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.
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 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.
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.
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!)
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!)