Thursday, September 17, 2015

Bringing Figment To Life!

As promised, it's time to show you guys how we made Figment!
 

John and I started working on Figment in early July, and finished him roughly 7 weeks later, just before Dragon Con. Most of that time was spent waiting on things to dry, though, since Figment is made almost entirely of paper maché, plaster, and paper clay.
 

Here's a photo guide to how we did it:

First, a center-slice outline cut from cardboard. 

(We kept the head separate to make it easier to work on.)


Crumpled newspaper and masking tape padding out one half.


Then repeat for the other side.

A cross-section of cardboard to form the mouth/jaw. 



Padded out with more paper and masking tape. 

Forming the toes and feet.


Testing out the size.

At this point Figment is only paper and tape. Next we joined the head to the body and I applied about half a dozen layers of paper maché.


When he had a strong enough outer layer of paper maché, we cut his head off again. :)

Here's what his neck stump looks like. Neat, huh?

 Forming the arms:

I was delighted by how quick this process is: just crumple up paper, wrap with masking tape, add more paper, more tape, etc, until:


A comparison of our first set of arms (top) and the final pair (bottom.) Practice pays off!

 I was tempted to paint Portals on our dining room table for this shot:

:D

Next, a custom mix of light-weight spackle and Elastomeric (a kind of flexible plaster) to smooth out the body:

 Followed by a heavy sanding.

The head and arms got several sprayed coats of a buildable primer, with sanding in-between.

For the eyes, John sliced off sections of clear plastic Christmas ornaments:


I glued them in place with superglue, and then started adding paper clay to the face:

The cheeks got three separate build-ups of clay. He has big, BIG cheeks.


The fingers and toes were still rolls of paper at this point, so I filled in the tips with paper clay:


The horns were tricky. Eventually we used wire inserted through thin dowels, which were in turn inserted into holes John drilled in the back of Figment's head:


Side view:

(With requisite cats, of course.)

I then covered the wire/dowels with more paper clay.

We also used wire for the end of the tail, which is forked. John drilled a small hole in the tip of the tail, inserted heavy wire, and bent it down to form a V:

Then I covered the wire with more clay.

Chalking out the belly scales:


For these I applied thin lines of clay and smoothed the top edges upward.

More coats of primer & sanding later:



Meanwhile, also happening on the table:
I had to keep picking cat hair out of the clay, but c'mon... lookit that face.

While I did all the sculpting, John worked on the sweater. We found a near perfect yellow sweater on Ebay for $4, then picked up another red one from the thrift shop. John put the two together, and...

...sha-pow!
That night I hand-embroidered the "Figment." Still wish I'd had time to send it out to be done professionally on a machine, but it's Ok from a distance.

(Sorry - didn't have a process photo on that!)

Painting begins:



We bought an airbrush just for this project, then fumbled around figuring out how to use it. I airbrushed Figment almost completely, then decided to start over - which is what you see here. It's a nice comparison of the base coat (head) and the airbrushed skin texture, which adds SO much dimension - and hides a lot of flaws!

We couldn't figure out how to get fine enough detail lines with the airbrush, so I first brushed on these darker bits, then airbrushed over the whole thing to soften them.

Next I airbrushed pink accents on the cheeks, lips, knees, and knuckles, and added some subtle highlights on the darker pink belly scales.

We painted the horns purple first, taped off circles, then applied 4 or 5 coats of orange. Peeled off the tape, sanded lightly, and then airbrushed the horns with a light mist of purple.

The final step was the eyes. I used these templates (those are paper cut-outs) to get the placement right, traced them, then filled in with paint. 

I have to admit, once I stepped back at this point, I was suddenly hit with a wave of emotion. Until the eyes, this was just a long, tedious painting project. (I did all the painting in a single day - which lasted into the early morning hours.) But once those pupils were in it was like, oh wow, Figment's here! Ha!

The last step was a sprayed clear coat, which helped give our Figment that latex-like sheen of the original puppets.

We used heavy Velcro to attach the arms, both to make it easier to get the sweater on him and because the added flexibility helps if Figment gets bumped around a bit.

I sculpted Figment's hands so they could fit together, one on top of the other, but once we put the arms on we decided they looked fine apart. So for that one eagle-eyed reader who asked why Figment is missing a thumb, that's why.  ;)


Figment survived Dragon Con beautifully, and is on display now in John's man cave. At some point I'd like to spruce up his display stand; paint it brass, add some velvet foot rests - but that's for a later date.
Hope you guys enjoyed the photo tour!



UPDATE!

In my haste to post this I missed a few things, so thanks for asking questions in the comments, guys!

First up, yes, we *did* finish the wings in time for Dragon Con - but the great irony is you can only see them from the side:

 
 These were all John; he cut the layers from craft foam, sandwiched them together with contact cement, and gave them a quick paint job.

We used more Velcro to attach the wings directly to Figment's back, bending the foam bases like paper tabs. We cut tiny slits in his sweater for the tabs to fit through, so the connection appears pretty seamless:


The back spines are simple discs I cut from paper clay, and then smoothed into his back with more clay on the sides and edges. It was tricky to do, but surprisingly strong once dry:


I'll try to keep answering any more questions you guys have in the comments; just wanted to give these two visual aids!

***** Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here! - See more at: http://www.epbot.com/2015/09/ive-got-my-eyes-on-this-halloween.html#sthash.MtrEhoeL.dpuf
*****

Come see ALL of my craft projects on one page, right here!

63 comments:

  1. thank you thank you thank you :-)
    Ever since seeing him (and you guys) at Dragoncon all I have been thinking about is how to create my own. I have so much figment stuff from back in the day that adding a 'statue' of him will be grand...if I can pull it off...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow. Just wow. That's just...so much wow!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am absolutely blown away at this! Thank you so much for sharing the process - I'm excited to see what I can do based on your guide :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. You guys are so talented. Hope to meet y'all one day! You forgot the legs though, or no pics of frame and attachment?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whoops, we forgot to get a picture of the initial leg construction - sorry about that! They're just more balled up paper & tape, though, which we taped on to the main body really early on. The legs themselves have no cardboard in them, but the feet/toes do, since those needed the extra strength.

      Delete
  5. Did you get the wings done in time? This is amazing either way!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thanks for the reminder; we did! Just updated the post with pictures. :)

      Delete
    2. Yay wings! Thank you!! I love them and want to chew on them, in the most normal way possible. Like how I chomp on my kittens ears. That doesn't help with the normal...

      Thanks in any case!

      Delete
  6. Soooo, so, so very cool. I love to see the process photos, but I bet a process audio would be pretty cool to! I know when I'm working on a project I'm usually talking to my cat (or the project) about what I'm doing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Great paint job! Love the cat shots "helping". And thanks for the tutorial. The paint layers reminds me of the time my step-dad (theatrical lighting designer) taught me how to gild a frame. Red paint payers followed by gold, brass and gold leaf layers. I respect those willling to do this kind of work - once was more than enough for me! Great job on Figment's sweater.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That....is just incredible. Seriously! Thanks so much for posting this (I've been bragging on your Figment sculpt and now I can show people a BTS of it. :) ).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Funny; I've been bragging to some friends about *you* and your awesome Hunger Games dress! MUTUAL FANGIRL PARTY.

      Delete
  9. figment is wonderful! just so perfect. i am in awe of the talents you two possess. thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. p.s. about how heavy is the completed figment?

      Delete
    2. super light! I held it for a minute and it was less than a small stuffed animal.

      Delete
    3. As Eagle said, quite light - I'd guess around 3 pounds? (He seems extra light because he's so big; your brain expects him to weigh more.) Of course, after carrying him around all day, John claimed Figment was more like 20 pounds. ;)

      Delete
  10. This is one of those posts where I read the entire thing, got to the end, and said, "But how did you make Figment??" Seriously, he is so amazing, and even looking at all the steps doesn't enlighten me as to how you got the magic in there. Just an incredible amount of work is the answer, I know, but still. Amazing job!

    ReplyDelete
  11. You guys are amazing! These "crafts" are so out of my league! lol its fantastic to see, I'm always amazed at the raw talent you both have and the ability to inspire so many people with your work. I love reading your blogs but this one especially because of the creativity and fun! I love seeing your many Christmas trees every year! So much yaaasss! Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  12. for "fumbling around figuring out how to use it" you handled the airbrush masterfully! good job!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I am flat out amazed at your sculpting ability. He's outstanding. Amazing. Other words even more than those!!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Amazing work! You two are such artists. And that cat is still the cutest cat on earth. Also, I wanted to thank you both for all the years of entertainment, both here & on Cake Wrecks. You have enriched my life so much. :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Jesus christ you guys are amazing. Really, really impressive, mad skills.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Wow - it's extra brilliant that you're not pro model makers (maybe should be) but get to greatness through experimentation and trying stuff out. Amazing work. xx

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm completely amazed. You are a very talented pair. :D

    ReplyDelete
  18. This is awesome.
    That is all.

    You two are so impressive!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Figment is so adorable! Excellent job as always, Jen & John. :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. ARGH! Okay, I've seen how you made him now, but I still can't believe it. Wrap some cardboard with newspaper and tape. Wrap that with more newspaper and clay. Presto...DRAGON! Don't know how you can make something so complicated seem like just any ol'body could do it! You're both geniuses, and I honestly think that your Figment is even cuter than the original!

    In addition to just how awesome the sculpting is, that airbrushing is fantastic, and the sweater is perfection. I think you did a great job stitching on his name, Jen!

    In that second-to-the-last photo, though...HAH!!! o_0 "Hey, Figgie! Are ya happy to see me?" Yes, I know it's just his tail, and I know that I'm basically still 12-years-old.

    So, like Rose above, I want to know about the wings, and also about how you did the plates sticking out on his back...are those cardboard covered in clay?

    Thanks for giving us this behind-the-scenes look into Figment's construction. You're very kind and generous!

    KW

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dangit, KW, now I'll never unsee that happy tail. 0.0 Ha!

      And I updated the post re: the back spine plates. They're actually all clay!

      Delete
  21. Brilliant work, guys! Have either of you ever considered trying out for "Face Off?" I love that show and you'd both be great at it, though I know the whole "tv" thing might be anxiety producing for you, Jen!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We love that show, too! ...and you couldn't pay me enough to be on *any* form of TV. ;)

      Delete
  22. Holy crap - I thought he looked amazing, but after seeing what went into making him, I am completely blown away with your ability to create wonderful things from literally nothing!! Seriously - have you thought about a career in creative design/building for movies/TV?! Hello - Disney/LucasFilm, you guys are missing some core talent for your team!!! ;). Or maybe start your own shop?? :)

    ReplyDelete
  23. Just beautiful work, John and Jen! I just said to my husband, "Everything they make always comes out GORGEOUS! It's so unfair!" Thanks for sharing the process. :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Did anyone else hear Figment's voice in their head as they read through the tutorial? Humming along with the occasional 'Ooo!' and 'Aaaah' and 'Hooray!' :D ;D :D

    ReplyDelete
  25. Awesome! A question, why did you cut his head off, just to reattach it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember asking *myself* that at some point... but it was to make it easier on me while I sculpted his face. I needed the head desk-level, and with the body & tail, Figment is almost three feet tall. I also needed the ability to spin the head around easily, and again, with the whole body attached it'd be way too unwieldy.

      Delete
    2. Ok, totally nerding out that you responded to me! Thanks for the info. I figured it was something like that. Thanks for this awesome blog!

      Delete
  26. What was the process of reattaching the head? He looks so awesome. I wish I lived on the east coast to hit some of the cons with you guys.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, good question! I forgot to mention: we inserted a thin wooden dowel in the head & neck to help strengthen the joint, then mashed the two together with a whole bunch of E-6000. After that we smoothed the seam with more plaster and primer.

      Delete
  27. This was totally amazing, your vision of how to get to an end result is awesome!! I do wonder, do you ever fail at a project? Because you post so many amazing decorating and craft creations, I have to wonder if there are ever things you think, "Eh, that didn't work..."

    Thank you for the smile on a day when I really needed it!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do fail, yes, and pretty often - I just don't post those projects! That's why I so rarely post in-progress shots while I'm working on something new; I never know if it's going to work out or not. Heck, I'm looking at a failed project right now that I stashed in my office closet. I waste a lot of hours on things that never make it to the blog.

      I do feel bad, though, for giving the impression that everything John & I touch turns to gold. I suppose I should mention - or even show - the bad with the good, even if it IS hard on my ego. ;)

      Delete
  28. This has to be my favorite tutorial you've ever posted. John and Jen, all of your work is always spectacular but for this one you literally started with nothing and created an amazing, amazing work of art. I cannot wait to see what you guys come up with next!!

    ReplyDelete
  29. When I first saw the photo on Twitter, I thought, "wow, I guess MouseSurplus sold another original Figment AA and I missed it!"

    Seriously, this is spot on the *original* Figment. Huge kudos. I wish I had the talent and patience to make something like this!

    ReplyDelete
  30. It was so fun to see Figment in person!! He looks awesome!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Upside-down kitty faces are what made me fall in love with the idea of having a pet. Didn't grow up with one, didn't plan on having one until hubby talked me into it. No I have no regrets.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Is it wrong to totally want to rub that pink kitteh belleh? Lily looks like she's doing well!

    Figgie is PHENOMENAL! Thank you so much for sharing your talents and the process shots. I am always amazed at the way you tackle these projects. I'd never be able to figure out HOW to even approach this, let alone be able to complete the project.
    -Zippy

    ReplyDelete
  33. Disney should be offering you two a contract.....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree! I think a call from WDW is in order.

      Delete
  34. Amazing! I'm so glad you posted process. I love seeing how you guys did things and how you changed things up along the way.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Holy WOW.... I didn't grow up with Figment but this project leaves me speechless. Just... WOW.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Sitting here in this very very dusty room with big fat tears in my eyes.. because FIGMENT!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Jen, this is amazing.
    By looking at him, you wouldn't believe that he's all paper mache', cardboard and clay.
    He's painted perfectly. You two have a gift.

    --Piper P from Washington State

    ReplyDelete
  38. I don't feel like reading all the comments, so if you have heard this already, sorry. This picture is feature as Cosplay Friday on Nerdist.com! I was so excited when I opened it up, I was like, I 'know" him!

    ReplyDelete
  39. This is incredible!
    One question...how heavy is he? I'm imagining that he probably weighs a good bit with all of that paper and clay.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Kudos! This is a wonderful project!! I'm not a cosplayer, so this question may fall under the heading of "Well, DUH!" but I'm asking anyway: would a project like this be subject to copyright issues? I know this may come across as sounding somewhat negative, but I am truly curious.

    ReplyDelete
  41. I can't thank you enough for explaining why he has one thumb.

    Also what airbrush?

    ReplyDelete
  42. Wonderful, wonderful! That was a labor of love, and the love shines through! He is great!!!

    ReplyDelete
  43. I tried finding Elastomeric online, but it leads me only to a lot of elastomeric compounds (a lot of paints etc)... is there a specific brand or something I can use?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Fawn, The stuff we used is called Dap Elastopatch. Here it is on Amazon. Hope that helps! -j

      Delete
  44. Can't believe I'm just now seeing this. Can't believe the amazing job you did. Can't believe how well you communicated your process. You have my eternal respect and appreciation for what you've accomplished here. - Ron Schneider

    ReplyDelete
  45. Would you be willing to make one for sale?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, sorry! Right now I barely have the attention span to finish our OWN projects. ;)

      Delete

Please be respectful when commenting; dissenting opinions are great, but personal attacks or hateful remarks will be removed. Also, including a link? Then here's your html cheat sheet: <a href="LINK ADDRESS">YOUR TEXT</a>