Here's the rough concept, sketched over the lifecast. The actress will be wearing dentures that push her lips out, so her mouth will meet up with and become the mouth of the creature, but her eyes will not be used as the creature's eyes. She'll have limited visibility out of the tear ducts. The gimmick will rely partly on the appearance that the creature's head is slightly tilted down.
And here's a sampling of the reference I'm using. I'm thinking it will be a lot of the general shapes of big cats, but the secondary forms will come from the hairless house cats.
I've been spending a lot of time over the course of this sculpture so far trying to figure out what makes a cat look like a cat, even if you distort the shape as heavily as I will be. To further complicate things, I knew I wanted the nose and upper lip to be more on the human side of the beastie. You'll see I've missed the mark several times in several ways in the process, but I think it's getting somewhere that's sort of promising now.
I'm an impatient sculptor (and an impatient artist in general), so before I figured out how I would handle the eyes or teeth, I went in and started blocking out one side in Chavant NSP Medium clay, based on the profile of the sketch. Something about it felt very rodent-like to me:
Later I made an eye form out of a wooden ball cut in half to add a little precision, and paid a little more attention to what makes an eye shape catlike. The upper lid has a lot to do with it. But now we were in some sort of Pan's Labyrinth-meets-Avatar realm.
I figured it was because the eyes were too buggy and stuck out too far on the sides, too (I did a little mirroring in photoshop to figure out where things were headed), so I vacuum formed some larger spheres so that I could have less than half a ball and still get the size across I wanted (less deep, just as wide). I just cut out the old eyes and stuck the new ones in. You can see here how they sit above the real eyes.
Now I was able to shave down a lot of the sides of the cheekbones to keep the top of the head in proportion with the bottom.
You can see I also added an actual stand in for the teeth now. Basically I lifecast the actress' lower face with the dentures in and made an insert piece in epoxy, painted black. This was so I didn't have to do a whole new lifecast for the project. I don't feel the slight inaccuracies of the process I'm using will matter on this one. I can get some pictures on those pieces if anyone's interested. Anyway, now I knew how the mouth had to go together, as well.
From there, I was able to move things along to a place I felt much better about. Incidentally, this is the first stage I broke out the tools for. Previously it was all pushing around warm clay. This is the basic form, and next will be the freaky cat wrinkles (which you can see I've started sketching in on the forehead). A lot has changed from the concept, but that was expected, since you can't really get a complete 3D design off a profile. The ears may get smaller. We'll see...
More to come.