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! - http://www.sculpt-double.co.uk
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!