Lenore Sofia Highbury Tombstone

It's always nice to get that first tombstone of the season under your belt. The first project that opens the floodgates for the rest of the Halloween season projects. I know it's the end of August already, but it's finally go time at Highbury Cemetery! I proudly present my newest tombstone prop and newest member to reside within the rusted gates of Highbury Cemetery, Ms. Lenore Sofia Highbury...

It took a while to get things going for this year, but I'm REALLY happy with the way this one turned out! I decided that I needed a few more females within my cemetery, so Lenore Sofia earned her stone. A strange idea came out of nowhere when I started working on the epitaph, and I decided that this stone's epitaph would all be in French. I thought it would add a little bit of worldly class and sophistication to my display (or maybe it popped into my head when France won this year's World Cup, I can't be sure...). Either way, I thought it was a cool idea and ran with it.

Let me show you how I created it...

As always, I start with the epitaph. I created the full epitaph, complete with names, birth and death dates - all of which in the Highbury household mysteriously die on October 31st - and a few little flourishes and clip art crosses to give it a bit extra.

Translated, the epitaph reads...

In Memory

Lenore Sofia Highbury

Born - January 19, 1809
Died - October 31, 1848

Death by Delirium Tremens (Severe, Fatal Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium)

Rest In Peace

I then come up with an interesting shape, this time based on a piece of scrap 2" thick blue foam that I had laying around in the garage.

I create the final art at 100% size in Adobe Illustrator, then print out the entire thing, tiling the 8.5" x 11" sheets together.

I also had a small paper mache skull that I wanted to use for this stone, similar to the Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Von Bloemhof tombstones that I made it previous years. I also had some LED prop eyes inserted into the stone to illuminate the skull's eyes, although I forgot to photograph it this time around. Just go look at my previous stone links to see how it was done.

Once the epitaph was printed out and tiled, I used repositionable glue sticks to adhere the printout to the tombstone shape that I had cut out. I then used a couple of different bits in my handheld Dremel tool and carefully carved out each letter and cross.

Once all of the letters and crosses were carved, I simply pulled off all of the remaining paper from the epitaph printout, and then gave it a quick AND GENTLE spray from my garden hose to remove any leftover glue.

I then moved to the skull. I used a 4" full paper mache skull that I had picked up from Pat Catan's. I used a coping saw to cut the rear of the skull off, going from top to bottom. I then took the skull face and positioned it on the stone between the two crosses, tracing around the shape. I then engraved the area around the skull shape. This would allow me to embed the skull into the stone.

Once I made an even engraving all the way around and the skull sat flush, I glued it into place with a healthy glob of Gorilla Glue and let it sit overnight. Once the glue dried, I used spackle to fill in the remaining gaps. I really do this to give it a smooth look, as though it was part of stone when it was carved.

I gave the spackle a quick smoothing, and then went to work on the stone itself. I rounded all the edges and corners with a piece of sandpaper to give the stone a weathered look. I also added chips and cracks around the entire shape to give it a worn, aged feel. After everything was sanded, I went to work on the paint.

I have often heard that in painting you should always go from light to dark. But with tombstone paining, I always go from dark to light. I want everything in recessed areas to stay dark. This includes the epitaph obviously, but also the chips and cracks. I start with a complete coat of very dark grey. I never use 100% black, but doing so isn't a deal breaker. Simply my preference for a more authentic look.

After the dark grey dries, I dry brush a thorough coat of medium grey over the entire stone, leaving the recessed area the darker color. This actually serves as the base color for the stone. And once the medium grey dries, I add a few sparse highlight areas with a light grey.

At this point, I want to go with an even-more realistic look, So I add a watered-down drip/spray coating of green for a weathered, mossy and moldy detail. 

After years of photographing old tombstones throughout my area, I quickly noticed that most of the older stones had a cool, natural green coating to them. So I add this as a final paint step to all of my stones now.

Please note that this photo looks very green due to the fluorescent bulbs in my garage. It looks much better in natural light. And when this green coat dries, I drill two small holes through the stone and place the LED prop eyes into it for the skull's eyes. This time, I went with a pair of blue LEDs and I think they look fantastic.

When that was done, I drilled the two small sections of PVC conduit up into the bottom in order to slide them over 2 pieces of dowel rod driven into the ground when I set it up in my display on Halloween night.

**For a more detailed how-to, go check the post on my R.M. Renfield tombstone from a two years ago. It was the first time I used all of the same steps as this stone, and it has become my standard method for quick, easy and detailed tombstone creation.**

So now that the stone was finished, there was only one thing left to do! So I grabbed my camera, some LED tea light candles and a few LED spotlights...

The first tombstone is now in the "finished" pile and it's onto my next project. It's the big project for 2018 and I can't wait to get started. No spoilers, but this one should look REALLY cool as it guides the trick-or-treaters into the newly updated Highbury crypt on Halloween night for their candy!

We're getting dangerously close to October, so the posts are going to start flying in with more frequency, in anticipation for the big night. Like in years past, things will go absolutely bonkers starting on October 1st, going daily straight through to the big night. Lots to talk about and lots to share, so let's make this year the best one yet.



The October boy said...

top notch work! very classy.

Lady M said...

Super - love the LED lights and the French. Really adds an air of chic sophistication to the cemetery. I love that fall is in the air and the haunters are ramping it up. So many fun posts to read.

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