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The Making of My Neighbor Totoro by emilySculpts The Making of My Neighbor Totoro by emilySculpts
1. Basic Armature - I started with a 7” wood base. I drilled 3 holes and used epoxy to glue 3 thick wires into place, one for each totoro! I used hot glue to attach foil to the base to build up the ground that the totoros are standing on.

2. Building Up the Base (Super Sculpey)/More Armature - Before I can worry about the proportions of my characters, I want to make sure the ground is in place so I can keep the heights accurate. I also attached some thin wire for the arms, leaves, and umbrella. These thinner wires were wrapped around the thick posts and hot glued into place.

3. Bulk Out with Foil - Totoros are bulky guys! I made sure to use a lot of foil so I didn’t burn through clay too quickly. Getting the shape right on the large totoro in particular was very tricky. He looked like a potato for a long time.

4. Main Forms Sculpted (Sculpey Firm) - It may seem like I skipped a step here, and I sorta did. But there wasn’t a whole lot to look at before I finished building up all the main forms. With simple characters like this, I find I can’t get the overall shape right until I start adding in some of the features. The features give me reference points to work off of so I can more accurately sculpt the overall form.

5. Texture and Details - Wires were added for the whiskers and the umbrella was fully formed using more wire and apoxie sculpt to hold them in place. Details like the claws and leaves were added. I also decided to give the large totoro a light fur texture to make him stand out from the rest of the piece a bit.

6. Baked and Sanded - This sanded up so nicely! I was very excited. The umbrella was created using glassine and mod podge. This is a technique you can read all about in my new book (see below for more info).

7. Spray Primer - A nice coat of gray primer helps even out the the surface and gives everything a nice, cohesive appearance. This will also help the paint stick better to the baked clay.

9. Base Coats Applied - Base coats take so long to paint as they need to be done in thin layers. This was the result of around 1.5 hours of painting. However, everything moved pretty quickly afterwards.

And of course the finished piece can be seen to the right. I applied gloss coat to the eyes, noses, and teeth of the characters as well as the stream and the bottom edge of the base. This adds nice contrast.


Want to learn to sculpt like I do?

Check out my new book, Creature Sculpt!


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Submitted on
February 27, 2013
Image Size
476 KB


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Camera Data

iPhone 4
Shutter Speed
1/120 second
Focal Length
4 mm
ISO Speed
Date Taken
Feb 12, 2013, 10:06:06 AM
Adobe Photoshop CS6 (Macintosh)