Tonight was the first night of All-Star Gorilla, at the Fringe Bar, 7pm Sundays 5, 12 and 19 of May, part of the current Comedy Festival. Not only do I get to make up comedy on-the-spot with a bunch of lovely co-conspirators, I also had the fun of creating the mask for our new gorilla, Dru.
I wasn’t the person-in-the-suit tonight, but have worn it a couple of times to promote the show. Being a gorilla completely changes the way it feels to hand out flyers to the public – people smile and take the things from you nearly every time, rather than that explicit ignoring thing which street promotion usually engenders. It is of course very hard to ignore a shaggy beast, especially if she’s being cute and friendly.
Latest mask – one which probably should be posed with a bottle in a brown paper bag.
Spent some time last night working out camera settings and such for an upcoming night photography workshop, using a couple of budget laser pointers. Welding goggles and/or padding was worn under masks to keep eyes safe.
Now, the shell has been made, ears formed, eyes put in and cuts made for eyes nose and mouth. Painting tomorrow . . .
All going well she’ll soon be ready for her supporting role in the NZ Comedy Festival.
I’m in an improvised comedy show next month, which mostly explains why I am spending this afternoon creating a mask for the eponymous Gorilla.
So far, I’ve finished a rough clay form over a plaster cast, next step will be draping it with a thermoplastic sheet (Instamorph) and then will be painting and adding fur. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon, not bad at all . . .
Mask using Instamorph painted in acrylics, and made over this clay sculpt. Now mostly finished bar some necessary sinister moustache twirling and eyebrow trimming. Then I guess he’ll go looking for some railway tracks and a helpless victim.
Victorian villain mask
I spent last weekend in a portrait class that focused on understanding how faces twist to express emotions. On Sunday we worked from a live model in one long pose (the expression collectively chosen was ‘anxious’). The rest of the class worked in 2D, using paints, pastels and pencil to capture a likeness. I decided to instead use clay and Instamorph to create the base for a mask. It was an interesting challenge!
Next step: taking the white mask base and painting it, adding in eyes etc. With his permission, I took photos of the lovely model, and will use them to help finish the mask.
Model and clay base
Model and mask
Instamorph is the brand name of low-temperature thermoplastic pellets which I make into sheets and then mould into my masks. I use the this brand because it is the cheapest at the quantities I use, it typically takes around 200gms for a full-face mask, and I buy the stuff in 8kg lots. As far as I can tell it is pretty much identical to Polymorph in the UK and Plastimak products sold in Australia; similar variations on the theme are sold under names such as Shapelock and Friendly Plastic to electrical hobbyists and makers of things crafty. All are manifestations of Polycaprolactone, or PCT. Buy some and play: it’s a great material.
For maskmaking, it replaces the material Celastic, a kind of plastic which was softened in acetone and by all accounts was very nasty to use, and it replaces papier mache, which takes days-weeks to dry and doesn’t give anything like as strong or solid a result. As well, unlike leather or papier mache, it doesn’t soften or loose shape when a performer gets it all sweaty.
Once the mask is made, sand the surface lightly and paint with good quality acrylics, if finished with a satin or matte waterbased polyurethene this finish is perfectly durable.
mask in progress
Masks lined up for the show
Playing in the uncanny valley
I visited a local park with some of my Instamorph masks to take photographs – I’m always fascinated about what a different thing a mask becomes when it is worn, vs hanging empty on a wall. And worn in public, instead of on a stage, the mask changes again.