Cthulhu Idol Build

Discussion in 'Sculpture and Makeup Effects' started by nick daring, Mar 19, 2012.

  1. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Many have been made before but this one will be mine...

    Here's the famous passage from H.P. Lovecraft's 1928 story "The Call of Cthulhu" describing the world's Harbinger of Doom in statue form-

    The figure, which was finally passed slowly from man to man for close and careful study, was between seven and eight inches in height, and of exquisitely artistic workmanship. It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence, and squatted evilly on a rectangular block or pedestal covered with undecipherable characters. The tips of the wings touched the back edge of the block, the seat occupied the centre, whilst the long, curved claws of the doubled-up, crouching hind legs gripped the front edge and extended a quarter of the way down toward the bottom of the pedestal. The cephalopod head was bent forward, so that the ends of the facial feelers brushed the backs of huge fore paws which clasped the croucher’s elevated knees. The aspect of the whole was abnormally life-like, and the more subtly fearful because its source was so totally unknown. Its vast, awesome, and incalculable age was unmistakable; yet not one link did it shew with any known type of art belonging to civilisation’s youth—or indeed to any other time. Totally separate and apart, its very material was a mystery; for the soapy, greenish-black stone with its golden or iridescent flecks and striations resembled nothing familiar to geology or mineralogy. The characters along the base were equally baffling; and no member present, despite a representation of half the world’s expert learning in this field, could form the least notion of even their remotest linguistic kinship. They, like the subject and material, belonged to something horribly remote and distinct from mankind as we know it; something frightfully suggestive of old and unhallowed cycles of life in which our world and our conceptions have no part.

    The passage is packed with details but open enough for tons of artistic interpretation which is where the fun and frustration begins. :)

    I've been a Lovecraft super-fan for a long time but also being a visual artist I am frustrated by most artist's interpretations of Cthulhu and the rest of the Lovecraft pantheon of extra dimensional beasts.

    So being a prop fan I knew I would one day finally break down and sculpt my own version of the famous idol.

    First comes research. I first began with the Lovecraft source material. In addition to the above passage describing the Idol itself there are a handful of descriptions of Cthulhu throughout the story. Some pertaining to other artifacts and some during the story climax where our heroes finally come face to face with the ancient god.

    Also in addition to written descriptions of the Idol from the story we also have a couple hand-drawn sketches by Lovecraft himself in letters sent to friends and fans.

    This gives me a good idea of the feel and form Lovecraft had in mind but since he wasn't a talented visual artist we can assume that these sketches are only a rough approximation and allows me to put my own spin on it while straying "Accurate".

    Next I needed to figure out the overall look and feel of my Elder God and found a bunch of real-life reference that had similar properties to the creature in question.

    In the text of the story he is described Cthulhu as "[SIZE=-1]a scaly, rubbery-looking body", "a somewhat bloated corpulence" and having "flabby claws" and is just crazy enormous so the image of huge rotund sealife came to mind. Cthulhu has also been sleeping on the [/SIZE]bottom of the ocean for millenia so a fat, sedantary look seemed appropriate. I also wanted something very alien and unhuman so I referenced a bunch of insects and microbiology photography too.

    Below are some samples of what's in my reference folder-





    Tardigrades are creepy-


    Fat caterpillars are also creepy-


    And crustacean arms and joints have a creepy design-


    Also because the description includes the phrase "vaguely anthropomorphic" stuff like this can be found in my reference folder-


    So I then start making sketches and developed my own design of Cthulhu...




    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 9, 2018
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  2. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Re: My Cthulhu Idol Replica

    In the end this became the starting point for my sculpture-

    I know I did a front view of the thing as well but can't find the drawing.

    I really like the fact that Lovecraft included three eyes on the original sketches and made sure to include them on my version. Also I tried to add an extra joint in the arm to make the creature less human-like.
    It's time to sculpt the thing but again wanted to do a bunch of research in the realm of ancient stone statues of this size and stone. The story describes the stone as a green and black stone with flecks of gold interspersed throughout.

    After some searching online I found several real types of stone that fit the description fairly well but there is this stuff called labradorite that fit the bill really well.




    I even played with a chunk of it at a mineral shop nearby and the stuff is so weird and cool. The final product will be resin and paint most likely but it's nice to take the research to it's ideal place.

    Looking into the styles of sculpting I wanted to avoid the look of modern "garage kit" style sculpting and something that a looked a little more "ancient artifact" with old jade statues being a primary reference.

    I've got folders of this stuff on my computer. The research is half the fun, right?




    The heiroglyphics around the base are an important part of the story since they appear in various locations around the world during assorted time periods revealing the weirdness of Cthulhu's influence on various people all over the world.

    I tried to design my own original style of writing but was unsatisfied with the results-

    Instead I found an ancient Tibetan set of characters and slightly altered those to create believable text that felt old. It's a bit of a cheat but it sure does look the part.

    I didn't take many pics of the sculpting process but here is the sculpture after it had been cooked and primered once and sanded and before the wings were attached.






    More to come...

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
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  3. D48thRonin

    D48thRonin Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Wow, that's fantastic! Great design, and I really dig your sketches too.

    I'm kinda' bummed that it's a one-off, though (I'd love to have a copy).
  4. Slave1

    Slave1 Sr Member

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    Excellent work!

    Someday I'll get around to doing one . . .
  5. Slave1

    Slave1 Sr Member

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    Have to say, I like this design the best:

    mikefu likes this.
  6. moffeaton

    moffeaton Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    LOVE this. Man, I have coveted that Deco Idol on the HPLHS site for ages... your take is absolutely epic!!!
  7. mcnopants13

    mcnopants13 New Member

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    awesome references lol ... very kool build
  8. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Thanks for the kind words everybody. It's good to know that all the weird obsessing is connecting with others. Makes me feel slightly less crazy.

    Yeah that HPHS Deco Idol is a way cool design. In the story a second Cthulhu statuette is briefly mentioned later on that is bigger than the first and I assume of a different design. That'd be a fun one to do next since there are absolutely no "limits" on what it's supposed to look like. I've got a good Elder Thing sculpt going on too, but first things first. :)

    Nailing all the details simultaneously has actually been a really difficult challenge while maintaining the style I want to achieve. Some details are a slightly contradictory. Making something "rubbery" and "scaley" as per the book's descriptions is difficult.

    To give the impression of "scales" I made a little textured stamp out of sculpey and tapped it along the surface in various spots to give him the hint of texture while maintaining the slick jade look.


    The slight texture will also catch the antiquing finish I'll use later.

    Something like this statue has but a subtler-

    Also, here are some quick camera phone photos of where the sculpt is at with wings attached-







    I was originally going to try and cast the wings separately but couldn't figure out how to do it properly and just attached the wings permanently with Apoxie sculpt to fill in the gaps since I had already coated the thing in primer. Those garage kits guys make it look so easy.

    I'm still trying to figure out how the mold the thing though. Will those wings require a 3 part mold?

    I'm also very curious about using translucent resin mixes to get a slightly deeper faux jade-like feel to it. Uncharted territory for me. Lots of tests ahead.

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  9. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Oh yeah, I would be remiss to not mention the influence of HR Giger's work. His Alien and Space Jockey are the stuff of nightmare's.

  10. xdmray

    xdmray Well-Known Member

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    well if you mold it in dragonskin, you won't have to worry about the wings or three parts.

    you did a really great job on this. i like your style. it's very unique but def looks like it was carved.
  11. Confusius

    Confusius New Member

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    Outstanding work! It sends shivers down my spine. I hope you have taken precautions to preserve your sanity with such a detailled likeness of a great old one sitting on your desk :-D
  12. AKluthe

    AKluthe New Member

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    This is really cool. Looking through your sketches, the one you're working from is the one that caught my eye right away. Mentally, it matched the idol from the story perfectly.
  13. sgtfury4017

    sgtfury4017 Active Member

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    DUDE....VERY FREAK'N COOL!!!!!! I love that you are a fan and are trying to create what is discribed with your personal touch of brilliance. Great job. Looking forward to how you cast and finish this piece.
  14. D48thRonin

    D48thRonin Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Oh, so you *are* going to mold it... well, color me very interested then :thumbsup
  15. BlindSquirrel

    BlindSquirrel Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I'd be up for a copy as well. That's a really original and well thought out take on this statue. Beautiful in its horrifyingly inhuman physiology!
  16. robertsonick

    robertsonick Well-Known Member

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    Want one. Perfect job. Bordering on speechless. ---gasm!
  17. An Astronaut

    An Astronaut New Member

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    That's one seriously cool Cthulhu statue.
  18. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Thanks for the kind words.

    Silicon and resin has been ordered.

    Also, I found another developmental drawing-

  19. Nero

    Nero New Member

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    Epic, i really like that you can see a lot of the reference images in the actual sculpt, the "crustation fingers" for example. i would also be interested if you were to do a run, it would be the perfect gift for a friend or two.
  20. jazzygeoffery

    jazzygeoffery Well-Known Member

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    Any updates on this amazing build?
  21. phase pistol

    phase pistol Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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  22. vfxhamilton

    vfxhamilton New Member

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    Really nice interpretation of Cthulhu. Nice to see you gave him 6 eyes, like the original description.
  23. C0mmand3rC0dy

    C0mmand3rC0dy Sr Member

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    Love it! The base is a cool touch too.
  24. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I had the flu for a few days but I'll be starting on the mold shortly.

    In addition to the Idol, the other major object in the story is the "Wilcox Bas-Relief". It goes that an Rhode Island artist in a fit maddening dreams awakes and sculpts a bas-relief with no knowledge of the subject.

    Here's the text from the story describing the sculpture-

    The bas-relief was a rough rectangle less than an inch thick and about five by six inches in area; obviously of modern origin. Its designs, however, were far from modern in atmosphere and suggestion; for, although the vagaries of cubism and futurism are many and wild, they do not often reproduce that cryptic regularity which lurks in prehistoric writing. And writing of some kind the bulk of these designs seemed certainly to be; though my memory, despite much the papers and collections of my uncle, failed in any way to identify this particular species, or even hint at its remotest affiliations.

    Above these apparent hieroglyphics was a figure of evident pictorial intent, though its impressionistic execution forbade a very clear idea of its nature. It seemed to be a sort of monster, or symbol representing a monster, of a form which only a diseased fancy could conceive. If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings; but it was the general outline of the whole which made it most shockingly frightful. Behind the figure was a vague suggestions of a Cyclopean architectural background.

    Amazingly the hieroglyphics happen to match up perfectly with the characters found around the base of the Cthulhu Idol of ancient origin from later in the story and sends our characters on a quest to figure out whats going on.

    Here's my interpretation of this artifact-


    I sculpted it out of pink Super Sculpey in a fairly rough style to give the idea that it made in a madman's feverish haste while still tight enough to look cool on a shelf. :)

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  25. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Also, if anybody reading this thread is curious as to "what the fuss is all about" I highly recommend reading the original story which is in the public domain and easily found all over the internet.

    If you aren't much of a reader I highly recommend the live story readings by the folks at HP Podcraft- HPPodcraft.com - The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast

    Here's the link to the Call of Cthulhu audiobook they made-

    Give it a listen while working on a project and learn about the origins of 20th century horror fiction. Influential stuff that Lovecraft.

    Mr.Spider likes this.
  26. Mike J.

    Mike J. Master Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I love you and I want to have your babies :lol

    Awesome work. Clearly professional stuff, if there ever was a doubt.

    I've been on a Lovecraft kick for the past few years ... my skills are limited to paper props and whatever I can crudely execute via TinkerCad & Shapeways. I haven't actually tried to sculpt anything with my own two hands...

  27. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I was getting to mold the beast last night and of course I instead decided to fix a few things before.

    When set onto a flat surface the sculpture feels like it tilted to the right slighty. After checking the "squareness" of the base the bottom face proved to be off on the right side by a 1/16 of an inch or so which caused the small but noticeable tilt.


    To fix this a made a puddle of body filler the size of the base right next to a 1/16 thick piece of styrene which the right edge of the base would rest on. The filler would harden and give me my newly corrected and level base.



    I then smeared on some more filler to fill out the edges so I could then sand it back to it's proper edge shape.

    Here's all the excess filler sliced of while the glop is in it's midway "rubbery" phase.


    I then sanded it it out and filled in any little holes or hard edges with red glazing putty to create a seamless fix.


    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  28. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Much Better. :)


    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  29. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Getting back into the Cthulhu project.

    Here's a couple of sketches made for the tablet/ bas relief-



    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  30. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    My first silicon mold is finished!




    I love the way it looks at this stage!



    Cthulhu has claimed his first victim!



    Peeling off the hot glue blob that held it down to the board.

    It was stuck down firmly enough that a part of the original sculpt started to pop off when pried off. Not bad though.

    Building the mother mold with plasti-paste.







    Mold porn!


    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  31. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Sorry for the wait. Got sidetracked with a costume project last month. I'm now officially back in Lovecraft country for a while. :)

    Poured up my first resin castings tonight with much success.



    Learning a lot going through this process. The casts are pretty clean over all. I used Steve Neill's baby powder trick on the first casting and I think it definitely reduced the bubbles compared to the other two. The are a couple bubbles in the silicon mold in a couple deep wrinkles but the result resin balls pop off pretty easily with an exacto.

    These castings will be mainly be used for paint tests.

    Next I'll try tinting some resin and see if I can get a green/black swirl effect in the actual material and might even try some translucent material. Also want to try casting in cement to get the weight and cold feel of a real stone statue.

    Also want to try casting with marble dust in the resin to make it colder to the touch as well. I remember reading something about that a while back when first researching the project.

    I'm looking forward to making a new mold as well. There are two areas in the tips of elbows where air bubbles are getting trapped when they try to rise to the top. Tilting the mold a little bit reduces them a good amount but it's still annoying. I desire perfect castings! After I wear out the mold with these tests, the next one will be two part with proper vent tubes in those spots.

    More soon!

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  32. hydin

    hydin Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Love it :)

    Looks great! Love the little plaque as well.

    Can't wait to see this with a translucent effect!

  33. xmr1

    xmr1 Well-Known Member

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    Very, very nice! Looking forward to your resin experiments!
  34. The Schlitzie

    The Schlitzie Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    They look awesome! I would love to get my hands on one of the finished products.I'm a huge fan of the Lovecraftian.
  35. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Thanks guys!

    I'm just as excited to finally get this project out my brain and into reality. A few years in the making really.

    Again it's cool to see that my vision of this classic character (can you call Cthulhu a character?) is connecting with others.

  36. tonykch

    tonykch Well-Known Member

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    If you make a run of these, I'm definitely interested too. Amazing work!
  37. berger

    berger Sr Member

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    agreed! amazing job, im looking foreward to the inevitable JY run!
  38. Amish Trooper

    Amish Trooper Sr Member

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    Awwww they are so cute and snugly I want one....
  39. duke nukem

    duke nukem Active Member

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    Aw man sweet! Go all out and fill your house with these things. Maybe put them in a basement shrine thing so when you die one day long in the future and people start to clean out the house you'll freak them out!

    Well, that's what I'd do... :lol
  40. Faillen

    Faillen New Member

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    incredible work man ;) I totally love your vision of cthulhu and the so-famous idol from the book.

    Can I ask you... are you spanish? because your bondo have spanish writing on it hahaa. I'm also spanish and I'm looking for propmakers from this country ;)
  41. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I've travelled through Spain, married a half Cuban girl but I live in Texas. A lot of our products have Spanish on them due to our large mexican population.
  42. Chaank

    Chaank Well-Known Member

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    This is a great build dude. Love how you got Cthulhu looking nice and fat. Eating all those humans can really build some blubber.
  43. Wes R

    Wes R Legendary Member

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    Looks great so far.
  44. BenFstr

    BenFstr Guest

    i would be very intersted in buying one
  45. Laffo

    Laffo Sr Member

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    Nick, I'm in for one if you do a run.
    Pay or trade - whatever you want to do.
  46. falconNL

    falconNL Active Member

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    Try casting with a bronzen powder...it would do wonders for you bust. The ratio is something like 50% of the total resin volume in powder. Afther the cast buff it up with steelwool and some shoe polish!
  47. Demoriel

    Demoriel Member

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    As a foulness, ye shall know them....
  48. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    Been doing some paint tests trying to nail what approach to take on the statue.

    The book describes the Idol's color this way-

    "Totally separate and apart, its very material was a mystery; for the soapy, greenish-black stone with its golden or iridescent flecks and striations resembled nothing familiar to geology or mineralogy."

    I picked up a number of variations of pre mixed acrylic greens and some glazing medium for added transparency for the faux-stone tests. I kinda have an idea how I want to approach the final finish but I thought trying some trying some stranger variations might result in happy accidents.





    I think got some pretty interesting textures and effects. Lots of transparent layering is really gonna be the main trick to achieving a realistic stone feel.

    One interesting note while researching real stone statues is that a lot of striations and color variations in the stone tend to hide sculptural detail.



    As opposed to a statue where the color change is minimal-


    Also a High gloss kills much of the sculptural detail too. I was originally going to aim for a polished Jade feel until I compared a matte/semi gloss to a high gloss finish. The gloss has a cool slick quality but the forms get lost and the errors in your sculpting really stand out. That said I'm sure I'll gloss up one of the painted test statues to see how it looks.

    Next up- Painted Statues!

    Last edited: Jan 13, 2014
  49. xmr1

    xmr1 Well-Known Member

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    Looking forward to your painted statues!
  50. nick daring

    nick daring Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    That makes two of us!


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