at the original 1941 image, there's a horse-drawn carriage in the background.  I felt that for some reason, our character needed a tricycle.  Most people won't ever notice it, but it's these small details that make the project in my opinion.

Here we go!

Most professionals use cardboard boxes right?  Right?  "crickets.."

All in all, a fog machine would have been great to have.  I tried using dry-ice, and by the time I had figured out the distancing and temperature, I had run through my supply.  C'est la vie.

As far as post was concerned, I'm not going to lie, I'm not a digital wiz.  Faaaaar from it.  So I called up the heavy artillery, a good friend of mine from Archimedes Media Lab in Austin, and we chatted about photoshop for about 30 minutes.  To Johnny, thank you so much for bearing with me!  

With Johnny's advice, I spent the next few hours duking it out with my layers, until I had something resembling the lighting style I was after.  There are quite a few gaffes, and I would personally LOVE to sharpen that skill set.    

And that's it!  Thanks for checking it out.  I'm glad I got the chance to take a character from concept to creation, properly!  I'm really anxious to try to push the armature more, and actually get some animation.  On that end, I've started doing small tests on 12 frames per second, which has been a lot of fun.

I've been reading a TON of old Disney animation lecture notes and pouring over everything I can find regarding timing.  Hopefully I can incorporate that into my next project.

Until next time..

Monday, October 1, 2012


Much like your own body, stop motion puppets have a skeleton.

The big difference obviously is that instead of bones, puppets have complicated custom-machined ball and socket joints.

Until recently, this was impossible for me to do with just a drill, as the tolerance is pretty low for error.  All the angles have to be 90 degrees to the surface, etc for the parts to work properly.

But I recently became the new owner of a used drill-press, which has opened a whole new armature world for me.

I'm halfway done with this guy, can't wait to get to work sculpting!

I started with a design, which I sketched on some pretty poor paper and then finished in photoshop:

And then I based the armature design within the constraints of the figure, but I'm definitely allowing for some freedom once the maquette process begins.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bert and Ernie Take Dragon*Con / Beers with JumpKickPunch!

I've never been to Dragon*Con before this year.

There.  I admit it.  I've never been except for the appearance two days ago.

Why?  I'm not really sure, I guess it had something to do with a lack of friends in the area that were into this kind of thing, and the lack of a good costume. 

So this year, about 3 weeks before the con, I decided it was time.  My buddy Joe and I had been looking for an excuse to do a larger scale makeup, so after I suggested a "real life/old Bert and Ernie" we got to work.

  I'd like to also point out that I'm personally a huge Jim Henson fan.  I grew up with these characters, and still love Sesame Street.  What we did is take a familiar object and put it up on its head, completely apart from the actual version.  NO connection to the Bert and Ernie we all know and love, and we mean no disrespect to the memory of Jim Henson.

Now in FULL disclosure, and this is something we explained to everyone who wanted to talk to us about our makeups, the concept of a humanized Bert and Ernie was inspired by a silicone bust done by Spanish artist Nacho Diaz.  You can find that version on google, it's AMAZING, and still floors me.

The concept of humanized cartoon characters is nothing new however.  Kevin Kirkpatrick is another effects artist, who also went to the same school Joe and I attended I might add, who has done similar work on a much better level.  Check out his Beavis and Butthead, and prepare to have your mind blown, because this guy is hands down one of the most talented people I can name.  It's, well, disturbing.

And so in that spirit, we decided to do old Bert and Ernie.  Not necessarily bad or good, just old and showin' it.

 In order to produce prosthetics that will fit to one's own face, then the need arises for a dense replication of said visage.  In other words, you need a hard copy of your own noggin.

The best, and most accurate way to do this is to take a full-head life cast.  This is a copying of the entire head, made with a flexible material [Alginate or silicone] and then cast [made] in your chosen material.  It all really comes down to your budget, and what you intend to cast your prosthetics out of.  For us, we knew we were going with foam latex, so we went with a stone lifecast.  In addition, we made our molds out of the same material.  Why you ask?  Foam latex gives off moisture, and if that moisture doesn't have a way to vent, such as through the porous nature of Ultracal 30 stone or accurate vents, then you're left with huge voids where the moisture accumulated in the mold during baking.

So, a life cast.  This subject goes beyond the scope of this article, but I was left with a limited budget and time so I took a 3/4 lifecast and simply sculpted my head and neck/chest in order to copy that to stone.

One difference however, I added some bulk to the sides of my head, knowing that the Ernie form would require a lot of foam latex in that area.  Now ordinarily you would use alginate to copy this build up, but on a budget Joe and I simply used plaster bandages that were heavily saturated with water in order to capture as much detail as possible.  The technique worked, and we had not so bad lifecasts to work with.  Not the best, but we were on a strict budget. 

 Following the casting of the lifecast, we applied molten clay to the cast in order to give a sticking layer for the following bits and bobs of clay.  This is also where you would apply layers of a seperating agent, if your intention was to do a multi-piece prosthetic.  We were doing single cowls, so sculpt on!

In the beginning, all sculpts look like crap.  At least that's how it is for most people.  It's honestly the most fun part of a sculpture for me, because you get to be really active and intense with the clay, just trying to resonate an image and try out forms.  [I have no pics of Joe's sculpt in the beginning].

 I was really going for a solid mix between cartoon aesthetic and real world forms. 
After about a week, we arrived at this point.  The bottom picture may be earlier then the top, but it shows the comparison.  We were starting to get pretty excited at this point!  Nervous too, because Dragon*Con was fast approaching.
 Success with casting!  It's been about TWO years since I've worked with foam latex.  Most of my day to day is silicone work in the medical industry, so this was like hanging out with an old friend.  Albeit, an old stinky friend.

 We're uhhhh, professionals....  Seriously though, the pantyhose is used for structural support within the walls of the foam latex.  Otherwise you'd probably tear it trying to get it off the cast and onto your head.

Final casts!  YES!  One big negative was that neither of us clamped our molds in time, quite tight enough, before the gelling occurred.  The result was that our edges, or the lines where the sculpt ends and our skin begins, weren't a reflection of the hard work we put into our molds.  Still though, we soldiered on..
 Pre-painting complete!  The objective here is to make an opaque material, foam latex, look more like translucent flesh using lots of overtones.  Foam is pretty tough to do well, and I'm far from "being there."

These days most people use silicone [which I use in my day to day medical job], which looks GREAT, but doesn't breath so well.  Plus it tends to be very heavy and always expensive.  So a jump back to foam latex was a lot of fun and tested my painting. 

Had to try it on after pre-painting, sans wig.  The paint was a mixture of pros-aide and acrylic paint, and then washes of thinned down inks and other pigments applied on top.  Again, I only had pics of my own application here. Joe did a great job with his paint.

And here's the "Rubber" Ducky I made the night before, out of floral foam and casting resin.  Good enough for me!

After waking up at 4:30 to apply and leaving for Atlanta at 6.  Not really there at this hour, wishing I had some coffee.
 Here we are in line for our admission.  People are starting to notice us, others driving past are stopping for pictures.
 Time to formulate a plan.  Wait, it's Dragon*Con....your plan is invalid...
 Stan Lee!  And some dude about to HULK OUT!

 "THIS GUY!!!"  In retrospect, it may have actually been Z.G.  Isn't it a great time in history to be a chubby dude with a beard?
 The guy that took this picture was hammered, and tried to get a picture of his own but was shoved away by Predator after he tripped all over him.

 The costumes, by the way, were sewn by Joe's mom, who is an expert seamstress.  Thanks Joan!
We're roommates, I swear.
 We finally took the opportunity to survey the scene from atop the Pulse Bar.  It was like a flowing river of nerds.
 One of my personal heroes and sculpting inspirations, JORDU SCHELL called us over from across the room and shot the breeze with us for a minute and complimented our sculpture and execution.  He offered some critique, and then his team interviewed us.  I found out that they were with Truth, an anti-tobacco marketing agency.  Still trying to bridge that gap..

The pictures never got old, though it was LITERALLY about 3-5 about every 30 seconds.  The arts area was a reprieve, as you couldnt take pictures there.  It got close to annoying when we were trying to eat a hot dog, and things almost turned "Bad Santa" but in the end it was just SO cool that people got the idea, and got the costume, and just wanted to take a picture.  I'd like to think we piqued some imaginations, and that's honestly all I care about.

And finally, we met up with the boys from Jump Kick Punch, a podcast foray into all things cool. 

Seriously though, if you're into video games, movies, replica props, etc, check these fellas out.  They're really down to earth, concise/articulate and all hold pretty respectable positions within this culture that we all love so much.  They work VERY hard to produce their weekly episodes, and it shows.  Always full of relevant info regarding anything from gaming/shows/movies, and always with an oh so biting sense of wit.

One of their members won the overall costume contest for the entire event, www.volpinprops.com.  I personally loved getting to talk stop-motion with one of them, who also happens to be a senior animator on Archer.  Check em out at jumpkickpunch.com.

A few beers later, through a straw of course, we said our goodbyes and ventured off. 

And that's it!  It was hot, sweaty, and if getting your picture taken steals a bit of your soul, then hook me up with a few soul shards.  Until next time...