Guidelines for amateur creation - Mailbag pilot
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A name: Ruli
A message: How do you make the head of toriel without useing a model head? I have no knowledge on how to make a model head for that stuff. so please and thank you if you could answer my question.
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I had a model of my head to craft on top of, so when you say “without using a model head” I assume you mean "how did I know what to do with no direct reference for the final product". I really wish I had a knockdown answer to this question but I’m probably way less experienced crafting with foam than you think. In fact, you’re probably as “knowledgeable” as I am, from an academic level at least. My foam project count is 3. Luckily, there are ways to overcome that inexperience and, when making Toriel, I applied the same principles that I apply to most every amateur endeavor I pursue. Here’s a short list of things to keep in mind that should keep you on the right track. Consider these complementary to the pointers already in the Toriel blog:
1. Model and sketch first. I am no craftsman with a pencil but you really don’t need to be when you have references. Using references from the game, I sketched out a front, 3/4 side, and side view of what Toriel’s profile looks like, straight-up tracing the forms when I could. This approach has two advantages: it forced me to look at Toriel’s design more closely before setting out to actually create her and it gave me three ways to appraise my progress by comparing flat angles of the three-dimensional product to my rendition on paper.
2. Whenever you get stuck: step back, rotate, and focus in. You’re probably biting off more than you can chew and there’s probably something in particular you can choose to gnaw on that will get you moving again. I’m currently trying to learn acrylics by copying ideas in other art I have around my house. Today, I was supposed to paint a coyote in a picture but the task was so daunting I couldn’t commit to it. So I broke that task down to painting the silhouette of the coyote, which was small enough to wrap my head around and complete. I actually used this technique while writing this very response, opting to find a way to expand one point into two rather than try to manufacture one from whole cloth. Don’t concentrate on making a finished foam head: focus on making a jaw and a skullcap and eye holes and a neck et cetera. Don’t take in more than you have to at any one time.
3. Find another pair of eyes. This was point 3 in the blog too, but it’s worth reiterating here. You can only step back so far from your own creations. Don’t just find any other pair of eyes, though. You need someone who isn’t going to just tell you it looks great the whole time. Sometimes you don’t have one of those people readily available and you’ll have to coax a sheepish normie into performing the role of critic. Don’t back down from this recommendation out of shyness: make a real friend by getting someone involved. If it helps, have them read the next paragraph before you begin.
This is a side bar plea to the many kind-hearted souls who insist on giving everything their friends and acquaintances do a pass, calling it “their own thing” or “nobody else’s business" or just flat-out “great”. Please suspend this reflex for just a moment. I understand the modern world is bursting with twisted social conventions aimed at keeping the peace (for example: not telling people they’re fat even when asked directly) but please don’t overextend this principle, especially when it comes to art. When someone who isn’t toxically vain asks for your opinion, you should respect that they are trying to improve themselves and do your best to direct their focus. This doesn’t rule out compliments. In fact, the standard flow of constructive criticism is to point out a strong element first then a weakness, and not merely because this cushions the critique. Acknowledging the good in a concrete way simultaneously motivates and anchors by shining a light on what's working. Blanket admiration, however, doesn’t help and is almost always frustrating. If you honestly can’t come up with anything, say so, but remember that the only way the asker can truly believe you when you say “I think it looks great” is if you reserve those words for the real moment. Your friend wants your help. Please give it to them.
4. Spend as much time as it takes to get it right. Step away at regular intervals; look at it from all sides (particularly the ones you made drawings of); get independent appraisal (see the previous step). Imagine the fur (or whatever topping material you choose) laid down over it and, when you can, literally put the material on the structure to see what it looks like. The best thing about foam in practice is the ability to add and subtract, aka to use trial and error without much risk aside from hot glue burns. Toriel was the first full-foam head I ever made and the third time I've ever used the stuff for an artistic purpose. Toriel took a handful of hours and I consider myself wildly fortunate it came out so well on the first attempt. My resin/foam head on my proper fursuit, Zaethro, literally took months and dozens of failed tries to get right. Failing is great practice and you need a lot of practice. You’ll hammer at it and feel like nothing’s working, possibly for a long while, but eventually you’ll figure it out and things will start to click. That momentum shift is worth the price of admission. Use discipline, remember why you’re doing it, and stay DETERMINED.