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feedback on sculpted head and eyes  (Read 323 times)
Michael_M
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« on: April 01, 2014, 01:29:48 pm »

Making a puppet has been one of the most challenging endeavors I've ever attempted.  banghead  Although this is my first puppet I didn't anticipate spending months and yet still not be finished.

This is my third attempt at sculpting a head to be cast in latex. I stopped after the second version and spent six weeks trying to build a conventional puppet only to give up when I realized I could not make the seams in the fabric disappear in the short amount of time available. I wish the face had more personality to it. It seems rather bland but I'm running out of time to finish this. If it's not obvious, it's supposed to be female.

If anyone has feedback it is appreciated. I realize it's difficult because the eyes will need to be finished by adding latex once they're finally seated in the latex cast. (Hopefully that goes well.)

I know that conventional puppet eyes are often added at a slightly cross-eyed position to give the character focus. Would the same be true for a sculpture that is supposed to be more representative of an actual head? I have looked at a lot of the Spitting Image characters and most of them seem to have the pupils in the center of the eye.

Click for larger version. Thanks.








Andrew
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2014, 01:53:07 pm »

That looks nice.

Eye focus doesn't really change irregardless of what material you're working in. In the case of your sculpt, the eye focus appears to be off (it's hard to tell from photos) and I think making them slightly "cross-eyed" would help.

One potential problem is the mouth. You're casting in latex rubber (I assume). That's a different material than foam latex, which is what the puppets in the other photos are cast in. Foam latex is softer than latex rubber, which makes the mouth easier to perform because it's somewhat sponge-like.

With latex rubber, although it's flexible, it's also more rigid so that when the mouth closes, the material at the sides of the mouth has to be displaced. Depending on the shape of the mouth and the thickness of your casting it may look slightly odd.

I'm not an expert in sculpting or latex casting, but I would favour a mouth that didn't have such a round shape. I've had more success with mouth openings that are either wider (across) or not as deep. A show that does puppets like this and casts in latex rubber is ZA News. Maybe you could study their puppets and see how their mouths are shaped and how effectively they move. I only bring this up because I've had the experience of sculpting a head, making a mold and then realizing after casting the head the mouth doesn't move well. It's very frustrating.

I highly recommend the DVD "Making Lifelike Puppets" by Noreen Young. That link has a preview and purchase instructions. It costs just $15 including postage, so it's a very good investment if you want to do this kind of work.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2014, 01:57:32 pm by Andrew »
Michael_M
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« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2014, 07:49:18 pm »

Greatly appreciate the prompt reply Andrew. It's very difficult to get the eyes to line up in the head because of difficulty sculpting symmetrical sockets.

I bought Noreen Young's DVD last year and she said she only had a few left. It's been the basis for my attempt at sculpting a puppet head. She uses latex rubber and I recently contacted her seeking more specifics about the kind of latex. Unfortunately, the company no longer sells it. From my research I was under the impression that pouring casting latex into a plaster mold is easier than the foam latex approach.

EDIT: Just watched a video which reminded me that foam latex needs to be baked in some kind of oven. Although I built one years ago for baking Super Sculpey projects, my understanding was that the Plaster of Paris Noreen uses can't be used for foam latex. I contacted DAP and they said the temperature limit was 100 deg and foam latex needs much higher temperatures. Although I read that foam latex can be put into a stone mold, I think it's more of the cement kind than plaster. Are you familiar with this at all?

The exact concerns you raise have been worrying me. As you say, finding out that the mouth doesn't move properly after all this effort would be crushing. I wish I had started this process two years ago rather than feeling the burden of all the time I've spent when I have so much more yet to accomplish.

I am familiar with ZA News as well and have tried to watch behind the scenes videos whenever possible. I do see how the mouths are shaped differently. I had planned to begin the moldmaking process soon but will need to step back and reassess my mouth shape.
Although I like doing things myself, this is a situation where I really wish I could have saved a tonne of time and paid to have a puppet made. Ugh!
« Last Edit: April 04, 2014, 10:32:32 am by Michael_M »
Andrew
« Reply #3 on: April 02, 2014, 02:25:44 am »

You're diving in to the deep end of the pool attempting to build this kind of puppet the first time out. My advice would be to do some tests...sculpt a mouth (just a mouth), make a quick and dirty one piece mold, cast it and see how it works. Then do another and another until you figure out what works. Myself and another artist are doing a lot of this kind of stuff right now, and typically it takes anywhere from 3-5 attempts to get something right.

I've never worked in foam latex, but a helpful guide to it is Tom McLaughlin's 2002 article (Tom is the wizard who originally figured out foam latex for famous puppets like Yoda and Miss Piggy...he now works for Puppet Heap in New Jersey).

All of the people I know who make foam latex molds typically use Ultracal, which I believe is a gypsum cement.

Not only do you need an oven to bake foam latex, but the chemicals are highly toxic. As you probably know, you can't just use your kitchen oven (at least you really shouldn't!).

I'm not a very good sculptor and I personally find it really tricky to focus eyes in a sculpt, so I just don't do it. What I do instead is just position spheres approximately the size of the eyes in the sculpt. When the head is cast I cut out the eye area and manually position the eyes. That usually works, but it depends on the specifics of what you're trying to do and how you're trying to do it.

There are a lot of variables.

I just mentioned this in another thread, but a web site with incredibly helpful tutorials is the Stan Winston School. You could learn a lot about what you need to know by watching some of their tutorials. Also, if you have cable TV or can access the SyFy Channel website, watch episodes of the TV series "Face Off". They don't provide technical information, but you'll get a decent overview of the sculpting/molding/casting process by watching a few episodes of the show.

When I'm asked for puppet building advice I usually use the line "go make one hundred puppets and come back and talk to me" because there is an unavoidable learning curve. Just jump in, make lots of mistakes and learn from them.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2014, 02:47:10 am by Andrew »
Michael_M
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« Reply #4 on: April 02, 2014, 09:15:41 am »

I have purchased three of Stan Winston's sculpting videos as well. I want to be good, but it's a mystery to me. My results look like a sculpted head rather than having that realistic pop that Jordu Schell et al achieve. Of course, they've been doing it for years.

Appreciate the other tips and the thoroughness of your replies. We all benefit from your experience. I will probably be sticking with latex rubber since I hate working with anything too toxic. Unfortunately, I needed a puppet eight months ago and it doesn't afford me the time to practice as I normally would. I plan on doing a two part mold to preserve the original in case anything goes wrong.

« Last Edit: April 02, 2014, 09:27:43 am by Michael_M »
Shawn Sorrell
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2014, 07:05:15 am »

I want to second Andrews suggestion to do some really quick and dirty one part mouth test sculpts and molds.  It was what I was thinking while reading your post.  Even builders who have been doing it for years do not always get it "right" the first time.

You mentioned in the last post:
Quote
My results look like a sculpted head rather than having that realistic pop that Jordu Schell et al achieve. Of course, they've been doing it for years.
Yes they have been doing it for years but also at the moment your sculpt is very clean and perfect.  You have not put any personality into your sculpt. No wrinkles, lines or exaggerated features.  The master puppeteer I studied under hated doing pretty puppets. She never felt satisfied with them. She preferred those that had character to them.  You don't have to go way over the top with character but there should be something interesting about the face.
Na
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2014, 07:12:52 am »

I want to second Andrews suggestion to do some really quick and dirty one part mouth test sculpts and molds.  It was what I was thinking while reading your post.  Even builders who have been doing it for years do not always get it "right" the first time.

You mentioned in the last post:Yes they have been doing it for years but also at the moment your sculpt is very clean and perfect.  You have not put any personality into your sculpt. No wrinkles, lines or exaggerated features.  The master puppeteer I studied under hated doing pretty puppets. She never felt satisfied with them. She preferred those that had character to them.  You don't have to go way over the top with character but there should be something interesting about the face.

I don't have any experience in this area which is why I haven't commented, but I did look at the pictures before. However, now that Shawn's posted, I have to agree. Your heads look a bit like Gumby, very neat, very well defined, but ultimately character-less.

If you compare them to the other pics you posted however, you see wrinkles, exaggerated features, different shades and hues in terms of colour. Part of making those features I would guess is also about light and making the object appear three dimensional (even though it is, it makes it easier when it comes to viewing or videography).

I wouldn't have known the heads were for a woman, until I re-read the original post. I have to say Shawn is right, adding in some imperfection would help.
Michael_M
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« Reply #7 on: April 03, 2014, 06:33:26 pm »

Some more very interesting comments. Thanks for taking the time.

I did try to make the cheekbones more pronounced - even exaggerated - to add character but either that doesn't appear on camera or the effect is not what I intended. Looking at them now they do seem rather lifeless and muted.

Describing it as being like Gumby is both entirely accurate and deeply depressing. The amount of time I have spent on sculpting and yet have so little to show for it makes me want to rip it off and start over. I can spend hours on the lips trying to make them right but really make no progress. Where does the time go?

I understand everything that has been said but lack the skills to implement the suggestions. I've tried many times. The puppet is supposed to be based on an actual person so I'm limited in the kinds of details. A lot of wrinkles would misrepresent who I was trying to depict.



One challenge is that I can't see where to add character. The ability of Spitting Image artists to find something to caricature is also missing. The human face looks very flat, a collection of different features. And I've run out of clay to add more. I regret not taking Noreen's advice on her DVD and buy plasticine, which is readily available, rather than the more expensive Monster Clay which I thought was going to be better for details. But I can't figure out what details to add.

I know things like eyes and hair and painting will have an effect so I try to focus on the end result. Having spent a lot of time looking at puppets, one of my favorites is Seth the Geek by Jarrod Boutcher. Just love the amount of personality here.



Like I said, I needed a puppet months ago. The more time I spend trying to make it right the less progress I make. Oh the dilemma... I'm sure my target audience wouldn't really care but as it stands right now it would have been faster to do a sock puppet. I still marvel at the ability of the producers of Potter Puppet Pals to create such charming characters with such simple design.

« Last Edit: April 03, 2014, 06:54:39 pm by Michael_M »
Na
« Reply #8 on: April 03, 2014, 07:09:26 pm »

One thing I would say from the photo you provided is that you could exaggerate her features - to me, her nose seems perfect for a slight exaggeration, and her eyebrows give all her face the expression. Her lips are pursed, so you could give them a bit of a 'sour' look (ie. as in one of the teachers in Matilda, like she sucked on a lemon). She actually seems to have some wrinkling down the side of her mouth, so there's that too.

Ultimately I'm no sculptor so I really can't advise you. But I do think there are features there that you can play with.

I can understand the frustration though. I've often played with stuff for months only to get pissed off that something else would have taken me mere hours to do. Ultimately you've either got to walk away or try again. Smiley
DrPuppet
Re:
« Reply #9 on: April 03, 2014, 09:31:12 pm »

Ok right off your puppet is great! Honestly so much character. I think you are going to be a wonderful puppet maker!!

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