The many faces of Coraline

Coraline PatternsI finally hit on the final pattern for Coraline’s face, today. Just for kicks, I took a picture of all the drafts that made it to pattern stage. There were, I don’t know, maybe five other iterations of her face that weren’t good enough to pattern. Making the lips happen was a pain in the hiney. I got the shape of them fairly quickly, but her chin went weak, because the paper was now folding in slightly different places. Look at the patterns on the wall. The differences of some of them are fairly subtle, huh?

Basically, what I do is I get a pattern that I like, then I tweak it, trying to edge it closer to what I want the final to look like. If I like what I see, I cut it apart to make it into a pattern. I made six during this venture, which is not so bad. Once I had the one that I liked, I scanned it and scaled it down. See the two bottom patterns? The smallest one is my scaled down final.

I then traced it on the water-color paper, intending to check two things. 1. I needed to make sure I’d gotten it down to the right size. 2. I needed to make certain that the paper could take the folds when it was that small. Both work, although, I botched this head almost immediately by getting glue on the outside. That will keep the paint from going on evenly. Alas. I kept going anyway since that wouldn’t stop me from finding out what I needed to know.

Making a final head differs from a draft in only a few ways. The paper that I’m using is stiffer, but it’s also a little more forgiving.

Tape on the faceI start by putting tape on the exterior of the face. This holds everything in place while I’m gluing.

Each seam gets a piece of paper glued inside to seal it.
Next I flip the face over and glue tiny pieces of paper in across the seams. With each one, I have to wait for it to dry before moving on to the next. The glue I’m using sets quickly, but still, I need to wait about two minutes each time.

Coraline the owl

Look! Coraline the owl. Okay, this shot is here only because it amused me.

And now a demonstration of the structural integrity of paper sculpture. Bear in mind, this is before I add the papier-mache to the interior to reinforce it.

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4 thoughts on “The many faces of Coraline”

  1. I’m always amazed by our hard-wired ability to recognize and respond to the human face, even when the human is a cartoon frog, or the fortified geometry of a puppet head.

    Already Coraline looks alive and animated. When you tapped her head against the table to demonstrate the boney strength of folded paper, I winced; luckily, she rebounded with a smile.

  2. I’ll admit that I cheated to deliberately evoke that response. I’m a bad person. At the start of the video, I cocked her head to make her appear to be looking at the viewer. In puppetry, focus indicates thought and that simple turn is enough to give the illusion of thought.

    This is part of the power of puppetry. Because the thing is inanimate, the viewer must invest part of themselves in believing that the character is alive. If I had a ball of paper and rapped it against the table, you would not have winced. By giving her life, I emphasized the fragility of the form, which makes it, in turn, seem stronger at the end.

    That’s also why I cocked her head again at the end, instead of just showing that there was no damage.

    Thanks for letting me know my little tricks worked.

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