Saturday, January 31, 2009

~Link Time~

As I mentioned in my first post, there would be few props we had tried without the very talented Halloween online community.  Intermittently we will be adding some of our favorite links that have helped us so much… hopefully they can help someone else that is just starting out.

The links in this particular section are the ones I have bookmarked in the “General” folder – that means they are considered part of my DIY Haunt BIBLE… they have wonderful specific projects, but really, they are the ones that I poured over for hours, just trying to soak up general techniques.

Of course, I have already mentioned two of my personal favorites in previous posts - Spooky Blue, and Stolloween, and here are the rest:

Raven Manor

Terror Syndicate

Howloweenqueen - The Ghostess

and the following 3 are huge pages of links that are categorized for easy access to whatever project you need ideas/help with.

Haunt Project

The Monster List

Haunters Hangout

In the next “Link Time” I will list some project specific pages that were of great help to me.

It is with the great works of the artists above, and their commitment that many of us are able to even get started… so I hope these links can help someone just starting out!

Link Time Thanks

What’s In A Name?

Jayson and I have been naming all of our props.  Even the small ones.  Silly as though it may seem (and will get harder to remember all of our “children’s” names as we continue to add each year) it really gives meaning to something that you work so hard on for days or weeks (or months if you get lazy in between like me!)

I am honored to introduce you to Penelope….    Penelope Pumpkin.  Must have come from my love of Penelope Pittstop. 

Click any photos for a larger view.

Halloween thru Christmas 2008 018I guess drying on an unpainted grave is not exactly the way to do it, eh?

 Halloween thru Christmas 2008 031Following Stolloween's detailed instructions, painted her black (it wasn’t until I took these pictures that I could actually “see” the spots I missed”

Halloween thru Christmas 2008 035and then the dry brushing.. Which I *really* loved her at this stage, and may leave one of this years at this stage.

Halloween thru Christmas 200822 042 

And all finished.  I’m not happy with the weird stalk, and Jayson thinks she needs a nose… but I’m ok with her being my first – I will practice a lot more this year!

Frank: The Finale

Paper Mache:  This was my first attempt at paper mache… I had spent countless hours studying the work of Stolloween and was ready to go.  You can read about his techniques in paper mache here, which also includes recipes for the paste and clay.

I covered Frank in about 4 or 5 layers of newspaper and paper mache paste, letting it dry overnight with box fans in between each layer.  During the down time waiting on the torso to dry, I started working on his head.

Halloween2 011 Head:  I picked the cheesiest skull we had… Made a huge batch of clay, and just started adding flesh.  I covered the entire thing, deciding to make it look decayed with paper towel mache and paint, but you could easily to that with the clay step – only covering portions, etc.  Glued the eye balls into the sockets and Halloween2 006 molded clay around them.  I will admit, the ears gave me troubles, but I made it passable.  I also carved out some chipped teeth, and painted the resulting white styrofoam “chips” with black acrylic paint.



Hair:  I used brown twine – separate the strands and then pull on each individual strand until it looks like hair.  Put a piece of duct tape on the table and place the strands of hair on the tape – keeping as straight as possible (if you want a straight hair line, that is)…. once you get a “card” filled, you will be able to hot glue the duct tape with hair directly onto the head.  (Just trim as much excess duct tape off as you can, and it won’t be seen under the hair line.) 

I spray painted the twine with black spray paint, lightly… almost streaky….it looked natural to me, with the black and light brown both showing through, like natural variation in hair… you could also add some silver or gray.

Back to torso:  Once the paper mache was dry, I covered him in clay, shaping muscles and such… I’m not going to be putting clothes on mine, if you are, this phase will be considerably shorter.

Halloween2 022 After the clay had dried, I used blue shop towels (like paper towels, only alot thicker) dipped in paper mache paste to make rotted skin.  This technique is awesome, it dries hard, keeps ridges and wrinkles perfectly.  I did this technique on both the body and the skull.

Glue the head to the body once all is dry and ready for paint.Halloween2 018

Paint:   I first painted him solid black – a good coverage, using craft brushes to get inside all the cracks and crevices.  The next day, I dry brushed gray and white here and there, for depth.  Do this lightly, you want the black to stay untouched in the crevices.  (And there are A LOT of crevices after you do the shop towel mache!)

Halloween thru Christmas 2008 1059 Glue his hair on, curse your husband for dripping black paint on his face, and you are ready to seal!

Sealer – I used Thompsons water sealer, and it stood up well throughout the October rains…  and its a lot cheaper than polyurethane… but use your choice of sealer.

Conclusion:  For all that I worried about his back, no one noticed… he was in front of a grave, with subtle lighting, and he scared quite a few ToTs…. I just have to remember that on Halloween night, in the dark… nothing has to be perfect.  (Although looking back at the pictures now, I really should have tried harder to get Jayson to let me dig up some of the yard to appear Frank just “broke out of”… he looks a little weird sitting on perfect grass.  There’s always next year!)

Halloween thru Christmas 2008 355 Halloween thru Christmas 2008 311

Frank: Part II

I just realized I left the hot glue gun and glue sticks off of the Materials list… you will need it for his fingernails, as well as gluing his hair on (if you so choose to have hair!)

His hands came next, and I got the idea for this from Spooky Blue.  I followed the instructions there for both the hands and the hot glue fingernails… (I just painted Franks nails a nice marsh colored green)

According to Spooky Blue’s instructions, here’s what I did:  Take a piece of corrugated cardboard and place it over the palm of your hand so that the corrugated lines are running vertically (up and down).  Trace a rough shape of your own hand.  (I used my hubby’s hands as mine were too small for the mean Frank!)

Frank Hands

Snip coat hanger wires about 3 inches longer than your own (or your models) finger.  That 3 inches will be sticking in the cardboard for stability.  If you want long icky fingers, cut to desired length, leaving some to fit inside the cardboard.  Once you have all of the fingers cut to size, carefully place them in the “slots” of the corrugated hand piece.  The thumb is the only one that gave me a bit of trouble, placing it at an angle.  If you go through the cardboard, its ok, you are about to cover it anyway.


Frank Hands2 Once fingers are in, take a piece of duct tape and place it flat across the hand where the fingers meet the cardboard.  Press the wire into the tape for a good seal, then wrap the ends around.  I then cut between the bottoms of the fingers and wrapped around the bottom of the finger, for a good hold and to hide the excess tape.  Once all fingers are secure, take the cardboard piece and gently fold it inwards, as if it were grasping an object.  This should make the tape on the underside of the hand form a “cave” of sorts… stuff that with a bit of paper towel or newspaper. 

Begin to flesh it out – wrap with paper towels and tape again, or glue on some cotton ball knuckles, just play around with it til it looks like you want it to.

Once I had them shaped, I slipped the hand onto the arm, which at that place was the paper towel tube shaped with tape into a cone at the end.  I stuffed the cone into the paper towel stuffing that I used to fill the “cave” in the underside of the hand.  Glued with hot glue when I had found a good spot, and they were very stable.

Halloween2 009 Neck:  I started with a normal neck, (a Solo plastic cup and clay) and it just looked bad… Jayson suggested making a really long neck… but the clay had already dried on my plastic cup, so I tried adding to it with clay.  It just kept getting worse, haha.  I think this method would have been fine (the cup) had I not had such a BOX shape for my torso.  Just play with it, you’ll get it right!  I ended the top of the neck with a little cone shape, which my skull sat on.  It fit well, and when glued down would be really stable.  Not ready for glue now though, Frank remains headless ;)

Last installment, coming up!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Frank: An Exercise in Newbie Monster Making

This is Part I of III….  Sorry there are no pictures, I had an SD Card flake out on me, and the shots I took at the beginning of this process are just gone… *poof*

This is my interpretation of a Ground breaker with Blue Eyes… thus he is known as Frank.  (Frank Sinatra = Ol’ Blue Eyes, for the youngsters out there!)

This picture will have to do for now, it’s several steps ahead, but at least you can picture what I’m doing here in the beginning… (Ignore the pumpkin in the bucket… different project!)

Halloween2 002Click for larger view

Materials I used:

Medium sized box for torso (I used a large double pack cereal box, like from Sams)

A store bought skull – the cheaper the better

Paper towels & Plastic grocery sacks for stuffing

Twine for hair, Coat hanger for hands

Soda cans and Cardboard tubes from Paper towel roll for arms

Eye balls (ping pong balls)

A Lot of masking tape & Duct tape, and newspaper

Paper Mache paste, paper mache clay, paint and sealer

Shaping Frank:  Turned out to be the most important part of the process, and the part where I totally failed.  Mine turned out to look just like a cereal box with a head stuck on it.  (As you can see in the photo above)  Learn from my mistakes!  :)

Next time, I will definitely cut off some of the box at the top corners of the box, rather than just continuing to cover it in with stuffing to “soften the edges”… my way just made him end up looking like a hunchback.

Torso: Cover the box with paper towels, grocery sacks, or whatever you have around the house to give him some meat on his box… err, bones.  Tape the pieces of stuffing to the box to hold firmly in place.  If you cut the corners to round them out, cover with duct tape to fill the holes.

frank arms For the arms, I started with 1 soda can for each side, and taped them directly under the shoulder, since his arms would be low to the ground.  I tried hot glue at first but that was just a waste of 5 minutes, and ended up making a sling of sorts with the duct tape… running it under the can, and back up to his shoulders, then taping from the top.  They held – really well.

Did I mention that I use Gorilla Tape, from the makers of Gorilla Glue, and if my husband ever leaves me, I’m marrying this stuff – its the BEST.

Taped paper towel tubes to the ends of the coke cans, tapering at the ends (wrists) with tape to make something of a cone shape.   Fleshed it out with more paper towels.

To be continued…

Thursday, January 29, 2009

2006 and 2007

Well, 2006 is the first year that we moved into this house, and so we barely had time to think about getting out of boxes before it was time for Halloween.  Unfortunately we had a lot of those boxes lying around, and I thought it would be a good idea to make some cardboard grave stones to put in the yard.  Sad fact is, at the time, I thought they looked pretty good – sorry there are no pictures… but I spent a lot of time painting them to look like aged marble and such, but wow – when pulling them out in 2007 (yes, I actually saved them) they looked horrible. 

In 07, we bought some gravestones that looked much better than my cardboard replicas, but alas they were still commercial, and well, cheesy.  Added a store bought ground breaker, some dead leaves and such, and had a “do-able” graveyard… enough to scare the 3 year olds, anyways. 

Nov2007 310 Don’t ya just love the lighting?  We had a lot to learn :)

Bought another monster kinda guy to hang from the top of our chimney… he was probably the show stopper of the year…

Nov2007 020 He didn’t really scare the cat though…

What really mattered that year was that we had fun, and it really got us to thinking of what we wanted to do next year…. which included a definite distaste for the Halloween aisle at the big chain stores.

We would do it ourselves……

Welcome to Nickols Manor

This is a blog written by a husband and wife team (Hi, I’m the wife) to do two things:  1) Record the journey along our OCD Halloween obsession that IS our annual Yard Haunt, for our own memories, and 2) To give back to the Halloween online community that has helped us immensely over the past 2 years. 

We will show you what we did right, what we did wrong, who we got our ideas from, and our adaptation of those ideas.

It will be interesting to see how much we learn and change over the years… and here we will be able to look back on it all.


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