Exclusive interview with sculptor Jonathan Matthews, creator of super heroes action figures and limited editions statues - Part one
Article Produits Dérivés du Mardi 10 Janvier 2012

Jonathan Matthews is one of the most talented sculptors in the American action figures and collectible statues industry. We have been so impressed by his three dimensional adaptations of the very specific graphic styles of Jack Kirby and Mike Mignola that we wanted to know how this remarkable artist works. Jonathan has been kind enough to answer Effets-speciaux.info’s questions. This marks the very first time we are publishing an interview both in English and French, to make some of our articles accessible to visitors from all over the world. If you enjoy it, let us know !

Interview : Pascal Pinteau

You seem to like Sci-Fi and Fantasy a lot. What were your favorite books, comics and movies when you were a kid ? And what are your favorite now ?

As a kid I had a wide range of movies, books and comics I loved. Pretty much all of Ray Harryhausen's work made a big impression. I loved KING KONG and as an adult really enjoyed Peter Jackson's version as well. ALIEN and ALIENS stand out in my memory and I have some of the alien toys around my studio. And of course I absolutely loved THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON. When it came to comics & books DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and anything Spider-Man got me excited. Always have enjoyed and still do anything by Stephen King. Things haven't changed a whole lot as an adult. Still love KING KONG, all the BATMAN Movies and will go see anything by the Cohen Brothers.

Did you collect action figures as a kid ? What kinds of toys did you prefer then ?

You bet. What childhood isn't complete without some GI Joe, He-Man and STAR WARS figures. Still have some in a box somewhere too. I always liked micronauts and transformers too, but really didn't collect them. The majority of my childhood collection is 3 3/4 inch GI Joes.

Did you always enjoy sculpting, even as a kid ? Or did you start in art school ?

Always. Loved to play with oil clay and the occasional home made play dough. I could spend hours making little creatures or rudamentary action figures. I got into drawing in high school and trained as an illustrator in college. I always found myself doing little sculptures if there was some clay or sculpey around, but it was just something I'd do on the side for my own enjoyment. I did a few assignments in college three dimensionally but I didn't consider it as a career possibility until after graduation I was offered by some classmates to work on an action figure project. At that time I was working as an Illustrator and jumped at the opportunity. I worked at Resaurus as a staff sculptor for a little over a year. The company went under and I went freelance, since there was a lot of work at the time. This was in the late nineties. Been doing it ever since.

Do you sculpt only for the toy industry, or do you sculpt also for animation or live action movies or series ?

I have only worked on projects for the toy industry. I've had a few opportunities to branch out into other areas, but none of them appeal to me as much as action figures and statues. I've got some colleagues who've gotten into digital modeling and subsequently character design for motion pictures and video games, but I haven't made the leap to digital yet. I did a project in college that was a stop motion film. I did all the characters for the project, but that's about as close as I've gotten to working on a project for the silver screen.

Can you explain which were the main toy projects you worked for before working for DC Direct ?

As I mentioned, I worked for Resaurus for a year or so. There I got to work on various projects, including MAGE KNIGHT, STREET FIGHTER, THE TENTH, SONIC THE HEDGEHOG, etc. The time I spent there was basically on the job training. We worked on a decent variety of projects and mostly each of these were in different styles from one another. One day I'd be sculpting some hyper detailed monster, and the next I'd be doing a cartoony thing that was all smooth planes and big smiling faces. When Resaurus went under, I went freelance and got to work on other projects like Plan B Toys' SPECIAL FORCES line, Graphitti Design's INACTION FIGURES, Palisades Toys' RESIDENT EVIL, GI JOE, etc. Most of my project directors from Resaurus got jobs doing the same thing throughout the industry so I ended up working for a decently diverse group of collectibles companies but with some of the same people I'd worked with since my start in the industry.

How different is it to sculpt an action figure with articulated parts instead of an usual one piece sculpt ? Can you explain the process, step by step ? And also mention the materials and tools you use ?

The process for either an action figure and a statue aren't much different really. The scale and complexity of a statue is generally different from that of an action figure, but for the most part the process is nearly identical. I sculpt either in a wax like material called castilene. I keep chunks of it under a heat lamp, which keeps it soft for me. castilene is fairly hard at room temperature, and the heat lamp warms it to a consistency more like sculpey. Since castilene is pretty hard when cooled, i don't generally need any armature so i can just start blocking in a statue or figure right away.. no wire twisting. I will armature really small parts. Fingers/ hands and strands of hair.. things like that will be the only things i bother with any armature on. I mostly use my fingers to do the early shape blocking and gradually refine the surface with various sculpting tools. I've got a ton of tools bought or acquired throughout the years. Almost all of these are small stainless steel things. Some are dental tools, some are bought from an art supply store. Really, as far as tools are concerned, every sculptor is different. A lot of us get the same effects with different tools.. it just depends on what you get used to using. I really only use about five or six tools with much regularity. When i've got my sculpt looking pretty much the way the final will look.. that is, where the pose and costume details are all represented roughly, I'll plan out where I need to cut the figure for either articulation, or for ease of molding in the case of a statue. As I said earlier, the process isn't much different. Both a statue and an action figure needs to be cut into parts for easier molding for production and for articulation for an action figure. When I've got my sculpture in pieces, I use square rods to reassemble a statue. I make sure everything fits well and go on to finish the piece. For an action figure I add individually tooled joints where the figure has been cut into pieces. All the hinge joints like the elbows and knees and t-crotch will work on the original wax sculpture just like they will in the production piece. For the ball joints, I'll use a sphere of plastic or a marble or something to hold the place of a ball joint. Final engineering for those are done in the factory. When I've got the joints in and working, I'll finish the sculpture. The finishing is the most tedious and time consuming part of the process. I generally use my tools and sand paper to do all my finishing work.

The second part of Jonathan Matthews’s interview will be published soon on Effets-speciaux.info !

[Community boards]
Bookmark and Share