Thursday, 9 January 2014

Little down time to work hard...

Hello guys and gals! It's been far too long!, sorry for the lack of updates...

Unfortunately for the time being, I've had to place 'The Haunts' on the back burner as I finally took the decision to leave my full time job and go freelance in illustration, character design and storyboarding for a living at the turn of the year.
So while the haunts is still very much alive, there will be very little movement for the next few months.

I'll still be hanging around the forums though and would still love to talk to you guys here at every opportunity so I'd love if you could follow me on Facebook at: The art of Josh J. O'Brien

And take a look at my art at

Also, I'd love to work with everybody on here so if you need any character design or storyboarding for your project or you know of anyone who does, I'd love to talk it through with you.

See you soon, 

Monday, 26 August 2013

Puppets! in an adventure with amateurs

We're in the new house and we're underway! Sorry for the lack of production updates of late but life got in the way for a moment or two, but myself and my lovely lady, Amy; are finally in our new house and my little setup here is well underway.

This weekend is a bank holiday here in the UK and as always that means it's time for some serious work to get done! And that means puppets! I've taken the plunge, I've made the leap, Clara is finally underway!

Come on, I'll show you. Maybe I'll learn something :)

So I took another pushed casting of my last Clara mould and took to fixing it up, polishing and adjusting here and there, as this will become my actual puppet, I took my time and took the work a little more seriously. For ease of moulding I removed the ears and extraneous details such as eyelids (which will be added as separate pieces, making them easily animatable).

The lower face has been removed, and will be moulded as a separate piece, allowing for replacement animation to take place. For those of you who are unaware, replacement mouths are used extensively in stop motion animation, to facilitate a characters lip-sync, or talking, with a minimum of fuss. Essentially, the puppet's head is one large piece that remains the same for each frame, whereas the bottom area of the face is replaced in each frame with a different mouth shape.... an ooh mouth here, an aaaah mouth shape there; a smile, a frown, whatever.

I set about making a two-part mould of this head piece in much the same way that I did before. Learning from my initial go, I decided upon a more intricate seam line that would allow for easier removal of the piece and ensure no undercuts.
To both test the mould and begin production on the lower half of the face, I decided to take a casting of the mould with a much lighter plaster (as it was the only thing I had to hand) so that I could have a hard positive of the head, against which I could sculpt the lower face.
The first casting didn't go well. While the mould was nicely lubricated and removal of the plaster piece was fairly easy, the hole through which I filled the mould conjested and fooled me into thinking the mould was full when it was still half empty.

The second casting suffered the same issue, and although her nose was lost in the removal process, I did end up with a usable cavity on which to sculpt the lower face.

You can see her that I have left of any mouth details, as this blank face piece will be moulded and cast again and again in plasticine, on which I will sculpt the individual mouth shapes.

Getting excited, I quickly through together a mould box around the face piece and poured in plaster, straight over the sculpt to create a one piece mould.

A word of warning, sculpey will float in plaster if you do not glue it to the bottom of your mould box. I found out the hard way :)

A couple of quick casts later and I had something approaching completion, of the moulding process anyhow.

The final pieces will be cast in newplast plasticine and theres a lot more work to be done in designing and sculpting mouth shapes, but hey, we're building puppets and we're underway!!!

Thanks for dropping by


Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Please stand by!

Sorry for the lack of progress this week guys, but we're moving house! It's all gone a bit hectic to say the least, busy packing up maquettes and prop pieces, ready for their new home.

We'll be right back. But for now, a picture to amuse you!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

A little test...

Well heeeello! How are we all enjoying this fine summer huh? If you're in the UK, you're probably not.  It's hellish, so it's time to hold up in the basement flat where it's nice and cool and buckle down to some work. I'm currently in the process of moving house and as such, the production here has had to take a back seat for a few days, but I'm still trying to use what little time I have to get things done.

This week I made my first ever mould. The Haunt's puppets will require push moulds to be made so that I can keep the replacement mouths consistant and so the, god forbid, I should squish Clara's face, I can just cast another :)

Some of you over on my instagram feed - @joshjobrien were asking me about the process, so I thought for this weeks blog post, I'd throw together  a rough and ready process study of how to make a two part plaster mould.

Check it out! -

So first off, we need a postive model to mould. For this I'm going to use the first maquette I made of Clara. It's a good sculpt that captures her design very closely. Anyway, I sculpted her from plasticine originally and over time she's gotten bashed and beaten a little, so I cleaned her up and set to work making her a more permanent fixture.

1. So we take our finished sculpt and break her down to a moudable form.

- We take back the hair, ears and eyebrows (they could of stayed for this exercise but it was funnier to see her without them). This creates an easier form on which to create a seamline for the two part mould (so called because we will end up with two parts. A top and a bottom.)

The idea moving forward is to mould the sculpt into two haves, the top with the face detail and the bottom, or back of the head. That way we will have two halves that can be separated to release the sculpt from within.

If you're confused, hopefully all will become clear as we go along.
2. With Clara all ready to go, we do what's called 'laying up'. This process is where we lay our sculpt on a flat base (as we're about to build a box around her, and it needs a solid bottom. Hehe... Bottom)

Then we add clay material (I used plasticine) around the model, creating a water tight seam around her about half way up. What we're effectively doing is cutting her in half with clay, so that only one half is exposed.
 3. Next we build up the rest of the box that will hold the plaster around our sculpt.

I've used foam board here as it's quick, cheap and easy to cut to size.

It's then pushed in against the clay and that connection between the clay and the boards then filled to make the seams watertight.

These are also hot glued together and to the base to make it solid as a rock!
4. This bit's fun! Mix up the plaster as per the packets instructions and pour into the mould.

Leave for about an hour to cure, and harden. The temperature of the environment will effect how quickly the plaster will dry as well.
5. Once cured, tear the foam board away to release the mould.

Remove the clay that we used to lay up the sculpt.
 6. Now we build up our box again on the back side and re-seal all the seams.
 7.  Once cured on the second half, release the mould!
 8. Finally, pry apart the two halves of the mould, taking care not to break it, and release the sculpt from the mould!

 And no mould is complete without the first cast. Now, the reason I moulded this particular sculpt was so that I could cast it in something more substantial and hard wearing than plasticine, so I took a push casting (which entails pushing clay into both sides of the mould and squeezing the two halfs together. Rather than a traditional casting using a liquid casting material which is pour into the mould and left to set.) using polymer clay, in this case super sculpey mixed with black fimo to give it some tone. I can then bake this to create a hard, clean replica of our original soft sculpt!

You can see the results of this little test on the picture on the right, along side the original sculpt. All in all, for my first mould it was quite successful. The mould had a few air bubbles appear in awkward places and I learnt alot to take forward for the next one!

So what next?

Well I'm going to take another casting from this mould and polish and adjust it to make a new master sculpt of what will be the end puppet. I will then mould that sculpt and produce the fully working puppet head for Clara's puppet.

But of course I'll be documenting that too so stay tuned. As always, thanks for dropping by, if you have any questions or something in here is unclear, don't hesitate to get in touch; I'll help anyway I can.


Sunday, 30 June 2013

Working hard... Full Body Sebastian Maquette and finally some Set Design.

Wahey! We're shaping up nicely now, and cooking with gas! This last week has seen alot of design progress. First and most importantly, I finally got around to drumming out this full body maquette of Sebastian! The cheeky little git :) 

I'm hoping that like me, everybody likes the design and can see the decisions I've made along the way that have shaped his features.

There's still a few tweaks to iron out before bringing him to life in a puppet, for instance, his arms currently are slightly over long and his coat could be lengthened slightly but overall I'm very happy with where he's ended up.
Another decision that some may notice is that Sebastian no longer has his monocle. I just couldn't make it fit with the rest of his facial design as he has very little mass underneath his eye for the monocle to sit on... Just one of those 2d ideas that I couldn't convincingly translate onto the 3d model. 

It's a strong idea however and I might give it another go while I'm making the actual puppet to see if I can save it :)

I'd love to hear from you all about how you like Sebastian's design as he's been a little bugger to work out. Clara happened quite naturally whilst I really had to work hard at Sebastian here....

We've got ourselves the beginning of a set design!

This week I also had just a little time to sketch out my thoughts for set design for 'The Haunts'.  The film takes place in the attic space of an old, beat up victorian mansion and I wanted to find a style and atmosphere that fit well with the characters.

The room is a simple construction, which hopefully will allow me some slack as this will be the first set that I've built by myself. The large circular window hopefully adds some nice shape contrast against the angular and straight lines of the rest of the build, whilst also allowing for some strong lighting decisions and chances for silhouette.

That's all for this week. I'm finally getting a grip on the finer details of the design for the film and in the coming days I'm going to be pinning down all the finer elements of the storytelling and then we'll really be rocking and rolling.

I hope you're enjoying following along, and if you are feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

As always, thanks for dropping by.


Thursday, 13 June 2013

Ah, Finally!

Heeeeelllooo Ladies and gents! It's been almost a week since my last post and it's been a massive auld slog! If you're in anyway creative, you'll probably at some point go through periods where you just can't get your ideas out in a manner that you're happy with. This leads to massive frustration and head banging on tables because you come to realise the only way to battle this thing is to work through it. The volume of output I've had this week is minimal. The volume of work is huge! I've drawn more than I ever had and all because I just could not get around my ideas with my current skill set.

So what was so challenging?

 For a while now I've been unhappy with Sebastian's design. It needed tweaking but I didn't know how... I knew that I liked some parts of the design and hated others. I felt he was a little bland, had not enough shape and size variation and lacked certainty and consistency. So I set about nailing down his design in a model sheet.

So what's changed?

Like I said, the guy was boring and lacked enough variation in the size relationships between his facial features to keep him interesting, however I didn't want to push things to so far that it become to broad and cartoony.

So I did two things : 
1. Enlarge his eye brows.
2. Shrunk his eyes a little
3. Made a feature of his chin.

These were the decisions that were made. The brain work before the physical drawing began.

The bad, terrible, drawing...

The overly drawn, and complicated... 

The overly simplistic and imprecise...

And the badly modelled and slap dashily inconsistent designs... 

And that's just the face!

When it came to drawing the rest of his character, I had previously been vague and unwanting to work him out. I tried him stooped, broad chested, ploddy, light footed - nothing seemed to work and my drawings suffered a great deal from my inability to draw as well as I would like.

So I turned to Milt Kahl. As I do.

Taking a look at how such a genius drafts man tackled larger, plumper characters and from here I took inspiration for shape variation and indeed, how to draw those shapes. If you're going to steal. Take from the best.

Eventually though, well today... I managed to breakthrough and figure out the design which I had been striving for. I hope you guys like it. Now all I have to do is build him :)

More soon,

Thanks for dropping in.


Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Hey guys, just checking in real quick to show you the traditional stuff that I've been working on in the last few days. I'm itching to animate but currently don't have a camera or puppets to wrestle with so I broke out the paper and pencils to test out some rotation with Sebastian. My drawing isn't amazing but it serves the purpose. I'll have a longer shot for you before the week is out. Hope you like! Cheers for stopping by.