Do you prefer to do vehicle customs over figures, or do you simply make customs based on whats inspiring you at the moment?
Growing up I was always one of those kids who enjoyed G.I. Joe for all of it's cool vehicles. I would spend all my allowance on a vehicle before a figure, so the Joe vehicles hold a special place for me as far as customizing goes. When I finally got back in customizing in 2004 I immediately started working on custom vehicles that I always wanted to make as a kid. The Hiss Tank Mark 5 was my very first vehicle custom and the inspiration for that came from messing around with vehicle parts as a kids when my friends and I would have huge battles in my living room. I still remember picking up a destroyed Slam and putting it in place of the turret on a Hiss Tank so Cobra could continue fighting on. As far a customizing figures, I still remember the day I found Joecustoms and spent hours pouring through the archives checking all the great figures listed there. At first I was very intimidated about doing custom figures. I didn't think my painting skills were that great when it came to painting figures so I put off making custom figures for almost a year. After I started in on my Tiger Force Vehicles I started to realize that I needed drivers for all these vehicles so that what kind of pushed me into customizing figures. Right now I would have to say that I enjoy customizing both figures and vehicles equally. There is a certain satisfaction I get from completing a custom vehicle that I just don't feel when I create a figure and vice versa.
When looking for inspiration for your custom vehicles, where do you usually turn? The internet, real world, imagination?
I get my inspiration from all over the place, sometimes I see another custom and come up with another take on it. A lot of the time I just see something on the internet or television that give me an idea for custom vehicle. A good example would be my Coast Guard Whale. After watching the movie "The Guardian" I couldn't stop thinking about doing a Coast Guard custom.
When it comes to custom figures I rely more on the Joe comics and cartoons for inspiration. I try to avoid some of the more mainstream figures because I think eventually Hasbro will end up releasing them. I know there alot of people out there who didn't like the Devils Due run of the comics but for a customizer they are a great source for inspiration when it comes to creating new custom figures. A great example of that would the Plague Squad, I think the were a welcome addition to the comic at the time but there is just know way that Hasbro is going to release a figures like that. Those are the kind of characters I look for when it comes time to create a new custom figure.
What 3 pieces of advice would you offer to a customizer looking to try his first vehicle custom?
First you need to have lots of patience, take you time and do it right, don't try to rush getting it done. Second, Always prep your vehicles before you put the first drop of paint on them. This means cleaning off all the sticker residue, priming the vehicle with spray paint and even washing it with soap and water make sure its nice and clean. Also taking the vehicle apart into as many separate pieces helps considerably when spray painting it.
And last but not least, for any custom, invest the money in a good set of stickers. There are several places out there the make some unbelievable reproduction stickers for vehicles. A custom painted vehicle is nice but with a good set of stickers applied it takes your vehicle custom to the next level.
What 3 tools would you say are the absolute, most essential for a customizer?
First would be a dremel, I would be lost without mine. For figure customizing a set of quality paint brushes, they are more expensive they are well worth it when it comes to some of the small details. Lastly and this would apply more to vehicle customizing than figure customizing, several grades of sand paper from the the really gritty sandpaper to the very fine sandpaper. I can't tell you how many times I have to fix a broken vehicle and with some sculpting putt and a piece of plastic and make that piece of plastic have to blend in with the rest of the shell, I really rely heavily on the different grades of sand paper that I use.
Are there any 'special tools' that you have, that you think others may never have thought to use? Such as a blowdryer to help dry paint?
I don't really rely too much on special tools for my customizing. I'm lucky enough that I live in Florida where its hot all the time and we live close enough to the ocean that on just about any given day all year long I set my parts outside and paint them and just let them dry right there in the sunlight. The same goes for my figure parts after I paint them, I just lay them outside in the sun for about an hour and that speeds up the drying process which allows me to put my figures back together quicker than some people who have to wait.
Is there any particular area of customizing where you feel you need improvement?
I still think that my painting techniques on my custom figures need improvement. I have really only been customizing figures for really only a year a half, so my skills are relatively new when it comes to that sort of painting. I do feel that I am improving my skills though with every figure that I make.
How many hours a month would you say you devote to customizing?
I would say 20 to 30 hours a month. My wife is a nurse and works midnights on the weekends. Since I can't make alot of noise around the house I found that it is a great time to get alot of my customizing work done. On a good weekend I get an entire vehicle custom done or 2 or 3 figured customs done just while she is sleeping.
From start to finish, about how many hours would you say an average custom of yours takes?
For a figure custom I can normally finish one with about 4 hours of total work put in. On a vehicle custom I spend on average around 10 hours from start to finish because there so much prep work that goes into a vehicle custom before I even get started.
What does customizing a toy bring to you personally that keeps you motivated to continue?
Carnage: I like the sense of accomplishment I get once I finish a custom. When it comes to some of my scratch built vehicles I also enjoy working through all the problems and trying to find parts that fit. I really strive to make my customs look like something that Hasbro would have released but just never got around to it. Some of the best comments I get from people are that alot of my custom vehicles look like the rolled off Hasbro's production line. Its comments like that those give me motivation to try something the new the next time I go to make a vehicle custom.
I have always been into building things and designing things when I was younger. I have always wanted to do something artistic but I can't draw or paint a picture to save my life. I think customizing really brings out my artistic side and makes me think in ways that I wouldn't normally during my every day life.
What is the environment that you prefer to be in when working on your masterpieces?
I actually do a majority of my customs right in my Joe room. All the priming and spray paint is done outside but most of the actual detail painting and construction are done in my Joe room have a work table set up off to the side that I keep all of custom parts on until I'm ready to use it. I have also been known to use my computer desk for alot of my custom figures. Any who has ever seen any of my custom figure [Works in Progress] will notice that my computer keyboard for my computer at home is covered in paint and ground plastic chips from dremeling on figures. I actually had to replace my keyboard a few months back because I had so many loose leg and back screws in the inside of my keyboard that it wouldn't function right anymore. I also like to have a Joe cartoon or something like that playing in the background on my computer as I'm customizing, it think not only helps me with ideas but also helps me pass the time.
Carnage has just crashed landed on an island in the middle of the Pacific, without so much as a volleyball for company. What two figures would he most likely have stashed in his pockets for just such an emergency, and why?
The first figure would be my Shooter Custom. That is really only figure that I have ever taken outside of my house. She used to sit by my computer monitor at work and I would try to give her a different pose every couple of days and the 2nd would be my Alley Viper Plague Trooper custom just because thats one of my favorite customs that I have made to date after the Shooter Custom.
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