'08 Halloween #20: Making a Flameless Candle

A few Halloweens ago I picked up a bunch of those 1/2" high LED flicking pumpkin tea lights for around .99 cents each. A hard price to pass up. I was excited to actually use them but soon disappointed to find they cast very little light and useless in pumpkins. I liked the flickering effect but little tea lights don't have much Halloween character so I just threw them in a drawer. Trying to make this a zero spending decorating year, I'm using everything in my arsenal. I realized those little lights could be made into larger, creepier, candle props with some personality for next to nothing. Click on images to enlarge.

Materials are simple : hot glue gun, several glue sticks, old candle holder, toilet paper tube, scissors, paint, and wood matchsticks.

Basically, I'm creating a taller candle by inserting the light into the top of the tube. The LED has an on/off switch and battery door underneath. I'll want to access these so the light should slip out the top of the tube as needed. The tube is a bit wider than the light so I split it to re wrap tighter. While the tube was open it gave me the chance to create small internal shelves to rest the light on. I marked off the depth using the LED as a template.

I snipped the heads off the matchsticks and white glued them along the depth line. The matchsticks are now the shelves. You can use just about anything for this but that's what I had close by. Overlapping the edges, I glued the tube back together letting it be snug enough to create a solid piece illusion but loose enough to easily lift the light in and out. Don't worry about the seam on the side as it will disappear soon enough.

Then I just painted everything. I used a ivory/antique white color.

Now the fun part! Using the hot glue, I just started dripping glue along the sides. I worked carefully around the top edge trying to keep the socket clean. I started there before being attached to the base so it would be less cumbersome to work on. The glue did manage to drip inside in spots no matter how careful I was. I cleaned mistakes by melting them away with the hot tip of the gun. One long bead/drip easily covered the cardboard seam.

Patience is rewarded using the hot glue here. Creating smaller drips and letting cool before the next allowed me to layer it up creating character. Too much actually re melts any drips already made.

Overall, I think it's a pretty cool prop for .99 cents and a few glue sticks. I going to make various ones with taller paper towel and fatter shipping tubes. I've "punched up" other store bought larger faux candles with hot glue as well in the past.

'08 Halloween #19: Shadow of the Vampire

With a 101 props for the front lawn in various stages of making, I'm happy to have finished a couple. To this day, one of the most creepy and scariest films I've ever seen is the silent classic Nosferatu. As a kid just seeing pictures of Count Orlock in Famous Monsters or other mags freaked me out. Last year when I saw a great looking tombstone with his name at a local Halloween shop, I had to buy it. This year I decided to make one of my zombies a whimsical homage.

All my zombies start out as "Bluckies" which I've learned is the nickname for those cheapo plastic skeletons you find at Big Lots and elsewhere. Orlock's eyes are painted plastic mini Christmas ornaments you can get in bulk tubs at Micheals. There a bit smaller than ping pong balls and fit the cut out sockets nicely. His ears, fangs and hands I made out of Crayola Model Magic. If you've never used it, you should, I love it. It's a non toxic clay that air drys to a light weight hard foam. I tend to sit watching TV or a movie just knocking out numerous finger bones and set aside. Because it's foam you can easily slip some wire through assembling later. I think a decent hand gesture really helps bring life and movement to an otherwise static prop. I have need of many bony hands this year.

I glue most of my props to wood bases covered in moss, dusting the edges with some green spray paint to help blend with the existing grass. This gives everything weight and hides some pre drilled holes to drive stakes through to keep from tipping over in the wind (and help deter theft which has happened). Here in Los Angeles fall foliage is not in abundance so I'm adding some glued on faux leaves to things. I hope adds a touch of autumn to the yard.

It's slowly coming together. I'm setting it all up on the 10th. Gives me 2 more weeks to finish.

'08 Halloween #18: What's He Building In There?

What's he building in there?
With that hook light on the stairs.
What's he building In there?
I'll tell you one thing.
He's not building a playhouse for the children.
What's he building in there?
Now what's that sound from under the door?

-Tom Waits

Mule Variations 1999

'08 Halloween #17: The Geek Gene

As the big day approaches Niece Devin is deciding on her costume this year. I'm both happy and sad that my geek gene might be inherited.

Will it be Princess Devin Organa...
(yea, I know it's Padme Amidala, but don't argue, she says it's Leia)

Wonder Devin...

Devin the Ursurper...

or Devin and the big British smile?

'08 Halloween #16: The Silly Putty Maneuver

I added a vile of Ectoplasm to my growing stash of potions and oddities. It turned out a little more "cute" than I wanted. Creating one is effortless so making another different and better is no chore. There is a little trick though that I thought worth sharing. When I first learned it, I slapped my forehead wondering why I never thought of it before.

Remember as kids how the big fun to Silly Putty was pressing it onto comic strips and copying them? Well, light colored Sculpey and other polymer clays can do almost the same thing. It enables you to transfer a design directly onto the clay (click on any images to enlarge)...

I sketched my design on trace paper and then re-drew it on the reverse side. Being backwards the image will transfer correctly. It's important to use pencil or something similar that the clay can pick up.

I smoothed out a layer of white Sculpey on a old bottle of hot sauce that had a nice wooden cap detail. Next, I slowly rolled over the drawing with firm even pressure. Make sure it's the reverse side. I know from experience that it's easy to make that mistake. From there it was sculpting and finishing.

The whole process took little more than a hour, including baking the bottle (at a lower temp. for a longer time to prevent glass cracking). I gave it an aged gray paint wash but I might redo with a rusted metal or verdigris bronze finish.

Kirk and the Stop Motion Stage.

When my Brother in Law Kirk got the job of Stage Manager on Coraline, He and my Sister Monica moved to Portland Oregon. The film was in pre-production when I drove with Monica on her final trip for their move, bringing her car and a few final items.

At the end of that visit, I said goodbye while Kirk was literally sitting at his kitchen table with a pencil, ruler and a sheet of graph paper just starting the incredible task of plotting how to divide up an enormous vacant 747 hanger sized space into a working stage for all the departments and individual spaces needed for sets.

Over a year later, I visited for Thanksgiving. Seeing the actual stage, I was dumbstruck. Giant black curtains everywhere contained numerous animation stages. Alleys and walkways, full of prop and grip carts seemed to go on for miles in every direction. Intersections had directional arrows and maps. They all had individual street names which featured Kirk's humor. A particular favorite of mine was his Star Wars reference... "Begger's Canyon".

Well, Kirk's backstage efforts impressed the LA Times' David Strick as well being one of several behind the scene photos on the website. To see all the pictures, click here.

Fanboy Tales of Old - The First Props I Ever Made.

Before the rise of the Internet.
Before the "Star Wars Kid"
Before the "Halo Kid".
There was "Conan Boy"...

When I was a young fanboy. I liked the Lord of the Rings and that type fantasy but it was a little too poetic for my pre-teen attitude. It felt "girlish" with magical wizards and elves. I liked warriors in heavy armor splitting skulls back then. I had no need of story or fancy writing. I dug CONAN! I started reading the Marvel comics in the late '70's and became barbarian obsessed. When I compared Conan to Gandalf's gang, there was no contest. Conan would of cleaved Frodo and Sam on day one just for being too whiny.

In those broad sword and battle axe days, I decided to make my own in the summer of 1981. They were some of the first "real" props I ever made. The Frazetta design influence is not too subtle. Looking back, my materials haven't changed much. I used stuff around the house, re-purposing everything. The axe handle was a broom stick, the medallion on the shield was a cooking pot lid. Not pictured was a custom sword with a hilt made from a tennis racket and door knob. In time, a full costume was created including a chain mail shirt of tiny hoops made from dry cleaner wire hangers.

For the most part, these things hung on the wall but when the Schwarzenegger movie came out, there was many a time that axe was swung around the room while the Basil Poledouris soundtrack blared.

'08 Halloween #15: The Hand of Capt. Hook

I haven't gone all out on the inside decorating in years but with niece Devin's Halloween party at our house, it inspires me too. I'm adding a "Museum of Oddities" to the dining room. I thought it be dark fun if some of the items were references to stories they know like Peter Pan.

What if someone caught that Crocodile and found his hand?

The hand is one of those joke arms you hang from your car trunk. It's been in my stash for years. I got rid of the cheap shirt sleeve stuffed with batting. I added a few washes of red and brown paint, also lightening the nails as well. The stump is stuffed with a paper towel ball and coated with blobs of hot glue, after cutting a jagged "bitten off" edge of course. The protruding bones are just two bits of a regular sized and a mini hot glue stick. I hallowed out the ends.

Painting on a tattoo and adding a toy ring gave it some pirate flair...

'08 Halloween #14

Started to give my 'ole cheapo plastic skeleton zombies face lifts tonight.

Evolution of a Cartoon

I posted my 150th cartoon yesterday on PARA ABNORMAL. For fun, I thought I'd share the process of how that cartoon came about.

The other night I was dusting off one of my Star Wars toy shelves. Like a true geek, I was making sure each Jedi had they're right color lightsaber. I smiled thinking about when my Niece Devin was over playing with them, for that tale, click here. She didn't care about canon and was putting X Wing pilot helmets on C-3PO and Darth Vader's helmet on Han Solo. It was accessorizing in a galaxy far, far away.

Then a cartoon idea hit me, I doodled Darth Vader with racks of different stylish helmets to choose from and wear on his off hours...

I liked the top hat helmet and thought there might a a fancy dress, death star fund raiser Vader hated having to attend...

That lead to a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Vader idea. Maybe a Sith the Ripper stalking the foggy streets of London...

Then I thought he looked liked Abe Lincoln and there was a Gettysburg address joke to be had. I started to sketch it when my mind went 180 degrees and I also doodled a Cylon in a top hat just to say the line "4 score and 7 YAREN ago...". As I debated jokes in my head, a cowboy helmet Vader was sketched...

That lead to this...

Which became the final cartoon...

'08 Halloween #13: Night of the "Little Rascals"

Halloween is going to be extra special. Niece Devin has wanted to host a costume party for awhile and this is the year! I'm proud to announce that because Halloween falls on a Friday and since it will already be decked out...my house will be the location for her 1st grade soiree that afternoon for a few hours. A highlight being all heading out for "trick or treating" at party's end.

It should be a blast, especially making the 31st an all day celebration. Devin and her friends are at a great age when there is real magic in the holiday. She's knee deep into making her own invitations and party decorations already. Her Mom had to chauffeur her to Michael's Arts and Crafts twice this week.

I had a preview of her creations and works in progress last night. They were all amazing and adorable but this magic marker sign she had taped to her playhouse straight out of the "Little Rascals" gave me a laugh...

'08 Halloween #12: Making Creepy Books

I love old dusty books that look like they came from another time containing forgotten knowledge or secrets. I thought I'd make a few to accent some of the interior decorating this year.

Here's how I make a fun, stylized one. As usual, it's my "instant creative gratification" fast and cheap method. The same process can be expanded on using a variety of different materials. A general note, you could remove the cover for this project and glue back on once done, but I just chose to mask off the interior pages. Click on images to enlarge.

1) I like recycling materials so I used a old water damaged book I had. I traced it's size onto cardboard which was the back of a drawing paper pad. I then sketched out the design.

2) Using a craft knife, I cut out the pieces and simply glued them on the book. I didn't stress over poor cutting, gaps or excess glue as it would all disappear in the next step. Besides, imperfections add to the aged look.

3) For a "old world" bound feel, I cut 4 short strips and wrapped the edge. To create the leather feel, I decoupaged on paper towel sheets (I was lucky here that one sheet perfectly fit). I used a thinned mixture of Mod Podge but white glue and water works great too. I started in the center and over saturating the paper towel worked outwards, mushing into all the nooks and crannies. I wrapped the edges like a present.

4) While it was still wet, I went ahead and painted my base coat and shading so it would bleed and have a washed out look.

5) Once dry, I added highlights with dry brush and colored pencil. I made a title label on the computer and glued it on. The label and page edges were aged using watercolor.

While at it, I thought my sketchbook could use a makeover...

'08 Halloween #11

Work has begun on stuff for the yard in October. The plan/ideas have been finalized. Here are the latest sketches. Not my greatest art below, as I doodled fast without real thought to perspective or accuracy, but you get the idea. Click on images to enlarge.

The left side of the yard nearest the driveway will be the graveyard this year. I want the haunted tree to be it's centerpiece. They'll be a few new skeleton zombies. The spider will be back but filling a nook which has always been vacant in the past. I'm going to add a little "trick or treater" snack trapped in his web.

Tucked into the right corner of the yard I'm going to add a classic Witch at her cauldron. I'm playing with the idea of dressing up that edge of the house to be the front of her cozy little creepy cabin. Maybe a faux door and black cat in the window among other details.

With the ideas above plus ghosts in windows and a crashed UFO, I've got a lot to do. There are a few other plans but won't give it all away now. I want to have a few surprises to share in the coming weeks. From now on, the Halloween posts will spotlight the making of everything plus random bits of holiday inspiration and fun.

'08 Halloween #10: The Cheapest and Easiest Prop You'll Ever Make!

There's a unique creepiness to a specimen jar.

How about making a laboratory table full of them containing every organ in a human body for almost no money? Never blow your budget on expensive foam body parts, rubber bats and plastic mice to stuff the jars with again!

Here's how to do it and all you'll need:

1) Find your sense of humor.
2) Acquire old jars and fill with water ( I used a glass container from a spent aroma candle.)
3) Add a drop or two of yellow food coloring (or a color you like).
4) Most important, glue on a homemade label like this one...

The details on the label are references to the classic Universal, Claude Rains' INVISIBLE MAN . The date was it's release. The name is the character's. "Monacane" was the drug that turned him invisible and the Lion's Head Inn was where most of the story takes place (in a village called Islip in West Sussex). The item no. is made up and means nothing. I am geek and love the movie but I did have to research a few of these details. Thought it would be a fun homage to a little remembered character when the other big 3 Universal monsters rule Halloween.

I made my label in Photoshop. Feel free to borrow it if you like as a early Halloween treat. Here's a blank one to customize...

If anyone actually uses my label, send me a picture, I'd love to see it!