Friday, November 6, 2015

Edward Gorey Halloween: How to make a paper mache hat mask

For Halloween this year I decided to be Edward Gorey's character Mr. Earbrass from the Unstrung Harp. 

Gorey has such a unique visual style that I didn't want to simply paint my face and wear fancy clothes. I decided that the best option was a paper mache mask worn as a hat over my head. Here is a sketch I did to see what that might look like.

First I cut out a scale profile of the head so I would have an idea of the size, and to make sure it would fit over a regular baseball cap which I planned to use for the interior. If you look closely at the drawing you can see the outline of the baseball hat. I used a cheap craft hat that I bought at Michael's for three bucks. 

I didn't get a picture of the hat before I started sculpting over it, but I cut out cardboard forms and taped them to the hat to use as guides for the overall shape that I wanted to end up with. I don't have a head mold (this is my first mask like this) so I used a sugar jar and taped a paper bag stuffed with plastic bags over it to get roughly the same shape as my melon. Then I just started adding newspaper and tape until I had the shape I was looking for. It's a good idea to put masking tape over the whole surface because once you're done molding over it it makes it much easier to pull out your armature. 

I started this only a couple of days before Halloween so I didn't really have enough time to use paper mache (lots of dry time involved). I've had these plaster gauze strips lying around for a while so it seemed like a good opportunity to try them out since they dry so much faster. It's the same material arm and leg casts are made from so once you have two or three layers on there your shell will be pretty strong. For the eyes I just cut a ping pong ball in half (just like Kermit the frog) and I decided not to cover them in plaster strips to keep their smooth texture. The ears I created separately and added on later. 

I was a little disappointed with how textured and uneven the final product was due to how thick the plaster strips were, but I was able to soften the edges a little bit using painters caulk. After painting on a couple of layers of gesso the only thing left to do was draw on the features to resemble the original crosshatched illustration. I also put a layer of clear gloss medium over the eyes to make them shiny, as a finishing touch. Below you can see the finished mask next to the initial armature. 

And here's the costume in full effect!

I didn't have a fur lined coat, so we pinned a strip of fake fur my wife has to the collar of my trench coat. Worked like a dream. Of course the one real downside of this costume is that hardly anyone will know what you are, but who cares! Right? Happy Halloween!

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