So I was thinking about what I could do for halloween this year. It just suddenly popped into my head to make a big mask of Manny Calavera. That would be so cool! I figured I could make it out of cardboard and paper-mache, and have the best costume on the block. I soon found that it'd be more work than I expected.
About Grim Fandango
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the character, Manuel Calavera is the protagonist in the Lucasarts adventure game Grim Fandango. He is a travel agent for new souls arriving in the mythic mexican land of the dead. It is a fantastic game with a gripping storyline and wonderful art and characters. I highly reccomend you try it out. You don't have to be a die-hard PC gamer to enjoy it as the story is advanced through puzzles. And it's only 10 bucks, I mean, come on, people!
I downloaded a few pictures of Manny, trying to get as many good angles as I could, which was difficult since most images of him feature only his front. Once I had enough, I got some cardboard and made a rough sketch of the pieces I'd put together to make the mask. I cut it out and taped the pieces together.
That one didn't fit so well, so I made a larger drawing on a new piece of cardboard, I figured now I could do the whole thing in one piece.
Then I cut it out and taped it together. You can see my reference sheet in this photo.
Learning From Mistakes
Instead of paper-mache, I decided to use plaster craft instead. Plaster craft is rough, loose fabric with plaster powder on it. When you soak a sheet it in water and apply it to a surface, it'll make a nice thin coat of plaster. I began to cover the mask with the stuff. I figured it'd give it a nice bone texture and I could also use it to work out the slight protrusion of the nose.
This layer was kind of rough, so I got the bright idea of giving it a smooth layer of pure plaster. I got to mix it myself, which was pretty fun, but once it was on and dry, it had warped the cardboad, and the whole thing was really, really heavy. I was kinda disappointed, but I decided to finish the botched one, hang it on the wall as an eerie decoration, and start over again.
This time, it's personal
I figured I'd just go with cardboard and paint this time. It's what I should've done from the beginning, but that's the way it goes. I wanted this version to come out perfect, so I did a bunch of complicated measurements of one of the pictures, converted the data to the proportions of my cardboard, and measured out all of the facial features according to those proportions. It was a lot of work, but it came out looking great!
I folded a cardboard triangle to make the nose and stuck it on with wood glue. I kinda needed it so my nose wouldn't be sticking out the hole.
I used plain old spraypaint to make it white. There was some drippage, but hey, no one's gonna notice.
I went over my now faded lines with a Sharpie marker. Marker is pretty awful on spraypaint, so it took a few coats to get it to a solid black. Then, I went searching for some see-through black fabric. I found some at Wal-Mart and got a third of a yard for 66 cents. What a bargain! Turns out, this fabric was perfect. Once I glued it to the inside (very messy), I could see out fine, but no one could see my eyes/nose, even if they went right up close. It does a heck of a lot better job than the black mesh stuff you see used on store-bought masks. Pish posh to that! Lastly, I wore a winter hat to keep the mask snug, cover my neck, and keep my warm for that cold, october night.
The Final Piece
It came out much much better than I thought it would! I'm really proud of the way it looks. I know I'm gonna get tons of "Like, what are you?"s, but I'm so happy it came out great, I'll explain to them well beyond their threshold of caring! Huzzah! Now, I plan to buy a cheap suit from a thrift store, wear a sweatshirt or two underneath to bulk it up, and maybe I'll make a Robert Frost balloon out of cardboard tubes!
SUPER FANTASTIC UPDATE!!!: Finished product with suit and all. Eventually, I'll find a suit more like the one in the game, then make some gloves to match the hands.
Special thanks to
My Sculpture teacher, Sean Harrington, for both helping me out with the whole process and allowing me to put off my sculpture assignments to work on the mask.
My sculpture class, the adjacent painting class, The PvP Forums and my family for their words of encouragement and the random "Looking good!" or "That's wicked awesome, hey!"
Lucasarts for making such an awesome game and designing such an awesome costume-worthy character.
Very Special thanks to