Part 1

Last modified:
Thursday, February 13, 2003 5:36 PM


generic red demoness doll

01/20/03- Although there are a few dangling rings left over in last year's "Toll Road To Hell" series of articles, I wanted to start fresh with a new project for the new year... appropriately enough, a demon gal. Since I made green and black demon mammas last year, a red demoness seemed a logical next step, setting the stage for future fuscia, periwinkle and heliotrope demonesses. To add more variety in my collection, this one's bald, bat-winged, and snarly. That removes some of the "cheesecake" factor (I guess?) which might make her seem like a CooP Debbil Gal, or "Purgatory" from the comic book company formerly known as Chaos. That makes her kinda generic-- the usual style of everything I've made, since I'm not terribly imaginative. (...though unintentionally similar to "Darth Maul" from Star Wars-- but it's not my fault that we feed from the same trough!) Within my little world of this stuff, she's envisioned as a different kind of demoness, not affiliated with the "Demon Monkey Goddess" clan. Therefore, her facial features are more human-like, without the high nose and cat eyes. She's also fairly small, at a little over 10" tall; a suitable size to sit on your shoulder and hiss pleasantries like "The Death Penalty makes us feel good!", "Kill the infidels!" and "Let's nuke the bastards!" (The Personal Demoness would be a great product for places like Spencer's).

This figure is primarily made from a disassembled "Svetlana" figure I'd previously scavenged for parts. The basic structure was reworked to accommodate my favored elastic tensioned (vintage-style) construction. The neck and head were originally a decapitated Cool Girl "CG05" of which I wasn't very fond. (The neck's a bit long, but do the usual proportioning rules apply to imaginary creatures?) The hands came from a BBI "Perfect Body" figure, thinned, re-posed with pins, and tipped with blued brass fingernails (so they could be mean, sharp, and sturdy). Her feet were replaced with Cotswold's (vintage-style ankles are the only ones worth a damn if you want your figures to stand reliably); They were reshaped with high arches and clawed toes, stolen from a Resaurus Velociraptor (which couldn't stand worth a damn).

The wings were the main challenge of this project. Although it's not hard to construct wings and there are lots of ways to do it, some preliminary thought was required, beyond picking the general style (a no-brainer, bat wings). What will they be made of? What kind of articulation should they have? The answer to those questions requires thinking about weight, size, durability, and from the practical consideration of working on the figure and perhaps storing it, how would the wings be made removeable?

I first considered making the skeletal form out of model sprues, but decided that plastic tubing would be better because it was hollow and therefore lighter (and less work). Inserting a coathanger wire allowed me to shape the tubing with great control, without crushing or kinking before heating the plastic to set the shape. The coathanger wire was then removed from the segments to keep them light. The knuckle was fitted with an R/C airplane hinge between the outer phalange and the arm so that the wing could be folded/compressed; the other phalanges are fitted with loops at the ends which are threaded onto the outer phalange. This may not have been necessary since they were later glued to the wing, but it allowed them to hang/pivot freely in any direction at the anchor point. The arm segments were fitted with short pieces of coathanger wire for insertion into short lengths of brass tubing embedded in the figure's back. This gave the wings the articulation necessary to fold back or forward, the most logical simple articulation for that area. It also allowed the wings to be easily removed.

It took some experimentation to find a wing covering. I thought about using leather, but most of my supply was too heavy (I'd hate to waste the good thin stuff on something like this), and there was the problem of the suede side, which wouldn't look right. I experimented with making a rubber-impregnated fabric material, but the fabric texture was a problem. I ended up using a very thin plastic which was minimally textured on both sides. The skeleton was glued to the front-facing side. The leading edges and knuckle coverings were fused to the plastic tubing and the whole thing was coated with a brushed layer of colored rubber to better blend the structure, give it some random texture, and increase the thickness (the bare wing material didn't feel substantial enough).

Overall, the wing design is a compromise between realistic, mythic, and practical directions. For one thing, I don't believe that a winged creature like this would evolve an extra pair of limbs, since a bat's wings are actually specialized arms. (I also got lazy and made only four non-jointed fingers per wing.) That's just a convention that's you don't question; Angels wouldn't look as angelic with wings instead of arms. The wings would also have to be much bigger to enable flight for a creature of this size, but that's not very practical in terms of shelf space... that's the same design thinking that brings us 1:6 vehicles which are actually 1:8. The removable-wings feature limits the way you can convincingly model the way wings should probably connect to the body, but including toy-like features usually requires compromises. What I should have dwelled on was finishing the skeleton (making them look more boney) before attaching the covering... but I was too eager to test out ideas. That's the kinda thing that happens when you design as you go.


02/01/03- Sorry for the long wait between updates. As explained in the Guestbook and elsewhere, I'm attempting to reorder my priorities by putting the modeling first and the website reporting second, in accordance with the Sacred Code of Hobby Modelers. The usual website routine tries to drive projects to completion in neat little packages, even if some of the process is rushed-- kinda like a business or a job. I admit that the discipline hasn't been all bad for me, since it's ushered me off my lazy ass. Without the website in charge, my natural working pattern is similar to the previous series of articles, "The Toll Road To Hell": I start with an idea, get hung up, bored or go off on tangents, experiment, and maybe come back to finish the original project... or maybe not. Eventually though, figures get made... in addition to other stuff which doesn't fit very well into articles about figure. The "Remarks" section has been useful for documenting some of that stuff, but sometimes I've felt like I'm documenting trips to the porcelain throne: Some of that stuff is like... who cares???

This project has been pretty much like that. The digressions and experiments won't be mentioned here because some are dumb and some might show up in future projects. In conjunction with that and contributing to the long wait between updates is that sometimes you just get tired of working on a project and don't have the motivation to continue. While the pressure of deadlines can help ramrod through that kind of logjam, the personal desire to solve problems does pretty much the same thing, but might take a little longer. (For what it's worth, I did rush to post the first part of this article, just like this one... y'know, good intentions and all.)

Anyway, after the first update, the figure was at a very crude state, nipple-less, with lots of imperfections and bad things which don't show up in the appropriately lit and posed first pic (For example, you don't see the elastic that's sticking out of her armhole and torso). Since then, I've added some details and done some subtle bodywork which fixes things which bothered me but which you probably would never notice. (Well, she does have nipples now, but you can't see 'em...) Her expression was altered from an angry open-mouth-clenched-fangs to a more haughty look; It's a slightly ambiguous expression which changes from perturbed to bemused according to the lighting and viewing angle, which I consider to be a neat thing. She's now got a barbed tail too. I stopped short of actually finishing the figure though, because I still might make some changes: The final finish happens last because the process of designing costuming can damage it. It can also be useful to quickly disassemble a figure during costume design, so tensioning elastic gets done with long-tailed shoestring knots, which are still poking out of her armhole and torso (and again, skillfully concealed in the photo below).

Arrrrgh... costuming! I think the character would look best without clothing, except for pubic hair or a loincloth and maybe a bra. Nice and simple. Unfortunately, the reality of articulated dolls made this an unattractive proposition. I can overlook a certain amount of exposed articulation, but depending on the figure (esp. zaftig female figures), exceeding that threshold triggers corrective action. That's a healthy sensitivity because it's sobering when a non-hobbyist points out how funky the articulation seams really look. It's an old rant, but an important one if your audience notices things besides the figure's breasts.

I especially abhor the look of exposed ganged hinges. Not only do they add more exposed seamline than simple hinges, but they also usually look like globbed on parts (especially the knees) and they create an unnatural profile when bent (if the lower hinge does the work, the lower segment looks too short and vice versa). So one way or another, they must get covered. Some nifty ideas created unforeseen problems too: A bald figure seemed like a great idea when considered in isolation, but as I got to dealing with the bigger picture, I realized that baldness removes a natural solution for concealing the gawdawful shoulder seams. Doh! And yeah, the two neck seams needed something... So instead of covering her body with profuse tufts of fur, I decided to take care of this problem with costuming.

The angst-causing part of costuming came from trying to zero in on the look I wanted... when I don't know what I wanted. As usual, I figured that I'd recognize it when I saw it. Because I was guided by the usual objectives (lotsa exposed flesh), the specific articles of costuming weren't the issue: The usual seams needed to be hidden. The choices were about the "look", which is determined mainly by the materials. Ideally, the look and style should reinforce the concept of the figure's character. There's also the logic to consider-- in this case, a flying creature probably wouldn't wear heavy metal armour. Finally- and this is maybe just one of my personal preferences- I'd like the costuming to look or be constructed a bit differently than something I've made before, to keep the job interesting. As I said upstairs (more or less), if you're not interested in or energized about an idea, you might as well be doing piecework in a sweatshop.

For the "look", I felt that a slightly primitive, stringy and dishevelled style would go well with this character. Generally speaking, I've been giving my non-human figures a lower tech level on the assumption that their gawd-given claws and horns would make pursuing technology less of a driving force. After experimenting with a bunch of materials, I decided that black hemp would capture this quality well and should serve prominently as a construction material. For her loincloth, a long and coarse faux fur seemed to work well with the hemp, creating a look which I'd poo-pooed in another figure as looking too much like pubic hair gone wild. Maybe that's still the case, but here it seemed to work okay.

The leg and arm coverings seemed like they should have been a no-brainer, but they weren't. I didn't want to use close-fitted leather since that might have looked too mod and cheesecake, and the leg coverings weren't actually boots-- after all, her feet have big old claws on the front & back. Instead, I used a coarse textured and thick material which is wrapped around her legs and arms with hemp. The use of this material and attachment method drew some appropriate associations with my articulated "Demon Monkey Goddess" (hemp wrapped shin coverings) and my Demon Lord (the thick material). They're related by their horns, so this seemed to reinforce that relationship.

generic red demoness dollThe bra presented some problems. The bare-breasted look wouldn't work very well because of the obvious torso seam between her breasts. I'd deliberately given this figure relatively small breasts with widely spread cleavage to atone for the compressed cantaloupes I'd given Gretchen Gazongas-Valkyrie-Amazon Wuzzername. Anyway, the chasm between the boobs meant that this figure had to wear a bra to conceal the exposed frontal torso seam. I'd spent many hours agonizing over ways to make an interesting bra with a soft material (and eventually concluded that leather ones can be kinda not special). I decided to try an armoured look using thermoformed/electroformed plastic... which wasn't an exciting proposition either, since I'd been there and done that fairly recently. Hey! Why not try real metal? I'd tried before and failed... but hadn't given up on the idea. This time I pounded away at some thick copper sheeting and was able to produce two adequately dished cups... kewl! Leaving the surface unfinished and unpolished with visible hammer marks contributed to the primitive look; Copper also happens to go well with the black and red color theme, so it didn't need to be plated. A couple of nail tips were sharpened and forced though the cups to create a rather sadistic-looking bra. Despite having qualms about whether a flying figure would wear armour, I was willing to overlook that for the kewlness factor.

The costuming as shown here is a tentative design, to establish the general look and experiment with lacing patterns. This shows version 2 of the neck covering. The copper components were assembled using glue and may later be attached through drilled holes or soldered-on loops and possibly engraved. You may notice that nothing's been painted (notably, the wing claws) and she's not wearing any makeup or jewelry. The tail and clawed feet will probably show up in future pics, when she's even closer to being "finished". I suppose she'll eventually get a name, too.


generic red demoness doll

02/20/03- This morning I worked on a some details and gave the face some quickie coloring, to show what I was saying about the figure's expression (It's still not sanded and painted). Unfortunately, the bead eyes are a little disappointing-- while setting them, the surface finish got hazy, so they don't reflect as sharply as they should. I don't think their positioning is correct either. That's always been a difficult operation that I seem to get right fewer times than not, and when I do, it seems to be purely by luck. Basically, it requires very precise positioning of eyeballs (with identical and precise curvatures) within identical and precisely ground eye sockets (on the inside of the head). When it works, it's great, but there are waaaay too many factors affecting the proper alignment...

The shoulderpad engraving is crude; just a bunch of meaningless runes on the shoulderpads and you can't really see the engraved border of the bra because I forgot to put a dark wash over it. Engraving metal is a very difficult skill to master and do well-- but that seems to be the case with metal working as a whole. It's nowhere near as user-friendly as putty and clay. I suspect that having high quality tools helps, but professional air engravers ain't cheap!

The thing that took the most time was adding rivet detail. I wanted the rivets to be made of copper, so that ruled out pin heads. I discovered that you can't very easily pound at the edge of copper wire to mushroom it and you'd probably need something more manly than a butane torch to melt the end, as you might do to a plastic rod. That left the brute force method: grind-sculpting tiny rivets from a piece of heavy wire. This actually worked fairly well since uniformity wasn't really desirable since the copper parts are supposed to be crudely fashioned (conveniently enough). Once the rivets were placed and secured with contact cement in the drilled holes, the heads were pounded to flatten and round them a bit. They're purely decorative, since the unseen means of attachment can be implied from the rivets, even if the leather and hemp is actually attached by contact cement. Besides being a sensible, easier way to do the job, this also keeps the profile slim and keeps metal edges from contacting the figure (which could scratch the finish).


generic red demoness doll02/05/03- Some other views...

The tail is made of a wire covered with rubberized fabric, re-rubberized to cover the seam and blend with the barb. After I made it, I realized that I should have stuffed it with a small amount of padding to make it thicker from a frontal profile; and maybe embedded some thin, curved spikes along the top seam. It plugs into the torso and is removeable; that feature has been very useful during construction.

The ugly feet have only four claws each, which matches the number of wing "fingers". I'm not sure how logical it is to have the rear claw 180 degrees from the front ones, but it was a good excuse to extend the heel of the vintage Joe foot. That makes for a considerably more stable figure than a short-heeled one, a fact which should be evident from observing the design of bases for portable signs.

The wings, like the tail, are also designed to be removeable... which means that there's gonna be a visible seam where they attach. The tail is less of a problem because it's nestled down there, but the wing attachment is more visible from rear views. It could have easily been hidden by extending the neck costuming a little bit (version 3, BTW), but I didn't bother because I don't think it's that bad. I don't know that there's an elegant way of doing this-- The wing articulation at that area is basically that of a top-hinged swinging gate. I settled for suggesting that there was a kind of socket and musculature in the torso, which implies a fuller range of articulation. The single point of attachment also means that the wing skin doesn't attach and blend over an area of the torso, something that would probably be useful for a flying creature. But I won't be flight testing this one anytime soon...


Part 2