After a long illness, I’m finally back to posting on steampunkmonsters.com. Today I would like to share with you my behind the scenes work for A Steampunk Guide to Hunting Monsters, Chapter 9. An Institute for the Insane!
Making the Mad Doctor
The basic concept behind our Insane Asylum is that the inmates have taken over and seem to think that they are the staff. The heroes go there because one of them is sick, all the town doctors are out, and they get trapped at the asylum. When my co-costumer Alisa and I were planning costumes, we agreed that we should make the Mad Doctor look like he was wearing a straight jacket. I also knew I wanted to use the famous “Plague Doctor” mask from the Dark ages.
I designed the Mad Doctor with certain things in mind. First, I wanted him to be dressed the way a Victorian Doctor would, so I thought he would be dressed in a nice cut-away coat and vest. Second, I wanted this entire suit, including the hat, to be made out of the insane patient’s straight-jacket. I also wanted him to have the plague doctor mask.
I also found two large syringes at the antique market that I knew would be perfect for this character!
To begin, I focused on the mask. I have a box full of Commedia Dell’arte masks. Knowing that it would be less expensive to use what I have, rather than buying a custom mask, I decided to take my paper mache mask and cover it in white denim.
I used the same fabric for the coat, hat and mask so that everything would match. I glued the fabric to the mask and then stitched over the puckers. The hat I covered in the traditional way.
Once that was done, I added the welding goggles to the mask. I had used these goggles in my past steampunk photos and did not need them anymore because Alisa provided quite a few punk-y goggles. I had to take the lenses out to stain the mask with tea and paint.
The waistcoat is supposed to look like an upcycled prison jumpsuit. I also built the doctors coat from an Historical pattern, but added my own straps, buckles and eyelets.
When everything was dyed, I washed the clothes, hung dried them and invited my model, Jake, over for a fitting. Jake loved the costume and wants to wear it out on the town. Below you can see some images from the first fitting.
The Mad Doctor costume can be seen below.
I added some fancy bits to the collar, as well as giving his prison stripe vest some numbers. Below you can see how the back of the jacket laces up!
I went to the thrift shop and found some Kenneth Cole shoes that I distressed with paint to match the insane asylum theme! I love the way they turned out!
I also managed to take a picture of the Mad Doctor’s glove. The Doctor has a thimble topped by something medical on each finger. Some of the items include syringe needles, a file, broken scissors, screws, etc.
These claws are based off of the claws Catwoman wears in the film “Batman Returns”. In that film, Catwoman — sad, so sad — destroys her old life and childlike wonder, by tearing apart her house, her toys and her sewing room, and using the pieces to make her costume.
The Mask and Hat are made to look like a “Plague Doctor” mask, which was worn during the Dark Ages to ward off the black death. The nose was stuffed with incense to cover the smell of death. But the base mask is Pulcinella from the “Commedia Dell’arte”, which is a type of theater where stock characters wear recognizable masks. I did up the Pulcinella to make it look like a Plague Doctor. Historically speaking, the longer the nose of the mask, the stupider the character who was wearing it. Our Mad Doctor, while brutal, is also very hilariously unstable, and using the comedy mask reflects this visually. I wanted something to be just a little off about his Plague Doctor mask.
Here’s another view of the mask, this time a bit clearer so you can see some of the details!
The final image of the doctor can be seen below.
Insane Asylum Patients Props and Costumes
This is a Creepy Baby Doll!
The doll was built by artist Jamie Vowell who allowed me to bloody up the doll’s apron. It is held by one of the asylum patients.
Do you like the creepy baby doll?
We can now start to look at our insane asylum patient costumes starting with our male and female inmates. The boy wears prison stripe pants, while the girl wears a smock.
My mother made the boy’s pants. She can put together these type of pants so quickly!
One piece of the boy’s jewelry is a complicated set of finger tips, rings and bracelets. You can see below that it’s made out of a bunch of crap just like the Doctor’s claws.
The adult male patient wears these super fancy underpants. Bringing a bit of High Fashion into the asylum, the low-cut briefs are some of the least practical things I could think of for an inmate!
Insane Asylum Patient male underwear.
The female patient wears a corset I found at the antique market. I didn’t know how to put it on for the longest time, because the dimensions are super weird. It’s got a 25 inch waist, but something like a 40 inch bust. It looks spectacularly frumpy. I also made some bloomers to go with it!
There are only a few missing pieces that I haven’t shown you! There is the neck brace and the final female patient, who has pica, which is a disease that causes people to eat inedible things such as metal, plastic, glass and chalk. She has a gruesome mask!
But you can see the woman who plays that character, Sadie, below, helping me pick out locations for the shoot!
Photographing the Asylum, Part One
Perhaps Lizzie, who did all the hair and make-up for this book, and myself found our true calling during the asylum shoot… making people look horrible for photos! The Insane Asylum turned out to be one of the most fun shoots I have ever organized, and the group of people involved were so perfectly terrifying and energetic and fun and cheerful that it was a great experience for me, and I hope for them as well!
We shot in the creepy basement of my apartment after cleaning it. Lizzie did the hair and make-up as per usual.
One model, Sarah (pictured below), a local actress, wrote to me through the”Participate” page on the original steampunkmonsters.com website. She loved the idea of our “Steampunk Guide to Hunting Monsters” and wanted to help out. I asked her to be one of the asylum patients, and she even brought her friend to appear in the shoot as well!
My friend Scottie also came to model, and crawled around in the corner like a cross between Gollum and the girl from the Ring, terrifying us and making us laugh in turn.
Chantell, our stabby Princess, seen in many of my photos, returned to participate, and my friend Jake, who has been working with me for years, also came to portray the Mad Doctor, and he was a picture of stunning perfection.
Sadie portrayed her role as an inmate with gusto. My friend Trevin also drove with his Mother and Brother over two hours through the snow to participate.
This cast was so amazing, and Jake, as the Mad Doctor was everything that I wanted.
Here is the final image of these wonderful models featured in the book:
Photographing the Asylum, Part Two
But that wasn’t the only time we shot with this wonderful team. We shot again many months later with the leads. I knew I had to photograph the leads, Brin and Jeremy who play Philomena and Percy, and I wanted to have them with a few asylum patients. I asked if any of our patients wanted to return, and all of them, save one, were able to return for the shoot with the leads!
We got everybody ready, again, with Lizzie on Hair and Make-up.
It was a warm summer day.
And it took a few hours to get everybody ready.
Chantell’s hair was a different color, but Lizzie got it even bigger this time!
Which you can see below.
Sadie and Sarah came back to be creepy.
And once everyone was dolled up, we headed back to the basement.
Here you can see an outtake from a scene that didn’t make it into the final book.
I was very dramatic during the shoot, as you can see.
And Brin gave one of her best performances.
Here we are shooting a portrait with Brin.
And here is the final image from the book!
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