In the summer on 2004 I made a trip from my home in Louisville Ky, down to my Dad’s place in Greensboro NC. My car had been stolen so I was going to buy my stepmother’s 1998 Chrysler Cyrus. She had taken super good care of it so it was only fair I buy it to run it into the ground. I would have to drive the car back which was about an 8 hour drive and I had neglected to take any music with me. I found a little music store in Greensboro and bout a CD from a band I have never heard of. I had bought two CD’s but I don’t remember the other one because after listening to My Chemical Romance’s “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” that is what I listened to the entire ride and pretty much had all the songs memorized by the time I got home to Louisville.
I was an instant fan to say the least. The first time I saw them perform was in a small intimate venue opening up for Story of the Year. We left after My Chemical Romance and the very next day at work my then girlfriend brought me a copy of Alternative Press with MCR on the cover. I knew the next time I saw them it would be in a much bigger venue and I was right. The next time I saw them it was an arena show. With the popularity came haters and I remember catching my fair share of good natured flak from my friends that worked at Hot Topic. Let me say that again for those in the back, “I caught flak from my friends that worked at HOT TOPIC”. Nothing against anyone who works at Hot Topic or the store its self, but you get what I am saying. As in the show
I knew that lead singer Gerard Way had written a comic book but I had just never gotten around to reading it. Truth be told I was afraid if it wasn’t any good it may taint their music for me and I kind of forgot about it. This past winter Netflix brought the Umbrella Academy to life and like everyone else I tuned it. I was hooked, it was like X-Men meets the Addams family and I loved it. After finishing the series,…twice I went out and bought volume 1 of the Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite. The artwork and character design of Gabriel Bá added a whole other element. At this point in the blog there may be spoilers, so this is your chance to turn back. Now that I have that out of the way the character design I fell in love with was Vanya, aka: Number 7, aka: the White Violin. Vanya is the most powerful and due to being suppressed and put down her whole life, being told she isn’t special is the one to bring about the apocalypse with her violin. In the show her suit turns white as she is playing but in the comic it is far more visual.
For the character White Violin Bá created a character that was so stunning, elegant and stark. I looked up cosplays and body paints and it seemed like everyone was doing the start solid white ripped from the paged of the comic and they looked great. I knew I wanted to do a body paint but I didn’t want to be recreating the wheel. The cover art for Chapter 4: “Baby, I’ll be your Frankenstein” was beautiful and a bit different. Instead of being stark white she has almost a sepia type of shading. Looking at all the cosplays and the few body paints I was able to find I hadn’t seen anyone do that style. There was an issue though and probably the reason I hadn’t seen it done. In every other image in the comics she is holding a plane white violin so most people just spray paint a violin white. In the cover art that I was going to use her violin looked like it was made of arteries, vines, and branches.
I knew I couldn’t make something that detailed that would match the cover art. Lucky for me one of my best friend’s and her husband (Kelsey and Michael Eisenthut) were trying to start making 3D printed props for cosplayers and such. Kelsey jumped at the chance to flex their muscle and show what they can do and this prop would be no small task. Here is what Kelsey had to say, “When Matt asked us to create the violin for this piece my husband Michael and I were extremely excited. We have talked for about a year now about getting into creating cosplay props with his 3d printing knowledge and my painting and general crafting skills and this provided the perfect opportunity for us to make our start.
We started the whole process with the 3d modeling side of things and quickly found out that this project was going to present some challenges. First off the comic book cover is the only picture of this interpretation of the violin and since it is just that, a picture, we only had a view of one angle of the subject. We had to take some liberties with designing what could not be seen to make a fully formed 3d piece. Secondly the extremely delicate nature of the tines that make up the violin body presented a challenge in printing them without failure so we decided it would be best to approach those elements another way. We ended up settling on 3d printing the neck, head stock, and large tines to allow me to have a place to start. All in all the print took about 20 hours and had to be done in two pieces.
Once the print was done Michael set to the task of permanently connecting the two pieces into the initial structure for our piece. He used a steel stud to connect the two halves and a generous amount of bondo and sanding to make them into one continuous piece, then it was my turn. After our initial design plan I knew that I would be making all but 5 of the tines on the violin by hand. I knew they needed be strong enough to hold their own weight but also easily molded. My gut reaction was to go with a oven dry clay, however upon some thought decided it would be better for the final product to build the tines in place and since the main structure I was building on was thermoplastic an oven dry clay was out, so air dry clay it was. I needed to give some structure to the clay so I used some stem wire affixed to the body of the piece with two part epoxy to lay out the design on my initial layer of tines. Once the epoxy was dry I wrapped each wire in the foam and shaped it. I then rinsed and repeated this step 4 more times until I had all of the main and mid-sized tines I wanted.
For the final build piece I knew I was going to have to get extremely fine detail, but I was also acutely aware of this layers need to be flexible as it was the layer people would be interacting with the most. I knew clay would not give me what I wanted, as I has already broken several tines bumping into them over the course of the build so I decided on hot glue. With a lot of patience, a low temp glue gun and a blow dryer set to cold I started working on the final tines. The process was painstaking but the result, I hope you will agree was worth it.
The final steps consisted of primer, primer, more primer, and paint. I used a foam primer first to make sure the paint would stick to the foam and then a filler primer to clean up some imperfections of hand sculpting. Boy was it amazing to see all the tiny strings left over from the glue gun that I didn't see until primer hit them, so with a pair of fine scissors I removed all the excess glue strings and it was time to paint. I wanted to violin to shine but not reflect in the camera so I went with a semi-gloss white.
Delivery was a bit nerve wracking as the violin would not fit anywhere without hitting something in my car but we improvised and the violin rode to Louisville in the drivers seat back pocket on its original sculpting stand (a 2x4 with a slot cut and a bolted on strap in it nailed to a plank). Although every pothole I hit scared me to death the violin made it in one piece.
This experience was amazing, terrifying, puzzling, and challenging and the end result was more beautiful than I could have ever hoped for.” Now you know how to make your own,…good luck with that.
Knowing that Kelsey and Michael were going to make this amazing prop I had to do them proud. I asked the best cosplay photographer around if she would shoot this body paint and lucky for me she agreed. If you aren’t familiar with Alexandra Lee’s work, do yourself a favor and check her out ( https://www.alexandraleestudios.com/ ). She makes people look like they belong in the worlds they are cosplaying to inhabit. Given the subject matter I was hoping she would jump at the idea. She brought with her Ariel Lyles who is a great cosplayer herself but for the purposes of the shoot she was Alex’s assistant as well as our behind the scenes photographer and videographer. I was so glad she was there because so much work goes into these looks and I feel like it gets lost.
I still needed one more piece to complete our Orchestra Verdammten. If you’ve been reading up to this point you have probably realized that we don’t have a model yet. I knew this would be a difficult roll to fill for several reasons. The first reason being that this was primarily a white body paint so minimal to no tattoos was preferable. Also Vanya in the comics has a very short pixie cut which would have been hard to find a wig for. And thirdly we needed someone very comfortable with nudity since our good friends at the Destination Comics ( http://www.destinationcomics.com/ ) were hosting this as a live body paint. Jasmine was the perfect fit and her and I have talked about doing something anyhow. She had a few tattoos but nothing I couldn’t cover. She had a short blonde pixie cut and is primarily a nude model. On top of all that she was super easy to work with so she ticked all of the boxes.
Now with the A-Team assembled I really had to deliver and I did not start the day of the painting off well. I arrived at the Destination to set up early and realized I had left my entire makeup kid at home. Lucky for me everyone else except Kelsey was running late too,…because we’re all pros. Once we all got on location I got started prepping Jasmine for paint. I first applied the pasties. These wear a new product barely on the market from Michael Green and they are called Killer Covers. Since this was in public was had to cover the nipples which I hate doing as does Michael but we both understand it’s and unfortunate thing we have to deal with. I knew working with white paint the straps of a thong on her hips would be impossible to camouflage so I made a cover out of craft foam that matched the art of the comic book. I attached the pasties and cover both with pros-aide which is a sfx skin adhesive use for prosthetics.
I started the paint using a kabuki brush and Woochie ( https://www.woochie.com/ ) white water activated makeup. The what coverage was actually very solid which is difficult for white body paints. From there I switched to airbrush using EBA Performance Makeup (https://performancemakeup.com/ ). I very subtly contoured using colors Death White, Bone White and Dried Blood and then highlighted with Fluoro White. After all that I flicked on more water activated makeup in white and brown to break of the skin tones. We used Primal’s ( https://us.primalcontactlenses.com/ ) Sub Zero white out lense to give it a little something extra. In the show Ellen’s pages eyes turned white so though that would be a nice touch. I used a heavy black eyeshadow to make her white eyes pop even more. I used a bit of pink lip color on the inside of her lips just to give them a bit of life.
The idea was to make this look like a real world version of the White Violin you see in the comics. We had all of the elements from the prop, the model and our amazing photographer, etc. I really felt like I needed to rise to the occasion. I think we were able to accomplish something that Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá would be proud of and I hope it’s able to find and audience with them. I cannot thank this amazing team of people enough for all of their hard work and trust. Read More