Thursday, February 26, 2009

The comic book portrait I

Through the years I have really come to love sculpting faces. I think a great face sculpt can carry you a long way in this business. If the face looks incredible, then you are willing to accept certain things with the rest of the sculpt that you might not forgive if it were the other way around.

If a sculpt had 100% perfect anatomy and a terrible grill... the piece is more likely to get thumped by fans. I'm not saying that I don't try to bring my A game to the table when it comes to sculpting anatomy... in fact I love it... I'm just saying that if the heroes don't look regal and handsome, if the women don't look as gorgeous as Salma Hayek, and if the villains don't look like they could scare the holy hell out of you, then it might not have the success it is surely worth.

This is a business of blood sweat and tears and MANY HOURS worth of work can turn to a nightmare for an artist, the second that fans put on their art directing caps and say " MEH!". I've seen it happen to many sculptors whom I respect, admire and look up to, and I have felt the cold sting of it myself.

Does that mean the fans are evil? Hell no... The fans are dynamite and you as the artist have to weigh the comments and opinions, and always take them as they are.

Your best bet out of the gate to win everyone over, in my humble experience, is to give them a head sculpt that is a stand out. Some of the absolute finest sculptors in this business are able to blow you away with their portraits first and foremost. When the dust settles, I would love for people to look at my sculpture and see that I try to create something as visually stunning as I am able... starting with a kick-ass portrait.

I always pour a blank wax cast of a piece I have previously molded and start there. It is much easier to have a lump of wax and alter it, than it is to drip and build wax from scratch.

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Recently I have started a couple of new pieces. They are commission pieces, as well as portfolio pieces for DC Comics. I always start with the portrait. Many sculptors do not do it this way for fear of not getting the body properly in scale with the head. I think it is 6 of 1, and half a dozen of the other as it all has to match up eventually. By doing the portrait first, I can really begin to get inside the personality of the piece, and really find the mood and pose.

I am very excited about these new portraits, especially of the character called Sinestro. He is an old-time Green Lantern villain and he's got that great weathered, and arrogant look, like all good bad guys should have. You throw in those features, with a little Vincent Price vibe and you have a great project that people get excited about seeing.

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I did my usual, and poured a wax blank, of a head that was sculpted and previously molded. I let the wax cool and then I proceed to scrape, carve and drip hot wax where needed, to start fleshing out the new portrait. I get the piece close enough to send a picture or two of the WIP to the commissioner to get his reaction and we continue from there.

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I then go to town to bring a professional finish to the portrait, by putting in the fine details as well as polishing the wax to an incredible smooth state. At this point, I again fire off pics to the client to make sure he is as happy as I am with how the piece is progressing.

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Now the portrait is finished... I am very excited to tear into sculpting the anatomy. I can set the head on the workbench, and stare at it any time I need, to continue to get inside the personality and I want to convey into the final piece.

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It was a long one today... thanks for hanging in there and letting me ramble.




  1. A-frickin'-mazing. I am truly in awe of your talents. Detail is intense.

  2. Love this piece, and the info on how you go about it.

    Hope you don't mind, but I've added you to the list of sculptors I admire on my (not very interesting or often updated) blog, with a link back here.