Sunday, 6 March 2016

The Nausicaa Project: Forming The Face

In this week's blog post I'm going to explain how I covered Nausicaa's face in nylon, and my general conclusions about the overall build up of the face, which has been a delicate and frustrating business at times.

First of all, I should mention that I ripped off the soft sculpture and started from scratch not once, but twice...partially because I wasn't getting the results I wanted with the wire, and also because the shape wasn't looking right. It pays to get these things looking as you want them to!

First attempt:

Second attempt:

Third attempt:

There, that's better. So once I was satisfied with how the face shape was looking, I stretched and pinned the first (pink) layer of nylon over the face. Lisa Lichtenfels needle sculpts the face in the same way as the body, but because Nausicaa's skull is a hard resin I couldn't do this. My alternative was carefully glueing down the nylon with tiny dabs of UHU glue. This was only necessary on the details, like around the eyes and nose - the rest could just be stretched over the face.

Snipping and glueing around the eyes was particularly fiddly work. The desire is to get the nylon evenly stretched, so the colour is consistent and the grain is going in the same directions across the planes of the face.

Regarding the wire in the face - by this stage I had come to accept that the only wire working well to animate was the eyelids. Unfortunately the mouth and eyebrow pieces are hard to manipulate, I think because the scale is so small. I have a suspicion that this technique would work well on a larger scale, which is something I'd like to experiment with in the future.

By the time the second layer was on the whole face was looking very smoothed out. I apologise for the poor photo quality, the lighting is awful when I work at home so it's difficult to take good progress photos! I was  trying out some eyelashes here, just to see how they'd change the shape of the eye.

I took a lot of care to glue nice clean seams under the chin that can't be seen. There are darts stitched on the head, but they'll be covered with the wig so it doesn't matter that the stitches are large and visible.

The next stage was making her some ears. This was very difficult, it took me two days to work out something I liked the look of! The final method: little wire pieces that formed the shapes and depth of the ears:

These were then spray painted white and built up in wadding in specific places before being covered in nylon, which was glued down. I failed to take any photos of this stage because I was so focused on making them look right! But here's the first finished ear, pinned on and about to be sewn. I made them to emulate an anatomical ear shape, but with the anime, hand drawn simplicity - so more just concaves in the right places:

Once I had sewn on the other ear I continued to play around with eyelashes and eyebrows. I found that strands of thread, glued together and tapered at the ends, worked well for the eyebrows:

The end result was looking pretty nice! I might experiment a bit more with the brows and lashes, but for now I'm liking how they look.

Overall I'm feeling really happy with how her face is looking. I'm still amazed at the definition and shape that can be achieved with just wire, wadding and nylon. Despite some struggle and frustration it's been wonderful to see this puppet come to life, and I definitely want to experiment more with soft sculpture in the future. It's time consuming and painstaking, but I think the results are worth it in the end!

Next weekend I'm going to write about how I made Nausicaa's wig, which has been another 'teach myself from scratch and hope for the best' sort of journey. Thanks again for reading!

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