Last modified: Saturday, January 6, 2001 6:20 PM


11/06/99- For what it's worth, Evahead#1 was loosely modeled on Sophia Loren's features. Unfortunately, I didn't have good enough reference photos to do a credible likeness, so I tried to capture (and exaggerate) some of her exotic features. I think you'll agree that she looks better with a more contemporary styled hairdo than the Egyptian-ish straight with bangs doo on the previous page. I'd just rented "The Mummy" (1999 version-- pretty...uh... funky!), and liked the look of the gal with the painted-on clothes. So why not? That ramped up interest in the Egyptian genre... so I watched the '99 version of "Cleopatra". Interesting. The '60's version of "Cleopatra" with Elizabeth Taylor is the true classic though. Not because it was a great movie, but because it stars Liz Taylor. Anyway, the genre's got some real possibilities for a serious crafting challenge! The jewelry alone would probably take weeks to create. If you take on the more ornate costuming, you could easily spend several months on that. I'd decided to accept the challenge and would try to create Liz in the Cleopatra-Isis costume.
After I'd already started this (unfinished) headsculpt, I ran across something on the 'Net: Cleo Barbie! (Apparently, Mattel is producing a great looking likeness, scheduled for release in December. Muthafukka... !!!

Since I'm not up for trying to outdo Mattel's efforts, I'll probably turn this into some other character which Liz played. The sculpt captures some aspects of her likeness (pic #2 is a Photoshop-edited version of pic #1) during her Richard Burton years. (The finished version should look less sweaty & lumpy.)

This time I used a mix of Promat & Super Sculpey... Much better, since I can actually see the depth of the surface. Ironically, this time the problem is that it's harder to smooth the surface without lumps (because of the Promat). But at least I can see the lumps.

Since I feel that there is some resemblance to the actual person, I feel I can say this: Capturing likenesses ain't easy. At least sometimes, and with certain faces. There are so many nuances that go into making what's recognizable in certain faces. The geometry of the flesh around a nostril can make a difference, and we're only talking about a tiny sliver of clay and minute contour differences. The only way you can take care of stuff like that is if you've got a lot of really good reference photos and a lot of patience. It's not always like this though: Some faces are more amenable to the capture of key features, sort of like a caricature. In those cases, you can do a credible likeness without sweating all the nuances.


11/09/99-- Actually, sculpting isn't all that easy-- especially if you're intent on doing the best you can do. The initial roughing-in can go quickly, and you can create acceptable results by going only a little beyond that. However, your sculpture probably won't stand up well to honest, critical examination.

The truly anal-retentive person cares about such things, and I've become more so as I've grown more experienced. As you tweak your sculpture under magnification, your eye gets fussier and you notice little asymmetries here & there. Sometimes the flaws are easy to fix, and other times you have to bite the bullet and destroy an area you'd spent long hours detailing.

Symmetry is tough: When you define the frontal left-right symmetry by forming the nose, eyeballing the mass distribution from the front is not sufficient. The mass should be well distributed from the top and bottom view as well. Getting good placement & symmetry of ears is especially tough because you can't see them both at the same time for comparison.

The very nature of honing a sculpture means that you will notice the errors in your initial approximation as the sculpture gets refined. This can continue well past the point at which a sane person might consider the sculpture finished. If you stare at it critically for long enough, you're likely to spot things that are off. Finally, you get to a point where you realize that you're only human and don't have the right stuff to create perfection. That's when it goes in the oven.

I'm also convinced that it's nearly impossible to get a great finish with unbaked clay. You can work it and work it and work it, but the finish still doesn't stand up to scrutiny under magnification. Hmmm... maybe the problem is from using the magnification?


11/11/99- I got what I thought was a "great idea" to help with the final rubdown before baking the piece: I polished the raw clay with talcum powder, and it seemed to help bring an additional level of smoothness to the finish. If nothing else, it pointed out where there were finish flaws. (Correcting them was a completely different problem, since as I've mentioned, Promat is a difficult clay to make lump-free.) Whether this was a "great idea" remains to be seen... My first impression after baking it was "Gack!" The clay's surface had turned to a powdery marbled swirl of tints, making it really difficult to see what the thing really looked like. From what I could see, I wasn't terribly impressed with the difference. Anyway, I'll find out with the first casting.

This time, I'm using a slight variation on the sleeve mold: The pattern is suspended upside down so that air bubbles have a chance to escape from the undercuts at the nose & neck opening. This is probably most important at the neck opening since that area experiences the most stress during demolding. Ideally, the mold should have the thickest wall at the top of the head, since that area doesn't need to stretch for demolding and the thickness helps the mold keep its shape. The neck area needs to stretch the most, so thinner walls will make this easier. It's a balance between stretchiness and durability though.

I should point out that doing it this way is unnecessary from the standpoint of avoiding mold parting lines. Since these female heads don't have hair detail sculpted on, it doesn't really matter whether I slit the mold or not. A slit would definitely make the casting easier to demold. However, in that case, I'd need to make a mother mold for structural support, which is a lot of extra trouble to go through for a few castings.


11/12/99- Casting #1. I don't think the talcum powder hurt anything, but I don't think it helped either. I'm convinced that it's nearly impossible to give raw clay a super smooth finish-- the best you can hope to accomplish is to get rid of tooling marks and clay join seams. After it's baked and before molding, you can polish it up. I didn't try that here though because I wanted to see how good a finish I could give it from working the raw clay. Also, a matte finish is more appropriate for flesh-- a polished & shiny finish would be desirable for inorganic/mechanical subjects.

The variation in casting technique proved to be an improvement. While it didn't eliminate the tiny air bubbles trapped in some crevices (it's hard to overcome surface tension with the mix of angled planes), it did eliminate the larger ones which had previously accumulated at the inside of the neck opening. Those weakened the mold at the least desirable point. Vacuming the silicone also greatly helped, as it burst the larger bubbles in the thicker outer coating. Mainly though, the neck opening to the mold had a thinner and more consistent wall thickness, which greatly aided in the demolding process. After two castings, the mold hasn't degraded in any obvious way. (The last mold began to tear after two castings.)

Sigh... unfortunately, there are always things you notice after the fact-- the sculpture needs some work, particularly around the eyes (Eyelids are a bitch to do in soft clay!). But from the raw castings, this is clearly a much higher quality sculpt than the last one. This is partly attributable to the better feedback of working with opaque clay, but mainly it's because I spent more time refining this one. It's tempting to rush to bake & mold because you're curious (I usually succumb to this weakness), and it's easy to say to be patient... but it does pay off. Even though it's not easy, it's easier to make structural changes to unbaked clay than to baked clay or resin.


11/13/99- Well, I had to show you how it came out, so the pic on the left is the quickly painted casting with some frizzy hair just plopped on top. I think it's recognizable as ET during her Taming of the Shrew days, but I've been working on this so intensely that I can't tell (The raw headsculpts all start to look the same). Ick. The neck's kinda long and those seams are pretty horrible looking.

11/14/99- The pic on the right (with the subdued Jungle camouflage) shows a more characteristic style doo (sort of unkempt & rat's nest-ish). The hair was ironed to straighten it and styled with rubber bands and plastic rollers to give it waves. The camera plays tricks, and she does actually have blue eyes... but I seem to have forgotten the mole!


Thanks to Allan Trivette for his Tribute to Taylor web site. His photos were an invaluable reference.