I’ve been quiet on here for a while as I’ve been drilling really hard learning Maya and Zbrush and getting the programs to work together, and I’ve made some big progress with the models I’m making. Before I post an update on those, I wanted to add some background to the narratives the characters I’m modelling are from. I’ll cover The Island of Dr. Moreau and my interpretation of the Leopard-Man in another entry – for this one, I’m going to give some information about the story/character of my own creation:
The narrative I am working on is a fantasy story that follows two characters who have been cursed with animal heads as punishment – one for being a thief, the other for being knight in disgrace after being falsely accused of treason. The story would follow the knight as she comes to terms with what has happened to her and tries to find a way to prove her innocence, and focuses on the friendship that develops between her and the thief as they travel together.
The fox-headed character I have posted here previously is the thief in question. While the knight (who gets a wolf’s head) is innocent of what she’s been accused of, the thief actually is a thief, and a rather unrepentant one. She relies on her wits to get out of difficult situations, and having had her cursed head longer than the knight, also acts as a guide and emotional support for learning how to cope with the change. She is initially a quite mysterious figure and the viewer would learn more about her as the knight does.
I gave this character a fox’s head because of the long association of that animal with cunning and cleverness, and folklore depicting the fox as a trickster such as the Roman de Renart. There is also a perception of foxes as thieves, whether stealing chickens from farms in the country, or scraps from the rubbish in cities. I don’t personally ascribe a negative view to this, as the animal only follows its instincts in looking for food – however, the fact that that negative perception exists works in-story as a reason for it to be seen as a fitting punishment for a thief.
(For the knight, I chose a wolf head because there are many fables, fairytales and legends which feature wolves as villains, and such a perception fits with the pseudo-medieval setting I have in mind for this story. Wolves were also hunted extensively by humans, to the point where they vanished altogether from some areas. Recent decades have revealed a much more in depth understanding of wolf behaviour and social structure by researchers like David L. Mech. This history gives me a neat metaphor for how the knight character has been misunderstood and villified, and helps illustrate her sense of loyalty, her natural camaraderie and how much being an outcast is painful to her.)
I boarded out a key early scene where the thief breaks the newly-re-headed knight out of her cell:(Click here for a larger version)
In terms of how the fox character looks, I tried to get a good point between realism and a relatively small amount of stylisation. It was important for the story to sometimes have her as very, almost off-puttingly inhuman-looking, and to be able to then pull that back to have her still be appealing to the viewer the rest of the time. For example, in the scene above, it’s the first time the knight has ever seen her, and also the first time she’s ever seen someone with the animal head curse. So I wanted that shot of the thief to look very inhuman and hard to read an expression into, to help put the viewer in the knight’s point of view in that moment.
So that’s a collection of visuals and information informing the fox headed model I’m making, the narrative purpose she needs to serve, and how I want the audience to feel about her.
To wrap up, here’s a little colour sketch of the two protagonists: