This is a static prop of the kiss of death based on a real marble sculpture from 1930 found in a cemetery in Barcelona Spain. We decided to make the human form be a woman instead of a man and we used our grey stone paint scheme that we often use with our Halloween props.
The prop consists of 2 wooden bases covered in foam, a rigid foam female body with a wig draped in a monster mud coated shroud, and a pose-able skeleton with attached foam carved wings.
Step 1: Female Body Form
Modifying a Foam Body Form
The female body form, head, and hands were purchased from prop company as a custom order to have their stock foam rubber pieces cast in rigid foam.
The body form came in 4 separate pieces. A torso, hips and legs, and 2 arms with no hands. To create the woman in that position:
We had to cut the hips and legs apart and reshape them into the position we wanted and using a 2-part expanding foam from Smooth-On. We built up dams with painters tape or gaffers tape to fill in the gaps with 2-part expanding foam and sanded out the excess, to create the missing body shape.
We attached the head, torso, hips and legs, arms, and hands together with gorilla glue and then foam filled the gaps and sanded/sculpted them.
We made sure to attach the head with the neck bent into position by cutting the neck at an angle, filling it with expanding foam and sanding it down.
The fingers in the hands were bent to rest on the base by heating the foam hands up with a head gun and using gloves to slowly and carefully bend the fingers to the desired position.
Step 2: Monster Mud the Female Body Form
Mudding Fabric to the Prop
A sheer piece of organza fabric was test fitted on then body and cut to shape. The piece was then soaked in monster mud (four parts premixed drywall mud, one part latex house paint) and placed on the body as a shroud.
To keep the foam texture content consistent, the body was covered with a slight coat of monster mud to hide the texture of the foam. Make it look more like stone. Be sure to keep the coat light.
Tips: When working with Monster Mud, we use a tarp because the mud gets everywhere, and this makes the excess easy to clean up. It also ruins your clothes. Wear work clothes when working with monster mud.
Application Tip: Piling on monster mud or using a brush to apply it will make you mud to thick and it will crack like plaster. If the coverage does not look complete, but the fabric is coated. Let the mud dry first, and then apply a light coat of mud on the areas that are not solid with your hands.
Safety Tip: Monster mud is very sticky and slippery, be careful when working with it. When working with a lot of mud, be sure tho be careful and keep your footing.
Monster Mud Recipe:
Take four parts premixed drywall mud, I take a five gallon container, remove about one gallon (approximately four two hand full scoops) place that in another tub.
Pour one gallon flat latex house paint, cheapest you can find.
People have talked about using mistint paint. We do not recommend this unless the color of the mistint is close to the color you want. For example, if you get yellow - you are going to get a light yellow mud, which works fine, but you have to cover that color - so anytime the paint wears away or cracks....you see yellow.
If you use mistint paint, try asking the person at the paint counter if they can tint it to a darker color (basically add black to it.) They will usually do this if it is not busy. Explain that you do not care what color you get, just as long as it is close to gray. This will make the long term maintenance of the prop easier.
We use 5 gallon paint mixer blade attached to an power drill (two handed) to mix the compound together. You could do this by hand, but it will take about 20 minutes - mixer takes 2 minutes.
Keep mixing the mud until you do not see anymore white drywall mud in the mix and you are good to go.
As you use the monster mud with fabric that has been soaked in water, the mix will get thin. This is when you add the extra one gallon of drywall mud (and a bit of paint) into the bucket to keep the consistency.
Step 3: Monster Mud the Wig
A cheap shoulder length nylon wig was placed on the statue and then attached to the head with nails poked into the foam to keep it in place.
Handfuls of monster mud (see previous step) were run through the wig to give it a stone like carved texture, that matched the fabric..
Tip: One layer of monster mud looks like you mudded a wig, lots of small wisps of hair and many gaps. To fix this, when the first coat of monster mud is completely dry, you take handfuls of monster mud and build up the hair in the voids. Same with the hair on her shoulder, that was filled in with more monster mud to give more of a carved stone look.
After that is dry you take a xacto knife and remove as much wisps and misplaced hairs as possible.
Step 4: Skeleton Statue
Posing an Injection Mold Skeleton
The body of the skeleton was made from a plastic injection molded skeleton. First the skeleton was completely disassembled and the flashing from the molding process was cut away with a combination of a xacto knife and a dremel grinding tool.
The hands were heated and the fingers bent individually to look like they are holding the head and the arm of the body. The fingers on the right had were cut down so it looks like the hand is wraped around the arm.
To hold the skeleton while it was being shaped a metal conduit pipe was use to hold up the skeleton. The skeleton was then shaped into position using a heat gun and gloves to warm the plastic enough to shape it.
Once the shape was set it was removed and 2-part expanding foam was used to fill in the ribcage area to make it look like it was carved from solid stone using a dremel with a stone sanding bit to remove the excess foam.
Each of the arm, wrist, hip, knee, and ankle joints were are set and then the 2-part expanding foam was pour into the joints using a dam to contain the foam and they the excess foam was also dremeled away to keep that carved from stone look to the skeleton.
The head was attached into position with a short piece of 1/2" PVC pipe and glued and foam filed and sanded out. Two holes were drilled in the shoulder blades and 2 8" pieces of thin wall 1/2" PVC were inserted and glued and foam filled into place.
Wing bones were made from femurs from another skeleton and 1/2" PVC were inserted into the hip socket end of the bone and then set into the thin wall PVC in the shoulder blade.
To secure the posed skeleton to the base there were two pieces of PVC pipe attached to his feet that went into a larger piece of PVC pipe that was mounted in the base. We use PVC because this prop is outside in the weather and this way the connections stay clean and easy to remove.
Tip: We use Smooth On products, but there are several other 2-part, A-B foam products that will work just as well. We recommend a denser foam (not Great Stuff) as that it has less bubbles (holes in the foam)when you sand away the excess. You get more of a flat dense surface with Foam it 5 or 10.
Step 5: Carving Wings
Carving Wings (the easy part LOL!)
The wings were made from 2 pieces of 8" thick 18"x 60" pieces of white foam.
Wings were attached to the wing bones with glue and expanding foam and then sanded with a Dremel.
The wings were carved out of two pieces of solid foam to fit the statue. First the large foam blocks were scaled down using a Hot Wire Foam Factory bow cutter to get the basic shape.
Then more pieces were removed with a hot knife. Each step we fitted it to the statue to insure we had the correct shape.
Then the wings were shaped with a hand sander and a drywall rasp.
Then the individual wings were shaped with sanding blocks.
The feathers were drawn on with an sharpie and the divits for the wings were cut out with an xacto knife.
This is a lot harder and more time consuming than it looks. It is a great idea to keep those reference photos close - you are going to need them.
Tip: We use hot knifes and bow cutters to carve foam. Foam is soft, you can carve foam with just a serrated edge knife....just more time.
Safety Tip: When sanding foam, it is a good, wait, great idea to work in an open area and wear a ventilator. A mask at least, but the dust for the sander is very fine, you need to protect your lungs. We have a filtration system in our shop - if you do a lot of foam work - that is a great investment.
Step 6: Bringing the Female and the Skeleton Statue Together
After the female form was finished it was time to bring them together.
Several short 4" pieces of 1/2" PVC were inserted into the bottom of the female form, skeleton feet, and wing tips and holes where drilled into the top of the top base so the pieces can be removed but stay in place while on display. These are sometimes refereed to as "battle stands".
From the original statue you can see a very dynamic pose in the skeleton over the body. We worked hard to shape the skeleton so that his pose was a natural and creepy as possible.
We had to get the female body form done first in order to post the skeleton.
We use a heat gun on the sketon to get him to bend into shape. Be careful, there is a delicate balance between getting the plastic hot enough to bend and melting it.
Safety Tip: Heating plastic with a heat gun, or hot water is dangerous - wear gloves! We use the shop freezer for parts that get too hot to handle :)
Step 7: Connecting the Skeleton and the Body
Where the skeleton and the body form connected we also made dams (using painters tape or gaffer tape) and then filled those spaces with 2-part expanding foam and dremeled away the excess.
This help continue the look that this statue is carved out of a piece of solid foam.
This also helps give the prop stability.
Step 8: Monster Mud the Skeleton
Monster Mudding the Skeleton
If you look at the original statue, the skeleton has a lot of stone left in the leg area disguised as fabric. This is done to give the statue some stability.
In our case, we just added the fabric to give the illusion of stone for stability and help make the connection between the two pieces look consistent.
Most fabrics I would wet down first to make sure they soak up the mud, but this thin fabric(Organza) did not need it.
See Step 2 for more details on Monster Mud
I dipped the fabric in the mud and wrung out most of the excess and draped it over the body as a burial shroud. Fabric that has been dipped in monster mud usually sticks to itself, but heavier fabric needs pinning, in this case the thin fabric worked perfect and no pinning was necessary,
I put a small bit of mud (using my hand) in some of the areas where the mud was too thin.
Step 9: Large Base
The base is built in 2 parts.
The main base is made with 1" x 3" firing strips stapled together with 4" square 1/2" plywood and a 1/2" plywood top. it is 48" x 48" x 20" with the corners cut off at a 45 degree angle. We covered the entire base in 1/2" polystyrene foam gluing it down with Gorilla Glue.
The original statue has a verse on it in Latin - we translated it, changed the gender (we used a female body) and then designed it in Illustrator and tile printed it out for carving.
Using an xacto knife the letters are carved out. The white foam is scrubbed with a kitchen scrub pad and then the entire surface is lightly gone over with a heat gun to seal the foam surface for painting.
Tip: Textured white foam soaks up paint - or makes it disappear....we are not sure, but we have learned that running the heat gun over the textured surface seals up the foam and it take paint better.
Step 10: Small Marble Base
The smaller base is made the same way as the bigger one but half the height and only 36"x36".
We covered it in 1/2" pink extruded foam which is smoother than the white polystyrene foam. Once covered we painted it to have a marble look to it. The base is designed to just stack on the larger one and be removable.
We drilled 7/8" holes in the base and slipped short 3" thin wall 1/2" PVC into them so that the 1/2" stands in the female form and skeleton would fit into them to hold them in place.
Step 11: Painting
Painting Your Finished Prop
Davis Graveyard has a monocromatic paint theme (black and white - gray. Based on black and white movies) You can paint what ever color works for you.
After the statue is assembled and attached to the base we start with a base coat of flat black exterior paint applied with a paint sprayer to every exposed piece of foam. You can also paint by hand, spraying just saves time.
The statue is then painted with two different shades of gray exterior house paint. The darker gray is first and applied with a large 4 inch cheap exterior house painting brush that has be well used so the edges are frayed. Use the brush to dry brush a coat of the dark gray paint to cover 80% of the black surface of the gargoyle. Be sure to leave black paint showing in all the recessed areas. Let this coat dry before going to the next step.
The second coat, a lighter gray exterior flat house paint is again dry brushed on to cover about 60% of the gargoyle. In this instance you are wanting to just hit the high parts of the statue to bring out the details. Let this coat dry before going to the next step.
For this prop we did one more coat. We took white paint only to the high spots, mostly on the skeleton, so his bones would be more visible.
The marble bases that the statue sits on way painted in the light gray paint color and then the marble finish was painted by hand.
We then 'aged' the prop. We do this with a mixture of water and black exterior house about 50/50. Take a squirt bottle of water and spray where you want your drip areas to be (from the high points of the prop) and then take a small paint brush with your watered down black paint and drip where the water naturally runs down the statue, be sure to take a dry rag to wipe down the drips so they look like weather washed brink and not dripping mascara.
This makes the statue look more weathered and worn.
Tip: Do not use spay paint as it will damage the foam.