Halloween Mini-Monsters

Gee, Uncle Dark Oak, why don’t you ever make something for us?


Two little nieces, both deserving to be spoiled to the limit and who know more about horror


Broken Bonds. And, hungry!

movies than this old man, asked for some “horribles.”

Halloween was shuffling at a deceptively fast pace toward me. I grabbed some sticks and glue and got busy.

I managed to snap these shots before sending the creations off to the girls.


These were fun to make. Perhaps one day I will have time to indulge myself and make more of these little wall-hangers.










Crazy lil’ winged thing. I cheated and used a store-bought skull.


A Closer Look at the Escaping Prisoner.

God, I love Halloween.


Studio Stuff: Creature Skulls

 Creature Skulls. In starting a new creature, what kind of creature skull I start with depends on the prop design specs. Is it permanent, or is is single use?  Indoor, or outdoor? The answers dictate the build.  Sometimes the  skull or “face base” is just a wad of paper or plastic, and I build out from there with various mediums, clay, foam, etc. For realistic props, I like best just to sculpt the skull either in epoxy putty or clay.  If any kind of lights or mechanisms are to be installed, a hollow “skull” is needed.


Upper part of Aracni-ape skull.

The Quick and Dirty Prop.

For quick, “B” roll creature prop skulls, a wad of paper, a milk jug, anything goes. I liken cheap, one season props to B roll film footage–necessary, but not quality-critical.  The B roll props are meant to be viewed from 30 feet or more, usually in dim light, and not intended to pass as a real creature in close-up inspection.


Example of a “B” prop meant to be seen at 30′ or more in dim light.

The B prop will be posed above and behind a bush or headstone, the silhouette doing most of the work to convince the viewer they are looking at a “real” skull or monster. The shadows are our friends.

The Aracni-ape below is not a B roll prop.

The lower teeth were sculpted with the jaw. The upper teeth are epoxy putty installed separately.

Aracni-ape dental study. By Dark Oak Creations.

The jaw bone below is sculpted in Monster Clay over a wire and sheet  plastic armature. This is not a true attempt to sculpt an accurate skull, but a rough form on which to build out and refine with another medium. Since Aracni-apes are an alien species, I indulged myself with the dental structure. I wanted many sharp teeth for the creature but within the realm of the familiar.


Acracni-ape lower jaw

This lower jaw I sculpted separately to facilitate sculpting and treating the inside of the upper mouth.  I added the teeth (epoxy putty) to the upper jaw later after I had assembled  the head, installed the tongue, and painted the inside of the mouth.

The photo above shows the lower jaw molded in RTV.  I used InstaMorph to form the mother mold.


A versatile material no prop shop should be without.

Not getting paid for the plug, but I’ve used InstaMorph for many things, from small mother molds to fabricating a lost camera-to-tripod adapter. One of the best benefits of this stuff is that it is reusable. Just melt it in hot water and reshape it to form.


“While the cat’s away . . .

. . . the mice will play.”    (stupid mice)

It has been a hectic day in Dark Oak.  I came back to find a party in a corner of the studio.


Party in the Corner. Dark Oak’s Studio 2017

I am not sure how they came to be there. They know their place and are not supposed to move without permission.  That may sound harsh, but the studio is a dangerous place.

A Sketch for a Winter’s Night

Years ago, I went hunting deep in the woods. Late that day, at the end of my hunt, I fell from a bluff and twisted my right ankle. Alone, I started for home.


A sketch for a winter’s night. From Dark Oak’s sketchbook. 2017

Night fell and the moon came up.

The Mind is a Terrible Thing.

Icy fingers, clumsy, cold feet, and throbbing pain in my ankle traveled with me across the rocky, snow-slick ground, seldom seen dead fall branches plucking at me in the night. Anger, as much as self preservation, fed my determination  to return.

Breaking at last from the trees, I again wondered where were the sweep of flashlights? Where were the strained and muffled shouts of action? Where were the 4×4’s racing here and there intent on my rescue?

As I limped from the watching woods onto the moonlit snowfield, the yellow light of home a warm beacon in the far distance, a thought flitted like a crazed bat across my mind: That I had died at the bottom of that bluff, perhaps years ago, and just now had the strength of spirit to return. For a just a flash, the resentment of the Dead flowed through me.

Snow on the pumpkin

Snow on the pumpkin, blood on the plow*.

With apologies to John Mellencamp, this is how it looks and feels to see Halloween and autumn, glorious autumn, slipping into the past, following the last of the dull, threadbare leaves that fall to rot in the drifts among their kin.


Snow on the pumpkins.

* shifted lyrics from John Cougar Mellencamp’s Scarecrow album 1985, Scarecrow in the Rain

Those two faded orbs, once so luminous with life and wild, joyous celebration, slip into gradual oblivion, leaving their crowns for the next generation’s glory. But, a new court forms, and the next season of the witch is glimpsed through the corridor of time.


Finding Pumpkinrot.

The corruptions of my youth, comic books, Creepy’s and Vampirella’s, horror and science fiction movies and books, I learned were not the inspirations of true artistic effort. My high school art teacher made that plain. For years after, I had an “on again off again” relationship with my artistic path, painting and sculpting more conventional themes.

Breaking out.

However, a few years ago I found a blog while satisfying my childish infatuation with Halloween.  An artist called Pumpkinrot was sculpting and constructing intense, macabre scarecrows and other Halloween props in such a fearsome, natural, organic style that the creations seemed alive, or at least to have once lived. As so many others have been, I was captivated by his work.


“Roots” by Pumpkinrot.

Above: The photo is from his blog and reflects his unique theatrical flare. Fantastic, huh?

These are supposed to be Halloween “props,” but I know fine art when I see it. I made two “props” for my own Halloween Night after his style and felt energized by the experience. The shackles of the Gallery  People rotted and fell from my mind.

Steps Scarecrow

Smilin’ Jack.  Just a jack-o-lantern head on a stick.

This simple jack’o lantern prop changed my artistic mindset.  It was a fast, fun build, and had the same effect on me as one of those exercises writer’s use to break writer’s block. It is fun to make monsters. I knew that as a kid; I’m not sure how I let convention stifle that.


Smilin’ Jack lit up!


The photos below show the next prop I made in ‘Rot style, a corpse-on-a-stick.


Hybrid Corpse in Progress

Anyway, if you like this stuff, you must check out Pumpkinrot.  He is a true master. His photo sets and videos are intense and remarkable, his work featured in two movies (Mr. Jones and Krampus) and record covers. Thank you, Pumpkinrot!

I will leave you with one more of his . . .


Pumpkinrot’s iconic Pumpkin Sentinels.