What got you into customizing to begin with?
I started doing customs as far back as 1985-86. I used to do 1/25th scale muscle cars, NASCAR racers, and CAMEL GT racers so I was familiar with some paints and techniques already. My first intentional figure was a custom paint job on a Marvel Secret Wars Wolverine. Painted him gray and black to make him more stealthy. Unfortunately it was was painted with Testors Enamels. Who knew? I also used to paint extra details on my Joe....one of the first was giving 1982 Zap a mustache.
What custom work are you most proud of and why?
My most recent Hit & Run custom hands down. It's my favorite custom of my favorite character. Each time I make a custom of that character it gets closer and closer to the way I want him to look. It's unfortunate that the picture evolves over time, and then I have to start all over again. A very close second would be the Nemesis Enforcer because he is such a departure from the original toy design, and to date has involved the most original sculpt work.
Where do you find the inspiration for your work?
I look all around. I draw inspiration from other customizers, and from the original Joe characters themselves. While a lot of the original designs were iconic, they have grown stale over time, and are less and less relevant to current real world counterparts. Back to the other customizers comment, one of my most important (IMO) was Budo. I'd have never done that character if Shark-bait hadn't done that series of figures that he did of Budo. They don't really resemble one another at the end, but that is definitively where I got the start.
What do you find to be the most difficult part of customizing?
Finding time to put all my ideas down on paper, or mock up parts. I have a WIP bin that has about 70 half finished custom designs in it, and with the time I have to give to my store, and store related projects those have all suffered. I'd like to have more time to paint, but that's a two edged sword. It makes the carpal tunnel flare up, and them I'm worthless to even write my name. A lot of folks ask why I don't do more original characters, and my answer is simple: with over 300 unique characters to choose from, I could work on just those for the rest of my life and not get finished so it's hard for me to see the point of adding any fanfic.
Which would you say is harder, creating a custom from scratch or reproducing that custom for sale in your store?
Not to be ambiguous, but they both have distinct challenges. Customizing is the more creative end of it and every single piece begins there so that is tougher mentally, but wrapping my head around how to mold some of these more unique parts is also a tremendous challenge. Those Nemesis Enforcer wing molds were a bear, not to mention about 1200+ grams of material (over 5 lbs) so getting those right on the first try was financially mandatory.
You have a lot of detractors in the community who admire your work, but dislike you as a person. Do you intentionally project a persona that rubs people the wrong way or do people just not know the real you?
If I'm honest with myself, I am hard to get along with, and because of that there will always be personality clashes in my life and by extension the communities I frequent. I don't like it at all (contrary to popular opinion) but given some of my personal life experiences, I learned a long time ago that time is too short to try to make nice when you don't really feel that way about a situation or person, and that if your true to yourself things will work out eventually. I usually take pretty careful consideration of the things I say or do, and am prepared for the impending backlash, but again please don't think that I like it but I won't step away from it either. I guess that does make me a jerk.
Are there any customizers' work that you really enjoy seeing and maybe even feed off of with your own customs?
I wish this page was long enough to list them all. A few are: DavAnthony (I love his paint, even though it's not my style), Hawkeye's real world stuff. Chad & Matt Smelcer whose ultra clean paint jobs I've tried to emulate. Livevil and Evilface for pioneering Joe customizing and the sheer number and varied subject matter. Spin Doctor for proving that a lot of times, the simple way to do things is often the most effective. Teknokyo for his mastery at copying existing characters into this format and guys like Alley Viper Elite and Gunslinger CBR for their creative and proliferate work. The list is really endless, and all for different reasons.
If time, money, and/or space weren't an issue, what would be the dream project you'd love to tackle?
Truthfully, I can't say. I've never even given that any consideration......I've completed my US RAH collection, and had my hands on almost every vehicle ever made, so it would probably be to grow my business to a large enough extent that I could step away from the manufacturing end, and work strictly on the creative part of the job. A lot of the fun gets sucked out of it when you have to do it for the money.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to a customizer who is just starting out?
Be patient. Culture and grow patience and you will pay off in dividends that easily surpass the work that myself and others are doing today. Also, work with good materials even though they are a bit more expensive it will show in your work.
If there was a fire and you knew everyone was safe, what one figure and one vehicle would you try to rescue and why?
Hit & Run custom version 2, and my Tomahawk. He's my fave version of my fave character, and the Tomahawk was the first Joe vehicle that I had to save for and buy all by myself so it has special meaning to me personally.
What do you want to be your legacy in the GI Joe community?
That I expanded the boundaries of what you do can at home as a customizer and get studio quality results, and that I was instrumental in making others realize that this is an art-form and the end result it is art and worth the price just like any other piece may be.