OR: How To Make A Monster.
If you haven't had a chance to see the new stop-motion adventure Coraline yet, then I would strongly recommend you do so. It isn't a kiddie movie and looks absolutely stunning. A lot of people think Nightmare Before Christmas, but this isn't that. Same director, but that is where the similarities stop.
OK, enough about the movie, let's get onto the sculpture. In the movie, Coraline confronts her Other Mother, who turns out to be a witch. (No real spoiler there.) The final form of Other Mother is this spidery creature who, I thought, was scary as hell. She has needles for fingers and a cracked porcelain face with buttons for eyes. The stuff my nightmares are made of. So I thought, "I need one of those for my office." Well, I scoured the interweb and found every other thing Coraline related, but not this final form. (I suppose it has to do with kids playing with needle-hands or something.)
So, being who I am, I thought "I'll make my own." So I first sought out some good research. And, here is where I bow extremely low to the talent that is Damon Bard. This is the guy who designed the original pieces for the film. HE IS AMAZING, and made me think for a few days that I have no business sculpting. Yeah, THAT good. Anyways, he took a thorough amount of images of Other Mother throughout the design process. For that, I am really grateful, as it made making this reproduction a whole lot easier.
So I started out with the armature. Having some really nice puppet photos taken inside the puppet storage area for the movie, I was able to deduce the approximate scale of OM. I didn't want to make a moving armature, more of a static piece, so I constructed it using brass tubing that I soldiered together. You can see the beginning process shots below, or for higher rez versions, jump over to my Flickr set.
The hands each took me 8 hours, as I created each of the needles and then soldiered them to each other. The figure is mounted to an end table, measuring 19.5" x 15.25". The armature is a little under 18" tall.
From the armature, I started flushing out the bits. The legs, arms and torso all got the Super Sculpey treatment, firing it in batches to keep the pieces crisp and angular. I will note here that the piece separates to make it easier to work on. The arms separate at the shoulder and the torso separates at the waist. Eventually, I'll add the head, which can also come off. The head on the images below is a placeholder for scale.
I was trying to figure out how to reproduce the checkered pattern on the torso. I could have painted it on, but don't think I could have kept it as pretty and precise as it needs to be. Then I remembered a failed venture I thought about a year or so ago, custom bumper stickers. I have these full sheet bumper stickers that you can feed through your printer. So I whipped up a convincing pattern in Photoshop and printed out a few sheets. I applied them to the torso, as you can see above, but wasn't happy with the collar which I needed to add. The bumper sticker material wasn't flexible enough to make it look convincing, so I ended up stripping all of it off the torso and sculpting the collar out of clay.
The images blow show the progress with the collar. I also added the bustle which helps make her look more spidery, and is where the fabric from her skirt is attached.
Next, it was time to conquer the head. The big thing about the stop-motion in the movie is that they paid a whole lot of attention to hair and clothing, making sure they could accurately reproduce real hair in stop motion (which is quite a feat, trust me). So when I sculpted the head, I didn't include the hair, as I wanted to use real hair, or a facsimily. I gave her a gaping smile, becasue it showed off her teeth nicely, and was (is) creepy as hell.
Now that everything was sculpted, it was time to paint it up and finish it. I decided to stick with the bumper sticker paper for the torso, but for the tiny areas and some of the harder to fill areas, I did end up painting the pattern in. The rest was just a combination of spray paint, acrylics and time.
I ended up using cross-stich thread and semi-gloss paintable medium for the hair. I also used the meduim for the buttons to gloss them up. The skirt is made of a painted heavy construction paper that has been crumpled and stiched together. For the base, I painted out the table top and then, using the bumper sticker paper, created a spider web and a card (which I will admit was outright copied from the Comic Con display of the maquettes). You can see a bunch of finish shots and close ups on my Other Mother Coraline Flickr set.
Alas, the listing didn't sell. So I suppose she will sit on my shelf for a while.