I'm excited to sew up a felt version of this foot, stay tuned!!
Really and truly. Here I am mugging with the new foam paw I made, all taped up and ready for patternmaking.
I get so excited about whichever phase of my paw I'm working on that I can't wait to make some more and then I think, you know what would make it *really* great?? And off I go again. I was so pleased I got a reasonable interpretation of tendons with the previous draft, and then I thought, the paw would be even better if the fingers lay closer together, tamping down a little more firmly on that inclination they have to spread out and morph into bird's or lizard's toes or something.
Here is this newest foam paw, prior to taping.
Here we have the previous foam paw compared to this newest paw. One big difference between them was my focus on getting the big, overall shapes of the new foot correct and worrying less about smaller details, such as carefully rounding all the edges and making sure the angles between the first and second joints of the toes were correct. Another big difference is the basic shape of the fingers. The fingers of the new foot are more or less elongated rectangles made from foam, rather like boxes, so they can lay fairly flush up against each other. Fingers from previous drafts were tubes, sheets of foam rolled up and the edges glued together. The curve of the tubes tended to push the fingers away from each other and make them spread out more.
I'm excited to sew up a felt version of this foot, stay tuned!!
Getting Out of Hand
Above, photos comparing draft #5 (left side, with the red toebeans, featured in this previous blog post) and this newest draft (right side, pink toebeans.)
(It took me a bit to get photos of the paws, I got interrupted a lot...)
Backing up a bit. To make this new draft I needed to make a pattern for the tendons and devise support for them inside the paw, so they would hold their shape.
Here, making new pattern pieces by retaping the foam model (shown here in this earlier blog post) to include the tendons that I had left out previous drafts. The photo on the countertop shows the tape from the back of the hand before it was cut apart, as well as reworked patterns for the adjacent finger joints. The picture on the cutting board shows the tape after being cut apart and flattened, thus becoming the official pattern for the tendons that can be traced onto fabric and cut out.
Here, building up the tendons in the inside of the freshly sewn paw, along with structure for toebeans, knuckles and the first joints of the fingers. I also wanted to improve upon draft #5 by making it a little, well, less lumpy and I thought foam cut to fit the paw might do this better than the simple polyfil stuffing I'd been using. I derived these foam parts by pulling apart the foam hand from which I'd made this pattern (shown in this blog post,) tracing and cutting out the appropriate pieces from foam and gluing them into the inside of the new hand. I could have probably just pulled the original hand apart and glued that in there instead, but I wanted to keep it for future reference. You can see this poor disassembled hand in these photos, in little plastic baggies labelled with which parts they were.
Shown here is the support for the palm and back of the hand, which wraps around the middle of the paw. The cut end you see in this photo will ultimately be glued to the other end (not visible in this picture) to make something of a tube, which will fit around the wearer's hand.
I built up the parts of the paw in layers, working from the outer to the inner. The tendons, knuckles and palmar pad are under this big foam support now, but will be on top of it when the paw is turned right side out. I turned this paw inside out *a lot* which is one reason why it looks so pilled and tatty in these photos. That and because it is made of cheap felt. As you have seen I make a lot of these drafts, so no point in using good fabric just yet!
And here's Ezzy, watching the whole process and providing moral support. As well as modelling a very fine pair of paws. During my long day job induced absence from blogging, I've taken lots of cat pictures. Brace yourself...
I started making this video in August, thinking I'd use it to review and assess my sculpt before going on vacation. I was imagining plugging the sculpt into my subconscious this way and mulling over it while out in the woods camping, returning to it inspired and reinvigorated. That's not what happened, as you might guess. I started flailing in the middle of this video, sculpting and resculpting the area around the eyes and the top of the nose, but not making any significant improvements. I think this flailing happens when the subconscious realizes something is off but conscious awareness can't yet put it into words and express it clearly as a problem to solve.
I've been flailing with this blog post too, working on it on and off since August. I kept thinking I'd found The Problem with my sculpt and wanted to unveil The Solution here with great fanfare, along with the clever thinking that led to its discovery. But every time I set out to write this post I only found myself with more questions. Soooo.... I present to you here, The State of The Problem at this Moment, and The Steps I have Taken to Solve It So Far. I leave the Grand Conclusion for another post, hopefully one that I will write in the Near Future. Right now I feel like I just need to get something written!
The common wisdom is that a sculpt, simply put, starts by establishing the relationships of the largest, most basic shapes to each other, then progresses to defining the relationships of smaller and smaller shapes within those big ones. The most common mistake a beginning sculptor makes, according to this wisdom, is working on fun little details before correctly establishing these big basic shapes. I wondered if this could be my problem.
Three dimensional art can be slippery though, as the points of reference that establish where those shapes begin and end can seem to shift in relation to each other, especially as the sculpt is viewed from different angles. So I tried to find reliable, easily reproducible viewpoints from which to establish my points of reference, one being a 90 degree side profile, and others being straight on from the top and straight on to the underside. I might go into the latter two views in another post, but in this one, I'll stick with the 90 degree profile.
The question that comes to my mind now is, where will the ears- one of the biggest reference points of all- be placed on the base when a head is actually assembled? It's difficult to visualize now, as the ears are not a part of this sculpt and will be added later when the head is actually put together and furred. The placement of the ears could very much effect the apparent length of the forehead. If the ears were to be placed behind the back edge of the base, as they often are in furry head construction, the forehead could look **way** too long, and the muzzle **too short** in comparison, instead of too long the way the pictures above have led me to believe.
Let's take a look...
Wow, placing that ear at the back of the head would make that muzzle look short and the forehead **really** long!! Now here's the point at which I second guess myself and wind up running and screaming back to the drawing board!! Away I go!!!
Pause for Paws
It's been a while since I checked in about my paw project! My last update was in March, when I finished building my most recent Foam Foot from which to make a pattern. Since then I've sewn up Prototypes #4 (with pink beans) and #5 (with red beans) and hopefully have made some progress. As I've mentioned before, I have fantasies of selling this pattern as a download, and maybe actual finished handpaws too. I have been told that the furry world could use another good feral handpaw pattern and that there's probably untapped market demand there.
Above, Prototype #4 (I think?? I'm losing count.) My big problem here is the overly long toes and overly short palm/back of hand, most visible in the second picture from the right. Looks more like a lizard hand than anything canine.
Above, Prototype #5. I still think the toes are too long, but I'm pleased with their overall shapes and that of the hand in general.
Side by side comparison of the changes between #4 and #5. I've lengthened the palm in #5 and smoothed out the juncture between that and the bottom of the toes. IMHO this curving, regular line is much more aesthetically pleasing than the previous version. I hadn't actually shortened the toes between the two versions, thinking lengthening the palm would be enough, but I can see that still needs tweaking.
Another side by side comparison of #4 and #5. The seam going straight across the knuckles on #4 seems to flatten out and lumpify the paw. The scalloped seam on #5 in my mind is a great improvement.
There are lots of other differences between the tops of these paws. I made an attempt at tendons in #4 (those vertical seams on the back of the hand) and a more detailed attempt at knuckles in #5. The jury is still out on where I'll go from here. One question is, how much does this add to the aesthetics vs how much work does it add to the project? Also, it remains to be seen if I can actually make tendons/knuckles **work** in this context. IMHO neither #4 or #5 is there yet.
Onward! At least I have plenty of moral (and adorable!!) support!!
Points of Reference
Here we have Sans Souci Studios' armatures and Best Boys, Arnold Full Armature and Arnold "Han Solo" Half Armature. (Seriously, his name is Arnold. That's the name of the person from whom this was live-cast.) Other than being a handy place to put clay while sculpting, Arnold provides valuable points of reference. Especially Half Arnold. While building a sculpt on Full Arnold is a good way of seeing what a sculpt will look like in motion on a real wearer, Half Arnold provides a perfectly flat plane from which to build a system of reference points and angles. Invaluable, as otherwise reference points have a maddening way of seeming to shift on a 3D sculpture.
Above, finding the center of the sculpt, and making sure it's at a 90 degree angle to the armature back. I measure to find the center of the armature, mark the line on both the top and bottom of the head, and trace the center line around the sculpt, as shown above. At any point where the sculpt doesn't meet the armature back (here, at the throat) I mark the center on masking tape and then extend a line up the tape onto the sculpt. I use various measuring tools to keep the line as perpendicular as possible to the armature back, but there's always a certain amount of eyeballing and guesswork involved.
Above, creating a "template" of sorts for the back of the sculpt, to help ensure its symmetry. First, I lay down that good old patterning material, duck tape over aluminum foil, on the armature base under the sculpt in progress. Then I trace on the tape along the edge of the sculpt, mark and fold it at the halfway mark, and trim so that the two sides of the template are symmetrical. Then I lay the template back down on the armature and clay up the back edge of the mask along it. There's still a certain amount of eyeballing and guesswork involved, as the template can shift and stretch, and little bits of clay on the armature can put it out of whack. But still, it makes a pretty good guide.
Now I have a sculpt with a symmetrical back and a centered and perpendicular nose. Getting the sides of the sculpt to match is a lot trickier. Each side can cave in, bow out, or do some evil combination of those things in its own special way. The back template can help address this by placing "landmarks" on the sides, to make specific areas on the sides easier to compare. For example, I can mark where the cut out is for the lower jaw on one side of the template, then fold the template, mark the same spot for the jaw cutout on the other side, then transfer the mark into the clay.
Once I've placed the landmarks I can make a gizmo to compare the angles at specific points of each side of the head. Here, I have cut out a little piece from a cereal box, preserving one original corner so that I have a handy 90 degree angle for reference. Then I carefully cut a thin slot into the sculpt, press one edge of the box in, and trace along the side of the sculpt to get the angle of that specific spot, making sure one side of the 90 degree angle is flat on the armature back. I trim along the line I've traced and then compare the angle of my gizmo to the angle of the sculpt on the other side, again being careful to line up one side of my 90 degree angle with the armature back. Then I adjust the sculpt as needed. I don't have too long to play with the gizmo though, as being made out of thin cardboard the edges start squishing down and losing their shape fairly quickly.
And here we have my Glorious Goggles, my Reference Point Piece de Resistance. The goggles will help ensure that the eyes will be equidistant from the center line of the head, lie along a line that is at right angles to the center line of the head, and are both set back the same distance into the head. They will also help ensure that the eye bed I sculpt on my head will be parallel to the back of the mask and not tipped forward or back. Plus, if I'm fairly certain that my eye placement is accurate and even, I can use the eyes themselves as further reference points for sculpting the head.
How I made the Glorious Goggles. I've traced the backs of correctly sized eye cabochons onto a piece of thin craft plastic and cut the circles out. I've measured the distance between the eyes on my original resin head, cut down a disposable chopstick I got from Chinese takeout to that length, and carefully hot glued the plastic circles on the ends, lining up the outside edges of the circles with the ends of the chopstick. Then I marked the center of my contraption with a Sharpie. Next, I measured the distance from the armature back to a point a little bit in front of its eyes and cut two more pieces of chopstick to that length, thus making the "arms" of my goggles. I hot glued them on as well, taking care to hold the arms at more or less at a right angle to the front of the goggles until the glue cools.
Above, beginning to set the glasses into the sculpt. I've started carving out holes into which to insert the arms of the glasses. These holes need to be pretty roomy so they don't force the arms out of their proper alignment.
Adding a slot to the sculpt, into which I'll set the bridge of the glasses. I insert a skewer through the bridge of the sculpt's nose at the inside corner of each eye, keeping the skewer as perpendicular to the center line as I can. Then I cut a slot into the sculpt by pulling up on the skewer and removing clay along its path as needed with clay tools.
Above, the glasses have been added. Now just to fill the clay back in around them. It's already easy to see adjustments I need to make to the cheeks and brows, with the right hand brow being raised higher and there being more material on the outside edge of the right eye.
And, here we have the goggles completely clayed over, with a pair of acrylic eye cabochons resting on top of them, and a more developed sculpt in general. I'm happy to have this pretty solid point of reference in the sculpt, though it also makes me think how sculpting software makes symmetry so effortless!
Feat of Foam, Part II
It all started with these pictures, my favorite reference pics out of stacks and stacks of pics for dog feet. The pic of the tan dog foot is especially useful as it's relatively easy to see the bony structure underneath the skin.
Using my handy dandy Artograph projector, I enlarged tracings of these two pictures, one for the bottom of the paw and one for the top, to the size I wanted my finished handpaw to be. These would be my "master patterns" and I would use them to trace out smaller parts of the pattern....
....like so Here are patterns for individual toes and pads, traced from the "master patterns" using the light table and cut out.
I had actually started using these patterns before I started the clay feet I blogged about earlier, but I then I hit a snag and at the time couldn't figure out how to get around it.
Yuck. This looks more like a hoof than a paw. There's the question, what to do with the space between the fingers? How to make this work as a glove? The fingers here are all separate pieces but they're all attached to a one piece underside. How would the fingers move? (I could figure this out now, but this doesn't change the fact this paw is just plain old ugly.)
That's when I switched over to making and taking patterns from the clay feet, coming up with this "tubular" style of toes in the process. Here we have our friend the foam foot from my previous post, made from the enlarged and refined clay foot pattern, along with a selection of unattached toes and toebeans, showing off their tubular style.
But then, as it so often happens, just as I was ready to tweak the sizing a little bit and then call it done, I got very excited about how cool the palmar pad for this foot looked, carefully carved and patterned the way it was. Then I got the itch to do the fingers that way too. I could carve knuckles! And tendons! How cool would that be??
Here, the foam foot with the original tubular toes torn off and replaced with carved toes. The potential is clear, but at least for me, carving each toe out of a single piece of foam made it easy for proportions and proper placement of various parts to get out of whack.
I decided to try out a combination of carving, using the "tubular toes", and tracing and cutting out parts from my original patterns, thus coming up with this most recent foam foot. Here's a little demonstration of my method, making a random toe.
First, using the patterns pictured at the beginning of this post and a sheet of 1/2" thick foam, I traced and cut out out two finger pieces and one knuckle piece and glued them into a stack. I inserted a claw shaped piece of cosplay foam in the end of the finger to mark the placement of the nail. I then used a pattern piece from my previous foam foot attempt and glued it underneath my finger/knuckle stack for the "tube", leaving an opening for the toebean. I then started to give the whole thing a little shape with scissors and an Exacto knife.
Next, toebeans. Using my patterns again, I traced and cut out toebeans from the cosplay foam and some 1" thick sheet foam. I glued the cosplay foam into the end of the "tube", being careful to check my reference pics to get it aligned correctly and at the proper angle inside the toe. (Be sure to line up the tip of the toebean wth the claw!) I then glued the 1" foam toeabean in, using the cosplay foam toebean as a base. Using a Sharpie, I sketched out the side of the toebean on the 1" foam and gave it some shape with my scissors and Exacto knife.
Now, to give the top of the toe a little bit more of a curve. Again I used my patterns to trace out just the half of the knuckle nearest the claw, and just the part of the finger underneath the knuckle. I tapered both pieces with the Exacto knife so they would be thickest around the knuckle and thinnest towards either end of the finger, and glued them into the appropriate spots on the "stack". Then I shaped them a little with my scissors and Exacto knife.
Using the patterns like this takes a lot of the guesswork out of the placement of the different parts, such as knuckles and toebeans.
The outline of the knuckle was getting a little lost with all the layering and trimming, so I made the outline clearer by curving a thin piece of foam around it, gluing the foam down, and trimming the top a little to blend it in.
Now to give the underside of the toe a little bit more of a curve. (I'm sorry but that first picture looks really rude!) With a Sharpie, I marked where I wanted the curve to be, cut a slit along that line, pulled one edge of the slit under the other and glued it down. A curve, tada!
And here, our finished demonstration toe. I continued to refine the toes on the handpaw adding little pieces of foam and carving them down to get them just right, but this toe does get the basic process across.
Now to start taping this foam foot and making the pattern for a fabric foot! So excited!
Onto Bigger Things
I continue on my quest to make a handpaw pattern using Matrices' tutorial, in which a small clay model is made, a pattern is taken from the model, and the pattern is enlarged to the proper size with an overhead projector. I have fantasies of selling said pattern as a download, and maybe any actual handpaws too. Above, my fifth and final attempt to sculpt said model. Now, to take a pattern from the model and enlarge it.
Here we have the paw partially taped up, using white Duck tape over a layer of plastic wrap. I've sketched in lines where I think the seams will be, and registration marks (those little hash mark things) to help line the pattern up again once it's disassembled. I forgot to take pics before I started cutting the pattern off, so there's pieces missing between the middle toes here.
Here, the underside of the foot, again showing potential seam lines and registration marks.
The pattern cut off the foot, lots of little pieces everywhere, don't sneeze! Then laid out and taped down on a piece of construction paper, to help keep them from slipping and sliding all over the place under the projector lid.
And my very high tech projector setup in the basement, a piece of paper taped onto the washing machine for tracing out the enlarged pattern. (My daughter says the projector is the most analog thing she's ever seen in her life.) I rolled the projector back and forth on its little wheely cart until I got the pattern to what looked like a good size, comparing it other patterns such as Matrices' and Freakhound's to get it in the ballpark.
The enlarged pattern, cut out and ready to go.
And, a first paw mockup using the pattern and cheap material. It does kinda sorta look like a paw, but I'm not happy with it. Next, revisions!
Feat of Clay
I have two goals in mind here. One to make my own handpaw pattern. The second is to use this really cool technique furry how-to goddess Matrices describes in this tutorial, in which a small clay model is made, a pattern is taken from the model, and the pattern is enlarged to the proper size with an overhead projector. I have fantasies of selling said pattern as a download, and maybe any actual handpaws I make with it too. I have been told that the furry world could use another good feral handpaw pattern and that there's probably untapped market demand there. Charge!
Attempt Number One
For this first attempt I tried making a rough paw shaped chunk of clay and carving toebeans out of the bottom and knuckles and toes out of the top. This sculpt has a lot of problems but the worst in my mind is that the toebeans and palmar pad all wound up on the same plane, parallel to the wrist, making the paw look stiff and unnatural.
Attempt Number Two
For this second attempt, I tried to make the angles of the toe bottoms more natural. Closer, but not there yet. The top of the foot also leaves a lot to be desired, looking like a featureless cube of clay, especially when viewed from the top.
Attempt Number Three
Attempt number three, when viewed from the side, has a little more of that oval shape we're going for. The top of this foot also looks more shaped and natural than those in the previous two. However it also looks a little squished and disproportionate. When viewed from the top, the toes look too long and the back of the paw too short.
Attempt Number Four
Attempt number four features... an armature! What a concept! Underneath the clay the armature looks like a little wire tree, with the trunk for the wrist and palm and four branches for the toes. The armature helps to hold the parts of the foot in place, keep them from getting squished out of shape, and maintain the correct proportions. The wire also makes it easier to bend the toes into the proper position without breaking them off. I'm happier with this foot, but I can't help but think the back of the paw looks a little swollen, like it was stung by a bee.
This group of photos shows a slightly earlier version of the last paw undergoing some last minute edits. The first photo shows the foot being checked against a favorite reference pic, and the second photo shows a tracing of this earlier version being checked against a superimposed tracing of the reference pic. (I especially love this tracing as it really shows how the two outer toes on a dog's foot are different sizes, with the "pointer" toe being larger than the "pinky" toe.) The third pic shows the finished foot, after all the edits have ben made.
Above, a turnaround of this last paw, looking a little worse for wear from the pattern making process. (More on that later!) This paw is also built on an armature, similar to that in attempt number four. Perhaps more improvements can be made on this foot but at this point I was thoroughly sick of clay feet and wanted to get on with it. Charge!
Vive la Difference!
I love both Silas and Artemis, don't get me wrong! But I'm also really entertained by the difference between these two, especially considering that they're built on identical resin bases, with identical resin and silicone parts.
Here we get a little peek under the skin, as it were. For Artemis (and her brother Garm) I extended the top of the head back and made ruffs out of foam, made the ears out of Varaform and felt instead of Foamies, and used the ear vents as bases/supports for the ears instead of sewing the vents in afterwards. The ears are glued onto and supported by the foam instead of the resin base, which allows more flexibility with their size and shape. I got this idea from Stuffed Panda Studios, and the designs of the ears and ruffs are adapted from her designs. Credit where credit is due!
Process pics. Ears freshly assembled, being inspected by the Feline Assistance and Cat Hair Distribution Department.
Foam added to the top of the head, ears partially glued on. Does this dude look weird or what?
Cheek fluffs added, and approved by the Feline Assistance Department. The triangular part under the chin helps with patterning the neck later on, and is cut off afterwards.
Brother and sister with ears and foam added, ready for patterning!
Above, two straps made by cutting webbing (not elastic, we don't want these guys to stretch!) to about 12” lengths, feeding them through the two front clips, folding them in half and gluing the halves to one another. No glue on the clips, they need to be able to rotate on the straps. The suspension will be (well) suspended from these straps inside the head, allowing it to move and conform to the wearer's head.
Now, to make the "slots". The short story is, these two new straps will be glued between two layers of foam inside the head. I imagine the straps could also be riveted inside, or perhaps just glued to the bare resin, but foam sticks really hard to the scored-up inside of a head with hot glue, and the straps stick really hard to the foam so… Plus the foam provides a much larger gluing surface and therefore more security, in my mind anyway.
Above, the first layer of foam, visible underneath the browband, has been glued into the head. Then, the the correct placement for the suspension is found, with the browband going across the forehead just above the eyes. The clamps are only temporarily holding the suspension in the correct place, the browband will not actually be fixed to the mask like this but will be able to move inside the head somewhat.
Next, the two new straps are glued on the foam directly underneath the two preexisting straps with which they share clips. I glue the straps all the way from the front of the mask to the back, where I trim off any extra. The more gluing surface the better. Again, no glue on the clips!
I start working the top layer of foam before the suspension is glued in, and finish it afterwards. Above, making a pattern for this part using standard duck tape patterning procedures. I often use aluminum foil under the duck tape in place of the more standard plastic wrap as it is easier to handle, especially in a concave shape like this.
Next, cutting the slots for the clips into the pattern. Cut a little bit, try sliding the pattern over the clips, cut a little more, slowly but surely. Worse comes to worst the slots can be taped over and started over again.
Above, the finished pattern for the top layer of foam.
Above, the second foam piece has been cut out, laid into the head over the freshly glued pair of straps, and held in place with Wonder Clips. Working from one end to the other I'll unclip one Wonder Clip, smear hot glue around underneath the foam, and press it down until it cools. I work my way systematically across the head, unclipping each Wonder Clip in turn, putting glue under the foam, and moving on. The Wonder Clips keep the foam in the exact correct position while it's being glued. I'll cover the entire underside of the foam with glue, paying special attention to the openings for the clips. Lots and lots of glue, but again, none on the clips!!
Trying it out. I'm pleased with how it works.
Above, the suspension in the finished head. From these pictures you can get an idea of how it "floats" inside the head. It also makes the mask nice to take off and on, as once the back strap is adjusted to the wearer it's a lot like putting on a baseball cap. No straps to fasten and unfasten.
I hope that this has been helpful to you. If you have any questions please feel free to ask! Thanks for looking!