Do you have any other talented artists in your family?
We have a few. My uncle is a composer, my younger cousin is in the midst of trying to start a singing career, my aunt is a pretty good artist, I have a second cousin who had some moderate success with acting, and my Grandmother used to sing on the radio back in the 30’s and 40’s. Wow I actually didn’t really think about it until I wrote them all down!
What was your first custom?
Well the first thing I remember doing was “re-touching” my Star Wars figures with a black marker. I fixed up my A New Hope Han Solo since he had lost the paint on his eyebrows and hair. My first actual custom though had to be in 1982, I made a Wildstar figure from StarBlazers. I loved the cartoon and I was upset that I couldn’t get a figure of him so a Fisher Price Adventure Person became Wildstar. I still have him in a drawer last time I checked. In the mid 80’s I also felt that the GI Joe figures would all look better if they had the whites of their eyes painted in and I proceeded to paint every one of my figures. They looked better but man in retrospect that was A LOT of work. They all still have the whites of their eyes painted 20+ years later.
Which customizers get you excited the most when you see they posted a new custom?
There are a lot and I think a lot of people have really exploded in the last few years. To name a few I love seeing stuff from JFAK because he makes customs with no rules. He has created his own world with the “End of Days” storyline and people are really gravitating and jumping onto it. I love the storyline and I don’t even like Zombies. I really like Rateeg for his realistic approach to figures. The paint jobs he applies to the faces and the resculpting he does to the faces is really awesome work. The ROC Scarlet he made I thought was really really nice as was the Baroness. Ceraurus and Doc are both doing a lot of really nice work also. Their customs are a really nice mixture of fun factory looking and sweet custom. I appreciate all different styles and approaches and sometimes like to see them more then my own.
If you won a contest where your design would be used by Hasbro, what would it be?
I used to say I wanted them to pay more attention to proportion and detail and they seem to be doing that with the change in styles to the 25th Anniversary sculpts we have now. That was really my biggest axe to grind and what separated my stuff from what Hasbro was putting out before the 25th style launch. It was actually what started me on customizing Joes back in the early 2000’s. I think with the 25th launch they implemented a lot of the design ideas I was trying to do with my figures (although I’m not claiming that they did it based on what I was doing). I think they got some real fans in the design team who had passion and were willing to stand up and voice their opinions. I guess my one design peeve that I would like them to implement is to continue to add more realistic looking, individually designed, and proportioned heads. That is something they still seem to struggle with.
What area of customizing gives you the most trouble?
Every aspect of it has been a challenge at one time or another but you learn and improve, build on what you’ve learned, and then find the next stumbling block that you need to overcome. I have to say that whenever I have to do heavy trimming and then sanding I always put that off for a bit. It is very very time consuming and a lot of times you don’t know if you achieved the smoothness you were looking for until you paint. Even primer doesn’t always show the things that paint will. Once I’ve started painting I may have to sand the paint off and start over again due to imperfections I missed so I’d say the entire trimming, sanding, smoothing out aspect is something that gives me pause right now. But I’m also planning on opening up a custom store where people will be able to buy casted parts like TriGate but it will be stuff that I’ve made. Molding and Casting is something that is new so it’s a challenge but I’m really excited about it. It opens up tons of possibilities.
What advice can you give to customizers with promising potential who want to take it to the next level?
Take your time. I was working on a 25th style Salvo custom the other day and I was so excited to get this figure done that I started rushing. I painted him up and quite honestly he looked horrible. I took a deep breath went back, removed what I had done, and started over. Sometimes the wish to see something done is so overwhelming you can’t wait to finish but in the rush you don’t do it correctly and end up extending the time required on the very thing you hoped to finish quickly.
After finishing a particularly taxing custom, do you do anything special to unwind?
Usually I stare at it and enjoy the hard work that went into it. The satisfaction of knowing that the challenge is done and I’m happy with the results is something I always enjoy after I finish a custom. I’ve had customs that people have criticized when I posted them but I knew what I had accomplished with the custom and I was happy regardless. For me it was a “mission accomplished”.
When you get a good idea for a custom, how do you stay motivated to complete it?
I usually draw a picture of it so I don’t forget the idea, since feeling overwhelmed is a great way to lose motivation. Since I stopped making customs for awhile and haven’t posted anything in so long I have an overflow of stuff I want to do. Recently I started putting “parts” in an old plastic multi draw unit that holds about 15 figures. I put the parts for the figure in the individual trays so that I have them all set. When I’m ready to get to them they’ll be there, otherwise I’d probably forget the parts combination I was planning. That helps me, knowing that they are waiting, but I don’t push it. For me this is a hobby and something I do to unwind from my film company, acting, writing, and directing. I don’t want my hobby to be a chore.
20 years from now, what do you hope people will say about your body of work?
Wow I don’t have any idea. I know that with my acting and directing I have things that I’d like people to say but I didn’t really think about it for customizing. I enjoy customizing so much and enjoy the fact that other people enjoy my stuff I really don’t think a lot about rewards or being remembered for stuff. I know some people have gotten pissed at me but that is why I usually don’t enter into award type stuff it takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. I guess if I really think about it I’d like people to see the necessity I felt in adding the character’s personality to the custom. That was something the original line had and then lost in its later years. That was something that was pretty vacant from Joes in the early 2000’s also and only came back with the 25th launch. A character’s weapon, uniform, look, etc all add to the character’s charm and appeal. I really try to think “who this character is” when I make a custom and then represent the personality in the custom. I guess that’s the actor in me but it’s fun for me.
Cobra uses the Mass Device to steal your collection, what items would you try to save?
Hard to say, but out of my customs probably my General Hawk, Snow Job and Outback that I made during the JvsC era. As far as actual figures I really don’t know. I love my Sideshow Indy and I love the Leader Optimus that came out from Revenge of the Fallen.