This was SO MUCH FUN.
I was contacted about making a set of masks for a musical production called Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play. My contact had seen one of my older masks and, since it bore a resemblance to Mr. Burns, was thinking to use it for the production.
As it turned out, she needed several masks, and so we decided the best way to approach it would be to create one base that covered the most common characteristics, and I would convert each mask to make it look like each individual character.
This is the base mask sculpture and me wearing the initial test casting. The sculpt is done in Monster Clay, my preferred oil-based clay. It was molded in Smooth-on’s Rebound 25 with a rigid mother mold made of FreeForm Air. The castings are all done in SmoothCast 65D. Fourteen different characters are represented, but each one started from this one base.
To individualize each mask, I first did digital draw-overs on a photograph of the mask for the client’s approval, and then set about modifying each mask. Some mods were simple, like Bart’s hairstyle. Some, like Mr. Burns, were extensive and required removing and rebuilding the nose, re-shaping the eyes, and adding teeth. All modifications were made with FreeForm Air to keep the masks lightweight, except for teeth, which required finer details and were done in Apoxie Sculpt.
To make sure the modifications blended with the base masks, painting became a several-step process. Each mask was sanded, sprayed with grey primer, and sanded again. If there were surface flaws or areas where the modifications didn’t quite meet up with the base mask, this process would be repeated. The final sanding went all the way to a 400 grit paper, and let me tell you, these babies were SMOOTH at that point!
Most of the masks were done with a yellow base coat, but a few had their own. Apu got a lovely caramel coloration, while Scratchy and Itchy were painted grey and blue, respectively.
Finally, each mask got its detail painting, done in acrylics, and several coats of spray sealant to protect them and reduce the shininess of the masks. Foam pieces were placed on the back to allow space for the actors’ microphones and make the masks comfortable to wear, and they were strapped with adjustable elastic bands.
The last photo shows all of the final masks. From top to bottom, left to right: Bart, Chief Wiggum, Scratchy, Itchy, Mr. Burns, Groundskeeper Willie, Troy McClure, Apu, Nelson, Marge, Homer, Lisa, Ms. Krabappel, and Principal Skinner.
All in all, this project was excellent.
The Simpsons masks were commissioned by Janet O’Neill, Costume Designer for the production of Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play being done by UCSD in February of 2015. More information about the show can be found on UCSD’s theatre website.