Visualizing The Design


The first step in creating a fursuit is visualizing the design in three dimensions.  One would think a lifetime of experience seeing 3D objects all around us would prepare us better for it, but it still takes training to get the hand to do what the brain is thinking, well enough to satisfy the eye.

Making a 3D sculpture is a good start.  Of course I was thinking "What am I doing, I'm not a sculptor!"  Then I thought, well, if I can't build a little one that looks good, what's the big one going to look like?  So... here goes.

I started with a metal armature.  The ones at the art store were way too expensive, so I went to the hardware store and bought ten feet of #8 bare copper wire.  Not only is it easy to bend and solder, it costs less than a dime a foot.

Casper helped me visualize the legs and tail by modeling his feline anatomy for me.

model01.jpg (40919 bytes)
model02.jpg (18907 bytes)
model03.jpg (18453 bytes)
The wire frame took shape more slowly than I expected.   Getting this far took the better part of an afternoon.  I suppose part of the reason was that I was being very careful, turning it around and looking at it from all angles while working on it to keep the solidness fresh in my mind.

I was trying to visualize my griffin-morph character Legend standing on the edge of a cliff about to take flight.  I decided to focus on long, graceful sweeping curves, to get the feeling of flight into it.  It really helped to be making a wire frame first rather than trying to flesh it out all at once.  I got a certain amount of freedom from realizing that it was all going to be covered up in the next step.

(click on any of the images for a closeup)

I used Sculpey modeling compound for the next step.   Sculpey has a nice, smooth clay-like texture that's easy to work with, but it doesn't seem to take detail very well.  That may be the material, the tools, or my lack of experience with it.

I started the fleshing-out by putting large ovoids of Sculpey where the major muscles would be, and blending them into each other to form a smooth contour.  To get the muscles in the right places, I referred to my favorite art reference books:  Drawing The Head & Figure, and How To Draw Animals, both by Jack Hamm.

This part took less time than building the wire frame.  The figure looks a bit thin in places, but I was planning to approach the shape in several stages, because I realized I had to visualize it more solidly first before I could finish it.  Not too surprisingly, I found that the closer I got it to the right shape, the easier it was to get it the rest of the way.  At some point the visualization centers clicked in, and I could see it as a griffin-morph instead of an oddly shaped lump of clay.

Then I realized the head was wrong.  Instead of an eagle, it looked like a cross between a seagull and a dolphin.  It tried really hard to resist being fixed, so I took it off and did it over.  I also realized I could just as easily have made this mistake with the fursuit, if I hadn't done this step first.

model06.jpg (14956 bytes)
model05.jpg (13944 bytes)
model04.jpg (12379 bytes)
model07.jpg (15118 bytes)
model08.jpg (15490 bytes)
model09.jpg (15053 bytes)
In the final stage, I tried to visualize the fursuit the way I would be wearing it.  I made allowances in the neck for being able to put it on over my head, and in the back for the wing and tail armatures.  If this is going to hurt the appearance, I thought, let me see the bad news now.  Then maybe I could come up with a clever way of dealing with it.  Clay is a lot easier to change than foam and fabric.

The head turned out not to be a problem, but I realized the back of the head was going to have to look like a thick feathered or furred crest, to hide the fact that it's so bulky.  Surprisingly, it needed some padding in the chest too.  Birds have huge chest muscles, and griffins are even stronger than that.  But the good news is that it makes the head look a little less heavy by comparison.

I also realized that this will give me more freedom in padding the legs, which is good news.  I want to make the legs look semi-digitigrade, and it looks like this is not going to be a problem after all.  For the feet, I can use the same technique seen in recent fursuit competition winners.  The griffin "foot" will be an illusion, built up on the front of a boot.  The back of the boot will be concealed by long fur hanging from the built-up heel.  The legs will be padded to give the illusion of a lion's leg, with my own leg concealed comfortably inside it.  Look closely at the heel in the top of these three pictures to see what I mean.