This week I used a photo of Charles Laughton to make a portrait mask for Halloween. The photo of the actor was taken when he played the hunchback in the 1939 film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. As you’ll see in the video, I used almost all of the same techniques that you’ll see in my book How to Make Masks, with two exceptions:
- I used Sargent Art Plastilina Modeling Clay instead of Super Sculpey for the positive mold, because the plastilina is so much cheaper. The plastilina cost $16.56 for 5 pounds, while the Sculpey costs $11.33 for a one pound box – it’s an enormous difference in cost. Once I got used to the different texture of the clay, I decided it wasn’t really all that bad. Which is fortunate, since it won’t dry out and I’ll be using it again for many more projects.
- And I don’t intend to wear my mask on Halloween (I’m a few years too old for trick or treat!) so I used a plastic skull as my mask form. I really like using the skull when I’m sculpting faces – you have all the bones already set in the right places, but you don’t have any features that might get in the way. However, the mask doesn’t fit, so if you want to make a portrait mask to actually wear, I suggest you use a mask form instead.
I used slightly more than one pound of clay for this mask. If you use a mask form instead of a skull you wouldn’t need nearly as much clay.
I didn’t spend much time painting this fellow, and I know it would have come out better if I’d used some of the formulas in the Color Mixing Recipes for Portraits book. My copy is usually up in the studio, but I couldn’t find it yesterday, so I just started adding one layer of color after another, until I finally decided the mask was done. It isn’t quite human-colored, but it looks OK.
I think my next mask is going to be a witch. I Googled “toothless old woman” and found hundreds of grinning faces that would make a nice, non-threatening yet weirdly cheerful witch. I can’t wait to get started. Maybe I’ll try and see if it’s possible to use the joint compound/glue mixture for paste on the next one, to see if it works or not. I know it would be almost impossible to use the fast-setting plaster-based paste in a classroom setting, because the paste hardens up in the bowl. If the gesso recipe works just as well, it would be really helpful for teachers. Meanwhile, if you happen to try it, please let us know if it works or not. And be sure to post photos of your own masks below – Halloween is coming soon!