THE CRUCIBLE OF TRANSMUTATION



anecdotes about the creative process

Young Iguanodon Sculpture

Sculpture of a juvenile Iguanodon dinosaur. edge

During the late 1990s, I worked for Walt Disney Feature Animation on their first computer-generated movie DINOSAUR. For that production, I worked as a supervising animator over Neera, the main character's love interest, and all of the juvenile dinosaurs. On Disney movies, supervising animators were made responsible for character acting performances; however, they had limited control over character design decisions which were made by group committee. I was unhappy with the final design of the juvenile iguanodons which, in my opinion, did not look as cute as they might have been. Because of this dissatisfaction, I was inspired to create a personal sculpture - my own interpretation of how the young iguanodons should have looked.READ AND SEE MORE...

Making Models and Props (part 3)

Model-making was an interesting, challenging, creative, and very cool profession; however, as time went on, I became increasingly concerned about health-related issues associated with that particular line of work. Although I loved making models and props, I decided to move out of that field of the business and focus exclusively on animation. Here are examples of my last model-making projects.

Watch Kourov have a blast in the cave! CLICK TO PLAY

Sylvester Stallone's Rambo movies were very popular in the 80s, and I was fortunate to have worked on some great scenes from 1988's Rambo 3. Introvision International provided visual effects for the film, and one of the key scenes involved the spectacular death of the badass Russian soldier Kourov. In that sequence, Rambo fights Kourov near the opening of a subterranean cave. After a failed attempt at choking him with a rope, Rambo pulls the grenade pins attached to Kourov's vest then knocks him down a hole into the cave, ultimately hanging and exploding him at the same time. That novelty death scene was actually filmed using miniatures by Introvision, the company which hired me as a sculptor for the project.READ AND SEE MORE...

Making Models and Props (part 2)

By 1987, I was reaching my goal of becoming a professional stop-motion animator; however, the work was inconsistent due to the typical "per project" hiring practices of the movie industry. To remain employed, I continued to take on sculpting and model-making gigs. Sometimes the two professions were both needed on the same production, a situation which worked out very well.

Scary castle on hilltop. edge
This spooky castle was created for a 1986 Budweiser print advertisement. Anton Tremblay designed and supervised the project, while Christopher Halsted and I were sculptors. The main material we used for the project's fabrication was green foam, aka "green death" in the model-making industry. The process of carving the foam caused the release of gritty, nasty particles which were very hazardous to breathe and tended to cling to our clothing. The only real advantage to using the material was the fact that it was fine-grained and easy to carve. Typically we would don disposable coveralls and use a respirator or a dust mask to protect our health while sculpting the foam. The finished model, which I photographed on stage for my records, stood about four feet high. In the actual final ad, a couple of people were composited in, positioned by the bridge and looking up at the castle (without the benefit of Photoshop, which had not been invented yet).READ AND SEE MORE...

Making Models and Props (part 1)

During my boyhood years, my favorite hobby was building plastic model kits of monsters, heroes, animals, cars, science replicas, space ships, and occasionally airplanes. Many of my skills came from that disciplined pastime of working patiently with paints and glues, cutting with blades, and filling and sanding seams, to achieve the goal of creating a perfect miniature. My assembling of model kits brought an intimate understanding of how things are constructed and how they function in the real world - everything from human anatomy to automobile engines. I was served well by those skills when I later began to create my hand-made independent stop-motion films and eventually worked professionally as a model maker and prop builder for the motion picture and advertising industries.

Giant robots guarding a gate. edge
My first real model-making gig was a job at Introvision in 1985, where I worked on a pilot project called Danger Quest under the supervision of Gene Rizzardi. In collaboration with model maker Zuzana Swansea, I was given the task of fabricating a mountain wall landscape with a cave-like entrance. Our technique entailed the carving of the basic shapes out of styrofoam, then etching the foam by squirting it with acetone, resulting in a lunar rock appearance. The acetone/foam reaction released some toxic gasses, requiring us to wear protective garments and respirators. From the start, I experienced some of the possible hazards in the world of professional model making! Other model makers built the cool robot guards which were added to the scene after we completed the miniature background set. After the setup had been lit on stage by the camera crew, I was able to photograph the full scene in 3-D for my personal collection.READ AND SEE MORE...

The Living Body as Sculpture

Frank Zane and Lisa Lyon, examples of classic bodybuilding physiques! CLICK TO PLAY

Some may call bodybuilding a sport but it can also be a true art form. Bodybuilders literally sculpt themselves by making conscious decisions about where to add and where to subtract, accomplishing their goal with focused weight training, exercise, and diet. The objective of their efforts is to reach the physical ideal, which is certainly subjective depending on the eye of the beholder.

When I was a very young man, I attended the 1979 Mr. Olympia competition and filmed many of the highlights with my trusty Super 8 camera. In that event, the bodybuilders essentially gave stage performances as living, breathing sculptures. Frank Zane, arguably the greatest bodybuilder ever, won the contest for a third straight year. A unique guest poser was also at the event, pioneering female bodybuilder Lisa Lyon. The show represented the end of an era. Within a few short years, the world of professional bodybuilding was to experience HUGE changes. The following is some background information on these featured stars in my movie clip.READ AND SEE MORE...

Tattoo Parlor Diorama

The Living Art Tattoo Parlor with Harley Davidson motorcycle and inked woman. edge

Leaning against a parked Harley-Davidson chopper, a woman wearing nothing but inked images gestures toward the doorway of the Living Art Tattoo Parlor. This was the concept of a piece I created in 1985, in the unique art form known as Shadowbox Diorama. Projects of this type require a great deal of planning, as well as the skills necessary to execute it such as painting, sculpture, model making, staging, design, craftsmanship, and custom lighting. It was quite a challenge to produce!READ AND SEE MORE...

Sculpting Cavemen for Animation

A group of cavemen at home in their cave. edge

One of my all-time favorite animation projects was the 1989 production of STANLEY AND THE DINOSAURS, directed by John Clark Matthews. Besides animating half of the show, I also sculpted many of the characters, including a tribe of 10 cave people and a juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex. The clay sculpture was the basis of each character, however it was only part of the collaborative process of creating stop-motion puppets for this movie.READ AND SEE MORE...