'08 Halloween #46: Prehistoric Man Eaters

I've added some of the man eating plants I made last year around the porch. They're super simple to make. Hot glued thick wire into a pot (coat hanger). A styrofoam ball cut in half for the head. Covered all in spray insulation foam. Then detailed once dry... paint, model magic teeth and tongue, glued on fake ivy, hot glue for drool.

I didn't make the goofy looking character to the left. He made me...that's my Dad.

'08 Halloween #45: Just Hours Away

Above is a sketch for a personal children's book project that's been in the works for years. I always get in the mood to dust it off and finish it this time of year.

Halloween is just hours away. Spending the day running around like a zombie with it's head cut off getting my niece's party together and final details done for Trick or Treaters. It's a good stress and frenzy. I've missed my promised daily Halloween posts the last few days, but I'll make up for it adding some extra ones tonight and tomorrow.

'08 Halloween #44: BFF's

Mikey Myers was lonely, so his buddy Jason arrived today to hang out with him...

Mikey's new spot this year has turned out to be a success. The older kid's really dig him and I've been getting fun remarks that he's spooking folks walking down the sidewalk that don't see him till they pass the shrub. Well, since we have 2 shrubs why not double the startles.

Jason's head and costume is the same I posted about awhile back (click here) with some better detailing. His machete is a quick foam core cut out, keeping to my "no budget" Halloween decorating code this year.

The big secret? Don't tell Mikey. Jason's a girl...

'08 Halloween #43: Inspirational Setting

My niece Devin was over yesterday to help with decorating. In a very Wednesday Addams moment, she sat down to get some ideas on paper...

'08 Halloween #42: Ten Favorite Holiday Movies

Saturday night is always a good movie night. I thought I'd share just 10 of many favorite movies for the season. I also wanted to get in on the fun seeing some other countdown bloggers posting theirs. My list is not what I think are the BEST movies ever made...there ones that I enjoy, set the mood and just plain inspire my creativity.

In no particular order...

Sleepy Hollow
Just the look and feel of this movie makes watching it with the sound muted enjoyable.

George Pal's War of the Worlds
Great fun. It's the ultimate '50s alien film. It's really dated but still holds up well.

A good ghost story + Spielberg + ILM effects = classic '80s summer movie nostalgia.

The Exorcist
I grew up going to Catholic Schools and had two Priests in the family. I've heard some spooky tales. I was brought up being taught this stuff is real. It added a whole new level of fear when first saw it.

Van Helsing
I know, I know. I did say this list was not the best movies ever though. I give it credit because the concept of Van Helsing as a Victorian era, high tech using, action/adventure monster hunter is fun. It's become one of those background movies I put on while working on stuff.

Nightmare Before Christmas
It's crazy, I've met people who never heard of this film but love Halloween. If it was 10 years ago, I'd understand. It can't be a small unknown treasure anymore could it?

Bedknobs and Broomsticks
What's not to like about a Witch fighting Nazi Germany in WWII. Still love the "ghost" army in the finale. It's my favorite part .

Young Frankenstein
Never gets old. It's become a personal Halloween ritual to watch at some point on the 31st. Pure fun that always seems to get better in repeated viewing.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
A real beloved classic since I was a kid. I remember sitting on the floor in front of the TV watching it in reruns on Sunday mornings.

After Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, it's the only other movie I can quote every line of. I say "Mother puss bucket" atleast 15 times a week when frustrated over something.

'08 Halloween #41: The Bride Inside

Hours after the window Bride had been set up, I stayed up very late working in my garage studio. Everyone had gone to sleep. I went into the house for some coffee. From the kitchen I saw this...

I'll be honest. I was startled uttering a embarrassing girlish squeak of fear. The bride as seen from the inside freaked me out and I LOVED it. Earlier, when turning out the lights before bed, the Fiancee didn't even attempt to figure out which plugs were for the window. She just left them on. Ever since, it's been our haunting night light. Personally, our ghost makes me feel more secure than any burglar alarm system or outdoor motion sensor lights.

'08 Halloween #40: 6 Year Old Design Plan

Niece Devin drew up this decoration idea plan for me to work from. I added her very detailed and specific notes...

It's also important the ghost have a moustache so you know it's a guy.

'08 Halloween #39: Capt. Wigbeard

I gave my skeleton pirate zombie a makeover this year. Some think pirates don't mesh with the season, but I do. Think about it... who else best haunts the oceans at Halloween? Vampires, werewolves and witches are not known for their nautical adventures.

He's a customized cheap "blucky" skeleton with Model Magic hands like my Count Orlock. His outfit is a store bought Jack Sparrow costume that I heavily aged and added buttons to. Kid's costumes are the perfect fit for these skeletons. The musket and sword are also Jack Sparrow's. They where a toy playset I found discounted after Pirates of the Carribean movie fever started to fade. The eyepatch and hat where in my stash. The hook is a general utility garage type detailed in Model Magic. It's stump cover is just a spray paint cap. He has my usual Christmas ornament eye and a glued on beard made of locks cut from the old wig he's wearing.

'08 Halloween #38: An all Rockwell's Eve

I'm a unashamed fan of Norman Rockwell. His work inspires me in all aspects of my career. As a sometimes illustrator and cartoonist, I marvel at his ability to tell whole stories in a single image. As a sometimes set designer and art director, I love that his enviroment and prop choices are characters as well, even the smallest details. His subject's expressions and postures are always at the perfect moment to say everything without words.

This portrait of Ichabod Crane is a real favorite of mine. It was part of a planned series of paintings featuring classic American literary characters. Capt. Ahab, Little Women's Jo and others where in the works.

Rockwell could not find a publisher so the project was abandoned. I can only imagine how wonderful the full series would of been. It's comforting to know even a master like himself had trouble getting his ideas sold sometimes.

'08 Halloween #37: Dead Dog Tired

I've been trying to give the old coffin a makeover. Work keeps getting interrupted...someone has taken a liking to it. It may need to have a permanent place in the backyard year round once done.

'08 Halloween #36: The Tree

Our tree out front is coming to life. I finished making his basic face today and attached. Tomorrow he gets arms and some extra face detailing. Those little cheap battery pumpkin tea lights work great in his eyes..

'08 Halloween #34: New York Kid Memories

I grew up in Westchester County, New York. This commercial always felt like an announcement Halloween had arrived. It's so cheesy now but back then gave me the creeps.

'08 Halloween #33: Lazy Tip of the Week

My cemetery is starting to come together. I've made more rusted, crumbling faux wrought iron fence pieces to expand on the ones I made last year. I decided to punch them up a bit with some ornate finials. I didn't have anything pre made in numerous supply I could just add. I really didn't want to spend hours custom making each one either. Fast and cheap is what I wanted. I did find in the stash...ping pong balls and lots of 'em. Accumulated over the years to use as eyes for my zombies. I stuck them on. Capped with a fast cut foam core point. Painted and moved along. They're really sloppy but (and maybe I'm just convincing myself) the "sloppyness" actually works for the decayed look of the fence.

'08 Halloween #32: The Night He Came Home

Michael has a new place on the lawn this year. More in tone with his movies, especially the first and the best.

'08 Halloween #31: Make a Moving Monster Eye

I love the creepy statues that watch you walk by in Disney's Haunted Mansion. I've always wanted to make my own when I discovered how it was done. The secret? They're translucent, back lit and most important...concave. This creates the optical illusion of being 3-d and turning with you. Being the "zero spending" on decor year and with limited resources, I made a giant monster eye in one of our front windows that uses the same principle. It was just an experiment that worked. It's also really painless and simple to do.

Here's a quick video of it in action...

Before I get into how I made mine, seek out any alternate better materials that can be used here. I'm just using what I already have.

Materials: thin clear plastic bowl (mine was a large "pet" bowl from Petco), medium grit sandpaper, electric tape, x-acto knife or scissors, white printer paper or card stock, black sharpie, scotch tape, computer/printer or colored tissue paper (eye color of choice), window sized yardage of craft fur or black board/paper, thumb tacks, quick bond craft glue suitable for plastic and fabric.

The bowl I used had a indented flat circular base. This was perfect as it gave me a centered instant template for an iris and pupil. I made the outer area frosted by gently scuffing the inside with sandpaper. I sanded in straight lines from the edge to center. The lines will help sell the 3-d illusion later. It's good to wipe away the dust as you go as it will give you a false sense of opacity. You could also use frosted glass craft paint instead.

Once happy with the translucence, I made the outside black line of the iris. I taped the raised edge of the base. I wanted this to be completely light proof and silhouetted. The electric tape is great being flexible and molds easily to the tight curves. Do the inside edge first in shorter strips. The tape tends to pull against itself here. The overlap of the outer edge tape will keep it from peeling.

For the inner portion, I measured the diameter needed and created the color and pupil in Photoshop. I wanted it to be translucent and glow so printing on plain white paper works great. This also makes cutting out the perfect shape and size easy. Colored tissue paper or again, glass paint, would work well too.

I wanted the pupil to be as opaque as the taped ring. I colored in both sides with a black sharpie. The bleed through from coloring the front first gave me a template for the back.

I decided to play it safe by not gluing the iris and pupil onto the bowl. I didn't want to risk messy residue or bubbling. I just scotch taped it, pulling it tight and flat. Remember, this needs to be concave so have the pretty side facing inside the bowl.

For the giant monster feel, I wanted to block out the whole window plus give the eye something to attach to. I happened to have 2 yards of craft fur left over from a past project which was perfect. The eye needed be flush. My bowl had a larger lip which created a "step" and gap. I cut that off. I test fitted the window and marked off where the eye would go, then traced the bowl's shape on the fabric.

I cut the circle out about a 1/4 inch smaller than my traced line. This insured a good fit and gave me the ability to wrap edges a little for a secure hold. I took my time gluing to avoid runs and drips. Remember, you want the bowl curving inwards away from the window.

Inside the room I just thumb tacked it to the top edge of the window frame. I used tape to pull it tighter where needed. You can also use poster board or black construction paper and tape it all in place.

I just pointed a swing arm desk lamp at it and waited for dark. I also pulled the bottom away from the wall and added a bit of under lighting so the fur would be hinted at. The photos I took are blown out. The sanded lines and a nice shadow really create a 3-d effect. I rushed to put it up today to see if it works, but tomorrow I'm making it a bit blood shot which should really make it pop. I'm thinking about adding a big toothy grin as well.

It's first and unexpected "soft opening" review came in tonight. My brother Ted was over and we were outside when a family walked by. One of the kid's pointed out the eye and yelled "It's following us! Look! Look! It's following us!"

Pistons, gears and gizmos...insignificant! But it would be really cool if I figured out how to use them one day.

'08 Halloween #29: Web of Glue

I added one my old favorite store bought props today. It's a giant 3 foot spider I picked up almost 6 years ago. She's showing her age. The rubber skin is beginning to crack and peel exposing her soft foam innards. She'll need major TLC after this year.

I glued on some red faux crystals over her painted eyes this year. They looked great during the day catching the sun just enough giving her a little extra spark of "life". The big surprise was tonight seeing her from the street. They really shined in the under lighting almost looking electrical.

I used 1/8" nylon cord to make the web, drowning it in hot glue drips and blobs for extra cobwebbyness. I wanted to add more but after 11 sticks of glue and a cramping hand...I thought was good for today. Besides, I needed to take time to start making an unfortunate "Trick or Treater" for her web.

'08 Halloween: Witch Crash

The first front yard decoration is on display! I hoped to finish my variation of the classic Witch Crash gag last night but it needed another hour or so today to get done. At first, my idea was just having the legs and broom sticking out of a nearby shrub as a small accent. Telling my niece Devin about the plan, she pushed the gag to this level... I had to do it. This is made with stuff I already had.

It's pretty simple to make.

The busted hole is a piece of plywood cut into a rough oval shape, and painted flat black. I used wire and eyelets on the back to hang, like any ordinary picture frame. The cracked plaster is cut pieces of foam core coated with spray can ceiling texture to mimic stucco. They were painted our house color and hot glued on. I added some broken 1" x 3" wood boards

Her legs are mannequin legs I inherited from a past TV show, but they're easily found on the internet for sale. I didn't have fancy stockings, so I just painted a plain white pair I had in one of my many boxes labeled "odd junk to make stuff with". Even had the old shoes handy. If you like making props or just being creative, having a stash of things to use pays off often. You do walk a fine line. I'm often in fear of becoming one of those talk show "pack rat" syndrome guests.

The broom is one of those cheapo CVS brand ones I also had in my stash. I'd love the sweep to be much larger, but it works for now (ideally I'd make bigger). I replaced it's original bamboo stick with a solid 3/4" dowel. I attached the broken end with eye hooks so it will sway in the breeze. Who needs fancy animatronics, huh?

I forgot to give her big shoe buckles. That missing detail will bug me for some reason. I'll have to add tomorrow.

'08 Halloween #27: In The Works.

Started work today on my alien spacecraft for the roof and my own version of a classic witch crash gag. I have fingers crossed the flying saucer will be ready by Friday to install. The witch I'll have done tonight and going to put up tomorrow. It'll be a fun one for the first decoration on the house this year. These are the working idea sketches...

'08 Halloween #26: The Flower Girl

The reception was a memory.
The hall was empty.
It was close to midnight.
From the stairs came this whisper...
"I want to go home."

The above is a picture of my Niece when she was a wedding flower girl. It was a really creepy shot to begin with but adding some sepia tone and eerie light to her eyes makes it a bit "ghostier". This will be one of many pics I'm replacing frames in the house with.

'08 Halloween #25: Jason in about an Hour.

Here's a quick and easy Jason dummy project. Best for a window filler or seen from a long distance when detail is not important.

Canned insulation spray foam like Great Stuff should become a main tool in any Halloween decorators arsenal. It's one downside is also it's best feature... it expands into unpredictable forms. I'm guilty of going crazy with it in the past. I've since scaled back now and often only use as an accent. I particularly love it for creating dirt mounds around tombstones.

A real surprise to me was how it made a decent looking, down and dirty Jason Vorhees dummy head last year. It started as an accident. Some excess foam had dripped off a prop on the worktable onto a styrofoam head sitting on the floor. Looking like an odd tumorous growth, it hit me...a distinct feature to Jason is his huge swollen and scarred head behind the mask. Since I had a mask, I thought I'd just go with it for fun. In the end, I created a companion to my Micheal Myers mannequin in little over an hour.

Total time spent creating the head was 5 minutes (minus drying time which was cured enough to paint in about 45 minutes sitting in the sun). Materials: canned foam, black spray paint, pink and red paint, styrofoam head and of course a hockey mask.

The "how to" is mindless. Cover the whole head in foam but leave the area directly under the mask clean so it will not create an odd shape. This way the mask will be flat and look right. While the foam sets up, it's a good time to create the body. Mine was the traditional "scarecrow" method. I safety pinned some overalls, old shirt and work gloves together. Then it was stuffed with crumpled newspaper. Yea, not a movie accurate costume but it's what I had. This made for a fun project to share with my niece Devin last year...

Once the foam dried, I spray painted it all black (btw, black spray foam is also available). I then gave it a wash of red paint and then a dry brushing of the pink. A few washes of brown paint probably wouldn't hurt looking at these pictures. Put the mask on and done! You could also skip all the above and just buy one of those full head version masks and costumes.

He's got good bones to be used again as standing mannequin this year and made a bit better. I'll add some whispers of hair and detailed painting. I'll post pics when done.

Now, where did I put that machete?

'08 Halloween #24: Labor Day of the Dead

Friends of mine in the comedy troupe Mighty McPilgrim have their October episode online...

"In case the collapse of the U.S. economy doesn't frighten you enough, please enjoy our spooky October short. As Halloween approaches and your stock portfolio falls, we need someone to lend a hand and get us out of this mess."

To see all their past monthly episodes visit www.mightymcpilgrim.com

'08 Halloween #23: Cary Grant?

If you made a list of the best Halloween movies to watch this month...would a Cary Grant film be on it? One should be. The 1944 classic "Arsenic and Old Lace". It often falls under the radar this time of year. It's one of the funniest and most charming films I've ever seen and never get tired of watching. Many of the best jokes come out of good scares and dark moments thanks to Raymond Massey and Peter Lorre. I won't bore you with too many words. Just trust me. If you've never seen it, track it down this October.

The movie's fantastic title card illustrations...