How To: Miniature Asylum


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DESCRIPTION:


This project involved building a four foot wide model of a mental asylum for my new blog called www.arsenicasylum.com.

 

The miniature was made from recycled cardboard covered with papier mache and a joint compound/white glue mixture.


 

When I first decided that I was going to make a miniature of Arsenic Asylum my first plan was to simply make a cardboard model then photograph and add all details such as the brick and windows using Photoshop.

 

After the cardboard model was complete and I reviewed some test shots I felt it would be better to add the surface texture to the model and just add window reflections, gargoyles and other details digitally.

 

This project was a lot of trial and error.

 

The results aren’t perfect but work well enough for the blog.

 

A very rough sketch of the asylum provided the basic blueprint.

 

Thick corrugated cardboard was cut and hot glued together to build the basic shape of the asylum.

 

The columns were sheets of printer paper rolled into a tube.

 


 

Once the structure was built from cardboard several layers of papier mache strips covered the entire surface.

 

In the beginning I had no intention of turning this into a papier mache project but felt that the medium would work to cover seams and add strength.

 


 

Once the papier mache was dry I brushed on a thin layer of a white glue/joint compound mixture to cover the paper strip seams and add a very subtle texture.

 


The entire miniature was spray painted black then dry brushed with white latex primer to highlight key elements of the structure.

 


 

Finally some amber shellac was brushed over the entire surface to tone down the highlights and give the building a warm and muted appearance.

 

Using a small brush black paint as added under the eves and the windows to simulate aging and stains caused by water damage.

 

 

Small squares of black paper were glued to the model to show window placement.



The model was photographed against a green screen so that the background could easily be removed and replaced with a real photographic landscape.

 

Several shots required winter shots of the asylum, for these shots flour was dumped on the model and arranged to look like snow drifts.

 


 

Once photography was done the photos were loaded into Photoshop and a variety of elements were composited together to create the finished shots.

 

 

This graphic shows the elements that went into this one shot.



 

  1. Exterior photograph of a field with a tree line in the background.
  2. The asylum miniature.
  3. Pieces of cotton that were used to simulate clouds.
  4. Gargoyle, one of my earlier papier mache pieces.
  5. Me in front of a green screen.
  6. Text.
  7. Metal railing.
  8. Clock face created from scratch in Photoshop.
  9. Window reflections.

 

All of these elements were added with the addition of a lot of masking, color correction, light rendering, increased contrast, grain texture and removal of all color.

 

If I were to ever do something similar I would not use cardboard and papier mache because the cardboard warped during the process causing the window alignment to be a nightmare.

 

Next time I would use either foam or a thin balsa wood to make a structural model.