live, my beauty, live!

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When last I blogged about Halloween, I was working on creating a zombie.  And I was, admittedly, following Neil Gaiman’s advice and pretending I was good at it.  But a little foreplanning would have served me well.

So I had this mannequin:

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..and I had this head…

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..but this head was filled with hard foam.

zombie foam

So I had two choices:  Try to figure out how to glue the head to the neck – o hai giraffe zombie! – or hollow out the head and slide it over the neck.   Foam removal was much easier a concept than it was a reality, and it took me a few hours to remove enough foam to allow easy neck insertion.  Considering I have another  head to work with someday, I am documenting this fact in hopes that I remember to fit head to neck before I do any painting, because the fear of screwing up the mask and the paint job gave an extra level of anxiety to the task of foam removal.

As I mentioned previously, the mannequin I was using had a broken foot and couldn’t stand up on her own.  While I was fighting with foam, he was creating a platform for our chickie, and rigging up an armature for the arms.

Our gal is a bit more brittle than we’d anticipated, so screwing directly into the body was not Bones’ favourite job.  But he is my hero, and he made it work.

The apron-looking thing is a piece of a zombie costume. I’m not sure how old this thing is, but I love the look of the bones and such.  Obviously, it was in need of a repainting to make it match her head…as the next photo shows.

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The bits on her arms are from a completely different zombie costume.  The  look of it is SO different from everything else that I had some serious doubts any of this was going to look like it made any kind of sense.

We had left her with only a partial right arm so that I could get her dressed.  Sadly, the clothing I had pulled from my costume stash for her just didn’t fit right.  My wedding dress was promising, but Bones voiced…um, a loud protest…so I moved on to a blouse created by a Philly designer, Ercoli.  The blouse had seen better days, and it allowed me to show off those gorgeous ribs of hers.

She still needed hands.  I have a thing about monster figure hands, in that I want the figures in my haunts to have believable  hands. I used to work for a haunt that used cotton gloves filled with nothing, and it was painfully obvious that they weren’t hands.  So I had repainted a pair of recycled latex hands earlier.  (Below is a progress pic.)

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Hair was stumping me a little.  I finally settled on a horribly gaudy red wig I had stashed away.  With some black spray paint (I know, I know…tacky as heck) it showed some promise.

I slashed her clothing so that we could see her exposed bones and bits, using liquid latex to make the edges icky, and then  used more latex mixed with grey powder to give her clothing a further grimy feel.

And…voila!

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That neck seam is pretty amazingly invisible to me.  Also, o hai!  My zombie is a hussy!  But I really couldn’t bear to cover up that chest.

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She ended up being much prettier than she probably should be.  I’m still not sure how exactly that happened…  Were I to do it again, I’d have lightened up her face, because in haunt lighting her features are a little hard to make out.  Alas.  Still, for my first attempt, I am beyond happy with her!

one dead, five injured by a gunman at zombicon

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Last year, chlorine gas was released at a con, causing 19 attendees at the Illinois event to be sent to the hospital.

This year, the violence moved to Florida.

You’d probably have to be hiding under a rock to not have heard about the popular zombie walks that have been happening across the country for the past several years.  The biggest and arguably the best one, Pittsburgh Zombie Fest, asks attendees to bring a can of food as an admission price, and that gets donated to a local food bank.  Running these events with a charity in mind is fairly common, and it shows heart behind the horror.

Many of these events are organized like a block party, with live music, face painting, and vendors.  Others are pub crawls, like my personal favourite, the Philly Zombie Crawl. In Minneapolis, their zombie pub crawl is huge, pricey, polarizing..and here to stay.   If you’d rather participate in something that resembles a zombie parade, check out Zombiewalk Columbus, which raises money for Ronald McDonald House, or Denver’s zombie crawl, which has also been around for a decade.

So you get the idea.  There are lots of people that want to dress up like zombies in outside venues for a little walking dead fun.

Until this year’s ZombiCon.

ZombiCon in Fort Myers, Florida has been going strong for 9 years now, and its organizing group Pushing Daizies, Inc is very focused on its charities.  They take food donations for a food bank; their attendees are given the opportunity to donate blood, and their $5 admission fee supports children’s art programs and scholarships.  Over 20,000 people were estimated to show up this year – numbers the average convention would envy.

Just before midnight on Saturday, October 17th, someone started shooting at random attendees.  One person was killed.  Five were wounded.  The FBI is now involved in trying to find the man responsible.

This time, no one’s amused by the violence.  Thank heavens.

There’s a lot of buzz about What Happens Next, of course.  Do the organizers raise the price and take the event indoors?  This was tried a few years ago, according to a response on Facebook, and it reportedly didn’t work very well.  (I personally can’t imagine anything than a stadium working for this kind of crowd.)  Do the organizers bump up security?  They do hire security and have police on site every year.  Was the shooter just someone looking for a real-world zombie paintball experience?  That’s something that occurs to me, and I really really really hope it’s not the case.  Does the reality of this story blur over into other street parties and conventions?

Consider that in 10 years of zombie crawls and such, it looks like this is the first time violence has erupted.  It’s having an effect on events in Chicago and West Palm Beach, so it’s not hard to imagine the ripple effect going further.  Personally, I hope not.  Zombies aren’t my bag, baby, but I love the passion of the people that organize and participate in these events, and – like any fan-driven thing, really – I want to see the geeks win.  I mean, really…look at how amazing the ZombiCon attendees were!  That’s a level of creativity and fun that has to win out over an ass with a gun.

painting the walking dead

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So after a night of obsessing over my zombie’s mouth, I decided that using her original lips was the better option. And as soon as I cut the latex to expose her mouth? I regretted my decision, because it left a pretty obvious edge that I couldn’t hide.

…Moving on! I decided to start with a base colour of grey for her skin, then a layer of green, then a drybrushed layer of off yellow. I then chose to give her a secondary level of exposed muscle, with a few bits of exposed bone. For the muscle layer, I went with two shades of red followed by a diluted wash of black. (I used craft paint for all of this.)

Stage One:

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Stage Two (or, Oh Chickie I’m Not Sure What To Do Next):

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Stage Three:

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A sign of true love (as well as the best husband ever): Bones not only didn’t complain that I was working at the dining room table, he also cooked dinner and brought it to me while I was working. ❤

20151020-220055.jpgSide note: No matter how much they beg, do NOT feed your zombie table scraps.

20151020-220114.jpg“Please?  Just a nibble?”

I started working on her hands as well before calling it a day.  I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be working with actual hand-looking hands!  I used to work for a haunt that tried to use gloves in lieu of sculpted hands on their figures and IMNSO you can always tell that you’re looking at empty gloves.  If you’re building your own figures, keep on the lookout for hands you can salvage off other props.  These hands in particular are nowhere near new – the latex at the wrists is a little rough – but they’ll work for this project just fine.  I almost didn’t want to paint them because they sure do look aged/dead, but they don’t match any of my other materials and trying to paint everything else to match this might not work so well.  So!  They got a base coat of grey before Bones and I went out to visit some local haunts to get some more spooky inspiration.

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girl, be a zommmmmbieeee

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Earlier this year, Bones was gifted with a mannequin. As haunters, we know the rule: When someone asks if you want a mannequin, you say yes!!

In reality? Our plastic gal left something to be desired.

20151016-103216.jpg(What you can’t see is that our gal has a broken foot and can’t stand up by herself.)

I’ve been looking at her all summer, seeing very little potential until this week…when I concocted a plan to zombify the lady.

First things first! She needs a head.

I went through a few bins I affectionately labeled “stuff to make stuff” and realized this head had a foamy inside that should allow me to dig out a neck-sized hole.

20151016-103626.jpgThis head’s been through some hard times and I was not much fond of her look (no offense, kitten!), but it was the better of my two choices. My initial plan was to coat the cracks in her face with liquid latex…

20151016-103859.jpg…but there were a LOT of cracks and tears to fix. So I took a closer look.

I’d assumed this head came from a haunt vendor, although I didn’t recognize the work at all. As I poked at the cracks, I realized that in reality this was nothing more than a mask over a mannequinish head. So I took a deep breath and started ripping her face off.

(This was not to be the only serial killer feeling moment in this project.)

I quickly found that her face had been attached with liquid latex or glue and….straight pins.

Well. Ok then!

I went through my collection of faces (..oh, don’t pretend you don’t have a box of faces in your garage, too) and chose a feminine looking one. Then I used a paintbrush to apply liquid latex to her face. (Side note: if you’re working with liquid latex, make sure your work space is well ventillated!)

20151016-105008.jpg20151016-105024.jpgI pulled the latex mask over her face, reusing her original straight pins to secure the edges of the mask and slathering more liquid latex on the edges to help seal the mask to the head. (Ya wanna feel like a bad person? Shove straight pins into the eye sockets of a woman’s face. Pretty sure that’s more serial killer stuff right there.)

Annnnd I realized I made what I consider to be a girlie error. I had chosen a feminine mask that left me very little in the way of zombie details to paint later. 😦

20151016-105505.jpgIn other words? She’s too pretty, even with the folds around her chin and nose where the mask didn’t quite fit as snugly as I wanted. So I did the only logical thing..I tore her face off again and started over.

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20151016-105648.jpgMuch better! And this one made for a better, tighter fit, too.All those folds THIS time are actually meant to be there. My first choice was made from a thinner latex which I thought would work better, but having a bit more thickness did help me fit the mask to the face with less air pockets and tearing.

Then I left her to dry, and I went off to bed to, um, try to not dream about tearing faces off of heads…although I will confess I spent too much time thinking, “Hm, I should probably tear her lips off so I can show the mouth underneath…”