Ariel was the first human(well semi-human) character I tried to sculpt. One of my Mom's favorite movies is "The Little Mermaid", so I decided to try and get Ariel done in time for Christmas and give it her as a Christmas gift. I really liked Glen Keane's version of Ariel and wanted to try and make the sculpt capture that moment when Ariel is singing "Part Of Your World" in the secret grotto.
I sculpted the rock she is sitting on first. That was pretty easy. When it came to the Ariel figure, I sculpted a sort of pose-able doll with my armatures and sculpey. It had small head, a small rib cage and a small hip structure with thick armature wire throughout that acted as a kind of spinal column. I baked this first and then sculpted over it. This way I had something underneath that was sturdy so I could constantly adjust her pose as I worked.
The process worked really well and I've done all my other sculpts this way ever since. I was always arching her back more or raising her head a bit to match the pose from the movie.
Her hair was fun to figure out because she was underwater and it had to look that way, kinda like there is a current pulling at it. I made the seaweed look like it was being pulled by the water too. I cut strips from a sheet of brass and painted them to look like kelp.
The fingers on the hand of the outstretched arm gave me a little problem... I kept breaking them off while I was working on stuff! I should have put little wires in them as well, but I didn't think of that until too late. I worked around it and kept fixing them.
The tail being very delicate had to be handled the right way. I wanted it to look like the one in the movie, very thin, very feminine, very graceful. I sculpted the fins separate, each with a wire loop inside, and sanded them down to the right thickness. I mounted the fins onto the tail with epoxy putty and sanded the tail down to the right shape. When I painted her you couldn't tell.
I tried really hard to capture the feeling in her face and eyes the way the animation did in the movie. It took a while but I eventually got it. After that the whole thing really took off and I had fun putting it together. My Mom and Dad thought I had bought it somewhere!