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The Witches were created using traditional strip papier mache over original clay sculptures. The Witch Project was an exercise in planning and design, the goal was to create props that matched original drawings and artwork.
The centerpiece for our 2007 Halloween yard display was three large witches gathered around a large cauldron. The basic concept was developed in February of 2007 and construction started in July. This article is more of a documentation of the process rather than a complete tutorial taken from notes and photos made during the construction.
On July 15th, 2007 work started on further development of the concepts involved in creating the trio of hags.
The concept involved exaggerated or cartoon-like anatomical qualities. Skin coloring and texture was to be grotesque. A few years ago I had found a celery root in the produce department of a local grocery store and found the coloring and texture to be a perfect reference for my witches.
The anatomy of the witches was based on some simple sketches.
A quick profile sketch was made to determine the shape of the nose, jaw and foreheads.
More progress and further concepts were developed on July 21st, 2007. Temporary eyeballs were created with hot glue and black marbles.
Strands from an old broom were experimented with in hope of using them to create the character’s hair.
The hair reminded me of the witch character from the Bugs Bunny cartoons. I guess Witch Hazel is somehow my inspiration for this project, always loved that character.
The next thing I completed was finalizing my witch designs. After sketching the front, ¾ and profile views I used Photoshop to create some rendered versions. The hot glue eyes, broom hair and celery root texture were used to create models that will be used for reference while sculpting.
The texture given to the clay sculpts was for reference purposes because it would be lost when the papier mache strips were applied over the clay.
(Note that the jaw position is not quite right. The sculpt had to be placed in the upright position so the jaw is just propped in place.)
The model sheets proved extremely helpful during the sculpting phase. Each clay sculpt took approximately an hour to complete.
The ears will be sculpted separately, then coated with papier mache strips then attached to the witch head.
The final two witch designs were finished.
The witches are named Favonious, Carus and Boreaus. The names are Latin references to wind, Favonious is Latin for a the West wind.
The witch progress continued on July 30, 2007
The first sculpt was layered with several coats of papier mache strips, allowed to dry, then the shell was removed from the clay. The jaw was also coated, and then cut into two pieces for removal.
During the drying process I managed to get the other two witches sculpts done.
Witch #2 (the plastic skull is a normal life-size human skull to show scale)
And Witch #3 (the big gal)
The ears were finished and the other two clay sculpts were covered with papier mache. The papier mache shells have been removed and attached to the balloons.
The characters are all now at a very rough stage where a little imagination needs to be used to envision their final look.
August 5th, 2007
The jaws, ears and eyelids are now complete and the first layer of texture applied. The texture is being created by applying a thin layer of papier mache clay, then overlaying small pieces of crepe paper to create wrinkles. The crepe paper helps the clay hold the texture.
August 8th , 2007
The jaws are now attached, more texture applied, the teeth created and some temp eyeballs inserted
The temp eyes were made from ping pong balls and paper irises created in Photoshop, the final eyes will probably be yellow and cloudy, cataract-like . . . a little more sickly and aged.
The hot glue eyes I originally created did not “pop” or were not visible enough due to how far they are recessed. I created a mock-up of the hat to help determine the size of the Monster Mud versions.
I still need to add more texture. No matter how hard I try, I miss areas that need textured. The teeth need to be cleaned up with a Dremel, and I need to shape the eye sockets a little to get a better fit for the eyeballs.
Witch One: The heads were put on a dress stand, so note the width of the shoulders are way too small….imagine the width more than doubled. The teeth in this case were made from pressed paperboard (created April 2007) and shaped with a dremel. Tongues were created for all three witches, but after playing around with them I decided that the tongues were confusing and did not contribute to the look.
Witch Two: Sharp pointed teeth instantly turned her into a nasty and evil hag. The teeth were created by cutting out triangles from poster board and folding them down the center to make them dimensional.. The backs of the teeth were filled with papier mache clay.
Witch Three: This gal is the one that I go back and forth on. I didn’t achieve the flabby flesh feeling I was hoping for, sagging jowls, etc. I like her in the respect that she makes an interesting third in the trio, being different unlike other things I have built. I gave her some cardboard glasses to see how they would look and played around with a hood vs. a hat. Her teeth were created with poster board and papier mache clay.
Next on the list are finish texture, glasses, hats and then paint. I’m excited about painting these props, hoping that the paint process will really bring them to life.
August 17th, 2007.
The last several days were very productive; made new eyes, created the hats out of monster mud, applied new layers of texture to the heads, added some non-intrusive tongues, deconstructed a broom for hair, created a pair of glasses and got the whole lot painted.
The heads were painted with a base coated with a dark green latex paint, then dry brushed with three consecutive layers of lighter paint. While dry brushing I pushed it one color to far and ended up with highlights that were close to a fluorescent green, I toned down the color scheme by adding another layer of paint that was more of an orange/beige color. The hair is temporarily attached to the hat, once it is permanently secured a heat gun will be used to bend the hair into a more stylized look…right now it’s just sort of frizzy and sticking out all over the place.
The hats were created by applying cloth soaked in Monster Mud over a form created from corrugated cardboard and poster board, the creation of the hats was simple and quick.
The glasses were made from a coat hanger and old piece of plexiglass. The lenses of the glasses were “dirtied up” with a coat of varnish and actual dirt from the yard sprinkled over the lenses.
All things considered I’m pretty happy with the end result. The props are pretty much how I imagined and close to the original concept artwork.
PART II: THE CAULDRON
The overall scale of the witches required a cauldron that was extremely large. I searched most of the home improvement stores (Lowes, Home Depot, Menards) for a large planter or something that work as a cauldron. After much procrastination I set about building my own cauldron.
Curved cardboard ribs were cut from corrugated cardboard and glued to the outer edge of the wood base. The entire form was wrapped with adhesive mesh tape.
Masking tape and duct tape were also used to secure and reinforce the cauldron shape. Rolled tubes of newspaper were added to the top of the cauldron to form a large lip or ridge. The entire prop was covered with strip mache.
Accessories were created to make the cauldron a little more decorative. Spikes, chain and a skull adornment were made from papier mache clay.
The accessories were attached to the cauldron with hot glue, and then secured in place with more papier mache clay.
The entire cauldron was painted with flat black latex paint and then dry brushed with a white and silver paint. Thinned red paint was sprayed onto the cauldron, allowed to drip to help simulate rust and age.