Gallery: Forty Favorites

While doing some work which required me to browse through my collection of Halloween and prop photos I selected forty of my favorites presented here in no particular order.




Buster Gravesley (Spring 2010). Buster Gravesley is a large coffin bound zombie groundbreaker made completely from papier mache. The piece is over four feet tall and was built for the HauntForum $20 Prop Challenge. This is one of my favorite photos because it reminds me of the fun I had while spending a month building this prop.





The Great Pumpkin Workshop II (October 2012). Group shop of the participants in The Great Pumpkin Workshop held at Legacy Art Studio and Gallery inMidland, MI. This is one of my favorite photos because I really dig the cool gallery in the background and these were some of the nicest people in the world.




Arsenic Asylum (Summer 2011).  A miniature asylum building made from papier mache, shot against green screen, Adobe Photoshop was then used to add structural and environmental elements such as windows, icicles and sky. This is one of my favorite photos because it has a lot of atmosphere and tells a story. Also it was fun to create a winter scene in 90 degree weather by covering the miniature with ten pounds of flour.



The Black Gate (October 2012).  Our Halloween yard display several days before the remnants of hurricane Sandy swept through our area, the storm forced the display to be taken down several days before Halloween. This is one of my favorite photos because I like the icy blue lighting on the columns and the eerie green lights illuminating the fog. In person the display had a very strange and otherworldly feel.



The Black Gate (October 2012). The view of our yard from across the road, this is how most people see our display as they drive by at 35mph, hence the reason I build my props much larger than life. This is one of my favorite photos due to the light streaks at the top and bottom caused by a truck passing through the frame during a long exposure, one of those happy accidents.




The Black Gate (October 2012).  When I was in college I had a professor say that if you are shooting a scene and you are comfortable then you are not doing your job. What he meant was that the interesting shots come from putting your body in uncomfortable positions, finding that unique point of view that shows the subject in a different light. I like this photo because it not only gives a different perspective of our yard but it also reminds me as to what our display must look like to little children as they enter our cemetery.



The Black Gate (October 2012).  This photo was taken on top of a step ladder, approximately ten feet off the ground to get an eye level perspective of the GateKeepers, the odd alienesque statues adorning the cemetery columns. This is one of my favorite photos because the setting sun illuminates our neighbors yard which is shrouded in fog thanks the wind blowing in their direction. The sepia effect gives the photo a feeling of isolation, like you just stumbled upon some place best left unexplored.




Mr. Bonehead (Spring 2009). Mr. Bonehead is a large papier mache skull mask created by covering an inflated beach ball with papier mache. The skull was made primarily from strip mache to keep it light weight. This is one of my favorite photos because it was taken on a gorgeous spring day and you can see the lilacs in full bloom, plus what’s not fun about running around your back yard wearing an oversized papier mache skull?




Boris The Bolter (Spring 2011).  Boris was a large four foot tall troll made for the city ofMidland’s Downtown Summer Sculpture Series. This was a commission job that took over three months to build and ended up weighing well over 100 pounds. This is one of my favorite photos because the project was very fun, everything came together exactly as planned and I was very pleased with the finished sculpture. Boris was one of the biggest pieces I have built to date and makes me wish I had the space to create large pieces like this on a regular basis.



Boris The Bolter (Spring 2011). There is nothing more special than a boy and his troll spending quality time in the back yard, this photo was taken shortly after the project was completed. This is one of my favorite photos because it shows the large scale of the troll sculpture and while it’s not the most flattering photo of me I do look relieved that it was finished on time and on budget.




Buster Gravesley  (Spring 2010). Putting the finishing touches on Buster Gravesley, a four foot tall coffin bound zombie sculpture made entirely from papier mache. The prop was finished over spring break thanks to some unseasonably warm weather and this shot was taken to show the scale of the finished piece. This is one of my favorite photos because it brings back pleasant memories of building one of my all time favorite props.



Demon Reaper Skulls (October 2006). The Demon Reapers hold a very special place in my heart. I started making papier mache Halloween props in 1992 but it wasn’t until 2006 that I shared my work on the internet. The first Halloween site I ever joined was, and it was here that I learned I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm for October 31st. This is one of my favorite photos because it really the first time I took a concept sketched out on paper and turned it into something three dimensional.



Papier Mache Dragon Workshop (Summer 2008).  In 2008 I taught my first papier mache workshop to a group of adults that had a desire to build dragons. This was one of the most nerve wracking experiences of my life, although I was very prepared and had rehearsed the class in my mind it was new and uncharted territory. This is one of my favorite photos because it is a reminder to take chances and act on ideas rather than just sit on them.



Dragons (Summer 2008).  The dragons were created for my first papier mache workshop held at a local art studio. After I developed the techniques for making the dragons I built some eggs and a large nest from expandable spray foam. This is one of my favorite photos because the dragons seem to have a lot of character as they snap and snarl at the photographer.



 Frogs (Summer 2009).  Frogs were the theme forMidland’s Downtown Summer Sculpture Series in 2009 and I was asked to teach a workshop where the students could create their very own amphibian. I designed and built five different prototypes all using recycled milk jugs as the starting point for the armature. This is one of my favorite photos because we took the frogs to a local swamp to take the promotional photos and it’s not every day you get to muck around in a bog playing with large papier mache frogs. Good times.



Miscellaneous Props (Summer 2009). What started as cleaning and organizing our garage turned into a photo opportunity as the pieces were taken out of storage and placed in our backyard and I remember thinking how this looks like a big macabre yard sale. This is one of my favorite photos because it reminds me of how absurd my passion for building Halloween props can seem to someone that doesn’t share my enthusiasm.



Great LakesFrightFest (Spring 2007).  In February of 2007 I was invited to speak and demonstrate my papier mache techniques at Great Lakes FrightFest inPetersburg,Michigan. At this point I was a newbie to the social aspects of home haunting and nervously agreed to give it a shot and filled an hour slot demonstrating the steps I used to create papier mache demon skulls. This is one of my favorite moments because it was an eye opening experience to be surrounded by like-minded folks that actually cared and were enthusiastic to learn about prop building.



Gourdon Rotsworth (Fall 2010).  About a year after starting a STOLLOWEEN page on Facebook I decided to have a contest where I would build the winner a custom pumpkin of his or her liking. The winner wanted an “undead pumpkin” for his yard display and after sketching a couple of concepts I created a pumpkin groundbreaker style of prop consisting of a head, rib cage, upper and lower arm bones and claws. This is one of my favorite photos because the whole project came together quickly without any snags and the winner seemed very pleased with the end product.




Halloween Display (October 2006) During September and October of 2006 I built over thirty papier mache pieces that were used to create our yard display. This photo was submitted to Reader’s Digest for a Halloween photo contest and ended up winning first place and netting us a $2,500 prize. This is one of my favorite photos because it represents the first time my style as an artist began to emerge and represents the point in time where I started working on Halloween props year round.




Halloween Display (October 2006).  I am a firm believer that Halloween props should look just as good in daylight as they do under the cover of darkness. This is one of my favorite because even though you can see all the flaws and the bulk of the props are rather crude compared to my work today I was happy and enthusiastic to share it with the world.




Witches (October 2007).  During the summer of 2007 I really put the petal to the metal in terms of creating new characters to haunt our yard. The witch project was really fun and unique as they first started their existence as large clay sculpts used as a temporary armature for papier mache.  This is one of my favorite photos because the witches are a constant favorite with visitors to and represent a unique way of approaching a project.




Demon Reapers (October 2007).  The Demon Reapers have a history of occupying different spots in our yard each year, in this photo they are guarding the entrance to our porch and surrounded by some intricate tombstones made from papier mache. This is one of my favorite photos due to the intense wash of blue light and the fact that they have their own space away from the bulk of the display.




Digger and Marsha (October 2008).  Digger is a caretaker and Marsha is his main squeeze, these two papier mache props are each unique due their history. Digger was originally built in 1992 then received a make over in 2008 and Marsha is a cheap store bought plastic skeleton re-imagined using papier mache. This is one of my favorite photos because I like the play of light and shadow in the scene plus the intense purple/blue from blacklights illuminating the cheesecloth spiderwebs.




Demon Reapers (October 2008). These Demons were constructed in 2008, built using the same techniques developed in 2006 for the original set of Demon Reaper Skulls. This is one of my favorite photos for several reasons; first I love the sky which still has enough light to silhouette the trees and secondly the green backlight that gives the fog a perfect touch of eeriness.




Cyclops (October 2008).  In 2008 I created a set of three Cyclops style creatures, each featuring a large eye recessed in each skull and an array of curved horns and odd spikes. The build was an exercise in free form creations, no sketches, no expectations and no rules, just creating for the sake of creating. This is one of my favorite photos because it was taken from behind the Cyclops showing them silhouetted against a cloud of brightly lit fog. The photo reminds me of a scene from a movie, some sort of strange ritual being carried out by seemingly nasty creatures. 



Halloween Display (2009). In 2009 I built the Serpent Gargoyle for an online prop challenge and while it didn’t win it debuted that year in our display. This shot is actually from the weekend after Halloween, due to the weather our display was only set up briefly for Trick or Treaters, so the following week I again set up the display in our backyard for the purpose of taking photos. This is one of my favorite photos because of the way the green light and fog highlights the Serpent Gargoyle, it looks like a Photoshop effect.



Halloween Display (2009). Something magical happens on Halloween when the sun begins to set, there’s an ominous feeling in the air like something magical is about to happen. This is one of my favorite photos because it captures that magical moment before Halloween arrives with the final moments of the sun showing behind the display.



Halloween Display (2009). In my world Halloween is all about pumpkins, pumpkins here and pumpkins there. This is one of my favorite photos because of the contrast between the warm glows of the Jack O’ Lanterns and the cold blacklight in the background. This is what Halloween looks like in my mind.



Halloween Display (2009). The cemetery columns and toppers which I call “Sentinels” were new for 2009. The cemetery columns were built from scrap lumber and coated with a layer of monster mud and cellulose fiber insulation to give the brick and mortar effect. This is one of my favorite photos because it was taken during the final moments of daylight during which the sky photographs a beautiful shade of blue.



Halloween Display (October 2010). This was one of my favorite Halloween displays featuring lots of pumpkins and three new creatures called the Wardens taking center stage. The Wardens were actually designed as large marionettes with all of the arms capable of being animated with a single motor. This is one of my favorite photos because there is so much going on, no matter where you look you find something new and interesting.



Halloween Display (October 2010).  Buster Gravesley made his debut this year in the display, surrounded by lots of pumpkins and other assorted beasties. This is one of my favorite photos because Buster is one of my favorite pieces and he looked right at home in our yard, a perfect new addition to the festivities.



Masks (Spring 2008). This mask was made as an exercise in creating something that was non-symmetrical, an attempt to push myself out of my comfort zone. Most of my work is very symmetrical, I like things balanced and even, but in nature most things are not that way. This is one of my favorite photos not so much for the photograph itself but rather the memories of having my sons model the finished masks, parading around making scary gestures and hamming it up for the camera.



 Nocturnus (Fall 2010) Nocturnus was a big freaking spider I made for some really talented and popular home haunters out west. The spider’s leg span was about four feet and was designed in a modular fashion so that the legs could be detached for shipping and storage. This is one of my favorite photos because I really liked the spider design and it shows the scale of the finished piece.




DangerCountyMine(October 1993). One of a dozen or so life sized, animated, papier mache skeleton I built for a commercial haunted house my wife and I produced in 1993. This particular creature didn’t have a name and even though I was just learning to work with mache it still possessed a degree of personality and character. This is one of my favorite photos because it was taken with 35mm film, sometimes I really miss the old days of shooting with film because it made photos a little more special.



Mr. Hefty (January 2008). The very first papier mache pumpkin I ever made which paved the way for hundreds of pumpkins I would build in the following years. Mr. Hefty was made by stuffing a trash bag with crumpled newspaper and covering it with papier mache, which became the most popular tutorial on my website. This is one of my favorite photos because of the lighting, a nice warm glow and intense orange color is the goal of every Jack O’Lantern on Halloween night.



Promotional Photo (Spring 2010). It might seem egotistical to include a photo of myself among my favorites but I like this photo because it shows the everyday nature of our garage. The picture was taken because I needed a promotional shot to accompany my troll entry for the Downtown Summer Sculpture Series. I wanted a high angle shot surrounded by some of my work so I went out to our garage and my wife climbed to the top of a step ladder to snap this photo. The day this photo was taken was extremely cold, somewhere around 20 degrees out and I remember freezing because I did not want to be wearing a coat in my photograph.



ThunderMansion(Spring 2002). When my boys were in elementary school my wife and I were very active with the P.T.O., we organized the school carnival for three years and part of the carnival included a small haunted house. Creating a child-friendly haunted house was fun but a challenge; the main characters in the attraction were two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs which I designed in Photoshop. The eyes in the skeletons were recessed a few inches giving a cool three-dimension appearance. This is one of my favorite photos because I really enjoyed buildingThunderMansionand creating the creepy cast of characters.



Winged Skull (2010). This was originally built to sell online but ultimately ended up being used in our yard display. One of favorite things to build is wings, I love the freedom and flow of designing wings whether they be for dragons, gargoyles or bats. This is one of my favorite photos because I find the piece strangely beautiful in a weird sort of way.



Skeleton (Summer 2008).  Building props outdoors during the summer is one of my favorite things because you really don’t have to worry too much about making a mess. In this photo I’m putting the final layers of clay onto a skeleton prop that was being built for a contest. This is one of my favorite photos because I remember the evening well, it was  very warm outside and everything was going smoothly except for the fact that it was getting dark and I was forced to finish working.



Zombie (October 2007). Recycled material is a constant in my papier mache work and in this case I actually recycled a bunch of old skulls I had created and repurposed them as zombies. This zombie featured chains embedded into his skull and a bunch of nasty pointed teeth. This is one of my favorite photos because I really like the idea of giving old props new life and in the case of this zombie I feel that the “groundbreaking” effect was effective.


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