I’ve wanted to write this post for quite a while. One of the things that makes a great prop is an animated face, not with animatronics, but with engaging design. Although we make otherworldly creatures, they all have faces like us mere humans and I often see beautiful, articulate work, with a blank face. We all know who is a master at twisting corpse faces in to seemingly limitless expressions of terror, anger, pain, and sometimes I have detected a hint of a smile or humorous confusion. I was aware of this need in design, but my early attempts on my prop heads were falling way short of expectation. I looked at Rot’s stuff which made me want to throw in the glue and paper towel, but I persevered. He had to start somewhere too, right?
I decided to take action and searched the net for images with facial expressions that I wanted to recreate on my three witches. I settled on Dick Cheney sneering, “Johnny” from the shining in that famous face through the door shot, and I would come up with the third in due time. I tried and tried, but the faces kept turning out wrong. I have a pretty good knowledge of anatomy from both school and work; let me tell you, disassembling a body sure teaches one a lot about anatomy. But I needed more oomph. I scrapped the idea of making Dick Cheney and Johnny faces and decided I would work on general expressions.
I got on the internet and looked for artist guide type books and I found a few, but without being able to look at the content for more than a few pages, I headed out to the bookstore. I ultimately picked up Gary Faigin’s The Artists Complete Guide to Facial Expression. There are others out there as well, but Faigin’s style suited me best. There are nice descriptions about what is going on with musculature, how much pupil to show, etc… that really help you build a solid foundation to work with.
Not that my three witch faces turned out spectacular, but by the third one I think something began to click and I expect improvement with each new sculpt. I also spotted several comic book style how-to’s that directly addressed monsters and villains that could have massive potential as well.