Making of Ninja Division’s Lug for Gen Con 2015 – Part 4
I was also surprised to see how many people mentioned that they had been following the making of Lug online, for the little I shared. I was truly happy to hear that some people did care about the work I put in that project. I know better than anybody that sex sells and that sexy pics from cosplayers, models, pornstars or beautiful unknown girls will always be popular online. More popular than anything else. But I consider that being beautiful or looking sexy doesn’t count as a skill (I recognize that makeup artists, hair stylists and surgeons do have skills, though) and as a skilled seamstress and costumer, I’d rather receive a compliment about my skills than about my look. Beauty doesn’t last, but skills stay and can even improve as you grow old. I wish skills would get a person more recognition than beauty. That being said, you’re allowed to continue making compliments about how I look if you want to. ;)
My friend and I later realized that big statues made for exhibitions and events like this usually don’t have that type of very slick finish that we obtained with fiberglass and automotive paint. I had the chance to visit the Playstation offices in San Francisco a few years ago. I saw a huge statue of Kratos from God of War. Don’t get me wrong, the sculpture was amazing, but the surface wasn’t perfectly slick like glass. I was told it was coated with a material called Polyurea. Applied with a spray gun, that material can later be painted. It has a little texture when you touch it, but it’s totally fine for a giant sculpture that will be seen by people walking by in a convention. I realized that we had overdone things. Our robot was ‘too clean’ for nothing. We could have sanded less and coated the whole thing with Polyurea and everybody would have been happy. I didn’t know that material when I was building the robot, though. And it was too late now, because it was done. Or almost done.
Because our robot didn’t have a base and its legs had been painted even if they were not properly sanded like the rest of its body. That was our agreement with Ninja Division. We would bring Lug to Gen Con 2015, then bring it back home to finish it properly. Or should I say to finish it to our taste, because most of people seemed to consider that the robot was more than acceptable already.
So Gen Con ended and it was time to put back Lug on its trailer. Summer 2015 was certanly one of the most intense moment of my life. And there was a 16 hours drive waiting for me. It was way less stressful to bring that thing back home than to bring it down to Indianapolis. We could slowly drive and take our time. We had no deadline anymore. It was almost a relaxing trip.
When we arrived to the Canadian border, we presented that letter stating that we had the robot already when we left Canada and that we were bringning it back to Canada. The letter was the proof that it wasn’t purchased in the USA. I was expecting that we would have to park and that we would be inspected. Or that we would have to go through one of these big scanners again. After all, we were carrying a trailer with a huge box hiding a giant robot. There could have been anything inside. But the custum officer was a young lady. She looked at the letter, read it and said: ‘That’s good. You can go.’ What? That’s all? Then she said: ‘Oh, wait! I forgot. Do you have alcohol, guns or tobacco with you?’ ‘No.’ I said. And guess what? We entered Canada. Like this! Without any inspection or anything! There could have been a a shit load of drug in this trailer, guns, illegal stuff, anything, name it! No wonder how criminals succeed in having drungs entering Canada… I crossed the border with a giant fiberglass statue and they never inspected it! Welcome to Canada…
And a few hours later, the robot was back to the workshop. I couldn’t believe we would really sand it all again. :S
After all this, I was pretty tired. Actually I had never been that exhausted in my whole life. I wasn’t in a hurry to start sanding that robot one more time. I couldn’t believe that my friend had accepted to bring back the robot in order to work on it again. I was sad to think that we would ruin the beautiful paint that his uncle had made for us. In the following weeks, I got back to my other projects. And months past.
October arrived and I was contacted by the organizers of a new event, a toy fair they wanted to organize for the first time in Quebec City. The event wasn’t related to the world of comiccons, but they wanted to present to the attendees different exhibitors from various domains related to games and toys in general. They wanted to include one cosplayer among their exhibitors and they chose me as a guest. I would usually have refused this invitation because I think it was too far from my cosplay niche. But at that moment, I exceptionally had something that was making me the perfect guest for that show. I had a giant robot in my workshop. :D I offered the organizers the opportunity to present the statue at their event and they accepted, of course! lol
In the meanwhile, I was also contacted by the organizers of Quebec City Comiccon. They were totally unawared of the fact that I had built that giant fiberglass statue. They hadn’t seen any of this online. I told the organizer I had the robot at the workshop and that I could bring it to the comiccon if they wanted to. They also accepted. That fall, Lug got to travel again. I rented a pick up truck and trailer one more time and Lug was ready for 2 more little trips.
It was good to present the robot in my hometown. Many people at Quebec City Comiccon had seen the robot’s making of online. On the other hand, as I thought, most of the attendees at the toy fair had never heard of cosplay. It was definitely not my crowd. But the robot was a huge hit with the kids and it gave me the opportunity to explain what I was doing in my workshop as a locally unknown, yet internationally renowned costumer and prop maker. Anyway, Lug was the big star. :)
After these 2 unexpected events where I had the chance to present Lug, the robot quietly waited in the workshop to be sanded. I was used to see it in my workshop. It was part of the place. It was winter now. And I waited after Christmas to finally start working on Lug again.
On January 2016, my friend and I undertook to finish what we had started the year before. I felt like this robot would haunt me forever. I loved it and hated it at the same time. And we started sanding the robot’s calves and knees. ‘We’re really doing it’ I thought. ‘We’re gonna have to paint it all over again.’ :(
We also started building the base. Our original idea was to build decorative crystals to hide that metallic tubing coming out from the robot’s butt, that extra tubing welded to the robot’s structure and the base that we added to make sure the robot would be well balanced and stable. That’s the major thing we didn’t have the time to complete before Gen Con 2015. We made styrene shapes that we covered with fiberglass, just like we did for all the rest of the robot. We covered the rest of the base with ‘rocks’ made of randomly placed styrene pieces and fiberglass mat. That part wasn’t too complicated. It was even almost relaxing to do.
And we covered the whole thing with a mix of polyester resin and body filler that we applied with a brush. The crystals, on the other hand, were a lot of work. These sharp shapes required a lot of sanding.
Here’s a view of all the crystals from different angles. We really wanted the base to look like a miniature’s base that someone would have decorated. But life size. :) Notice the big crystal in the back, how it hides the metallic tubing coming out from the robot’s butt. I sanded that joint a lot.
Since we were about to paint all the robot, we also sanded more all the rest of the robot: its big arms and hands, its head, pretty much every remaining defect or flaw. We had to slightly sand all the ‘old’ paint anyway before covering the whole thing with primer and start painting all over again.
Notice how I covered the walls and everything in my workshop with these plastic sheets. My workshop was never meant to do such a big paint job. I had no idea that I would build a giant fiberglass statue one day. I don’t have a paint room like in a garage. I would have needed a paint room for a truck to paint the robot. And since it’s cold in January in Quebec, we couldn’t work with the garage door open. -20 or -30 Celsius isn’t a good temperature to paint… :S So we had to work with the garage door closed knowing that there would be paint fumes everywhere. This was certainly not an ideal situation, but I had no other option. So I used the plastic sheets to protect everything from paint fumes. Note: this was before I remodeled my workshop. It doesn’t look like this anymore.
We made the primer first, then a coat of yellow that was applied everywhere. That was the ‘easy’ part.
Then I did all the masking steps by myself. My friend said he wasn’t patient enough to do this. The first time, before Gen Con, my family and friends made most of the masking steps while I was sleeping (for the first time in a few days…) But this time, I made it alone. I learned that when they do touch up on a car, they entirely cover the car with this super wide plastic sheet, then pierce a hole in the plastic to access the piece of the car that has to be painted while the rest will be protected by the plastic.
Then you use special rubber masking tape to hold the plastic sheet in place around the piece that will be painted. Don’t try to use the cheaper paper masking tape that we use to make the edges of a ceiling or to protect the edges of the floor when we paint a room. I know (because I tried it) that paper masking tape doesn’t make clean contours when you use it with automotive paint, while that special rubber masking tape gives perfect, super clean lines.
So to draw the patterns on the robot’s arms and all the countours of the parts that would be painted in dark gray, I used directly on the yellow paint that blue rubber masking tape. Since it’s more expensive, I used the cheaper green paper masking tape to glue the plastic sheet on the rubber masking tape. It’s not the plastic sheet itself that touches the paint, it has to be the rubber masking tape. Notice on the pics how the blue rubber masking tape marks out all the contours of the shapes or pieces that will be painted in dark gray, while the green paper masking tape only holds the plastic sheets on the blue tape. There’s always a fine blue line coming out from the green tape. It’s the blue tape that draws the contours. It took me about 4 or 5 hours to do that masking job. I had never done anything like that in my life. My only ‘masking experience’ was the small fiberglass Candy costume I had made for Soda Pop Miniatures years ago. And I thought it was complicated! lol I was very proud when the robot was finally ready to be painted in dark gray. :D
Then I covered all the dark gray parts and let only the large stripe on the robot’s torso and the crystals showing. The crystals were painted in hot pink because we thought it would be a nice contrast with the yellow and the stripe on the robot’s torso was painted in black according to the original design.
Finally I removed all the masking tape and all the plastic sheets. It’s kind of a stressful step because I was afraid that there could be a little hole somewhere in the plastic that would have allowed the paint to go through and to make a stain. But there was no hole. :)
I finished the latest details on the head, masking the pattern on the mouth and chin and painted it in sliver. We made nice looking little turquoise eyes, way more beautiful than the body filler buttons I had made in the hotel room before Gen Con! lol
And finally! Here are some closeups of the finished robot!!!
Lug was ready to leave the workshop. Its 8 toes and the big cylinders that go on its shoulders were in a box. The toes had to be painted separately anyway, so we made them with a magnet in each of them. Lug was brought with its luggage on a truck that would bring it to the USA. I took one last picture before we covered it with moving blankets to protect the paint during transportation. It’s the last time I saw it in real… Goodbye, robot!
Then I found online that picture of Lug in a convention. :D
Lug is the property of Ninja Division. The company stores it somewhere… and hopefuly they will bring it to other conventions in the future. :)
To add to the story, like if it wasn’t incredible already, I almost missed my chance to have a photoshoot organized with the robot. In 2016, I was a guest for a convention in Chile and I came back from Chile on the day before the departure of Lug for the USA. I was able to convince a photographer friend of mine to do a photoshoot in the middle of the night, right after my return from Chile. I put my Betty costume on and we did that photoshoot in the workshop. A French Canadian artist named Donald Caron retouched and integrated a background behind the robot and I to give me these 2 beautiful pictures. :) Souvenir from the robot I built…
Now you know all the story behind the making of Lug! If you want to support me, the 2 prints are available on my store:
Hope you enjoyed your reading!