Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Think I'm Gonna Need More Glue...

Today is the day of glorious corpsing!  For those of you unfamiliar with the term, corpsing, sometimes known as 'fleshing', is a process of using a special kind of paper maché to make a skeleton look like a rotting corpse instead of a boring bag of bones.  I quickly discovered that there is an entire community that does this and there are a number of different ways to go about it, depending on the look you're after.

Some terms you'll need to know if you start clicking through links.  'Bucky' is the term for a certain type of skeleton that you can buy.  They can be pretty pricey, most I've seen run about $120.  However, they are anatomically correct and are typically 4th quality.  For reference, a first quality skeleton is damn near replica quality and is what they use at hospitals and medical schools.  The cheapest first quality skeleton I've seen ran about $1500.  'Blucky' is a blow mold skeleton that is also to scale if not anatomically correct.  These you've probably seen and you might well own.  They're the plastic ones that you can get at almost any store.  You know the ones, no real definition in the rib cage or pelvis, goofy looking skull with they eyes painted black.  Mine had some glow in the dark stuff sprayed on it when it was new.  They look kinda cheesy, but they are much more affordable.  These are the sort of things that people corpse.

The first method I'll tell you about is pantyhose corpsing.  You can find detailed instructions and pictures here.  Basically, what you do is cover a skeleton in carpet latex and then pull pantyhose over it.  Then you shred the pantyhose and stain the thing.  It gives a really stringy look that, to me, looks more like a cobwebby skeleton than a corpse.  But, people seem to like it and think it looks more like flayed skin.  More power to them.  

A method that looks neater is the netting or cotton method.  This method, shown here, gives a much juicier looking corpse, but it has the disadvantage of looking more like skeletal remains than an actual body.  There is also a bit about using foam in this one, though they don't use it anywhere near as much as for the next one.

Foam corpsing is pretty badass.  I've notice that foam tends to be used more for charred corpses, and for good reason.  Just a quick note, if you're squeamish do NOT click through this link.  For a prop, it's pretty graphic.  A brilliant tutorial on foam corpsing can be found here.  Like I said, they're pretty awesome.  They take way more time and materials than I can swing this year though, so let us move on.

One guy does some pretty awesome work with trash bags or drop cloths and a heat gun.  The corpses look a lot different than the do with some of the other methods, but it looks stupidly easy to do.  He has a ton of posts on YouTube but this is the one for corpsing.

My preferred way to corpse is something called 'snot ragging' or 'snot rag maché'. Delightful, is it not?  In this method tissues are used to maché a skeleton or skeleton construct.  The sites I've been relying on the most are here and here.  I picked this way of corpsing for a few reasons.  The most important of which is that you don't need anything fancy to do it.  Hell, you don't even need a skeleton.  All you need are newspapers, tissues, tape, and maché paste.  If there is a cheaper way to corpse, I haven't found it.  What's more, the corpses actually look like corpses instead of fancy skeletons.  

I didn't want to start with a full skeleton because I'm lazy and cheap so I thought spider nests.  They have similar texture to some of the corpsing things that I've seen and they can be small.  Also, since they are small it won't matter if they don't work out because there won't have been as much material used.  I tried out the maché paste from the first of the snot rag links; that's the one that uses glue and water mixed with cornstarch.  I don't know that it's any better than other maché pastes but I figured it wouldn't hurt to try.  
Here we have the bits I put together.  Spider web, tissues, balloons, and the glue mix
Started with the cornstarch
Added glue

Added water
Mixed until smooth...ish.  Yeah, I'm lazy.

 Here we have the tissues.  They recommend using 2-ply tissues but they also warn that the stuff makes a hideous mess so I put out wax paper and set the tissues out a head of time so I wouldn't gum up a whole box of them.

Here we have the beginning of the spider nest.  I don't have any other pics of the process except for a first shot because it is SOOOOO messy.  You can see where the double ply comes in handy.  That's what makes all the nifty texturey bits.

A little time and a lot of paste later (and I do mean a LOT of paste.  I had to keep making paste for this.  Tissues soak up an incredible amount of liquid.  You will need tons of paste, about 4x more than you think, if you do this) I had this.  In addition to being lazy I am also horribly impatient.  I figured that I was already doing laundry and hanging it up to dry so I might as well hang my project up too and see if it dried any faster.

Now, for the first ball I made, I dipped the tissue in the paste.  While I was doing that I wondered if it might be easier to coat a balloon in glue and then layer the tissues on.

 Same sort of thing. But, since it is supposed to be a spider nest I figured it needed some spider webbing.  I stretched out some of the decorative webbing and wrapped my mess in it while everything was wet.  It too got hung up to dry.

An interesting comparison, I feel.  The unwrapped one looks rather like a beehive to me.

 Back to me being lazy and cheap, I had saved the leftover paper towel bits from my Mummy Head so I thought I would see how that looked too.

I left them all outside for something like 5 hours but they were still a bit moist.  Once they're dry and I pop the balloons I'll post the end product.  I'm not sure I like the spider next idea, but I really like corpsing.  I think the snot ragging will make some pretty awesome props.  I'm designing a spider victim corpse but it requires me to have newspaper.  I don't get the newspaper so that has to wait until my mom brings me a few weeks worth.  (-:

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