I've learned so many things in this particular process and am inspired to do more sculpture now that this one is finished.
Originally I had wanted to create a deer or perhaps buffalo. But I felt they are rather pedestrian and not surrounded by myth or notoriety, I shifted to a Sasquatch. I just kept thinking "this sounds like more fun" and it has been. For months I've been envisioning doing wood sculpture of some kind, so building the armature was sort of a way to enter into it without having to worry about the finished product.
I began with a sketch of the creature, just to get an idea of what MY interpretation of that word meant. During that part of the process, I noticed that my creature looked more human than ape, so I knew that I'd need to emphasize the jaw, brow ridge, cheek bones and probably shorten the nose. The face has ended up looking somewhat eurasian to me, but I think the facial hair has a lot to do with that.
Armature: The armature is really important in this soft-bodied sculpture because it is the only support. Normally, the armeture is either burned up (clay) or secondary (metals) in a sculpture but in mine they actually hold up the body and support the work. I knew going into this that it would be holding a lot of weight, and built it very strong, but it ended up holding about 50 pounds of weight, much more than I had anticipated. I'm really glad I made the feet of concrete (which was a new process of sand-casting for me and proved to be very easy and quick) so that the center of gravity would be low. My working sketches of the frame really helped me figure out how to get the most support with the least amount of wood.
Skin: Poly-coated fiberglass fabric is tuff stuff! Originally, I had thought about shredding the fiberglass to make the fur, but because it's coated in plastic, it's nearly impossible to shred. It's also impossible to sew it by hand, so that resulted in my having to tie into the body with the pieces of fringed fur. The material makes you the slave, not the other way around! You can only do what it wants to do. The effect is about the same as I had envisioned, but a bit less soft than I wanted.
The color: Another change was making the piece all white when I had originally thought of making it dark brown and creating a Sasquatch. But the more I thought about fighting the color of the fiberglass simply to make the creature more realistic, the more I thought I was being foolish. With the time constraints and my current skill levels, the creature was not going to look real anyway. So, instead of a sasquatch, we have the Yeti. I think keeping all of the elements white elevates it to an art piece rather than dragging it down into bad costume-ish kitsch, simply in an attempt to make it brown. I figure it will probably weather into a grimy grey in the end, possibly with moss on it in a few year's time.
I knew I wanted to have it be furry, but how to get the fur to stay on the wood? I had to make a skin which was much like draping clothing designs. Just get the skeleton covered, stuff it to fill out the skin and then cover it with fur. Sounds easy, right? But it was about a week's worth of work, cutting pieces, "sewing" (tieing) the pieces together and then stuffing it with foam.
Head: The head was the hardest part. I had started with a styrofoam head from mail order, but it was so darn small compared to a real human head, especially my big melon! So, I had to build up the features much more than I planned. I did the jaws, cheekbones and brow ridge twice, once with molding paste and again with foam on top of that. A bit more paste helped smooth things out and after thinking about it for a while, I decided not to make the face totally smooth, but to keep the knife marks in it since the seemed to be in kind with the "fur". The eyes were made from pieces of a pingpong ball and then fabric was put over the edges as lids. The effect was perfect and once painted, all of it gelled into one face fairly nicely.
The wig and facial hair really helped make the head look bigger and gave it a more natural feel.
I am pleasantly surprised by the outcome, it turned out better than I thought it would. All of my planning paid off and I can't wait to see what people think of my Yeti.