The Technician

Front of foam robot mask. It's brownish-copper colored. The top of its head is rounded, it has three circular eye holes in the middle of its face, and there is a shield-shaped plate over the mouth. The plate is dark silver with a copper strip running down the center.

Primary materials: Foam (many types), glue (many types), staples, liquid latex, acrylic paint.

This is the second project I’ve made using the materials and construction methods I learned from Big Nazo. You can read a little more about who they are and how I got involved with them here.

Usually I don’t make masks really fast, partly because the materials I use have drying times, and partly because I don’t think it’s fun or artistically valuable to rush beyond a certain limit. And I can get a bit perfectionistic. For making a foam mask, though, there are almost no drying times, so theoretically they can be built very fast. This project began as sort of a speed challenge with some un-perfection thrown in.

I built the overall shape, and added many of the details in three sittings of work. This led to some choices in the design and overall look of it that I would do differently if I were spending more time. But it was a useful exercise to see what I could make in such a compressed period and showed me that you can get a lot done in not so much time, if you don’t sweat the details too much.

Like the first mask, this is made from many types of foam. I stapled together thin pieces to create the overall shape and then added thicker pieces for the larger elements. For instance, the three “eyes” are made from sections of foam pipe insulation and backer rod, which is another type of foam insulation.

Unlike the first mask, I did all the designing, constructing, and painting of this on my own.

Right angle view. The three "eyes" come out from the face as bronze pipes with black rings on the ends. On the side of the head there is a dark silver panel with black and bronze accents.
Back left angle view. There is a larger dark silver panel on the left side, with black and bronze accents. A large black pipe covered in black rings extends down the back of the mask, ending in a copper, bronze, and silver connector plate at the base of the neck.

Painting this proved to be the most difficult and longest part of the process. For the first mask I spent almost all my time constructing the thing, and just a few sittings painting it. Here, it was an exact opposite division of labor.

I had not painted foam to look like metal before, I wasn’t sure which colors should go where, and because of the design there were a lot of individual elements that needed to be addressed with smaller brushes. Because this isn’t symmetrical and has a rough texture, I decided to give it a weathered, antique look.

Metallic paints tend to be the most expensive type of acrylic paint. Because I wasn’t sure how much paint I’d use on this, I decided to try the cheaper varieties so that if I changed my mind about the colors or had to use a lot of paint experimenting, I wouldn’t be out too much money. Also I hadn’t used cheap metallic paints before so I wanted to test them and see how they compared to the expensive stuff I already had. What I found is that for the most part, cheap metallic paints are anemic and it’s hard to get a satisfying look with them. They still provided some useful color here, particularly the copper tones, but I supplemented them with more expensive stuff later on. In the end I think it’s worth it to shell out for the premium metallic paints.

I went with a mix of copper and bronze for the main colors, with silver for the plates on the side and back, and black for accents. Getting some of the metallic colors, particularly the silver, to stick to the foam took some experimenting, and deciding which colors should go where meant that I painted over certain sections about three times.

This mask demonstrated more than most that sometimes it isn’t the work itself that takes much time, it’s all the decision making and re-working involved.