Thursday, July 20, 2017

Devil in the Details: Making the Twins of Evil

"The Devil has sent me Twins of Evil!"



Not really, I had to make them myself.


 I first thought about doing portraits of  the Collinson twins Mary and Madeleine (as Maria and Frida Gellhorn) 7 years ago.
 Around this time I noticed the high quality statues and figures being done by Sideshow of popular movie subjects, and pondered doing some lesser known characters, especially from pre-90s movies.


 The lack of available reference material in large format images discouraged me. There was not enough available to do the type of high detail accurate portrait I wanted to make--and frankly speaking, my sculpting skills needed an overhaul.
A few years passed, and after doing a round of various Hammer actors, I looked into it again, and seeing that there was just enough high resolution screen captures I could take from the movie itself--and with some critical help from the Peter Cushing Association Society UK, I was at last able to embark on this challenging sculpting endeavor.


Various pics used as reference:

The difficulty with this project is two-fold (literally and figuratively). At first glance one might assume I could simply make one twin and duplicate for  the other. But on close examination of the twins' faces, it became readily apparent that there are differences between them--so much so that I can now instantly tell them apart!


First thing I did was prepare the scale. I try to ensure that each portrait I do is in the same scale as other ones I have done, so I had to align the head against one of the previous portraits. The most obvious choice was Peter Cushing, since he was their co-star in Twins of Evil. But, there was not really a good side by side shot of them together. I had to match them one actor removed, in this case, David Warbeck.





I decided to start with Maria Gellhorn. She is the good twin, so I did a simple staring "worried" pose. The blank face pose is useful as a base for doing expressive faces, and Frida's expression was going to be a very big challenge. I had to show her with a wicked open mouth expression since this was the most famous pose of her from memorabilia.

Doing a portrait of anyone, especially from a 45 year old movie, is difficult enough. But doing a portrait of someone with an expression, is a major hill to climb. You have to know the face so well that you can match the contours of the facial muscles in a stressed position. It is detective work. You need to study the shadows of the face, and extrapolate whatever you can for areas that are obscured in photographs.


Mary Collinson head, November 2016---February 2017



I had already done a couple of faces with a similar pose. A portrait of Errol Flynn as Robin Hood (this was in the pre-screen capture dvd days--wore out a VHS tape in doing it) and Chris Lee as Dracula, screaming in agony.

In Frida's case, I was lucky that her expression of wicked delight with bared fangs was frequent enough to be shown at various angles in the movie itself.
She really enjoyed being the twin of evil.

My experiences with computer graphics and animation came in handy during the sculpting phase. I developed a method of "facial fact checking" where I would line up photos of the sculpture with actual images of the subject. This requires some precision photography since the angle of the sculpture has to match the photo--and you can't always account for lens distortion.
I erase one layer of the image to reveal the subject underneath.


This lets me know  how far off I am since eyes do not always serve.




 More checks:

 After Maria was done, molded and cast, I then got to work on Frida.

I didnt do as many overlay photo checks as I had with Maria.


In the end you find a happy middle in the process, but it is best to use your eyes to do most of the measurement and analysis. Sculpting is, as an Italian-trained artist once told me, "drawing in space."
This is true, but when you are staring at a blob of clay, and shaping it into the desired likeness, you may wish you were sketching on a flat surface instead!

Maria Gellhorn in clay:


 Frida:




 Hydrostone castings.







And copies of their faces added to my WALL OF FACES. Who will be added next? Only time will tell.





2 comments:

  1. Wow, the computer work had to be a great help! I've never seen that done before. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete