At what age did you decide to attempt your first custom, and what were the circumstances behind it?
I was about 7 or 8. My mom used to buy these acrylic Paint-By-Number sets of forests and bridges and stuff, and she always had the little paint pots left over. I had battered my early straight arm Joes into a mess of broken thumbs and limbs, as well as beating the crap out of my VAMP. I took her old paint pots and tried to paint camouflage on some of my more beat up figures, like Grunt, Zap, and Short Fuze, and painted up the VAMP to match. They were my special team of Joes, I called them "The Annihilators". Of course, I could not spell, so the logo painted on the side of the VAMP read "Annilators". I still have the VAMP today. The wheels are still caked with 25 year old mud.
Ever considered creating a 'custom army'?
I suppose it depends on what level you're referring. If you mean completely from scratch, new team, new characters, fully designed from the ground up, then no, not really. I always have ideas in my head, though. I've had designs in mind, and I have always loved looking at customs from the guys who REALLY let their imaginations run wild, creating fully fleshed out universes with their own realities, characters, teams, armies, etc. That is some wildly creative work there, but I try to stay within the GI Joe mythos for most of my work. I have army built a lot of my easier to reproduce custom vehicles, like my Missile Carrier HISS Tanks, and my FLAK HISS tanks, so in most people's terms, just in sheer volume, they could constitute a small army. Some of my simpler figure customs I have done multiples of, but those were mainly custom head swaps on useless bodies from multi-packs, like my old Scrap-Viper and the Emperor's Royal Vipers, both still on Joecustoms now.
What is your main motivation behind your customs?
Well, I'd have to say there are several. Of course, it starts with wanting something that Hasbro won't make, or didn't make well and I can improve upon, or just making something no one else but me has. There is a purity of vision to customizing...You see something in your head, you make it, it now exists in the real world. It's place, it's importance in your own mind, in your own collection, can't be compromised, even if someone else doesn't get or agree with your personal creative vision.
This is one reason I enjoy buying or trading customs from other artists...Not so much because it is something I can or can't do, but because that figure or vehicle is the physical manifestation of that person's vision, labor, and enjoyment of the hobby. If I think it looks cool on top of that, then I get that, I understand their vision. So another reason to customize is that connection with other artists, like minded people that aren't your average Joe collectors.
A final motivation is escape. I am entrenched in a lot of different levels of GI Joe related activity. It literally surrounds me at all times. I have been collecting basically since I was six, and buy everything from loose figures and vehicles, carded and boxed pieces, AFA graded pieces, original production art, package art, prototypes, foreign items, as well as participating in army building, traveling to shows, looking for the new line at retail, selling Joes online, working behind the scenes with some friends on Joe-related web sites, constantly working on my own collection displays...I've always got something that I am working on. So, when the politics of high end buying get to me, when the people online are making me sick, when I'm frustrated that I can't find anything at retail, when eBay starts throwing new rules around and buyers are hammering me with intolerant, impatient crap, I can always escape to making Customs to express my fandom, and no one can take that from me.
I am amazed you are even referencing those, they have not been on the net for viewing for quite a while. I am glad so many people enjoyed them. They were inspired by the work of another artist, and were sort of a political stand against the modern Joe new-sculpts, to show that the new designs would work on a vintage Joe format. I had planned to make the project slated more towards individual characters that had multiple modern designs, so say, taking every firefly figure since 2002 and remaking them in a vintage style. I have a lot of them either planned, or assembled and awaiting painting, so yes, I have more coming. My job has been making it hard to find the time to finish up a lot of work, but some day I hope to. I know there is a devolved DTC Grand Slam in a drawer waiting to be painted, as well as a VvV Tunnel Rat.
When working on customs, what is your main goal? IE selling, compatibility, poseability, appearance?
I would say, from that list, appearance and compatibility are my main concerns. I don't sell customs often, if ever, and poseability isn't a factor outside of the standard vintage Joe format. Any custom I do has to stand with an army of vintage Joes and fit in, even if it has some improved parts like heads and hands. I allow some suspension of disbelief on things like Overkill or BATS, since they are robots and can be built however. But any other piece needs to be compatible and accurately reflect my idea for that project.
I would add practicality to that list. I tend to lean towards practical military concepts, or expanding Joe related designs in a more practical way. Climate adapted or re purposed vehicles, then drivers for said vehicles, or standard military concepts fit to different teams...I'm not sure how else I can explain it, other than to say you won't see a ton of Crimson customs from me, because red stands out too much, and you won't see something that looks too out of place, like a flying HISS tank or something.
Who are your three biggest influences when it comes to creating new customs?
Well, I'm gonna call the Wonder Twins one influence. I can't tell them apart, and if I'm stealing an idea from them, I always have to go back and see which one I stole it from. But seriously, Chad and Matt do some of the coolest work. Practical, well-executed, and well-presented, they do some of the best work on the net.
Then, I can't call this guy an influence per se because it would be like saying I'm "influenced" by Michelangelo or something...LIVEVIL plays this game on a completely different field than the rest of us. His work is just exquisite, true art. The sculpting, the parts usage, I can never tell where something started, it is like looking at completely new Hasbro action figures, or BETTER. He's a god among customizing men.
And, I GUESS I gotta say John Russell, Alyosha. Why? Well, the whole Devolution project was born from the work he was producing at that time. And that project has taken up so much of my creative energy and time, right down to the items slated to be done in the future, it changed the way I look at my own work. So, he is inadvertently to blame...plus he does those cute little custom casts...Aren't they ADORABLE? You can always get a little Head from John...
There are a few others worth mentioning...I've stolen lots of ideas from Sgartz and Phil Lociano, and DavAnthony always has something that will give me some ideas. I watch a lot of cartoons, ideas come from there a lot, as well as reading White Dwarf. I don't play any wargames, but White Dwarf showcases some great kitbashing and painting talent, and is always good for ideas.
Your custom vehicles are also among the coolest out there. Any special tips you can recommend to new customizers?
Thanks, I am glad people even noticed them! I can offer several things...
First, research your materials, from the items you are painting, to the paint you're using. Different plastics react to paints differently, and sometimes bad results can ruin a project. Buying $1.04 spray paint at Wal-Mart could yield $1.04 results. There are a lot of people out there that have tried it all and succeeded or failed in one way or another, and most would be happy to tell you. Don't be afraid to spend a little more on materials if it will yield better results.
Keep it simple. Sometimes the best results come from the simplest ideas.
Be patient....Paint and glue need to dry. Read a magazine. Watch TV. Do some chores. If you screw something up because you could not wait to keep working on it, you'll be doubly-pissed that you have to spend the time fixing it to get back to where you were.
Keep an open mind, and an open eye. There are great bits and pieces everywhere, but look at things in REALITY, too. What I mean is, look around you...If you're making a vehicle, what makes it move? Is there room for a motor? How does the operator get into it? Does it always look brand new or does it have some wear? Look at real world vehicles and take the details from them. Tanks have equipment hanging on them, Jeeps and hummers have oil stains and road dirt, planes could have battle damage. If you're creating a dio, ask yourself the practical questions...Where's the electricity? Add an outlet on a bare wall. Should there be a window? Add one. People are MESSY, add some dirt, a trash can, a light, a coffee mug, a magazine. How do they poop? Make a bathroom. The devil's in the details and it can make the difference between a blank, uninteresting piece and a "lived in" looking, realistic final product.
Invest in some custom decals. There are several places that makes them now, and they make a HUGE difference. I have built entire custom vehicles around having one decal that would make it or break it.
Recycle. Trash is your friend. Seriously, I have made great pieces out of completely trashed vehicles and parts to the point where if I am shopping on eBay, I am more apt to look for the WORST condition piece I can find, because I know the little extra drilling, screwing and gluing I have to do will make the final product that much more fulfilling. And it is generally cheaper.
Finally...Don't be afraid to fail. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
From start to finish, how long does your average custom figure take to complete?
Maybe a day or two. I try to plan some things ahead, so I have multiple pieces brewing at once. When I am in the mood to work on customs, I get a bit impatient. I may not wait for a coat of spray paint to completely dry, and screw it up with fingerprints or something. If I have several pieces in several stages of production, I can always move to another one while one is drying. With this method, I can generally churn out several pieces in a weekend, but I would say a full free day is about what it takes to get a single piece done.
Single most extensive custom you've ever done -what was it and why was it so difficult?
I don't do a lot of sculpting, so I'm not very good at it. I would say my Black Dragon and my Sigma Six Firefly were the most extensive due to sculpting many of the details. I had to build Firefly's vest from Apoxie and styrene bits, and sculpt Black Dragon's harness from scratch. It would be cake for the guys that do more sculpting, but for me, it was tough.
For vehicles, it was probably my Dragonhawk. I went a little nuts with the paint job on it, and while I am still not happy with it, it was a GREAT experience in that it taught me NOT to go too far with camouflage. Less really is more.
If time, space and money were not an obstacle, describe what you would make in terms of a dream diorama.
An air battle scene viewable from all 4 sides, suspended in a large space, hanging in several layers depicting many air battles that show every Joe and Cobra aircraft ever made, as well as my custom ones. A MASSIVE battlefield with hundreds of HISS tanks overrunning a Joe installation. A free standing COBRA island with everything from Mindbender's lab to a Viper locker room, from a weather Dominator and MASS device to a functional looking Firebat delivery silo-system leading into a Terror Drome at it's peak, and a large Cobra rock formation inviting all to say Hi. A GI Joe HQ sitting atop a huge pit with storage, a motor pool, landing pads, labs, a sick bay, and a prison level. And, expand my one existing diorama, a Cobra Airfield, to include a full tower and outlying scenery like fenced in jungle and swampland for Joe to slog through. A seascape scene, with dozens of Hydrofoils and Water Moccasins assaulting the Flagg. Finally, a space scene with the Defiant being attacked by Stilettos and Astro Vipers.
KrymsynGard666 is the last man on Earth and can pick 3 figures to spend the rest of his life with. What would they be and why?
Well...One should be a chick, right? If I'm the last man on earth, I'm going to need to repopulate? So, I should have a Scarlett or something? To make little plastic babies?
Without a doubt, a Viper and a BAT, because they've been my favorite army builders for as long as I can remember. Then, Starduster, my favorite Joe figure from the vintage line.
You can see some of KrymsynGard666's previously unseen work in his photobucket album. Trust us when we say it is worth checking out.