ABUELA

Last modified:
Wednesday, August 14, 2002 11:54 AM

 

08/10/02- Hey, it's time for another lackluster yet uninspired project! Increasingly, one of the major challenges of this "job" is figuring out what to make next. My genre selection has narrowed considerably since the days of old and aside from occasional sidetrips, these days it primarily feeds the "Primeval World". I start projects like this with general ideas, but not really knowing what role the figure will eventually play; that's decided as the project progresses. All of this makes it very difficult to know how to title an article during the early stages. But you've gotta start somewhere, so this will be a female figure. While that's still pretty open-ended, it's almost enough to begin work on the figure. But actually, it's not... A skinny or a fat female? Decisions like that need to be made early in the project.

With that vague direction in mind, I chose a figure: Hasbro's Jane as Vietnam Nurse. Since this wasn't gonna be a major figure, that old standby seemed like a acceptable choice. In case you don't know, this version of GI Jane has the goofy open-mouth expression which exposes her big white uni-tooth. She also has long, skinny and rubbery legs which make her difficult to stand. Despite these shortcomings, she does have some unique and valuable features not shared by some of her more sought-after plastic sisters: Her elbows and knees have the bend and swivel articulation together in one hinge, which makes for a cleaner figure which can be dressed with less (and still look good). I think this compensates for the more limited posing range of those limbs.

Back when there was little choice in female figure fodder, I used a female conversion plan which I called "BarbieJane". This used Barbie's rubber banded, cross-tensioned hips/legs grafted onto a Jane, converted for full elastic tensioning. Very wasteful, since you end up not using most of Barbie. Since then, I've played around with different elastic threading schemes, so for this project, I've done the whole thing using Jez Jane. For all the abuse that I've heaped on poor nursey Jane, it would be cool to show that as fodder, all figures are equal. The moral of that story being that it ain't the base figure-- it's what you do with it. Or... there are no bad figures; only humans who can't turn 'em good... Or... the man with too much time on his hands can be pretty flucking obnoxious?

Spurred on by this challenge, I set about to fix what I considered to be the most fluckingly obnoxious thing about Jane-the-Nurse: Her head. Her homely molded-on hair need to be grinded off and patched, with total ear reconstructive surgery. Her open gapped mouth needed to be filled. Once you've taken care of that stuff, you can see that she actually has a pretty nice facial structure. The chin is a little long (prolly due to the open-mouthed expression), but is right on target for a long-chinned lady.

Lately, whenever I start a new (human) figure, I see it as a rematch opportunity to get the eyeballs right. Making realistic eyes has become one of my personal challenges ever since I saw some larger scale glass eyeballs. I'm encouraged by the results I got with "Ashanti" & "Jezebel", and even some of the less successful attempts seem worth the effort. Even though the pictures don't always show it, when the lighting's right, it's great stuff. For realism, it pays to get your clues from the real thing. A 5 mm bead drilled for a recessed, painted iris and pupil, covered with a corneal hump of clear varnish-- looks pretty convincing to me. But that, unfortunately, is the easy part.

I've mentioned in several projects how difficult it is to backfit eyeballs so that they reflect light properly-- both eye dots in the same place on both eyes-- and these pics prove my point. The top picture shows most clearly how the alignment is off; this is much better than it was (despite many frustrating attempts to reposition the eyeballs), before I shaved off tiny slivers at the top inside of an eyelid. In other words, the depth setting, angle, and fit of the eyeballs in the head is of critical importance. That's not too startling an observation, but in practice it's quite difficult to thin the eyeholes with a Dremel for a fit from the inside while you're viewing from the frontside. Fortunately, a virginal Exacto blade can help out with a vinyl head, and is a necessity for dealing with the plastic crumbs the Dremel leaves behind. Nevertheless, this still makes for a tedious trial & error task: Test fitting the eyes to assess the reflections isn't a quick and easy thing. The fitting depth may also need to be tailored for the each eyeball since adding a corneal hump will most likely cause the eyeball curvatures to be slightly different (unless you're really good).

 

Hey, it's Aunt May!   Initially, I thought this project might turn out to be a Mesoamericanese supplicant or servant/slave-- you know, the kind of drop-dead gorgeous gal who bathes the High Priestess with blood, or who serves as the sacrificial happy meal. As the figure took shape, the idea of turning her into another lithe-limbed beauty lost its lustre... If I'd thought about it earlier, I'd have made a fatty-- just to be doing something different. But with a roughed in, undetailed figure, there's still one area you can tinker with-- age. I haven't really explored this dimension before, so in the interest of diversity I set about turning her into an old woman.

It wasn't too difficult to bluff my way through the headsculpt revisions. Not having any actual senior individuals in my daily life at this time, I would have preferred to have had a few reference photos. But it's not polite to stare at and study strangers in public places. I wasn't willing to do an exhaustive search, so I did a quick search on the Internet, looked through a few books, and turned up zilch. Not surprisingly, "old women" is not a hot subject on the web, ranking considerably behind "hot teens". Maybe I should have tried "hot grandmas"?

Fortunately, the eyeballs turned out better than the initial test fit. It was much easier to set them permanently one at a time (instead of bumping around in the tight space trying to get them both to align temporarily), and manipulate the second one until I found the spot where the curvature best matched. After you've set the first eye, you can snip off its positioning rod so that it doesn't interfere with the placement of the second eye.

This change in plans poses some interesting challenges for the road ahead. Seemingly, this would turn the idea of skimpy costuming on its head... But maybe not? If I can get away with making a bare-breasted monkey woman, why not a scantily clad old woman? Certainly, this isn't an entirely unnatural idea since it's a daily occurrence in the land of the living-- it's just something that we don't see very often. And there should be a way of depicting it tastefully. It's my job to threaten you with unusual stuff that you wouldn't see elsewhere... but whether I can pull it off remains to be seen. (or not)

After some test costuming visualizations... definitely not. I'll leave that kinky stuff for a more courageous trailblazer. You've gotta figure that there's a reason why you don't see it very often, and why following the tried & true is often the best way. After all, I've gotta live with this thing on my shelves staring at me, day in & out. Gaaaaaa!

 

08/14/02- Developing the costuming for this figure hasn't been easy. It was clear that the skimpy costuming ideas and unusual materials weren't gonna to work on this figure. While there aren't any laws, natural or unnatural, which tell you what you can't do, we develop a common frame of reference with regard to expectations: Unless you're doing something strictly for shock value, as a gag, or to be outrageous, this guides you somewhere between the familiar and the slightly different. (I did consider creating a gag figure: What happens to one of those hot CG gals forty years down the road, or after a lifetime's consumption of bacon cheeseburgers and fries? That one's ripe for social commentary...) Instead of channeling resources down that path, I chose to make a figure which could be gainfully employed in the PW cast.

An interesting path would have been to envision her as an evil and vain grandma, with makeup and decked out in ornate and regal finery. But hey, this is grandma-- I respect grandmas and this is the only grandma I've made so far... I couldn't bring myself to go with that flow. Being a grandma and all, and looking the way she does suggested the most obvious and stereotypical role for this character: A good character, wise, humble, strong, and perhaps spiritually or magically inclined. For that, a simple white robe/cloak seemed to be the most obvious way to go. But that's such an obvious cliché... it seemed almost painful to settle for that. So I wracked my brain trying to think of something, while lamenting the fact that the PW roles can be quite limiting, especially for good and wise grandmas.

At any rate, to protect her modesty I needed to cover her up! In PW, crude and simple is the operating philosophy, so her basic dress is just a long rectangle of loosely woven cloth, folded in half and cut with a neckhole in the center, with a jute belt cinching the waist. She stayed like that for a few days as I pondered whether she was gonna remain outfitted as a poor beggarwoman. All the tunic needed for that was a little dirt and some accelerated fraying at the edges. But that by itself wouldn't be very satisfying or very interesting.

I really wanted something between that kind of simplicity and the kind of show-girly glamour you can get when you start using fur and feathers. Adding fur and feathers gave the High Priestess a more regal look, and I've since tweaked Livia's costuming-- droopy black feathers and a black rabbit fur collar gave her a more sinister but "plush" look. However, neither of these ornamental effects were desirable for Abuela. Instead, I used wool scraps and cream ostrich feathers for trim. The feathers were added at the sleeves to help conceal the elbow hinging, but also because they go fairly well peeking out from under the wool. The wool trim was added as a collar and along the bottom edge of the tunic, lining the edge along the left leg split. Both of these materials have a crude and slightly chaotic look which blends well with the general tone of the outfit. They also blend well with the brown coloration of the muslin tunic, which was dyed/weathered in a pot of tea. I sewed some crude jute external stitching along the sides to improve the shape of the tunic from her hips down. It's still basically a potato sack dress, but decorating it like this makes it look more tribal and compatible with the mishmash of other figures who inhabit PW.

Now that the basic costuming challenge has been given direction, it's time to go back to work on the figure... while not much skin actually shows, the stuff that does needs to be fixed, and it seems wrong to leave her unfinished underneath (and without even nipples)... She could probably use some paint too.