STOLLOWEEN How To: Dungeon Rats

How To: Dungeon Rats


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The Dungeon Rats were finished just in time to be included in our 2009 Halloween display.

Named “Riff” and “Raff” the rats are mangy, malnourished and have a nasty disposition, their overall length is five feet long from tip of the nose to the tip of their tails.

The rats were made from recycled empty one gallon paint cans, newspaper, cardboard, plastic milk jugs, utility wire, plaster and plastic broom bristles. A combination of papier mache strips and homemade paper clay were used to cover the armature, strengthen and add texture.

The Dungeon Rats were one project that I did not do any sketches or drawing prior to construction; the inspiration was a small plastic rat that served as the model for my large versions.

The rats started with an empty one gallon paint container. This project was originally intended as an entry for the September Mad Lab contest but was not completed in time.

Newspaper was used to “round out” the shape of the paint bucket. The head was created by stuffing an empty plastic bag with crumpled newspaper.

A piece of rolled corrugated cardboard was used to attach the head to neck, the cardboard served as the neck. Additional newspaper was used to flesh out the transition of the head to the body. One half of a recycled plastic milk jug was attached to the rear end of the rat to complete the shape of the body.

The tail was created with heavy gauge utility wire; newspaper was wrapped around the wire to achieve desired thickness.

The basic shape of the face, snout and jaw were created from strips of recycled cardboard. The process of creating the face was trial and error, essentially just playing around with the cardboard strips until the face was the desired shape.

The rat body was then covered with several layers of papier mache strips to create a solid form which would later get ears, eyes, teeth, legs and feet. The beginning body sort of looked like a baby T-Rex. This stage of the progress was discouraging because my family said they looked like dogs.

The most challenging part of this project for me was the creation of the legs and feet. I referenced an illustration of a rat skeleton and created the legs/feet separately based on the illustration. I opted to exaggerate the length of the feet and spent a fair amount of time experimenting with the final pose.

Once the legs were individually papier mached they were attached to the rat bodies with hot glue in the proper positions and papier mache clay (pulp) was used to tie everything together. The eyes, teeth and claws were all created individually from a plaster clay technique and incorporated into the final piece. The basic technique for creating the rats involved making all the elements separately then essentially putting the final piece together in the desired pose.

The whiskers were plastic broom bristles and the final pieces were painted by drybrushing gray paint over a black base. The teeth were painted with yellow acrylic and the eyes were painted with red acrylic paint.

Looking back on the project the one thing I would have done differently would be to make the tail a separate piece that could be attached to the body for display purposes but stored individually. At some point I may cut the tails off and modify them make them easier to store.