Sunday, 23 April 2017

Critical Reflection - Negotiated Project 2

(add pictures of finished Lulu puppet here)

Each Negotiated Project module which forms part of the Masters Programme includes a Critical Reflection. This is to illustrate what worked well in the module, which areas need further improvement or correction, what was learnt and to relate back to the original aims of the Masters as a whole.

I have posted in detail on each task that makes up this module here which is an informal post going into more detail on each section.

In order to write this critical reflection I first reviewed the last modules critical reflection written in May 2016 and the first issue I noticed was the mention of 'an overambitious task list'. This module also has an over-ambitious task list, the reason being is that I want to produce a complete 3 minute short by the end of the Masters and in order to do so a great amount of work in required, I can't remove the animating, the editing, the set or stage construction of any major aspect of the work and still produce a film by the end of the Masters. This lead me to re-consider my motives.

Last year I was approached by the Women Over Fifty Festival in Brighton (add link/ picture) requesting that I submit my undergraduate short 'Colour Your Life' to the festival. I was flattered and agreed and it was a very exciting to think that a real audience would be watching my film. Many animators I talk to submit films to festivals and this has become an important reason for taking on this masters programme for me. I could have course submit to festivals without doing the masters but the second reason for doing the masters still stands, that of my need to set deadlines to force me to work faster, make prioritisation decisions and to actually complete projects. I still want to keep the main aim of creating a 3 minute short film that I can submit to festivals as I find it a big motivating factor.

The second aim of the Masters is to give me the skills required to be eligible for a role in the highly competitive animation industry. I still need to work on my showreel as don't currently have one other than the Colour Your Life film itself and don't want to cold apply for jobs by sending my showreel until I know its the best I can produce incase its my only chance with that particular company. So far I think the modules are helping me focus and hone my marketable skills though many people in the indstury specialise whereas I like every aspect so am more of a generalist but this does mean I have a little experience at everything rather than long term experience in just one aspect. Most people seem to specialise in costume, or sculpture or armature making and get really good at that. Time is my main limiting factor in this and the sheer amount of skills needs the practice need at each and every aspect I find quite overwhelming at times.

The last critical reflection mentions that 'some pieces were not finished to as professional standard as I would have liked'. This is a constant frustration for me and still stands although it has helped that this module is for test puppets with the final puppets to be completed in a later module. I am happy with what I have completed and have learnt so much on everything from hair rooting to trimming and seaming silicone seams to mould making to finding and compiling reference pictures but feel that I have still only touched the tip of the iceberg. There are definitely some aspects i prefer over others.

In order to try and find solutions to this I have been talking to my new boss who is a trained life coach and runs a marketing automation consultancy. Because he is outside (and has no interest in!) the arts and animation industry he has been able to provide a new perspective on my thoughts and reasons for study. There are three main solutions:-

 1) A main factor is to prioritise work, knowing when to stop when 80% of the work is perfected but the remaining 20% would take many  more hours to get right.

2) An alternative solution as Stuart has suggested is collaboration - in essence to delegate the work to other students / friends/ colleagues, especially the areas that dont' hold as much interest for me such as sound, storyboarding, final editing etc. This has worked to an extent but is then dependent on others free time and commitment and also their understanding of the background of the project.

3) To allocate some of the tasks as 'out of scope' of the Masters so that they are not assessed specifically in themselves but will be assessed as contributing to the final film. This will include the fabrication of the other characters needed.

Time factors. work, maternity leave, projects for world book day (add the cricket from a cricket in time square pictures), decorating, illness and of course a 7 month old baby and volunteer work as digital champion for the university, helping my sister with a work tribunal and a whole list of other issues around broken kitchen appliances, lack of internet, new laptop needed etc.

What has worked is the support form the animation, doll making, illustration community and the constant inspriration from these. Working form home works. Daylight hours make it harder as need natural light. Sleeping less (reference for hours sleep needed a night), i have carried on for two weeks going to sleep at 3am and getting up at 6.30 with no obvious physical detriment.

I still find it useful to have a very detailed work plan in the form of a coloured excel sheet which I have tried to keep updated. I have estimated how many hours each task takes and have grossly underestimated in places. I think this is due to trying to fit all the tasks I want to complete into the 300 hours, being dubious about is it really justifyable to spend that long on that one task? Tasks that i'd put down as taking one or two hours or less were particularly susceptible to this. Finding reference pictures for example and ordering them or compiling them, or formatting them in colour, contrast, and the correct scale for printing sometimes took hours when I envisaged this being a half hour job. Because I don't have a dedicated workspace I also have to get out and repack all my supplies on a fairly regular basis to keep the chemical aways from childrena nd to use the room as a dining room. I have to be VERY organisd with this and hasnt' accounted for finding supplies, organising supplies, cleaning up and putting away, even though i have allocated storage for each item, the sheer amount of differnet supplies needed for sculpting, moulding, casting, armatures, hair and costumes is vast. i need to work on various aspects in each day so can't stick to just having sculpting supplies out. If i have others helping me cast pieces this becomes even harder. Just finding the right supplies and making orders, trying to economise on all of on batch of supplies coming from one supplier to save postage, or checkign reviews also takes a lot of time and I haven't even compiled a supplier list of budget whch Id' have liked to have done.

The storyline took a lot longer than i imagined but i am much happier with it now. Really it should have been done in the first module and should be jst being tweaked now. but so many other aspects such as sets and which characters to build relied on the storyline that it wasn't possible to defer it to later modules and i felt under a lot of pressure to complete this especially as my storyboard artist was reliant on it. it meant that we worked on paritcular scenes that I knew would definitely make the cut but that until around halfway through the module he couldnt' envisage the film in its entirety. We did talk about the characters lives and background whcih helped as I think this makes a big differnc efor a character to hav ea backstory (ref).

Now I have moved to digital drawing (with the help of Will Terry and Aaron Blaise's tutorials) I am finding character and set design much faster. I am more confident with photoshop for photo manipulation and rather than avoiding it or trying to cobble somethign together in word with inserted pictures that dont' line up easily I will choose to use Photoshop. Procreate and my Ipad Pro are a real pleasure to work on. As with a Cintiq it allows me to draw directly on the screen, there is no need to obtain supplies, clear up after I work which is time consuming or move everything away from prying childrens hands! it can be taken anywhere easily and I can work in a quiet bedroom which has all helped with the character designs. I have used photoshop for bringnig together all the reference pictures I've stored in Pinterest.

Pinterest has been very useful for storing (and being prompted by new) reference pictures and allows you to store the original source so i no longer need to save the .jpg forma pictures in one place and the reference links in anoterh which has also saved time. I am aware I work very visually and this hasl also allowed me to share with my collaborators more easily. I have posted on how I've used Photoshop and Pinterest to combine photos here.

Setting up this blog has been a steep learning curve despite Blogger being very user friendly. I am now happy with the look of the blog, it does a good at replacing the need for a standard wordpress personal website and is highly functional. Many professionals use this method to promote their work such as Caroline McFarlane Watts, a minatures specialist who works in polymer clays.

As ever my experts from facebook and other areas on Louisa May Alcott have been most helpful an encouraging. The Louisa May Alcott society especially Susan Bailey and Anne Phillips are very willin to answer my random questions, and this has been a very enjoyable part fo the process. Andre Mastersa nd Mathieu Rene have helped greatly with sculpting and materials tips, Chris Wylie has great experience in many of the moulding castin and puppetry areas and Toni and Hani and Alba Garcia have continued to help with animation related queries.

The timeline now has 15 (check) scenes and it will nto be possible to stop motion puppet animate all of them so some will be 2d animation or puppet animation against a static photographs. The central substory of The Shadow Children is still in concept but will be 2d animation similar to Lotte Reinigers but is also out of scope of the masters and will be completed separately. I hope to have collaboration on concept art for this.

Next Steps
- allocate tasks / areas to out of scope of the masters but schedule in for the summer
- change the modules so that props are in Negotiated project 3, extra characters are fabricated in the summer
- redraft the learning contract for the next modules plus task list for the out of scope parts
- work on / research / find collaborators for the 2d animation
- trip to Massachussetts , Louisa May Alcott house
- finish maquettes and puppets and tutorials that weren't completed in time for this module.
- getting armatures made.

continue to do
- the blog, at least three times a week back filling with previous preojects
- review previous modules work, and write ups, tutorials and reflection
- continue to research the area, props, fabrication methods and contact with experts.


i've learnt a lot about blogging. Geogia lou studios especially interesting newsletter on how to writ ea good blog especially on what's in fashion nwo such as the very flat structure, ntohing 3d and very clean . appealing to different age groups

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Progress against Learning Contract

I am now coming to the end of this module, 'Negotiated Project 2' for my Masters Degree. The deadline for this is 24th April 2017 so to wrap up below is a summary of how well and how completely I have met the original objectives of this module.

Negotiated Project 2 is a 30 Credit module requires approximately 300 hours of study / practical work. The module is detailed in the Learning Contract which has been regularly updated.
This is the summary of this module :-

Blog Journal; Storyboard; Trial animation puppet and costume fabrication:-

  • Creation of a web blog to detail progress, production diary, tutorials, research, collaboration and the Critical Reflection
  • Redraft of storyline based on biographical research on the last 10 years of Louisa May Alcott's life, her relationship with her niece Lulu Nieriker and their lives in Orchard House.
  • Research on maquettes and animation puppet fabrication - sculpting, armatures, silicone moulding, casting and painting
  • Research on period dress and on making miniature shoes, wigs and costumes.
  • Final designs for sets, props, characters and costumes
  • Software familiarisation with Photoshop/Procreate
  • Animation puppet maquettes for the Louisa and Lulu characters.
  • Trial animation puppet fabrication - sculpting, moulding, casting, painting, wigging
  • Trial costume creation including shoes and accessories
  • Collaboration on Storyboard and 2d animation including project management and guidance.
  • Study guides for animation puppet fabrication, animation puppet costumes.

Assessment:-

  • 10% - Collaboration and production of Storyboard. Collaboration on production of two 2D animated scenes.
  • 25% - Storyline and script based on biographical research and expert opinion. Character and set designs (digital) based on background research
  • 40% – Maquettes and trial animation puppets and costumes
  • 15% - Regular (three per week) blog posts including Production Diary; Research; Progress; Collaboration; Draft study guides for maquettes, animation puppet fabrication, and costuming;
  • 10% - Critical Reflection blog post of 1,500 - 2,000 words and a Bibliography post.


The Learning Contract goes into more detail on each of these aspects so below is my assessment on how well I have accomplished each task that I have set myself. 

Creation of a web blog to detail progress, production diary, tutorials, research, collaboration and the Critical Reflection

THE BLOG

I set up this blog on blogger after comparing this with Wordpress and deciding this suited my requirements, was relatively easy to set up yet included a number of options, styles and formats to be able to personalise it. I looked at the kind of blogs other animators and illustrators were using and read reviews. I tried to keep the formatting and colour schemes as simple as possible despite my usual inclination to over complicate and use a multitude of colours. I'm also partial to a black background as in my other websites but decided to keep this blog crisp and clean and to follow the good example of other bloggers such as Caroline McFarlane-Watts who's blog is always detailed, informative, enjoyable and easy to navigate with lots of interesting photos. 

My first blog post was at the end of January 2017 though you will see earlier posts than this where I have back populated with some of my previous work. It took me longer to set up than I'd envisaged. This is a continuing thread in this Masters that nearly everything took longer than I expected! Despite keeping it simple, I took notes on how I set up the blog and also went on to include a specifically styled gallery taken from GeorgiaLouStudios blog that allowed me to post pictures in a gallery that linked to particular pages on the blog https://georgialoustudios.com/how-to-create-a-responsive-blogger-image-gallery/. This required a little adjustment to get to work, modified pictures, and a certain amount of trial and error. I regular get update newsletters from GeorgiaLouStudios and they have proved invaluable in up to date research on what works in a blog from menu setup to overall aesthetics including what appeals to different agegroups, 

I set myself the target of three blog posts a week and I will have achieved and surpassed that by 24th April and expect to continue to blog after this modules deadline. 

I have found it extremely useful to blog regularly and wish I'd set it up earlier at the start of the Masters or before. One advantage is that it means that I take many more photographs that I would otherwise do and am forced to organise, file and crop/edit them regularly in order to use them in the blog. It has made writing notes and answering queries from my notes easier to manage as I can search for things in the labels / tags list. Having a visual record of what I've achieved and one I can share is also satisfying and allows for much shameless self-promotion. I also feel that I am in a better position to apply for roles in the animation industry now I have a place I can direct people to to see my work. I have a website also but found the blog much easier to set up and update without the Wordpress layout and formatting issues I'd experienced. The other advantage is that I pay for hosting on my website whereas blogger is free and there is much opensource code out there that's free to use so you can really personalise your blog without having to pay a web designer or spend months learning how to do so.

PRODUCTION DIARIES

One benefit of studying animation is that you can have several characters and props at different stages of the fabrication timeline meaning that there is a great variety of tasks ready to be undertaken at any one time. I thrive on variety and this means that you can pick up a task to suit mood, the free time you have, whether you have natural light available or not, whether your supplies have arrived, which room  you have free to work in etc. I have tried to keep the blog linear for each fabrication process so you can follow it through from beginning to end which has meant some backfilling of posts. I have also tried to keep the post tagging up to date so a particular method or task is easy to find. This means that unlike the undergraduate projects where the Production Diary was one long PDF document as in here http://www.michelle-j-andrew.com/production-diaries/, the Production Diary becomes multiple blog posts under the 'Puppet Fabrication' or 'Lulu' tags. When the tutorials are finalised they will be one printable document. 


TUTORIALS

(see below)


RESEARCH

(for more details on this see the next section on task 2 of this module)

I will be writing a post showing how my estimated time for each task differed to the actual time spent on each task to inform future modules but as an example, I had predicted 45 hours of research,in total, 15 of which was to be on Louisa's biographies and I believe I have greatly exceeded this. It has also provided me with justification to buy some old collectable books, first editions and signed copies!


COLLABORATION

(see below)

CRITICAL REFLECTION

The blog has really helped me focus on reflection at every stage of the process. I am constantly aware of what I might improve on , do differently next time, what isn't working, where I am losing time, where I don't have contingency time, where I should have ordered supplies earlier, and what is working out just perfectly add the blog allows me to make notes on these as I go along. At the moment I'll still have to pick through the blog posts to pull out the reflection items but the visuals in the posts help to job my memory on the aspects and issues I mean to include in the reflection. I have tried to add to the biography bibliography as I have gone through them but the bibliography still needs updating at this stage.


Redraft of storyline based on biographical research on the last 10 years of Louisa May Alcott's life, her relationship with her niece Lulu Nieriker and their lives in Orchard House.

For my previous modules I had undertaken a large amount of research around the writings of Louisa May Alcott but had always had a sticking point around which story I wanted to include as the story Louisa reads to Lulu as my centre scene. After a tutorial with my university supervisors early this year, it was suggested that I concentrate on the relationship between Louisa and Lulu and this greatly changed the focus of my research and felt much more appropriate to the short film. Unfortunately this meant that I was starting research again from the beginning, something I hadn't planned for and as a result took a lot longer than I had estimated. This time rather than studying Louisa's books, I began looking at Louisa's biographies, those on her close family and reviews of those biographies. I started asking questions of some of the experts like Susan Bailey (https://louisamayalcottismypassion.com/) who has a been a great help in showing me which parts of the biographies to start on and answering some of my more obscure questions. It was also Susan's idea for me to join the Louisa May Alcott Society. I have also spoken to Anne Phillips who produced the Louisa May Alcott encyclopedia and has offered to answer future questions I may have. There is even a trip from the UK to Louisa May Alcott's house being planned for later this year which I hope to attend. 

In studying the biographies I became even more engrossed in Louisa's life and personality and how the adoption of her late sister's daughter as her own effected her life. There are some wonderful anecdotes and it beautifully illustrates the life and attitude of the period and how forward thinking and unconventional the family were. Through these (sometimes conflicting!) biographies I have put together a detailed timeline of the last 10 years of Louisa's life from when her sister May got married to Louisa's death, covering the period when she became a mother to May's daughter Lulu. 

The detailed timelines is found here. For this I have tried to pull out only the information relevant to the relationship between Louisa and Lulu and not included every detail of their lives and houses unless it had an influence on this relationship. All the key events are included and some experiences that predate this period that had an effect on Louisa's morals and personality which were then reflected on her relationship with Lulu.

This was a little too unweildy to base a storyboard on so I produced a 'Summary of Scenes. This uses a creative thinking technique where I associate scenes with particular songs or music, not to be used in the film but as inspiration for the feeling or style or meaning of a scene. 

In addition to this and flesh out each scene for help Larvi produce this Storyboard I started to detail each scene in its own post such as this one for Scene 1. The other scenes have not yet been completed though you can see the format I'm using. I have included estimate length, the camera angles, dialogue and setting.


PINTEREST

A large part of the reseach that I have carried out on period dress, the location, Louisa May Alcott, Lulu and the other characters along with puppet fabrication, sculpting and mould making has been visual. In order to organise this work and maintain the links to original sources I set up a number of Pinterest boards which can be found here. This is also an example of the gallery code I have used in this blog where clicking on each picture will take you to a different location on that subject, either a website or a page on this blog.


Research on maquettes and animation puppet fabrication - sculpting, armatures, silicone moulding, casting and painting

This research started with going through my previous store of books on animation, casting, moulding and puppet making of which I now have many. My most recent and much prized was an original copy of Jiri Trynka's Midsummer Nights Dream from 1960 which has some beautiful animation puppet pictures in it. The next stage was many hours of google and blog searches and bookmarking numerous youtube instructional videos along with some Stan Winston School of character arts courses. Fortunately Pinterest also allows you to pin videos as well as static pictures so I have included these in my Pinterest boards. As I started to sculpt I needed a number of reference pictures. I tapped my learned sources in the Louisa society to less well known pictures of Louisa and her family. there are very few pictures of Lulu in existence but believe I have them all now! My favourite on is of Lulu on an antiquated bicycle with the most stubborn expression, backed up by an anecdotal entry in one of Louisa's letters to Lulu telling her she could only have the bicycle if she would sit still and let her hair be curled! Thank you to Susan Bailey for forwarding me this fantastic picture.

For sculpting I have used some great tutorials from Stan Winston, Gnomon Workshop, Patricia Rose studios and for character design SVS Learn, Will Terry and Aaron Blaise all have great online and dvd courses available. Amelia Rowcroft has been particular helpful at answering my questions on armatures and Upuno and Malvern Armatures and provided some good points on ball and socket armature design. Alba Garcia is always an inspiration when it comes to animating and her videos on silicone casting are the best I've seen and she's always willing to provide advice despite her incredibly busy schedule on Dangerously Ever After outside of her day job!

Often I have used experts outside the field of animation for advice on particular techniques. Silicone painting is done especially well for 'reborn' babies and costumes for bjd (ball jointed) dolls. Whereas hair rooting in the special effects industry uses the same techniques so it pays to look outside of animation for particular skills.

Of course research only goes so far and its the hours of practice and then gaining feedback on what you have produced from peers and experts which is essential.

Research on period dress and on making miniature shoes, wigs and costumes.

Final designs for sets, props, characters and costumes and...
Software familiarisation with Photoshop/Procreate


Animation puppet maquettes for the Louisa and Lulu characters.

(see blog)

Trial animation puppet fabrication - sculpting, moulding, casting, painting, wigging

(see blog)

Trial costume creation including shoes and accessories

I have decided to sculpt Lulu's boots in silicone as part of her body but in blue with white buttons. This has turned out relatively well but needs further refinement around the boot seems though I believe the process I'm using is sound and will work for the final puppet. I have however made a pair of iceskates sculpted from Apoxy Resin for Lulu to carry over her shoulder as she storms in from skating on Walden Pond.

Collaboration on Storyboard and 2d animation including project management and guidance.

It has been fantastic to work with some other students on this module. As we speak Larvi is still working on my storyboard to see what can be completed before Monday's deadline. Despite becoming a father for a second time during this module Larvi has still found time to work on the storyboard and to keep me updated with progress. I really like Larvi's work and he's been a pleasure to do business with. Here are a few of Larvi's scenes and there is more to come. 

T.J. Bull and Jacob White who are now finishing the third year of the undergraduate Stop Motion degree course at Staffordshire University have also input into scene design and animatic for the film and I'll be posting about that soon.

I always find collaboration an enjoyable experience and my project has been met with positive feedback from numerous people. It has been thrilling to talk to others equally obsessed with Louisa May Alcott and to share little nuggets of information we have found. On the animation side, I have been sharing my progress with other animators such as Norman Yeend in Australia, a professional animator who has worked on various projects including $9.99 and has been a motivating influence. I have also received feedback from my puppet and model making friends and experts including Andre Masters who has given me great sculpting suggestions (plus a trip to see behind the scenes of Isle of Dogs and a signed Making of Fantastic Mr. Fox book!) and Mattieu Rene who is always a wealth of sculpting, casting, and moulding information and doesn't pull punches when it comes to a decent critique of my work. I've also joined groups on miniature costume pattern making, local sewing groups and illustration networks to help with other aspects of the project. I'm still in talks with various armature makers who I hope to work with for the final puppets ball and socket armatures which are likely to be bespoke creations to account for their size and proportions.

Study guides for animation puppet fabrication, animation puppet costumes.



The tutorials themselves are not yet written / recorded in tutorial form though the majority of the content is contained in this blog as standard blog posts. The more I research the more I am inclined to produce video tutorials as I am more drawn to these and find them more enjoyable to study and expect they are more popular for this type of subject. The tutorials will have their own section on the blog website and are scheduled to be finalised in later modules.


CONCLUSION

My overall aims from the Learning Contract were...

To greatly improve my skills in producing professional standard animatable characters and costumes. To sculpt character maquettes. To improve understanding of moving mouth character and costume fabrication, including design, sculpture, silicone moulding and casting, armatures, finishing, wigging, and costume making for animation. Practice in digital drawing including learning and practice of relevant sortware. To collaborate on the production of the final version of the storyboard (digitally). To finalise the storyline based on biographical research.


ASSESSMENT

40% – Sculpted character maquettes and trial animation puppets and costumes for three scenes. Two characters (Louisa and Lulu) in period costume. Actual puppets available for viewing on request and fabrication process illustrated in production diary (PDF and blog).

Lulu will be a completed puppet with a number of areas I wish to improve on. Most of the tasks involved have been tested using a variety of methods for comparison and have been posted about in this blog. The Louisa puppet is on a ball and socket armature with wadding and fabric torso, with sculpted , moulded and cast hands and head but this is not yet complete. The maquettes are not yet completed.


10% - Collaboration and Production of Final Storyboard (approximately 80-100 cells – for 3 minutes of animation); Collaboration on production of two 2D animated scenes (Toonboom).

25% - Storyline and script based on biographical research and expert opinion. Character and set designs (digital) based on background research Characters studies (digital photo composition and digitally drawn) and final character designs including different angles and expressions, refined from the draft versions in Negotiated Project 1. Collaboration and production of final set designs (digital photo composition and digitally drawn) for each scenes, with at least two angles for internal scene, close to accurate scale with annotations.

15% - Regular (three per week) blog posts including Production Diary; Research; Progress; Collaboration; Draft study guides for maquettes, animation puppet fabrication,(including sections on sculpting, moulding, casting - est. 10 pages, 15-20 illustrations, PDF), costuming (est. 6 pages, 12 illustrations, PDF). Study guide on digital drawing is out of scope but blog posts on photo composition and blog creation will be included.

10% - Critical Reflection blog post of 1,500 - 2,000 words, including proposed changes required for final versions of study guides in future modules.




Award Outcomes: 3, 4, 10 

 3. Enquiry: Demonstrate practical knowledge of postgraduate level research strategies in animation, period costume, period furniture, set design and the production of study guides and tutorials.

4. Analysis: Demonstrate the ability to adjudicate carefully and critically between competing methods of animation filming and fabrication and in the methods of composing study guides to teach these areas; obtain convincing evidence using appropriate and well-understood methods of research and analysis; and to establish their personal preferences and understand the limits of their own skills in animation filming, fabrication and documentation in comparison to professional standards and practices.

10. Working With Others. Demonstrate the ability to work with other people, accepting responsibility and recognising individual strengths and weaknesses, so that individual or common goals can be achieved as part of the final animated film.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Lulu - hand

Lulu's hands are going to be replaceable and cast from DragonSkin silicone like her body. The hands are very small so only have a single wire in each finger so I will need to make several copies as they are at risk of breaking during animation.

This time I have used Chavant medium clay for the sculpt. It is non-sulphur containing which is important as sulphur can stop the silicone from curing. It is oil based so doesn't dry out. I have used lighter fluid and a small paint brush to smooth the sculpt. The armature is on a narrow piece of K&S square brass tubing so that it can be attached to the arm of the armature. 


















I have used water based clay for the clay wall and a cocktail stick and sculpting tool to carefully push the clay up between the fingers without damaging the sculpt. It is a good idea to freeze the sculpt before doing this so it is harder and less easily damaged.

Here is the finished first half of the resin mould. The K&S tubing fits snuggly into the mould and will hold the armature of the hand during casting.


 The two halves of the mould are now finished. There is a 'key' each side of the mould to hold the two halves of the mould inline during casting. I have painted each half and the armature with a coat of flesh coloured DragonSkin silicone to make sure the wire doesn't show through the hand. 


Monday, 10 April 2017

Lulu - Casting the Body


I am using DragonSkin Silicone which is an addition / platinum cure silicone. It is prepared by mixing two parts together, both are quite viscous and translucent / colourless. This is an industry standard silicone and is quite tough when its cured but holds details well. 

I've done two colour tests, one with oil paints and one with silicone pigments. The picture above shows the oil paint test. One side is opaque white which I'll use for the boot buttons and one is various shades of blue which I'll use for the boots. I'm trying to match a sheer fabric I've round for Lulu's dress. One issue with using oil paints or other pigments is that its advisable to use less than 5% to colour the silicone or it may effect its curing. 


 I'm wearing gloves and mixing with a wooden spatula.
 Its harder to mix such a small amount and still get the ratio correct so its better to weigh it as you go on an accurate scale. 
I like how the colours have turned out and they're a close match to the dress. Unfortunately the darker two didn't set well at all and were still sticky after three days.

















Here I am using silicone pigment colours instead. The blue is slightly different so I've added a tiny bit of black, red and white to achieve a similar colour. They're quite expensive but you need a very very small amount, just a small smear on the cocktail stick is often enough. Its better to start out by adding a very small amount then adding more if you need to. You have about 25 minutes working time with this version of Dragonskin.




To cast the boots I have first added a tiny little amount of white coloured silicone into each boot button with a cocktail stick. It overflows onto the boot a little bit but is thick enough to stay in place with a little encouragement. I have let this set for 5 hours and then trimmed the set silicone so that it is only in the buttons. 

Next I have mixed up a batch of blue and given the boots two coats of blue silicone with a paint brush, letting it cure for 5 hours between each coat. Because the white is set it won't mix colours and should stick to itself. It does pool slightly in the heel of the boot but there should be room for this around the armature. 



The moulds then had two coats of flesh coloured silicone. I have trimmed away the overflowing silicone around the edges of the body with a scalpel so that it doesn't stop the mould being pressed together.

Next the armature is placed into one half of the mould, making sure it lines up and sits flush and more flesh coloured silicone is added to fill up each mould half with some overflow. The two halves are then quickly sandwiched together and then firmly clamped and left to cure for 5 hours. 


Sunday, 9 April 2017

Lulu - The Body Mould







































I have used a water based clay (potters clay) to make the clay wall to make the first part of the two part resin mould against. This must be water based clay so that it can be removed from the oil based clay used for the sculpt. I have gone up to the mid point / widest point of the body and arms and legs. For the boots I have gone  up to just below the boots. There will be undercuts for this but as it will be a hard resin mould but a soft clay sculpt this is fine. 

I have built up the clay around the body higher in places as this will use less resin. Here is a close up of how it looks around the boots.

















The next stage is to make a foam board mould box around this and paint it with vaseline to make it easier to remove. 

Here are the resin supplies I've used. I am using Polycraft Easyflo 60 resin which is a polyurethane resin for the mould. 




Here is the first part of the mould complete. The clay sculpt remains in the mould which is then covered with a thin layer of vaseline put on with a brush. I have also brushed the sides of the mould in case the resin drips down the sides. I have included clay keys to help the mould fit together, to use less resin and one at the bottom to make a hole i can fit a screwdriver in to lever the mould open after casting.

The second part of the mould is now complete.






This second part of the resin mould covers the boot buttons. I have been careful to clean the moulds with water and a brush and to remove any clay from the buttons holes on the mould with a toothpic. The mould should be dry before its used. 

I have removed the sculpt from the armature, unfortunate it is ruined in the process which can't be helped. The armature has now been wrapped in heat shrink tubing to protect the wires. I have laid it in the mould to check it fits tightly at the end of the arms but has room around it for the silicone and is still in the right position.


The next stage is to wrap the armature in thin foam bandage to bulk it out. Ideally there should be around 3-5mm of silicone around the armature. The foam bandage is used to keep the puppet light and is tied on with cotton. This also gives the silicone something to adhere to. 


Here I have checked that the padding hasn't become larger than the mould by comparing to the test cast. The test cast is made without an armature in but with just a little padding and hasn't had the seams tidied up. 




Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Lulu - Sculpting the Body


I have decided to try casting the boots in silicone as part of Lulu's body. The picture above are some childrens' boots from the period (around 1870) and I particularly like  the button fastening.



This is another pair of boots from the period. I like the small heels on these and they would be appropriate for a child so I'm going to incorporate the heels from these ones and the buttons from above for Lulu's boots.

I am using a new clay from Chavant called 'Clayette'. It's lovely to use, comes in firm or soft and is pliable and less sticky from most other clays. I also like the light colour. 


Here is the finished sculpt. I have included the boot buttons to see if they will come out well on the finished cast. If not they may have to be added at the costuming stage. 

The soles of the boots cover up the armature but this will have a hole cut in it to add the tie down nuts sunk into the foot.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Lulu - wire armature




























Louisa will have a ball and socket armature and the final animation puppets for the main characters in the next module will all have ball and socket armatures but for testing purposes I am using a wire armature for Lulu. 

I have used aluminium armature wire laid against the skeleton picture, which I have printed to scale, so I can make sure the joints line up. I have used polymorph (like friendly plastic), a meltable plastic, to fix the wire together, this can be melted in 100'c just boiled water and sets hard. It can also be remelted if you want to reposition the wire unlike milliput. 

I have used two twists of 1.6mm armature wire for the body, arms and legs. This is fitted inside some aluminium tube and for the arms  have used square K&S tubing. This will mean I can make removable hands.




 The armature not only has to match the size of the skeleton from the front but also the shape from the side so I have made sure there is a curve to the spine and tilt at the hips, shoulders and neck.








   
For the next stage I have used PTFE tape to wrap the armature completely. This is an odd material, somewhere between cling film and ribbon and can be quite frustrating to use! 





I have found the best way is to unwind as little as possible, keeping the reel close to the armature. 


This is the finished armature wrapped in PTFE tape including the ends of the arms and the feet. This will stop the clay getting its way into the wire and joints. The tape sticks to itself but not the armature but can be removed easily