Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe was the source material I had decided on interpreting at the beginning of this project. Below are some excerpts regarding the visuals of the Red Death (both of the mysterious disease and the ethereal figure) which I found particularly intriguing when trying to establish the look of the puppet.
Text • Masque of the Red Death
'Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim'
'The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood --and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.'
'gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form'
Film Maker • Kevin McTurk
These two films by Kevin McTurk are important touchstones for my project and they've had a huge influence over what I want to achieve with my puppets; namely that they will be for a film (which in turn will have an affect over the design and mechanical side of things.) In essence they were what inspired me to pick up and explore puppetry for my final project.
Kevin McTurk (2013) The Narrative of Victor Karloch - Vimeo on Demand. Available at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/victorkarloch/32556927 (Accessed: 13th September 2015).
The Narrative of Victor Karloch is an exciting blend of different types of puppetry; the primary characters are 30 inch tall rod/bunraku puppets, whilst shadow puppetry, rotoscoping and rear projection are used beautifully to present the eerie adventure of Victor Karloch's colleague in the depths of the North Sea. I found the multiple forms of in-camera effects intriguing to watch and it was what made me want to explore using some of these forms in my own studio work.
Kevin McTurk (2015) The Mill at Calder's End (2015) Directed by Kevin McTurk. Available at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/themillatcaldersend/103773552 (Accessed: 13th September 2015).
The second of McTurk's films is in a lot of ways similar to The Narrative of Victor Karloch, but the techniques used in it's creation are somewhat more advanced than its predecessor.
Touchstone • Aesthetics
Favourite puppet from the Narrative of Victor Karloch! Adore its texture - definitely something I want to try to incorporate into my studiowork - particularly for the puppet of Red Death. A lot of the decaying skin appears to have been added through the use of fabric or tissue.
Rolly, K. (2010) THE NARRATIVE OF VICTOR KARLOCH II (SKELETON PUPPET ELEMENT). Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevissimo/7438808106/ (Accessed: 14th September 2015).
Below is a little bit of additional footage of Kevin McTurk with some of the puppets that were created for The Mill at Calder's End. In it you can clearly see the puppet of Nicholas Grimshaw, who is modeled to be performed by three puppeteers -- arm rods have triggers which control wrist movement, whilst there is evidently a handle within the body of the puppet which controls the head and neck movement. The scale of this puppet, as well as the quality of his clothing is something I'm going to be aiming for.
Graphation (2013) Kevin McTurk with Puppet From His Upcoming Film "The Mill At Calder's End". Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlR9oHgMjvI (Accessed: 13th September 2015).
Illustrator • Andrew Loomis
In order to further understand the mindset of the illustrator J.C. Leyendecker I consulted one of my favourite books by Andrew Loomis, Figure Drawing for All It's Worth. I thought it would be beneficial to examine the teaching texts of an illustrator who worked during the same period as Leyendecker to give me an idea of proportion and construction.
Loomis, A. (2011) Figure Drawing for All It's Worth. London: Titan Books, pp. 28, illus.
The below diagram titled 'Blocks and Planes' I thought would prove useful not only for how to construct a head in pencil but also in clay. I modeled my maquette which can be seen on the research drawing and visual documentation portion of this site whilst looking at these diagrams.
Loomis, A. (2011) Figure Drawing for All It's Worth. London: Titan Books, pp. 173, illus.
Film • Masque of the Red Death
Brown, R. (1964) Masque of the Red Death. Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058333/mediaviewer/rm1672668416 (Accessed: 14th April 2016).
Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan-Poe is the text I'm going to interpret and create two characters for - one being Prospero, the other Red Death. I came across this film in the library; having decided to interpret the Edgar Allan Poe short story of the same name I thought it would be beneficial to my studio practice to give this adaptation a watch. Although ultimately disappointing as the film took many liberties with the story -- adding in a love interest etc. (whilst I want to perhaps take some creative liberties with the design what I'll be filming will stick much more to the original text) what struck me was the manner in which they portrayed the different coloured rooms of Prospero's domain.
Text • Masque of the Red Death
'The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose colour varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened.'
'That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue -- and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange -- the fifth was white -- the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the colour of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet -- a deep blood colour.'
Touchstone • Heavenly Bodies
Koudounaris, P. (2013) St Valerius in Weyarn. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2413688/Incredible-skeletal-remains-Catholic-saints-dripping-gems-jewellery-dug-Indiana-Bones-explorer.html (Accessed: 28th October 2015).
The book Heavenly Bodies was recommended to me by a fellow class member. Whilst narrowing down the look for Red Death by looking both at the original text (which describes the figure as a stiffened corpse) and visual sources, I started to wonder about the costume Red Death would have worn to Prospeo's masquerade as it was considered outrageous and one that stood up even Prospero's sophisticated garb. The idea of poetic justice - a theme somewhat present in the short story itself - that Prospero and his party were to die at the hands of the Red Death was something I wanted to play with. I thought it would be ironic for Red Death to appear as one of these Catacombe saints, to bestow some kind of divine intervention or vengeance upon him.
Koudounaris, P. (2013) St Getreu in Ursberg. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2413688/Incredible-skeletal-remains-Catholic-saints-dripping-gems-jewellery-dug-Indiana-Bones-explorer.html (Accessed: 28th October 2015).
Touchstone • Mechanisms
Blind Summit Theatre. (n.d.) head_mechanism. Available at: http://www.blindsummit.com/puppets/pages/head.html# (Accessed: 2nd November 2015).
For the puppet of Prospero, I knew I wanted to go in the direction of bunraku-styled puppetry. I learned a little bit about the artform in my first year on the course, although I didn't get to try my hand at it. In bunraku, a centuries old Japanese form, puppeteers appear dressed all in black, openly in front of an audience, but disguised. Their actions aren't meant to draw attention to themselves, but rather to focus on the puppet they are manipulating. Puppets are performed by three people -- one to control the head and right arm, another to control the left arm, and a third to control the arms and legs. The puppets featured in the two films I have referenced by Kevin McTurk are bunraku styled and this is obvious at certain points in the films where you can see the puppeteers. One of the key features of a bunraku puppet is it's hidden head control, which rests in the body of the puppet. The above illustration shows a simple and effective method for creating a head tilt mechanism; my only issue is where the shoulders rest on top of the handle, allowing the puppet to look from left to right might prove challenging.
I found watching video tutorials extremely helpful when trying to come up with alternate designs for puppet mechanisms. After sketching out a basic storyboard, I knew I wanted my puppets to be capable of wrist movement, and where Prospero was a much more traditional, bunraku-styled puppet I found this series of videos on a bunraku arm control rod especially useful. The design of it was a simpler version to that used in Kevin McTurk's films, but meant that the mechanism would be hidden within the puppets sleeves, and the puppeteer would be able to operate it from a distance -- thus they would appear outside certain shots when filming, which I found appealing.
expertvillage (2008) How to Make a Bunraku Puppet Controller: What Is a Bunraku Wrist Control? Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAVCtWOLuDQ (Accessed: 14th November 2015).
The neck study below is what I've based the final components of Prospero on; the left to right movement of the head via a trigger is what drew me to it, as by this point I had already created a simple head tilt mechanism as shown above but doubted its ability to provide a smooth left to right movement.
enVide neFelibata (2012) movement study | neck mechanism (casa dos ventos). Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnSi_iB-1BQ (Accessed: 7th March 2016).
Visit • British Museum
Once I had nailed down the fact that I wanted to model Red Death off a mummified corpse similar to the approach that was taken when creating Ivan for Hellboy, I decided it would be a good idea to get spend some time in the British Museum visiting the mummies in the Egyptian galleries that were available. Unfortunately, due to an exhibition that was on at the time there were some that were missing from their usual spots, but I was able to get some images and vital information regarding the mummification of skin which was crucial to consult whilst sculpting.
Composites of several images taken by me from an MRI scan.
Illustrator • J.C. Leyendecker
J.C. Leyendecker was one of the most prolific artists of what's known as the Golden Age of American Illustration. His advertisements for the Arrow Collar Man were iconic, and what some consider having defined the fashionable American male of the early 20th century and it is the pride/arrogance/nonchalence that I see throughout his illustrations which clearly depict Prospero to me. Leyendecker's illustrations, despite not being sculptural forms, affected the way in which I approached modelling maquettes (as can be seen on the research drawings and visual documentation page of this site.)
A selection of images displayed in my workbook, all sourced from: Cutler, L. and Cutler, J. (2008) J.C Leyendecker. New York: Abrams.
Leyendecker, J.C. (n.d.) Leyendecker Profile of Man with Tie. Available at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/155063871/jc-leyendecker-profile-of-man-with-tie (Accessed: 28th October 2015).
Hellboy is a film by dircetor Guillermo Del Toro and is loosely based on the graphic novel Hellboy: Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola. It follows several characters involved with the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense as they battle supernatural threats. One of the most striking aspects of the film is it's extensive use of prosthetic make-up and puppetry.
Film • Hellboy
Struzan, D. (2004) Hellboy. Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0167190/mediaviewer/rm1109497856 (Accessed: 14th April 2016).
Below is an image of Ivan the talking corpse from the film Hellboy. After watching the director's cut and additional footage/making of the team who brought Ivan to life mentioned his design came about after researching Capuchin corpses; the mummified remains that inhabit the Catacombe dei Cappuccini in Italy.
photoeditor61 (2013) ivan-hellboy20corpse.jpg. Available at: https://photoeditor61.wordpress.com/tag/ivan-the-corpse/ (Accessed: 9th November 2015).
Touchstone • Catacombe dei Cappuccini
Naturally after hearing about the Catacombe dei Cappuccini through the behind the scenes documentary on Hellboy I decided to delve further to find out exactly what they were talking about. The catacombs, located in Palermo, Siciliy, were excavated when the graveyard became full in 16th century. Although the crypts were originally intended to be exclusive to the deceased monks who lived in the Capuchin monastery, it later became something of a symbol to be buried there. There are thousands of corpses but only a fraction (just over a thousand) of them are on public display. Due to the nature and treatment of the bodies after death many of them have been mummified and preserved. All of them are in various conditions of decay and I can clearly see where Ivan received his dehydrated, peeling skin.
Polke, S. (n.d.) Sigmar_polke_untitled-palermo_1976_005-crop300-777x606.jpg. Available at: http://www.pasunautre.com/journal/2011/07/27/sigmar-polke-photoworks/ (Accessed: 12th November 2015).
Touchstone • Mummies of Venzone
It is believed that a particular fungus, Hypha tombicina, whose spores are prevalent in the tomb and coffins discovered in Venzone, Italy is what has preserved and naturally mummified the bodies that have been buried there. Alternatively, the limestone floor of the tomb in which they were found beneath the cathedral might have provided the exact conditions required. The first of the mummies was discovered in 1647 and attracted the attention of even Napoleon during the French occupation; a number of them are still around today.
For my sculpt of the Red Death I gathered images I felt might be helpful to discover the way in which mummified skin behaves and shapes the ribcage beneath after muscle and fat has wasted away. As well as to identify what changes facial features undergo in the process. Noses appear to shrink and deteriorate, the same can be said of ears.
firsttoknow (n.d.) z6lr7Ij.jpg. Available at: http://firsttoknow.com/mummies-of-venzone/ (Accessed: 4th December 2015).