Saturday, September 2, 2017

Presenting: NOSFERATU - The Blood is the Life (Sanguis enim eorum pro anima)

After nearly 3 full months of work, NOSFERATU emerges.

Nosferatu is completely hand-made, sculpted from paper clay over a foil/wire armature. His hands are wire with Sculpy (polymer clay), and he is painted in many layers of acrylics with medium glaze. His bushy eyebrows are faux hair from an old Halloween wig. Because he is a vampire, I wanted to emphasize on the obvious: his eerie, hypnotic eyes and pointy fangs, both of which glow in the dark from several layers of glow paint.

He stands before his ornately-decorated coffin on a painted wooden plaque that is both darkly elegant yet creepy, with a flow of blood emanating from under the bottom of the coffin toward where he stands, dripping off the edge of the plaque's front.

I affixed tiny black roses and vines as a sort of frame along the perimeter of the plaque. Subtitled "The Blood is the Life" which I painted in Latin ("Sanguis enim eorum pro anima") on a strip of tattered ribbon, and affixed like a scroll at the front base.

This labor of love will be displayed and available for sale at Monsters & Merriment later this month at Fontanel. 
(This show's theme is about vampires, Nosferatu in particular, as we celebrate the 95th anniversary of the release of the 1922 German cinema classic, NOSFERATU. Many of our participating artists are creating their own amazing versions of the vampire legend, and this one is mine.) 

The coffin itself (hand-made by Mark, my husband, to my specifications) took quite a long while to transform, too, as I didn't want merely a plain, unadorned wooden coffin behind him, but something that was both old yet pretty in a decrepit way, and of course, rather scary, while echoing a bit of his aristocratic past in its lavish embellishment. The back wall has a subtle spider web papering. I utilized lots of black roses (both single material ones and rose ribbon styles), including a large one at the top of the coffin with a hand-sculpted skull in the center, satin ribbons, and an elegant glittery garland of dangly balls, all in black of course. Topping it all, a line of tiny purple bat lights wrapping all around (which lends a rather eerie vibe when lit up, illuminating both the inside of the coffin and over Nosferatu as well). 
At the inside base are three red roses, fronted by a single black satin one: the red insinuating the last vestiges of his former life as a human being, long, long ago, and the black as a denizen of the undead.

I will freely admit, I am not a seamstress in any way. I can mend a torn seam and sew a hole if needed, but designing clothing and putting them together so they look "GOOD" is not my thing! I dream of being a costume designer but fall so short from that ability, and fretted over his outfit on a daily basis, as I knew he had to have a sort of royal costume to wear...but how was I going to do it? Did not want to merely purchase doll clothes for him; as everything on this was hand made, I knew I had to figure out the solution. Holy smokes, this was by far the most difficult aspect for me. After spending many a long afternoon at JoAnn's fabrics, poring over the different varieties of materials, I finally settled on a beautiful black damask velvet. Cutting the tiny pattern to fit (which threatened to send me into apoplexy) was quite challenging, but don't they say you're supposed to step outside of your comfort zone to learn and grow? 
Ha, yeah, remind me again why I took on the challenge of this piece?

I took cues from the 1922 movie of same title, studying the coat and suit that actor Max Shreck wore, and tried my best to do it justice. My aim was not to copy it, but create my own that held an essence of the old overcoat he wore.
Max Shreck as NOSFERATU
(I do not own this photo)
And I hope I succeeded, after several weeks of agonizing and hand-stitching, glueing, adjusting, resewing ..... EEEEEK. Just about made me tear my hair out - plus the fact that he is extremely DELICATE, with his long spidery fingers and nails that I tried desperately to not break but ended up snapping a finger off (later glued back on). Attempting to hold him in place, tailor his coat, and trying desperately to not break or drop him was a challenge of challenges and it stressed me out!
Anyhoodles... once I had finally hand sewn the coat and trousers, I was faced with the next challenge - that being, of hems. Can't have a plain ragged hemline, can we! What to do? The answer was in the form of a tiny black woven ribbon that I put along the edges of his cuffs and lapels. It added depth and more character in a regal way, and boy oh boy, I was relieved how it nicely he turned out.

I know that many artists will admit to this: after spending so much time creating a detailed, intricate piece, you become rather attached to it, and though the aim is to send it to be a much-loved work of art in someone else's home collection, you kind of wish you could keep it for yourself. I do fervently hope that one of the fans who visits my art show takes him home, but I know I'll grieve at his going away. Funny, isn't it?

And now, I must give sincere, heart-felt thanks to several of the well-established artists I have loved and greatly admired for years, who have befriended me on Facebook, and generously given me scores of free advice, much praise and encouragement for my own creations. You have helped this self-taught artist to become better in so many ways! My most sincere and loving thanks to you all...

LeeAnn Kress of Charmed Confections 
Amber Leilani Middleton
Pam Gracia of Soft in the Head & PFATT Marketplace
Michelle Sweatt of Inclined to Improvise
Brandi McKenna
Candace Navarrate of Howling Moon Designs

If I have left anyone out - please forgive me! I love you all and appreciate your time more than I can ever hope to express. And, in turn, by my doing this art show, I hope to help other artists not only gain a public forum for their works, but grow as much as they can, too...


  1. He is wonderful Ellen!
    You did a fantastic job!!!
    Thanks for the accolades...but you are an inspiration to me!
    Big hugs and much love!

    1. Thank you, Candace, my fellow Californian.
      It is *YOU* who continues to be an inspiration to ME!

  2. Love him, Ellen! He is creepy cool and draws me in like a moth to a flame. Just like his character should. Outstanding, my friend!!

    1. Thank you so much, dear Lady!
      Your kind words and encouragement have helped propel me upwards all the more.
      I am forever in your debt XOXO

  3. Fantastic work! I am about to embark on the journey of making art dolls, myself. I really appreciate it when artists, such as yourself, share tips and mishaps. I am fascinated by the artistic process and can't wait to start my own. Thanks for sharing your work.

    1. Thank you very much!
      I have been incredibly lucky and blessed to be in the company of such stellar, established artists who took the time from their busy lives to give little old *me* some much-needed pointers, for which I am forever grateful.
      In turn, I'll always pass the same care and love along to others.
      I wish you well in your own artistic journey, my friend! So happy to know that I was able to help.
      Please post back when you have some completed work to share, love to see it!

  4. I was actually staring at him today on facebook and thinking how much detail went into him...and i couldn't even see the whole piece! you are amazing!! i wish I could take him home.... ( and i'm pretty sure i'm going to be hitting you up for tips on hands and clothes now, lovely lady!!) xoxoxo are too sweet !!! xoxox

    1. Aww, Amber! You are beyond sweet. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
      You have been so kind to me, patient, helpful in so many ways.
      I hope I can repay your kind heart!
      Yes indeed, hit me up any time, I owe you, dear Lady!

  5. Love love love him!!!!!!!!!!!! He's splendid and macabre and magical and brilliant... just like you!!! Can't wait to meet him in person!!!! It's almost time!!!!!!!!!

    1. Holy smokes, Michelle ... thank you so much... I'm speechless at your love and sweet words. And it is *YOU* who is the stellar artist, and everyone in town must come to Monsters & Merriment this month!!!! XOXO