Introduction: Moon Dog Mask

About: I Build Monsters.

I guess the origin of this mask can be traced back to the time when I was finishing up the Daedalion mask, which I called The Lion Thing. It was so big and weird and flat, really different from the other masks I had been making. Also, the area in the living room where I'd been hanging the masks was getting rather crowded, so the Daedalion was the first one I hung in the kitchen and that was weird. I wanted to hang another mask on the same wall, for balance, but none of the masks I had already made were an appropriate match. What this called for was a mask made in direct response to the Daedalion - a reply, if you will.

The Daedalion is, in my mind, a type of lion made partially of fire, which swims around in the corona of the sun. It is, to break it down completely, a sun cat. So the logical reply to a sun cat would be either a sun dog, or a moon dog. (This is logical to me. Maybe you think the logical response to a sun cat is a quasar duck or a meteor pony and to you I say: do whatever you want in your own kitchen.)

Immediately I got to work on another mask, but something unexpected happened. The problem was that I hadn't decided whether it would be a sun dog or a moon dog, so I started by just making a dog and I thought I would figure it out once I got that far. But instead I loved the dog exactly as it was, and I didn't want to turn him into a sun! Long story short, the Hot Rod Dog Mask was born and then I moved on to other projects.

But I didn't quite let go of the idea-that-never-was. Now, months have gone by and I've got lots of other things going on, including three index cards pinned to my project board with ideas for new masks. I'm back to editing my book. I've got some canvas boards ordered from the art supply shop and a batch of professional paper clay to try making tiny insect sculptures. There are plenty of things I should be doing. And suddenly...

Moon Dog!

Right there in my head, demanding to be let out. This time there was no equivocation. Not the slightest chance of it being a sun dog. And an obvious solution to prevent me from getting sidetracked like before: don't make a dog and turn it into the moon. Make a moon and turn it into a dog.

Step 1: Man in the Moon

I built the whole thing from cardboard shipping boxes.

Using one of my mannequin heads as a guide, I freehanded a crescent moon shape that would completely cover the sides of the face, while lining up the eyes with the place where the dogface would go. Tracing a second crescent, I sandwiched the mannequin head between the two moons and taped them into place, adding inner and outer curves for stability. I wanted a cartoonish crescent moon shape, but with a wide profile on the face... like a moon shape cut from thick dough with a cookie cutter.

Once the moon was stable, I started to tease out a dog face using more cardboard (I'll admit, the reference photos from the Hot Rod Dog Mask actually came in handy here!) It's great fun just hacking out pieces with scissors and trying different shapes, eventually finding something pleasing.

And indeed, I did eventually hit upon a configuration that I liked, and once it was all secure with cardboard and tape, I made him a set of big floppy-looking (but in actuality quite rigid) ears.

I wasn't terribly worried about achieving any specific look when I started out. I knew from experience that I could make a dog just by bending cardboard around and sticking it down with masking tape. And I wasn't looking for realism, I was trying to blend it into a three dimensional moon-shaped block! That kind of frees you up a little.

For the ears, I cut two identical flat pieces of cardboard in the general shape of dog's ears, then I started twisting them up and rolling the edges. Cutting a long, narrow spike out of the ear and then folding the edges back together puts a permanent bend into it, and by not measuring or bothering to guide it in any way, you end up with some interesting ear posture.

I did want to follow the same general approach I had used with the Hot Rod Dog Mask, because it was hard not to think about the possibility of the two dogs appearing together. In the event that I am able to make the costume I've been thinking about for the Hot Rod mask, and if maybe I convince my boyfriend to wear this mask with a second costume, it might be cool if the actual dog faces had something in common. Because nothing else about that combination makes sense!

Step 2: Dog Business

So I covered him with paper mache, using a local telephone book that was delivered to our door at the request of nobody. I can't remember the last time I used a phone book. What a waste! I thought when I saw it on my stoop, and began to mutter disconsolately about how I was going to have to go through the trouble of recycling it.

Fortunately, this much better solution presented itself. Now it's a moon dog.

I whipped up another half-batch of Paper Mache Clay to add a few details. I wanted little dog eyebrows, slightly smoother cheeks and a more realistic dog nose than the other mask had. But first, I bored two holes, one on the outside of each eye opening, so I could place the ribbon ties. I pulled them through and super-glued the ribbons directly to the outside surface of the mask, and then sculpted the cheeks right on top of them.

Step 3: The Moon Pants

And then suddenly I thought What if he had a tongue?

There was only one way to find out, which was to roll out some paper clay with a rolling pin and then cut out a big tongue and pull it out through his mouth. I cut it really long, so I could experiment with different positions, and so there would be plenty of clay in the back to anchor it from the inside.

I mean, there would be plenty if I decided to keep it, which let's be honest, I was already pretty sure I would before I even cut it out.

Also, I was almost positive that the tongue was going to shrink as it dried and I really had no way of predicting just how much, so I wanted to give myself a bit extra.

I found a position I liked and I anchored the tongue in place. You can see how the edge of the tongue is just peeking over the right edge of the moon? I never moved it after that.

At this point I got pretty sick. I had to take a day off work, and after that I was not crafting much for a few days. I did a bit of work refining the nose sculpture, but mostly I left the mask alone. The tongue, meanwhile, shrank to its final position, shown here. It's at least a full inch shorter.

Step 4: Ghost Dog

After quite a bit of sanding, I finally said enough is enough and primed it. I love priming a mask because by the time I get that far, I'm always thinking very seriously about the paint job and priming the mask is gets me into all the little nooks and crannies. It lets me think about each specific challenge that awaits me, and allows me to figure out the appropriate plan of attack.

The main thing I took away from priming the Moon Dog mask is that the tongue was obviously going to be a hard area to paint around. But really, that was about the only challenge on this mask. As I remarked at the time, it's a good thing I added the tongue because it would barely have been frustrating otherwise.

Step 5: Green Cheese

So, pretty early on I had decided that the paint job was going to have a "green cheese" theme, but initially I had been planning a much more muted palette. Green, but pale, and leaning into the grey.

However, during this same time period, my boyfriend found a silver coat at the thrift store. A big heavy silver coat with heavy hardware fasteners that I think is part of a fire proximity suit.

At first he just took a picture of it, but he kept thinking about it and a week later he took me to see the coat, and then he bought it. He wants to make something of it for a Halloween costume, but it's not really a plan yet.

Now, I'm looking at this silver coat and so obviously it's a space coat, because I'm a guy who watches a lot of space shows and especially old black and white movies where everybody from outer space wears silver! And since I'm currently making a Moon Dog mask I can't help thinking about what kind of costume this space coat might turn into, if a Moon Dog was wearing it. Not that I'm planning to steal his coat, it's just that the coat has started my wheels turning. So now I've got all these half-baked ideas knocking around in my head about who or what the Moon Dog actually is, as a character, and also about who the Hot Rod Dog is.

Because this is where I start getting fully invested in the idea of Hot Rod & Moon Dog, an amazing interplanetary/inter-dimensional team-up adventure and... well that's about it, really. It's not even an idea, it's basically just two nicknames with an ampersand between them. I don't have a back story for these guys yet, but this much is obvious: the Moon Dog is an alien. Maybe he wears a silver coat, maybe not, but he is an alien and now I'm thinking that a pale green-grey isn't good enough. Now I want to go with a brighter, bolder, more alien green, and I mix up a jar of just such a base color. It can easily take on white for a highlight, and a little phthalo green is all I need to darken it for the nose and ears.

His tongue is still pink though. He's a dog, after all!

Step 6: Cheese Holes

I drew the cheese holes by hand with a pencil. To fill them, I darkened some more of the base color with phthalo green, but then I added a generous helping of hooker's green because it has a bit of a grey tone when contrasted with the brighter surroundings. I used hooker's green only in the "craters", the dark outlines only had phthalo green.

I added subtle highlights to the surface areas after the holes were in place, helping them to pop just a bit. Once I was generally satisfied with the whole paint job, I added the whisker craters. Then, just before I varnished it, I went back and put some paler, fine-line highlights right around the outsides of the cheese holes for even greater emphasis.

Step 7: Be the Moon

Who is the Moon Dog? Is he just a doglike alien from another planet? Is there a good reason why he has evolved to resemble the moon as seen from the Earth? Is he actually made of green cheese or is that just what his skin looks like?

For the answers to these questions and more and maybe much less, stay tuned for Halloween!