THE HEAD, CONTINUED
12/27/17- Waiting for stuff to arrive...
Assessing the Head: The prospect of sculpting the head
is especially intimidating because the 3D shape is hard to discern
from photos, and it's a complex shape. I don't have a 3D model to
see it from different angles or even simple "mug shots"
that show it from the basic angles. What I have are a collection
of pics of toys and models scoured from the web and some video capture
pics. The vidcap pics are too distorted and blurry to see details,
but are good for figuring out things like the lighting. The pics
of toys and models show detail, but tend to focus on the frontal
view. I have to select which of those pics are credible and occasionally
average between interpretations; the sculptors probably had to deal
with the same lack of good reference photos of the 50 year-old suit!
Head Articulation: Moving forward, the first challenge
was dealing with the neck: How to make the rigid V-shaped thing
accommodate the figure's articulated neck, so the doll flesh doesn't
show when the head is moved? The suit doesn't look like it has a
neck: The head appears to begin on top of the horizontal join where
the V-thing ends. While the head doesn't move during during most
of the scenes, during its flying sequences, it clearly has a limited
amount of movement (unless it was insert edited using different
props-- always a possibility!). I suspect that the head was a rigid
piece (to install lighting). They may have joined the head and suit
together or used a flexible collar attached to the head, tucked
into the suit. The latter seemed more likely from a costuming perspective:
Someone had to get in and out of the suit. Regardless of how they
actually did it, this seems like a workable plan for an articulated
The general plan was do create a neck tube that could be slid
over the figure's neck, allowing for a limited amount of front-to-back/side-to-side
articulation at the base of the figure's neck, with none at the
top end (just a small amount of rotation). This would be the core
for sculpting the rest of the head.
Diffused Lighting: How to do the diffused lighting? The
suit appears to use two sets of bulbs, one set installed behind
a rounded shaped visor, and the other set appears be behind the
white part of its "cheeks", which is a fairly complex
3D shape. It's hard to tell from watching videos, but pics of models
and toys seem to indicate that the areas appear to be roughly sculpted
or have inner fracture lines, translucent/transparent but not clear
enough to see the bulbs underneath. I had several ideas:
- Heat-formed styrene: Thin styrene is white and diffuses the
light of an LED. It should be covered with a transparent coating,
somehow made to appear roughly sculpted. However, because the
shape is complex, it would be difficult to heat-form in thin styrene,
trim, and inset into the sculpture of the head. I would need to
sculpt the head first with the inset area, sculpt the inset areas
as separate pieces, and vacuform the pieces. (Vacuforming is a
bigger production than simple heat forming which you can do with
a heat gun.) That's a lot of work!
- Ordinary Casting resin: Another option would be to pour a thin
coat of ordinary casting resin into the inset area and "slush
cast" it, hoping the layer is reasonably uniformly thin before
it cures, and doesn't show any thick pour accumulations as you
attempt to steer the resin. The good thing is that it (ideally)
cures in a thin, translucent white layer that would diffuse the
LED light. While it's a one-shot deal that would bond to the epoxy
putty and LEDs, resin can be sanded, painted, and top-coated with
a translucent coating (again, somehow made to appear roughly sculpted).
- Clear Acrylic Caulk: Even though it says it's clear, it's milky
white except when the coating is really thin. It goes on thick,
but can be thinned to coat complex shapes, and finger smoothed
to the "roughly sculpted" look. Acrylic paint can be
mixed in. Unfortunately, when it's thick, it takes a long time
to cure, and it's rubbery when it does. Not sure how it takes
paint or clear coats (like Flexbond or Mod Podge) on top. Promising,
- Clear casting resin: None of them seemed to hold much promise,
even the expensive stuff. Firstly, they're clear: They'd need
to be made translucent so you couldn't see the LED. Most of the
economy resins are brittle, have a really long cure time; they're
thin and self-leveling which means that you'd have to use a two-part
mold. The expensive stuff is durable, has a short cure time, but
pro-level requirements (degassing, vacuming, toxic fumes), a short
shelf life, and unless you can find a use for 10 lbs of the stuff,
it's not practical for the casual hobbyist.
- Other Options for Clear Coating: Woodland Scenic's E-Z Water--
Plastic bits that you melt and pour. Really fast (almost too fast,
but you can reflow it with a heat gun), very tough, very clear.
Unfortunately, it has a yellow tint.
Woodland Scenic's Realistic Water-- An acrylic clear coating
that I haven't tried; I imagine that it's similar to Flexbond
and Mod Podge.
"Blueprinting" the Head: Sculpting... that's the part I've
been dreading. Like I've said, it's a complex shape. It also has
a lot of details, many of which aren't symmetrical. Originally,
I'd planned to sculpt in epoxy putty, which doesn't allow a lot
of time for futzing and tweaking. Once I began kneading the putty
(the head is big and takes a lot of putty!), I realized that I was
an idiot for thinking that I could do it: I needed a lot
more time just to work on the basic shaping. When sculpting, you
have to reconcile the front, side, and back views in 3D form, and
you don't have a lot of time to figure that out when you're racing
against the clock.
I switched to polymer clay, which lets you futz and tweak for
as long as you want. Because polyclay is heavy and not very durable,
I'd have to mold/cast the final version in resin. On the plus side,
this would take care of the diffused lighting-- the question would
be how to contain the light so it didn't glow where it wasn't supposed
When I originally first wrote this article, I extolled the benefit
of "blueprinting" the head-- sketching the frontal, back, and side
views at actual size. The value of doing this is to establish the
size of the head; you can hold the sketch up to the body to see
if the head size works with the body size. While you're sculpting,
you can use the blueprints to verify that you're staying within
that size and putting the details where they should be.
However, the blueprints aren't a substitute for photos when you
need to interpret depth from light and shadow cues. When sculpting,
you absolutely need those cues.
Sketching is like a quickie rehearsal for sculpting; it helped
me learn features and notice things that I hadn't noticed before.
In clay, once I established the object's 3D shape, I sketched the
details on the surface with the sculpting version of a pencil. After
that, the details need to be made dimensional by moving clay around.
NEXT: JEEZ... MORE HEAD???