Sunday, November 29, 2015


"Requiem"- our first use of a full skeleton to make a graveyard statue

Our only big prop this year was the "Requiem" statue.

It started out in my mind as a different concept for a reaper with a cloaked hood and a scythe leaning against him while he played the violin. I may still re-visit that concept next year with another character, but after getting the skeleton and violin in the right position I was pretty happy with the way it looked under the lights. To be honest, I didn't feel like the mess of using "Monster Mud" this year to make a solid cloak either.

Total investment for this guy was about $85, a pose-able skeleton from Home Depot for $40, a 3/4 size violin off Ebay for $40, and a piece of 1/2' aluminum conduit and a flange from Home Depot that was under $5. The remaining paint and materials I had from previous projects.


Tips for making a skeleton statue:

Skeleton spines are the part of pose-able skeletons that don't really pose. They're always straight and completely limit your options for making a skeleton position look natural. I bent a section of half inch aluminum conduit to the angle I wanted the skeleton's spine and attached the conduit to a wood base with a flange.

Attach aluminum electrical conduit to a wood base with a plumbing flange

If you like to design and build props, a good adjustable heat gun is one of the few tools that are essential, and this is one of those times. I gradually heated the spine until it was soft and mold-able but didn't actually start to melt the plastic. Then bent the spine to match the bend in the vertical conduit, and zip tied the spine to the conduit. (If this was something that would be viewed in daylight it appeared as though the conduit could actually be run up through the inside of the spine to completely conceal it, for my purpose it wasn't necessary.)

The only other heat gun use was to pose the fingers of the hands holding the violin and bow, and a bit on the neck to tilt the head.

Use a heat gun to pose parts that aren't "pose-able"

Each pose-able joint ( shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles) were positioned and hot glued in place temporarily. Then I used some left over Apoxie Sculpt to cement the joints solid and cover any gaps and screw holes. Apoxie Sculpt is a two part moldable putty that when combined dries very hard like an epoxy cement. There is probably a similar type construction material that could be used to harden the joint, but Apoxie Sculpt can be bought through Amazon for under $20 and can be frozen so the left over material keeps for a long time.
Each moving joint is secured using "Apoxy Sculpt" before it's painted
Store bought skeletons have a smooth shiny plastic surface. This was suppose to be more statue like so it was painted with grey tinted Drylok that we had left over from our tombstones. I like Drylok because it gives everything that stone-like sandy grit look and it's readily available at Home Depot.

Dry wall compound "weathered" skull after dry brushing

After the first coat of Drylok, I used drywall compound to texture certain areas I felt should look weathered. The best method I have found so for "weathering" with drywall compound is to slather on the wet drywall compound. Let the compound set until it starts to dry just a bit. Then firmly dab the areas with a damp kitchen sponge to give it the texture you want. Drylok those areas to seal the drywall compound.

DryLok-ed statue before "inking" and "dry brushing" details

The entire statue gets sponged with a watered down flat back paint using a sea sponge. Finally, the statue is finished off by dry brushing flat white to highlight the edges and textures and ultimately give it that "carved stone" look. Dry brushing with white or a very light color is critical for viewing your creations in the dark under spotlights or ambient lighting.

Hopefully these tips were useful! I think more skeleton statuary to come for our graveyard next year!

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