Mindscanner Issue #72
Summer 2007

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Make Any Alien trilogy, part 4:
Hair, Painting, and Absurdly Alien Projects

Well, in the last three parts of our trilogy we've learned:
But is our trilogy finished?  No!  We're still stuck with a colorless, hairless, over-sized condom until we add the final bells and whistles.

KwISt - Grand NagusPainting Color
Okay, I touched onto this a bit in Part 2. Some of those points from three issues back are more true than ever before!  Specifically, you need to be sure the paint is compatible with the latex, and one of the best ways is to mix latex directly into the color of acrylic paint you've mixed for the task.  An even one-to-one mix of latex to acrylic should do, or even anything close.  You'll find that some fabric paints have done some of this for you.  Why is this truer now than before?  Even the construction industry has made Latex Acrylic to be the standard for outdoor house paints.

If you're doing an extraordinary professional negative cast, you might have the skill and patience to paint from the outside inward, starting from the light highlights to the darker tones.  But that's crazy.  The standard approach for either negative or positive molds is to finish the mask first, then paint darker shades underneath, building out to lighter highlights.  This gives theatrical emphasis to the darker creases and crevices.

Eyebrows and hair are needed next, unless you plan to build an Army of Changs.  Hmm, wouldn't that be cool?  No, give me hair.  After all, most of the appeal of looking Klingon is similar to dressing in drag:  The wigs, the makeup, and those tall leather boots...

We buy packs of hair from a Chinese import shop that carries a lot of hair and beauty products.  They sell full wigs, but you get greater control of coverage and body thickness when you buy packs.

The first step is to lay out some sheet plastic, either by the roll or by using big plastic garbage bags. Lay those flat on a big table.  Next, we'll apply latex.  We got ketchup/mustard squirt bottles from a dollar store, and we fill them with black painted molding latex.  Since you've already colored the headpiece, dark roots are more becoming than bright patches of flesh.  We often color the back of the headpiece itself with black behind the hairline.

The next step is to measure out the hair onto the plastic.  Better to leave the lengths too long and trim later than to be found too short.  Once the hair is sliding flat onto the plastic, you can then squirt/dab the latex across the hair into a ribbon 2cm wide... *Or* to kill two birds with one stone, you can make that 4cm wide and we'll cut it in half once it's dry, able to use each side.  It takes a couple hours to dry thoroughly, perhaps more depending on the hair and the thickness of the molding latex.  A hair dryer on light heat can speed things up.

Drops of latex will glue the latex ribbons of hair to the latex headpiece.  start from the lower back of the head, shingling your way up.  Your last layer at the top will need to point opposite, over the face, so it can be flipped up and back, hiding the hairline.  You will glue it (with latex) against the hairline, hanging over the face.  When it dries, you then flip it back over the rest of the hair.

Eyebrows can be done a couple ways.  The simplest way I've seen Qob of the Rakehell do it is to buy prefab mustaches, then cut them to be applied upside down.  Brilliantly easy.

But where is the suffering for artistry in that?!?  That's for simpletons who don't want to use a toothpick to paint their murals.  For me, I glue them on a tuft at a time.  If it's a temporary piece, for a limited number of performances, I use latex.  But for the durable heads, I use superglue, which is murder on my fingertips. 

Always start adding tufts from the back-outside, shingling them inward as you work your way toward the nose.  I like the "Batman eyebrows," which start kinda high, and angle steeply down until they curl under the brow.  You can even trim them for a neat "Tom Cruise" look, but don't get over-zealous with the tiny scissors, or it'll look like nettle fuzz or felt.

No more latex... Let's get CRAZY!
My prouder creations didn't use latex at all.  Sure, I could mix tricks with my latex masks... it would be fun to do Andorians with articulated antennae.  But here's a couple of really alien aliens I've done:

JAWA EYES: I took two superbright LEDs, a nine-volt battery, and a couple 5-volt regulators.  The silky black face mask is a common halloween purchase.  We actually rigged the wiring onto safety goggles the first model, and on the second model used slimmer safety glasses (behind the black fabric).  The lights are actually about where your cheeks are, so they won't be hidden by the hood.

VorlonTHE VORLON ENCOUNTER SUIT:  I bent up a child sized hula hoop, and stretched pillow foam and vinyl over them, stapled to the underside.  Then you staple on a drapery.... that's one fast Vorlon!  The same vinyl covered a cardboard box I reshaped for the head.  NOTE: My first one left an open hole for an eye.  But who needs to breath and see?!?  My second one did much better: The hole was covered with an old camera lens and has a superbright LED beaming through it.  To see, I used a smaller lens, a door security lens, so one eye could watch as objects are much closer than they appear.  For breathing, I noticed there are "gill slits" behind the sides of the forward face plate.

T-RexTHE TYRANOSAURUS REX:  I cut a plastic lawn chair up, using the cut back as the forward gum line, and bending the arms over top to make eye sockets.  Then I got clever.  I ran bicycle brake cables from my left hand to the eyes and eye lids.  One pair of cables opened and closed the lids.  The other pair moved the eyeballs left and right.  The 18 inch stilts (built from 2x4s) were made to look like backward-bending drumsticks, but the secret was that the long back toe acted like high heels.  The spine was a landscaping drainage tube.  The whole thing was beautifully balanced so I could tromp down hallways bent over, or stand 11 feet tall.  But my greatest disappointment was that I never gave it a real skin.

Note: A more common approach to articulated masks used by the pros is Remote Control (RC) radio.  I think the Enterprise Andorians and the Live-Action version of The TICK used these.  Given that RC micro-cars dropped from $40 to $10 a few years ago, this approach could be done rather cheap these days.

GuardianGUARDIAN ON THE EDGE OF FOREVER:  Now I'm edging out of costumes if I'm not careful.  This was framed with metal rose arbor parts.  I just changed the order so that the bent pieces and straight pieces formed funkier angles.  It then put a skin of clear plastic over it, with a faint grey stone spray to hide things inside.  Inside, I strung christmas lights.  They're incandescent, so they plugged easily into my voice activation box.  Then it could light-as-you-speak.  Great fun... must have felt like Charlton Heston playing the voice of God in the Ten Commandments.

The moral of the story is that unconventional costumes can use conventional junk in unconventional ways.  Think big, and you can make big memories with big impact.

 - KwISt