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!

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