Wednesday, October 17, 2012

DIY Mad Scientist Lab Wall Art

Today is a bonus post day!  I've had so much Halloween stuff going on that I decided the best way to keep sharing it and patterns was to do two posts today.  This probably won't be a regular occurrence but, as I'm trying really hard not to neglect the yarn crafting, it's probably going to happen from time to time.  Plus this is an awesome DIY and there is still time to try it out before Halloween gets here.

I was all ready to start sketching out some diagrams and whatnot with which to decorate the walls for my Mad Scientist Lab setup when I had to go digging for a craft book.  I don't recall if I ever found said craft book because all other thoughts were swept away in the euphoria of another discovery.  I found The Body Book on one of my shelves of random reference material and it totally changed the game.  The Body Book is a teachers book by Scholastic and it is chock full of good sized reproducibles which can then be cut out and assembled.  You can build a 40(ish) inch skeleton with this book and fill it with proportional organs.  How cool is that?

Initially, I was just going to assemble one body form.  So, I got all the bits copied onto some card stock and cut out and started playing with it.  Oh, and just FYI don't EVER cut out things directly from this type of book; if you mess up or need more pieces there is no going back if the book is all cut up.  Card stock is pretty cheap, I think I got mine for like $2 at Big Lots.  It wasn't a full ream, but I would rather spend a couple bucks here and there and be able to make a ton of pieces than have to buy another $12-$14 book which wouldn't even give a whole set.  They have print on both sides of the pages so you wold actually need 2 books to make a full body if you cut up the book.  Books that have reproducibles are generally made to be taken apart and copied.  So do that, it's better.

The awesome part was looking at all the pages of stuff to cut out and knowing that I didn't have to use scissors.  I hated having to cut things out when I was younger.  It always got really frustrating when I didn't have the motor skills to cut things out as nicely as I would have liked.  Plus there are always those little burrs from where the cutting out didn't work quite as well as it should, and the creases where you'd have to bend something, and the over cut slices when you slipped.  Gods but I 'm glad I don't have to do it that way anymore.  I'm a big girl now and that means I could (and did) go to town on my pages with an x-acto knife.  I do love my x-acto knife.  It does good work and, if you hadn't noticed by now, I use it for everything.  All my pieces have nice smooth edges and I was able to cut out more pieces than would have been easily possible with scissors.  A small thing, I know, but what a huge difference it made for the ribcage! 

The parts I was cutting out here aren't actually meant to be cut out, but I really like the effect.
After doing a rough assembly I realized that a number of organs get obscured in the total body build, which isn't quite what I was after.  It's also the reason you don't cut up the book.  I decided the best way to proceed was to make a full body and then make sections for the major body systems.  Then I could mount and frame the sections and make it more like a set of instructional diagrams.  Since the stereotypical mad scientist does monstrous things to the human body,  like in Frankenstein and the Hands of Orlac to name a few, this seemed like a really good idea.

Take a look at what you have to deal with.  You have your roughly assembled skeleton and that massive group of organs to squeeze in.  In an actual body that isn't a problem since it isn't like people can see in anyway.  For the prop, though, I wanted the majority of the organs to be visible.  The urinary system was the biggest problem.  There was just no good way to keep the kidneys from blocking other parts or being blocked themselves.  That rough out of the organs wasn't even to proper scale; there isn't that much room between the liver/pancreas and the intestines.  Even so you still can't see the stomach.  Much arghs.

If you're looking for something that will let you build a model body, The Body Book is the way to go.  My one complaint is that they only have one unit on muscles and it's more of an activity section so you can't actually cover a portion of the body with muscle.  I did hunt for a similar type book that would let me do the muscle thing but I had no luck.  It was the same story when I went looking for books with animal anatomy. How cool would it have been to have skeletons for frogs, cats, dogs, etc along side the human one?  Not to mention what I could have done by combining them.  Unfortunately, I could find a lot of books about anatomy and the musculoskeletal system but none of them had diagrams that would work.

It had never occurred to me to use educational materials for prop sources before.  I'm not sure why it took me so long to figure that out.  My mom was a teacher and we have all kinds of random stuff around.  I am now a big fan of the reproducible books because you can get so much use out of them and they really help keep costs down.  Finding ones that do what you want is a little trickier.  You can't always get a "look inside" page view and the level of detail and size of the parts varies widely.  I would love to use a proper anatomy textbook for images, but most of the images are either too small or so highly detailed that the copier would have trouble with them.  Since I don't really need heavy details the more simple children's books are better.  Proper anatomy would be nice, but for a decoration I think it is far more important that my guests be able to look at something and immediately know what it is.

It took a while to get all the bits cut out but that was mostly because I was going pretty slowly to make sure I didn't make a mistake.  Once everything was cut out I got some pastels and did some light color work on the pieces.  I didn't do any heavy coloring on them for the simple reason that you always get awkward lines and spots on things when color lines overlap and it looks awful.  I stuck to simple outlining and smudging to somewhat fill in the rest.  If you're artistic about your smudging it can give your organs a bit more depth.

During the process I decided that I needed a few more copies (again, this is why you don't cut on the book) so that I could have a whole diagram and then diagrams of individual systems.  There were three reasons for this.  First, I'm a nerd and I like scientific renderings, diagrams, and what have you.  Secondly, because I'm a nerd it really annoyed me that I couldn't see everything easily (and the urinary system didn't fit at all!) when the whole body was assembled.  And third, and possibly most important of all my reasons, just having one thing on the wall would have looked very, very sad.  Why just have a body when you could have a body, a skeleton, the digestive system, the excretory system, an eye, the cardiopulmonary system, and a diagram of the layers of the skin?  Yes, it was more work to do but the great thing about this particular prop is that it only cost me the paper.  I already had everything else I needed for it.

There was a considerable amount of time between when I started working on these diagrams and when I finally had them all done.  I wanted to wait until I had pictures of everything that I did from that book.  Why?  Because it shows just how much you can do even if you have a really limited budget.  Yes, the book is a larger expense than just getting the paper.  Since I already had the book I was able to do all of this for about $2.  That's how much the paper cost me.  The book can currently be procured for about $13 but it gives you almost unlimited prop pieces.  I will never need to buy paper skeleton decorations ever again; they're just a photocopy away!

Of course, just hanging up stuff on the wall is boring and no fun.  How lucky for me that my mom had a photo studio a long time ago and therefore knows how to do things like mat out photos and such.  Turns out she had some mat board that she didn't need and that she would let me have.  That and a spray can of photo adhesive and I went nuts.  You could just as easily mount the body parts on colored poster board but I highly recommend you use a spray adhesive, instead of the standard Elmer's type glue, to do so.  If you use normal glue it makes the paper warp and ripple and that doesn't always resolve when it dries.  Spray adhesive has a huge advantage in that it has very little moisture in it and so takes almost no time to dry and it won't warp the paper.

Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

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