Hand of Glory Prop: Take 2

The Hand of Glory prop has a bit more age to it now. I weathered the lashing (dark brown paint wash) and gave the candles a layer of grime (yellow ocher tinted Mod Podge). Those elements looked too new in the first version. Small changes that really did make the prop better looking (I think at least).

Hand of Glory Prop

I've created a new prop for my cabinet of curiosities - a Hand of Glory.

The basic legend is, they were used as a tool by thieves well versed in the occult. The severed hand of a robber or murderer, executed for their crimes, was fashioned into a macabre candelabra. For each candle lit, one person in a home would sleep without waking until the flame was put out, allowing a thief to steal away without fear of being caught.

I imagined my Hand of Glory a very old and well used one... traded, bought or killed for by numerous nefarious criminals in dark pubs and alleys over many, many years. The hand has become mummified and skeletal, not as fresh as it was when quickly and crudely, snapped off a forgotten ne'er-do-well pirate's corpse hanging on the gallows long ago. It was created in haste during some dark ritual... an exposed forearm bone was simply lashed a wooden candlestick keeping it upright.

I should mention that although I used real candles in this prop, it was only made to display them, not safely burn them. They were lit just for these pictures, and even then, for only less than a minute.

This piece started as a zombie hand I was making to rise out of the ground for the Halloween yard display this year, but a new idea for it hit me.

Easter Bunny House Sketch

Here's the concept for the Easter Bunny house display. Unlike the Leprechaun tree, the bunny needs a second-story to sleep in. His first floor egg painting workshop takes up a lot of space. There are rumors that underneath the tree, a vast network of tunnels exist which lead to good egg hiding spots across the globe.

Making the Leprechaun Door

I meant to post this the other day, but just plain forgot.

On a general note, my impulsive St. Patrick's Day lawn decorating was a success. The neighborhood reaction (that I saw) brought many smiles. Several passersby made it a photo-op with their kids. My hope to bring a bit of that Halloween and Christmas decorating magic that makes myths real worked. Bring on the Easter Bunny. I wish there was a nationally recognized Giant Squid Day!

But I digress. Here's how I made the Leprechaun door. Know that I knocked it out pretty fast using what materials I had at hand, so there's lots of room for improvement.

The door was cut out of foamcore board. Then scored vertically (where the seams of the wood planks might be), so It could be bent matching the tree trunk curve.

Next it was coated with brown tinted "monster mud" (left over from my yarn bombing tree project). I used a stick to create wood grain and softened the hard lines a bit by going back over with a paint brush.

Once it set up, I painted on a thin coat of green. While still wet I lightly dragged a rag over pulling off paint from the high points, revealing some brown underneath, creating a weathered feel.

The shamrock window frame and hinge plate hardware were cut out of 1/4" thick craft foam.

The hinges themselves were pieces of cardboard tube found on dry cleaner wire hangers. The tips were glued on wood plugs. I also used larger wood plugs for the rivets on the hinge plates.

The door handle was made with Model Magic. A tape roll was used as a jig to wrap the clay around to create a decent circle.

I painted all the hardware with gold spray paint, then pounced on a coat of thinned black acrylic to age and weather them. I glued a sheet of black card stock behind the shamrock window and sprayed with a clear gloss coat to help give a feeling that it's actually glass. In retrospect, I should of used a sheet of clear acetate first, then the black paper. Oh well, next time.

Once all the pieces were dry, they were glued together. I looped two lengths of bailing wire through both sides off the door, and tied around the tree trunk to hold in place.

Leprechaun House

There's a leprechaun living in our tree!

The front lawn display is finished. It's been pouring rain since late last night, so the door was added very quickly this morning and decided to loose a few details I had planned. But I can improve on next year and it's a good prototype for the Easter Bunny house in the works. I'll post a door "making of" tomorrow.

In the meantime, happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Leprechaun Lantern

The leprechaun door display will be done just in time for tomorrow. The door itself is still drying, but the lantern is finished and out front with the pot o' gold.

I decided it would be fun to have it sitting on top of something, as opposed to just being on the ground as in the sketch. I first started to make a large shamrock, but unfortunately I was rushing it and couldn't get it right. It just looked like a large tropical plant (there's always next year to try again). So I went with a smaller pile of gold coins.

The lantern is an old, tea light holding one from my stash. I decided since it had a pre made hole in the bottom (where the tea light holder unscrews) I could add a bright Christmas bulb in a faux candle to light up the display at night. I first took the lantern apart and painted.

The candle body was made from a cardboard tube and hot glue, then painted.

Next, I created the base by gluing gold coins into a pile, leaving an open space in the center so the light cord could pass through. Then the lantern base was glued on top, then the candle body on top of that. Finally, the lantern was reassembled.

Off to finish the door, more later.

Pot of Gold Prop

The pot of gold prop for my St Patrick's Day Leprechaun door display is done. I hoped to get everything completed earlier this weekend, but distractions prevailed. I still might add little legs/feet to the pot, but we'll see. The lantern and the door itself are very close to being finished.

I used an old medium sized plastic Halloween cauldron. It's been holding our Trick or Treater candy for years. No problem giving it up, I've got something new in mind this October.

I created the rings to hold the handle with Model Magic. They were sculpted on the pot and worked into the design of the preexisting implied rings these types of cauldrons always have.

I wanted the rings to curve upwards, so to avoid sagging, I turned the pot upside down while they dried.

Next, I created the handle with a curved piece of plastic fountain pump hose. The hooked ends were also made with Model Magic and glued on later once dry.

I first painted the pot with a rusty brown faux finish, but changed my mind. It looked too dark and Halloweenish. I wanted it more kid friendly and fantasy feeling. It was repainted with mottled black and silver later.

A foam core "shelf" to hold the gold mound was glued in just under the lip and painted black.

No real trick to creating the pile of gold coins. Just countless drops of super glue and ample patience. The ones I used have been in my stash for years, but you can get bags of them for a few bucks at most party stores.

It was really tedious at first filling in the open space, but once built up enough, it became a lot of fun creating the crooked stacks giving it some personality.

Leprechaun Door For The Yard

Last December, I had way too much fun when niece Devin and I decorated her house for Christmas with the effort my place gets for Halloween. I decided then that there was no good reason other holidays shouldn't inspire yard decor prop making on my part.

For St. Pat's Day, I'm going to transform the base of our tree out front into a small leprechaun's house. Several of the props seen in my sketch above are in the works right now, and should be done by tomorrow or Saturday to display.  I'm taking plenty of process pics and will update soon.

One of my favorite things about Halloween decorating is seeing how much the whole neighborhood enjoys it. But this effort is for the kids... an unexpected, whimsical touch on the lawn in March that I hope brings a big Irish smile to their faces.

By the way, odds are pretty good this will be re-worked and become the Easter Bunny's house in a couple of weeks.

It's Already October In The Workroom

Halloween prop making has started early. I want this to be the year I actually spend more October evenings looking at finished work while sipping a cup of coffee, instead of spending most October evenings trying to finish work while chugging a pot of coffee.

Creative Inspiration: Ralph McQuarrie

How much inspiration and joy has the work of Ralph McQuarrie given me over the years since I first saw Star Wars at the age of twelve in 1977?

How's this for an answer...

When I discovered some of his original concept art on display at the Star Wars Celebration convention here in Los Angeles back in 2007, it was such an exciting nerd moment for me, I actually called my mom to tell her what I was looking at. She above many knew what a huge artistic icon he was for me growing up. My brother, who was there, thought this so funny and unimaginably dorky that he captured the moment on his camera phone.

The art was amazingly small. Making it all the more impressive. What I marveled at most was how clean his use of paint was. Nothing seemed sketchy, loose, random, or corrected later. His skill as an draftsman was evident as many of the finer implied technical details on spacecraft and such were just dark, ruled in, pencil lines on top of the paint. I loved that you could even catch light reflecting off the graphite at certain angles. It really brought home the fact that it was the actual painting in front of you. 

Out of McQuarrie's entire body of work, this one is my favorite. It captured my imagination when I first saw it in '77 and still does today.

Parking Space 94

I stopped at VONS grocery to pick up a couple of things. As I was returning to my car, a Elvis Costello glasses wearing, Wolverine mutton chopped hipster with his skinny jeaned girlfriend walked past my beat up old Toyota and said

"What a piece of junk."

I wasn't offended, it is. I just smiled saying "She may not look like much, but she's got it where it counts."

He looked awkward and embarrassed realizing I was the owner, but played along. "Made a lot of special modifications yourself, did you?"

I nodded proudly. "She'll make point five past the speed limit."

"Can you outrun Imperial cruisers?"

"Yep, not the local bulk cruisers mind you, the big Corellian ships!"

The hipster's girlfriend looked confused and said  "What the hell are you guys talking about?"

While I Slacked, Others Created

Over the years I've shared numerous idea sketches for Halloween props that I've yet to make for my yard, but a few of them have been brought to life by others for their displays. I always hope my stuff is liked and maybe inspire, but seeing literal interpretations is beyond flattering.

Yard haunter Thomas Cass created my Sidewalk of Sinister Snares idea. He's posted details on Hauntforum.

Another Hauntforum member BeaconSamurai not only brought my British banker/butler like zombie sketch to life but actually made him animatronic tipping his bowler wearing skull.

Hauntspace forum member Jeremy Drach made a Kraken Xing sign inspired by one of my Para Abnormal cartoons for his fun Pirate themed Halloween yard. It perfectly complimented a great prop ship he created being overrun by tentacles.

Thank you guys, wonderful work all!