Sunday, July 12, 2015

Artist's Touch: Couple’s passion for creative costuming

  • PC CREATIVE CON
  • When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 1
  • Where: Student Union building and Amelia Tapper Center at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City
  • Why: Guest artists, costume contest, film festival, writers workshop, breaking into comics, warp-speed dating, celebrity panel and more
  • Admission: $10
  • Details: PCcreativeCon.com


C&C Cosplay at Pensacon 2014
PANAMA CITY — I first met Chris Stock and Christina Gilbert in a steampunk panel at Pensacon, a sci-fi convention in Pensacola, in February 2014. He was disguised as The Winter Soldier and she was Black Widow, a pair of Marvel Comics characters that were appearing in the new Captain America movie at the time.

It was his second big convention, and her first, and they assured me they were “super nerds, basically.” They’ve been actively building a reputation as creative costume designers and character players (i.e., “cosplayers”) ever since, and will present a panel for beginning cosplayers at PC Creative Con in Panama City on Aug. 1.

I recently visited them at the Dragon Dojo off State 390, where Chris works as an instructor, to talk about their passion.

“My dad read comics, and he thought comics would get me into reading — and he was right,” said Chris, 23, who was born and raised in Panama City.

As a child, Chris became a fan of The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers — specifically, “Billy” the Blue Ranger, who was a massive nerd. Since he couldn’t become a Power Ranger in real life, Chris focused on the martial arts aspect, and under mentor Dorje Jangbu has become an instructor. One of the highlights of his life, he said, was meeting David Yost the actor who played Billy, at Pensacon. Chris hopes his cosplay can serve as an inspiration as well.

“When you see someone really appreciates it, it touches you,” he said. “It not only inspires them, it inspires you to keep going.”

Photo: Daron Adkins Photography
Christina, 28, is originally from Dothan, Ala., but has lived in the Panama City since she was 9. A hair stylist and operator of the local Shear Design, she has two daughters, ages 4 and 6. Chris’ interest in costumes drew her in, and she has a particular interest in steampunk (a subgenre of sci-fi that derives from 19th-century steam-powered technology and aesthetics).

“It’s a way for me, personally, to escape from reality for a few hours,” she said of building props, making costumes, and playing dress-up. “And when someone compliments your work and wants a picture with you, that’s great.”

Chris keeps composition notebooks filled with designs, doodles, patterns and ideas. He uses it to work out details, like the knotwork design on the edges of his home-built Mjolnir (the hammer of Marvel Comics’ Thor), or the horned helmet of a gender-swapped Loki. Then the projects take shape in his workshop — i.e., apartment.

“Our apartment has little projects all over the place,” Christina said, mentioning Captain America’s shield, which hangs in their laundry room.

Winter Soldier was Chris’ first full costume, and the character’s “robotic” arm was created by riveting dozens of individual pieces together. (Chris has added some muscle since creating the costume, and the riveted arm no longer fits him.)

“Before that, I basically did anime characters (from Japanese cartoons), but Winter Soldier I really spent time on,” he said. “I built everything but the pants and shoes. I broke down each part. It was — a lot of hours.”

Chris and Christina discussed how they created many of their costumes and props — from a repainted toy gun or a dowel that became a walking cane, to a wiffle bat repurposed as Harley Quinn’s weapon of choice and socks that became her elbow-length gloves. The most important aspect of building these items, they said, is the willingness to make mistakes and learn from them.

“I find nothing but flaws in everything I do,” Chris said. “I’m a perfectionist. But art is being able to make a mistake look beautiful. Art is never finished, you just walk away from it.”

BASIC COSPLAY TIPS
C&C Cosplay offered these basic considerations to prospective cosplayers:

•Dress for the weather. “You don’t want to walk around wearing a skimpy Harley Quinn costume in February,” Christina said — a lesson she learned the cold way.

•Props don’t have to be functional, they just need to look right and feel good. “You don’t need to actually be able to climb up walls if you’re (dressed as) Spider-Man,” Chris said. “It’s a costume. It’s all about the look. ... But whether it’s a prop or costume, if it’s not comfortable, you’re going to hate it.”

•Make sure you can move, see, fit through doorways, sit down — and get out of the costume for bathroom breaks. “I’ve seen this happen badly,” Chris said. “If you’re going to design a really complicated costume, make sure you know how to go to the restroom. I suggest wearing it a full day around the house before you go to a con.”


•Most of all, have fun. Be creative. And feel free to ask other people for help. 
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