This is not a tutorial. It only shows how I chose to build these pieces, given my budget and tools. It isn’t the best way to do it, but I hope my progress pictures (and mistakes) will help you come up with your own methods.
I also apologise for butchering the English language.
I was asked to create a mask for a Death Jester costume. I was free to design it as I wished as long as I kept the Harlequin vibe. The final product was inspired by Death Jester miniatures, Jes Goodwin’s Harlequin concepts, and Venetian masks.
The most recent version of the Death Jester mini wears a mask split in two. One side is a skull, and the other is a grining face akin to commedia dell’arte masks. I liked the idea a lot, but didn’t split my own mask in the middle. Instead, I made it look like the grining part was slowly “eating” the skull and made it much more decorated than it appears on the mini and artworks.
I could have scuplted and cast the mask. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an option given the budget, so I had to find something else.
The mask started as something very ugly. The base was patterned thanks to a simple toy mask, by covering it in tape, cutting the pieces flat, and scaling them up with a scanner. Why not use the mask directly as a base, you could ask. Well, the answer is pretty simple: it was a rather small mask, and a grown male couldn’t possibly fit his head inside.
I then cut all of them out of 5mm EVA foam and added the sharp jaw. At first, I wanted to use the papier mâché+craft foam method I used for the Visarch (create volume with paper and aluminium foil, and then cover everything in craft foam because it’s quite stretchy). I quickly realized that whilst it worked pretty well for the Visarch, it wasn’t the best idea in this case.
I ended up removing the paper to keep only the foam base.
It was the perfect occasion to try foam clay for the first time, since the tub had been sitting in a drawer for almost a year.
I did several placement tests for the rhomboids.
I cut all the rhombi out of 2mm EVA foam and sanded the edges.
I glued them to the mask (with superglue, if my memory is correct).
I sanded the left side a bit with a rotary tool, and tried to draw where I wanted the details to be with chalk.
I added the extra detail with 2mm and 5mm EVA.
I primed the whole thing with Flexbond and made a really bad color test (I usually do my painting simulations with GIMP though).
I spraypainted the whole mask with a (flexible) matte white. The skull side was handpainted with ivory and then got a brown wash, while I rubbed the left side with pearlescent white acrylic. It gives a slight shimmery effect to the mask. It then got weathered with brown, I tried to create the kind of shadows you see on Venetian masks. The rhomboids were painted with nail polish.
I made some tests with a single yellow LED and black mesh -stockings- (I do not have pictures, but I actually tested several LED colours). The rhomboids had changed again…
I changed the colours one last time, to match what I had done on the rest of the armour.
I then sewed a matching hood, and got the result you saw at the beginning of the article.