Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Nausicaa Project: Sculpting and Moulding the Bird Feet

In this week's blog post I'm going to discuss the creation of Kai the horseclaw's bird feet. Good references for the horseclaws are generally hard to come by, especially full body images. There's a close-up shot in the movie of the feet, which are quite simple in shape with small claws. I noticed how when the feet land, they splay out on a 180 degree angle, creating a square. The back toe is a bit shorter but the front three are the same length.

I managed to find a few references for the feet in the manga, which provided a much more detail and interest.

Note the ridges under the toes and the much larger claws. I followed these images more closely as a reference, with the movie still in mind for the colour palette.

I made a pair of replica leg armatures to sculpt onto. I realised soon afterwards that I could just sculpt one foot and use it for both, as there was no differentiation between left and right.

I started off by building up the basic shape of the leg, sculpting with plastilline clay. In this image it's still quite rough, but you get the idea.

Once I was happy with the overall shape I started to add detail. The underside of the foot was the most interesting part, with its dimples and texture.

When I was happy with the finished article is was time to make a two part plaster mould, so the foot could be cast in latex. The first step for this was to roll out an even sheet of grey clay and shape it around the bottom half of the foot on a piece of foam board. It's important that there aren't any gaps between the sculpt and the clay for a clean mould.

Four beads were pushed half way into the surface of the clay. This is so when the second half of the mould is poured, the two halves line up perfectly for casting.

A foam board box is made around the clay shape and stuck together with hot glue. This secures it to the base piece of foam and also stops any plaster from leaking through the cracks.

A batch of plaster is mixed and poured, the box given a little shake while the plaster is still wet to try and illiminate any lingering air bubbles. I then left it a couple of days to set, to make sure the plaster was 100% dry. The area where the leg is visible will become the pour hole for the latex later.

When the foamboard was removed, the mould was flipped over and the grey clay was peeled back, I was left with one half of a mould looking like this.

Using plasticine, I built up a tapered wall, surrounding the sculpt. This will create a negative space between the two halves so they can be removed easily later. The plaster left bare was covered in vaseline, including the circular indents. Otherwise the two halves would stick together, making the two half mould just one block! I then had to build a new foam board wall and pour the second half of the mould, taking the plaster a good inch above the sculpt.

Once set, I separated the two halves. I then had to take out the sculpt as carefully as possible, without damaging the mould. As you can see the clay from the leg got left behind in the mould, so I had to scrape it out with the end of a paintbrush and flush it through with lighter fluid.

After cleaning both halves of the mould, this was the result, ready for latex casting.

In my post next week I'll cover casting, seam trimming and applying the latex feet to the armature. Thanks for taking the time to follow my Nausicaa project, you're awesome!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Nausicaa Project: Making the Head

Now that 'Santa's Stressful Day' is over, I'm back to my Nausicaa stop motion puppet making project. I haven't really had any time to look at it since the summer, but for the past couple of weeks I've been planning and starting to make again. In this post I'm going to talk about making Nausicaa's head, which I began sculpting in the summer holidays.

Before embarking on this project I had hardly sculpted anything before, and I won't pretend that I didn't struggle at first! Like learning anything new it took some practice - and several hundred screwed up heads - but I eventually got there.

The first step was making a core to sculpt the head onto. In this photo, I've sculpted a layer of plastilline over the neck ball and socket joint, to the thickness that the neck should be. I rounded off the top of this in a dome shape, covered it in a layer of clingfilm and slotted a larger piece of square brass rod over the smaller piece which was attached to the top of the neck. The milliput built over the clingfilm cures on the brass rod, creating a head core which can slot on and off of the neck. 

Because the plastilline on the neck sets the right width, the head core is an accurate size to start sculpting on. This will also come in handy later when it needs to be cast.

I roughly blocked out the main head shape and positioned and inserted the eyes. This stage is crucial - if the eyes aren't in the right place or are unlevel the sculpt will never look right, no matter how refined it is!

Next I started to roughly build up the features. Having reference images of Nausicaa from all angles was very helpful.

Starting to smooth those features out. From my experience the trickiest thing is to get both sides looking the same, especially on a face like Nausicaa's which is so clean and smooth in shape.

Eventually I felt quite happy with how the symmetry was looking. I'm left handed so I naturally feel like this side is easier for me to sculpt, but all in all not bad!

I checked her against my original scale drawings before feeling happy that she was ready to be cast. At this stage the back of her head needed shaving down a bit and her ears were too wide.

So with casting, the plan was to make a block silicone mould and cast the head in Fast Cast polyurethane resin. My friend Nathan Flynn who is a sculptor helped me with this, as I had never done it before. He's generally helped me a lot with this project and still is, so I'd like to take a moment to sing his praises and say, check out his and his brother's website! -

So, here's how we made the mould. Firstly the head was attached to a piece of of foam board with brass rod and hot glue, and then the neck was tapered out to create a pour spout.

A bit of silicone is mixed with the catalyst and painted onto the head. This is to ensure that the mould picks up all of the fine details before the rest of the silicone is poured.

A cut down paper cup acts as the mould box. It's a good size for the head, and is positioned over it before being hot glued to the foam board. We mixed a batch of silicone with the catalyst before pouring it. I've learnt that the trick is to pour from a height, creating a very thin stream, and to pour in only one area of the mould. This way the silicone naturally fills up the mould, and it greatly minimises air bubbles.

When the mould was set I cut it open in a zig-zag shape on one side and removed the sculpt. By cutting in a zig-zag the two sides meet each other again very easily when the mould needs to be used for casting.

As you can see, the sculpt came out as good as new! The mould was put in another cup to keep the sides securely together, ready to casting. Equal parts of A and B were mixed together in a cup before being poured into the mould.

Ta-da! The head came out pretty nicely, I'm very pleased with it. Despite the amount of effort that went into making this head it's just a reference for the final thing, which is going to be built up on a fast cast skull (a cut-back version of this head) using wire and soft sculpture, much like the body. This whole technique is very much an experiment so I can't predict if it'll work as I hope it will, but fingers crossed!

I'm really determined to take Sundays off from now on and keep my blog updated on a weekly basis, so check back next Sunday for a new post!