Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I oughta not be in pictures...

I've helped out a friend, Matt Haley with some of his film shorts playing random thugs getting shot, or at least, shot at.
Check out "Safe" This was a promo short to sell the idea to backers to get the real thing made.


And "Blackstar Warrior" A joke short about a blacksploitation Star Wars movie starring Lando.

Blackstar warrior

All these were shot at Indent studios in Portland Oregon and most of the cast and crew did it for free. That's Leonard Roberts from "Heroes" as Lando, nice guy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ironback Spitter, King of the Koopa's

Story time!
So, back around '00 I worked at a gaming store in Seattle called Games and Gizmo's and Ron Kruzie was one of our customers. He had his award winning fantasy beastman army on display there and would come in and play his Imperial Guard army or do some work on one of his latest projects. He had planned to do a lizardman army and wanted to do a special project for his Slaan mage as he didn't like the howdah version that was available at the time. He wanted to have his priest riding on top of a giant snapping turtle and I did some concept sketches for it and gave it to him. Soon after G&G went out of business and forced everyone to go elsewhere for their geek-fix. Years later I was working at Privateer Press as a sculptor/mold maker/caster and Mike McVey had bought on this freelance painter for the mini's line and low and behold it was Ron. After I moved out of the area Ron went full time and is to this day they guy who I deal with directly for my Privateer jobs.
Skip ahead to summer of this year and Ron sends me the concept art for the Ironback Spitter. We talked on the phone and during the conversation I remind him of the Slaan mount I sketched up for his army and we both had a laugh at the irony; 10 years later and we finally got around to working on a snapping turtle.
If PP kept the parts breakdown like I did them I managed to slip in ball and socket joints at the torso, shoulders and neck to hopefully add a little variation when people put the guy together.

Picture provided by:Privateer Press, concept art by Chris walton, paint by PP paint crew

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The right tool for the job.

I've had this guys site for a while but keep forgetting to link to it. So here it is, a blog site dedicated to making your own sculpting tools. Not only that but the author has compiled all of the info into downloadable PDF format files, how cool is that?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Interview with toy sculptor Bill Merklein

Gyre-Viper over on Hisstank posted an interview he had with Bill Merklein, one of the head sculptors of the G.I. Joe toy lines as well as, Mighty Max, X-Men, Visionaries and Air Raiders lines from Hasbro during the 80's (just to name a few) Even if you are not interested in toys he does cover some of his sculpting techniques and materials. Here is your chance to see the guy who helped bring many of he iconic toy characters from the 80's and 90's to reality. Check it out, you might be surprised at what you may have owned that Bill had a hand in creating. But, be forewarned; the video may be broken into 7 parts but your looking at over an hour of info. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

YouTube - Bill Merklein GI JOE Interview Part 1

YouTube - Bill Merklein GI JOE Interview Part 2

YouTube - Bill Merklein GI JOE Interview Part 3

YouTube - Bill Merklein GI JOE Interview Part 4

YouTube - Bill Merklein GI JOE Interview Part 5

YouTube - Bill Merklein GI JOE Interview Part 6

YouTube - Bill Merklein GI JOE Interview Part 7*

Update: 02/09/15; Gary Head (AKA Gyre-Viper / Gary Goggles) died from a heart attack yesterday. R.I.P.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


Something out of the ordinary that I did about a month ago. I love action figures and ever since I was a kid I wanted to be a toymaker, working on wargame mini's is about as close as I've gotten until now, (at least with me knowing about it.) For those who don't know there is a bit of an action figure customization community out there and there are several online shops who specialize in making parts just for that. I got approached by Alyosha from Broken Arrow Toys to help out with making a convention exclusive that will premiere next UnCon. Based off of a picture of Cobra Commander taking out his frustrations on a puppy here are some WIP pics from Broken Arrow on how the figure turned out.
If you are interested in action figure customizing I suggest checking out these sites...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Merc jacks part II

The first jack I did for PP was the Grundback Gunner, a wee chap who people on the forums call "gun bunnies." I as mentioned in the previous post I like to make figures pose-able and since I knew these guys would be fielded in groups I made sure there was plenty of ball and sockets on them. (Kinda hard to make a dynamic figure when all you have to work with is legs but I did my best.) Something I suspected but was never told was the possibility for weapon variants so I made sure the gun was separate. The one thing that I find odd is that every picture I have seen of the figures they are leaning back as if they are looking up at something. Its weird to me because all the art had them leaning down with their head closer to the ground and their ass up like a sprinter getting ready to bolt. Oh well. The guns for the Blaster version of this jack was done by a different sculptor, I don't know who otherwise I would give him credit for it.
The Basher, my boy! One of my own designs and I'm pretty happy with how he turned out. Back in January of '08 Ron hit me with three jack sculpts at once and all were of the highest priority, Normally it takes me about a month and a half just to get one done but I had three to do in the same amount of time. Needless to say it was the first deadline I missed. I make jacks bass-ackwards from doing monsters; with monsters I build the armature and add the muscle mass so by the end of it I know what the figure looks like and then cut it up for molding but with jacks I have to do all the bits separately and then fit them together after the fact. So I had a lot of failed pieces that were either too big or just not shaped right. While waiting for some putty to cure I started to fiddle around with the scrap bits, putting them together and I started to get a shape I was liking. After an evening of thought I got the epiphany of doing a Rhulic jack and began constructing the bits for a big two legged engine.
Since almost all Rhulic jacks are practical and functionary devices turned into something to be used on the battlefield this guy had to be the same. So the story I had was that down deep in the mines before the tunnels were shored or had the wench systems for the ore carts these jacks were used to drag out the heavy stuff, effectively mini locomotive engines with legs they would haul out the rubble and ore carts to the higher levels. One of their quirks was that they were single minded and bad tempered, something to do with the low grad cortex they were given but they were notorious for injuring inattentive jack marshals. Stomping on toes or shouldering workers into walls as they tromped up and down the shafts. Some of the ideas I had for the rules was that they could tow larger jacks into battle faster allowing the more heavy jacks to get out on the front lines quicker. The other was a ramming attack, the idea was that every round they stayed in motion their distance would increase incrementally as would their damage but it had to be in a forward cone like direction.
Since I'm not a rules guy they changed much of it but kept the spirit which pleased me (they were only ideas anyway) and they added (and subtracted) some detail to the figure. A front boiler plate was added (makes no sense to me as the boiler is in the back and a front mounted one is a big weak point in the armor) the grenade launchers were also put on his sides (I like that) but they took out the joint I put in the knees and tilted his toe talons up instead of digging into the ground. The knees is what bugged me the most but luckily I made a RTV mold of it before I sent him off so I have plenty of ultra positionable Bashers for me.
This guy and Mulg are the only figures I have designed for PP so far.
Pictures by Privateer Press, paint by Team Mcvey

Merc jacks part I

Uuuuugh. Need a break from sculpting... so I'll talk about sculpting instead, not much of a break. The Nomad was the second warjack I did for PP and the Mule followed right behind. Some of you may have seen what the artwork the sculptors work from look like by checking out Chris Walton's stuff and its an excellent example of what passes for the norm but the art that I got for this project was from Brian Snoddy, a totally cool guy who I still work with and occasionally hang out with from time to time. The difference in the art is that Brian's was more of a drafted technical drawing with front, side and back views. There was no action pose, parts breakdown request or anything like that; in short, I had free reign to come up with what I wanted to.
whenever I can get away with it I like to put in ball and socket joints or pivots allowing the customers the option of posing them and giving the figure their own personal touch. Its what I like when I buy a mini and I think it helps break up the rank and file look of an army if you end up fielding more then one. After talking with Mike McVey about what would look suitably dynamic I set to work. Jacks, mecha and tech looking stuff is not my strong point, it takes forever for me to get it done as I tend to file, cut and sand to shape the pieces rather then just sculpting them. This is the only way I've been satisfied with to get that sharp and hard look for metal. So, after a month I had the Nomad up and going and within another three weeks or so the Mule.
Pictures by Privateer Press, Paint by Team McVey

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bull Snapper

Latest from Privateer Press, a little(ish) guy for me. I didn't hear any complaints from their end so I guess it went into production without a hitch, whitch, considering the drastic twist in the body I'm kinda surprised. Concept art by Chris Walton who is no longer working directly with PP unfortunatly. But, we are still working together, Mua-ha-ha-ha!
Pictures by Privateer Press, paint by Privateer Press paint crew

Friday, August 27, 2010

So... I worked on a line of toys?

A while back I got an emergency call from Matt Wilson who had a friend that needed some sculpts done ASAP, I said sure (I could use the money) and got sent some concept art for a super secret project. After it was all done I didn't hear anything about it, I had no idea what I worked on or if it was even released to the public. Today I was scooting around Toys R Us and something caught my eye in the discount section. Something that looked strangely familiar. Turns out I worked on something called Nanovor by smith and Tinker; some kind of Pokemon, Digimon-ish game where you can collect wee beasties and have them battle each other via cards or small electronic devices. One of the two sculpts i did is called "Electropod" and is released, the other called "Plasma Lash" and I have no idea if he is out yet or ever will be, considering that I found it in the discount bin I'm guessing sales are not the best. Still, totally odd stuff

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Quick-ish post as I am supremely busy at the moment. The Bloat Thrall is one of the few Cryx figs I worked on, originally it was sculpted by another artist but PP was not happy with the final project so they gave the job to me. I was in the mold making department at the time so this guy had a tight deadline and it had to be done on my spare time. The tough bit about it was how big this guy is. I mean, he has a lot of mass all the way around, huge pieces lead to deformations in the molding process but at the time it seemed unavoidable. Not only that but all that pewter balanced on those spindly legs... Geah! One of the fun things was that the back detail only showed from the lower back up and me with my logic decided it made seance that if this guy was a giant skin sack holding caustic fluids that you would want all orifices that didn't lead to the gun closed off, right? So, stitch up his butt. I didn't think too much of it at the time but I guess it ended up being kind of a big deal, sorta like the junk on the original Dire Troll Mauler. I think Matt makes sure that any concept art I get now has any ambiguous spots on the sketches clearly detailed.
Pictures provided by Privateer Press, painted by Team McVey

Monday, July 26, 2010


Here is the latest figure (that I can talk about) that I did for Privateer Press; the War Hog. It's rare that I feel good about my sculpts after finishing them, they usually look like so much chaos with an upwards of four to five different mediums to get the desired effects. It isn't until after PP posts pics of the finished painted figure that I end up feeling a little better about it. This guy was an exception and I had a satisfied feeling of accomplishment once he was ready for shipping, but that didn't mean that I was without doubt...
For me, when sculpted a monster its fairly easy. I make the armature, bulk up the body and start the anatomy. By the time I get to doing the details like hands, face armor, etc. I already have a good idea of what he looks like overall. When sculpting a jack its bass-ackward; all the pieces are done separately and then put together to make (I hope, I hope) the finished figure. Things get more difficult when you end up with one piece that acts for both a left and right part to get a complete picture of the figure as a whole. The War Hog was something of an amalgam of both which ended up with me putting in late nights and early mornings questioning my skills and choice of vocation. All the cybernetic limbs had to be sculpted first, assembles onto a piecemeal armature and then the meat parts sculpted around it. If I screwed up the scale of the limbs it would mess the whole thing up.
I was even more happy to see the painted pics, the painting crew at PP did a great job. I hear this mini is going over decently with the Warmachine/Hoards players so I'm looking forward to lurking about on the forums to see what kind of paint jobs and conversions people will do to him.

Picture provided by Privateer Press, painted mini by Privateer paint team, concept art by Chris Walton

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Coming full circle...

So here we are at the latest incarnation of Hordes and I was asked to do the Dire Troll once again but this time with artwork to go off of. No real story behind this guy except that he is a new beast type for the Trollblooded faction. I know this guy was designed by Chris Walton who is now the primary concept artist at Privateer Press.
Picture provided by Privateer press, figure painted by Privateer Press paint team.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hello, my name is... MULG?

I think it was around Halloween of '08 when I had gone up to visit with the crew of PP for a party they were throwing; I had just finished the Juggernaut EX and was pumped about the response it got from Matt Wilson. By the time I got home I was itching to start a new personal project and I knew just what I wanted to do; I wanted to do a dire Troll character. Over the next 4 days I was in a sculpting frenzy, since I was between business projects I could devote all of my attention to the new sculpt. Usually when I sculpt something a story begins to form about it to explain why does he look the way he does. In this case I liked the idea of Hoarluk Doomshaper and his ties to dire trolls, if I remember right he disappeared into the wild and came back with a strange hold over the dire trolls, the idea I had was that during this time he went on a quest to find an ancient Krielstone high in the frozen cliffs of the mountains, little did he know that it was attached to the back of the most primeval of trolls. The beast had been waiting for him as Hoarluk's comming was prophesised, bestowed the name Dommshaper upon him and performed the trollish blood bonding ritual as well. The idea being that the dire tolls smell the ancient blood of their elder running through Hoarluk's veins and it is this blood that gives him such an affinity for the warbeasts.

The Concept that formed around the Dire Troll was that he was one of the most eldrich of his race and his massive stone like growths upon his back had some ancient and forgotten text carved into it turning him into a walking Krielstone. Whether the runes' power bestowed a greater-then-average intelligence or it was because of this intelligence that he was chosen to receive them was a mystery. But he was a walking artifact of a time before man and the trollblooded were still young.

The three things that I focused on for his character was his scars, his krielstone and his pose. Since dire trolls regenerate they don't bear scars, but this guy has a huge one going across his left side. His left eye, chest and arm have a trench of stone growths protruding from puckered flesh and originally his arm (where the club is) was a mass of jagged rock turning his fist into a savage living mace. I was attempting to make it look like he had his hand wrapped around something that might have exploded, something magical and volatile that did such damage to him that his regeneration could not cope, instead replacing his flesh with the calloused stone-like protrusions that usually form on the back and joints. The huge growth from his back (his quills of youth replaced by the mane of shards to signify his age) was turned into a krielstone, he would be the guardian of whatever knowledge had been carved into him until his death. The last was his stance and this was tricky. Practically every dire troll is rushing to get at the enemy, all pissed and yelling. That didn't seem right for something venerable like this guy, to reach his age he would have been more clever and maybe because of his age, more grim. Sure he was still dangerous and easy to anger but I wanted him more wise and battle hardened. Instead of flipping out I imagined him stalking across the battlefield, implacable and inevitable, saving his anger for the mighty blow that would surly come once he arrived at his destination. So for this, instead of a charging motion I went with a stride and a look of impending doom on his face like someone was going to get it.

Once I finished I told Matt and Ron about it, sent it up with the proposed idea and awaited their response. They liked the sculpt but sent it back with one correction; his left arm that was the mass of stone was to be replaced with a whole hand and was to carry a club. Some sketches of what they wanted was provided and in a couple of days was sent back up with the new bits. By December of '08 painted preview pics were posted and that is when I learned that he was to be called "Mulg.' I still don't know just how much of his character concept was kept as I have yet to get the Hoards book he is in or have been able to read his fluff, but I'm pretty sure that's him on the cover of Metamorphosis.

So, how cool is that? For a lowly sculptor to whip up a mini in 4 days and get to have rules made for him and to appear on the cover of a rule book? I seriously doubt that any other company would have done that, so my hats off to Privateer Press for putting up with my patented brand of spaz, it was a nice little ego boost to think that one of my own ideas would influence the game.

Pictures provided by Privateer Press, paints by Privateer Press paint team

Monday, May 10, 2010

R.I.P. Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta died today due to complications from a stroke at age 82. This man's work was a constant companion for me growing up and a source of inspiration to this day. He will be missed.

Dire Troll Mauler Extreme

This guy was the first in the "Extreme" line of minis put out by PP but that is not how it started out as...
In my last post I talked about how it had been 3 years between when the Dire Troll Mauler was done and its release, three years of sculpting in a production capacity and expanding my repertoire of techniques. I was on a hiatus from sculpting after my move from the Seattle area and was working as a temp elsewhere.
One of the perks about working for Privateer is that you get SWAG for the projects that you worked on, one day I got a package in the mail from PP that had the brand-spank'n new Hoards Primal book in it and I was blown away by the artwork on the cover. The Dire Troll Mauler was on the front getting ready to put the beat down on a Titan and it was glorious! THAT was a picture of a Dire Troll; texture, dynamics and rage. I had begun to think that if I had some conceptual artwork to do the original DTM how different would it look? The picture inspired me to give the sculpt a second try and this time since it wasn't going to go into production I could use whatever material I wanted to make it.
This time I started the guy out of Fimo; an Aluminum armature with Greenstuff to bulk up the general shape and finally Fimo for the detail. I did a little work for Randy Bowen of Bowen Designs and read a kick-ass article about sculpting concept Maquettes for movies and I was eager to try out a whole new bag of tricks . Also, I planned to cut him up as you would for production as I was attempting to teach myself mould making with room temperature vulcanizing materials and I thought this could be one big self taught lesson for me.
Rough sketches were done again but the whole thing was sculpted with a more free form whatever-looks-good approach to it. Besides the book cover what was really inspiring me was Peter Jackson's movie King Kong, I always thought the Trollblooded were pretty apish looking so this movie was perfect inspiration to help add to it all. In fact, the facial expression I used for the Troll was inspired from a particular scene in the movie where the crew is attempting to escape on their landing boats from Kong as he chases after them through a seaside cave. Some of the crew are firing their rifles at him from the reefs and as Kong passes by one the crew mate manages to piss Kong off enough that he grabs the guy and bites his head off. I loved the look he had on his face and I kept rewinding that part of the movie so I could see it over again all the while mimicking the facial expression and making adjustments to the sculpt.

Since this guy was mine I didn't worry about size restrictions, I could make him the size I thought he should be. Normally you have to make sure the width of the feet have to stay within the inner bevel of the plastic base which can lead to some awkward looking poses but again that was something I didn't have to worry about. I could get the dynamic stance I wanted and to get around him fitting on a base I would just make a piece of terrain to go on top of the plastic base. Problem solved.
I also decided to make a couple of weapon variants for his forearms; one was a set of crude looking blades that would replace his natural forearm spikes made to look as if they had been riveted directly into his flesh and I made a couple of stone obelisks attached by a length of chain that was bolted to his arms. His upper body pose could look as if he was punching with his standard arm spikes, slashing with the chunky blades or whipping wighted chain in a spinning arch. (The alternate weapons were not used as the marketing strategy they were shooting for meant that it could not brandish anything that they didn't already have existing rules, but if you own the DTMX and wondered about why the forearm spikes were separate, that's why.)

Just at the time that I finished sculpting the DTMX it was time to attend one of my favorite conventions. The Portland Lovecraft Film Festival is my chance to catch up with friends from out of town and previous PP coworker Jason Soles is a regular there. I mentioned the Troll to him and he said he wanted to see it so I bought it with me the next evening to show him off. If any of you have met Mr. Soles you know he usually has a slightly evil smirk that could mean just about anything, well, I found out what that smirk meant about a week later when Matt Wilson emailed me.
Matt said that Jason had told him about the Troll and wanted to see it, maybe make a limited run of it for the PP crew. I sent it up and Matt responded with a desire to purchase it. Ironically this was just before Christmas and my temp job laid everyone off to save money over the holidays. With my first freelance sculpting check in hand I began to seriously contemplate sculpting as an actual job. My girlfriend was totally behind me and I have been doing it since.

So, this guy who started as a personal project turned into my gateway as a freelance sculptor as well as kicking off the Extreme line of alternate gaming minis for Privateer Press.

Pictures provided by Privateer Press, paint by Team McVey

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Back in the day...

So I thought that I would give a little back story on some of the minis that I've done for Privateer Press since what most people get to see is the finished product. The first one I wanted to talk about is the original Dire Troll Mauler since it was one of the first production figures I ever did. This guy was done sometime back in '03 and unlike most of the other figs I did this guy didn't have any conceptual art to work from. Usually the sculptor is provided with artwork that shows off the details, poses, multiple angles, size and sub notes; all the info the sculptor needs to get the figure done how the client wants it. This guy however was a test.
Mike McVey had invited me over to his place to talk about a future project that he wanted me to work on, when I got there he broke out the Monsternomicon and showed me the picture of the Dire Troll and asked what I thought about sculpting it? Funny thing was is that since I was trying to get Privateers attention I had been sculpting figs that were inspired by their work to show to them and when I had picked up the Monsternomicon and saw the Dire Troll I had already decided that I was going to sculpt one anyway so when Mr. McVey gave me the project I jumped on it with genuine enthusiasm. This project was to see what I could do with an actual figure assignment and since Hoards was projected so far out they were safe if I screwed it up as they had plenty of time to reassign it to a more competent artist.
I am not a fan of sculpting with Greenstuff, I've rarely ever gotten what I intended when using it but it seems to be a current necessary evil in the industry, (if you don't know why I'll talk about that in a later post) and at the time PP didn't have a standard system for dealing with Fimo (which is primarily what I use) so Greenstuff it was. Mr. McVey had given me a rough size restriction which was to make him no bigger then a Warjack, that he had to fit on a large base and that the pose had to be dynamic. we talked a bit about what would look good with me stomping around the McVey's living room striking poses that we thought might work for the sculpt. I did some rough sketches when I got home and then I went to it. Because there was no due date There was a lot of experimenting and corrections done to him, I think it took around 6 months to finish him off and even then there were issues with certain bits on him, specifically his quill-hawk which had to be redone several times to ensure good castings.
I had gone to work directly for Privateer as a caster then a mold maker and sculptor and moved out of the Seattle area before this guy even went into production for Hoards. By then I had done a bunch of figs for PP and had gotten more familiar with the whole process but this figure is still pretty special to me as he was my first sculpt.

Picture provided by Privateer Press and paint job (I think) by Team McVey.