Friday, August 3, 2012


Since 2009, freelance artist, Scott Petterson, 39, from San Francisco, CA, has been wowing the 1/6 community with his 1/6 works of art.

So Scott, what's your professional background?

I studied fine art in college focusing on oil painting. For a few years I showed my paintings with galleries, did illustration work and worked as a decorative painter doing faux finishing and murals. I started to get disheartened with gallery policies, lost my job with the paint company and needed a break from the chemicals involved with oil painting. So I started playing around with sculpting. Though it is still very new to me It's quickly become my focus. It's an incredible challenge and I really enjoy the problem solving involved and learning new materials and techniques.

What got you interested in this hobby?

When I was a kid I got a Mike Power Atomic Man from the older boy down the street at a garage sale. Something about the figure just sparked my imagination more than other toys. I liked how "realistic" and movable he was compared to the little Star Wars figures I had. For the longest time I searched for another GI Joe like that but they had stopped making them long before. Then like most pubescent boys I discovered girls and music and priorities changed haha. That stalled my quest for little plastic action men. That is until I got the girl and music collection taken care of and stumbled across the 1/6 Nosferatu and 1/6 Black Beard by Sideshow Collectibles. My interest was reignited. It was such a huge leap in detail from the days of Mike Power. I was really impressed by the "art" of the figures. So I guess that's when I began taking interest in the hobby and wanting to approach it as an "art" form.

Did you start making figures or customizing? What was the first figure you made/customized?

The first figure I wanted to make was The Man with No Name from the Sergio Leone trilogy. The very first Blondie I made was the first time I tried sculpting a likeness. I sculpted the head out of clay and made the poncho and vest. The rest of the clothes were bashed from other figures. It was really crude and awful looking haha! I had no idea what I was doing but at the time I thought it looked pretty good... well maybe for a month or so. Then I decided to start over and tried again, and again, and again... I'm still obsessed with that character!

How do you choose what figure you want to make?

There are a few things I consider before I begin a figure project-

It's pretty important that it is a person/character/movie etc that I enjoy or that I at least find aesthetically pleasing.

Since so much time and energy goes into making a figure I really want to be inspired and remain passionate about the process. Diving in and exploring the details could get tedious if the passion is not genuine.

With that being said though, inspiration and artistic merit alone would not allow me to continue doing this if it wasn't for the passion of collectors. Since this is not just a creative endeavor for me, it is also my business, a huge part of the final decision of what figure gets made comes down to plain ole demand. What do folks want on their shelves?

Do you do everything from sculpting to tailoring to painting?

I used to do everything: sculpting, molding, casting, tailoring, painting etc. When I began sculpting I began teaching myself how to sew and make clothing patterns. It was fun but a bit overwhelming when it came down to production time. I was feeling like maybe I was spreading myself too thin. I decided I really wanted to focus on sculpting. My friend Rainman, whom I hold in the highest regards and am most grateful to, introduced me to the tailor he uses. Now I do everything but the clothing.

Do you work along or with a team?

Yeah "a one man band" I suppose; except for the clothing as of late.

Many of these figures seem very intricate. Which one was the most challenging?

Thank you!  Hmmm, well they all have been pretty challenging for me, all in their own special ways; perhaps the one with the most challenges was "The Dying Man" that I made pretty early on. He was my attempt at making the character William Blake from the film "Dead Man". Not only is Johnny Depp a difficult likeness to capture but the clothing was tricky as well. Finding the particular plaid fabric of the suit and fur for the coat was very challenging. I remember it took me several months to track it all down. Then there was the hair implanting. Glueing each piece one clump at a time with tweezers and on several heads was ..well a sticky situation. He definitely has flaws and it may not be the perfect representation of the character but I still enjoy looking at that one.

Can you walk me through the process?

The first thing I do when I start a figure is gather reference. Lots and lots of reference. I watch and re-watch the film, take screen grabs, scourer the internet for pics, watch interviews, find books, etc. whatever it takes to get as many angles and insights of the character as possible. Then sometimes I'll do sketches to try to get acquainted with the face and it's structure. I pick a single image that will be the "master" expression. Then I begin sculpting.
I sculpt in wax and sometimes in casteline, I've been playing with putty too recently. For me the sculpting process is the most enjoyable aspect in creating a figure especially when the blob starts to look like something. It takes a couple of hours for me to warm up and find my rhythm but once I get in the "zone" it is really the best feeling. Getting a likeness is very daunting and when my eyes start to play tricks on me I like to get a fresh perspective.

Feedback from collectors and other artist is really valuable to me. My wife also looks at every sculpt I attempt and is very direct and brutally honest about what is on or off. Too brutal sometimes... tears...but appreciated. Once the sculpting is finished I usually realize it's not finished and go back and rework things. After that I make molds and begin casting. More often than not once it is cast I notice more problems and rework the sculpt again and start the molding and casting process over.

There then comes a point when I just have to call it done or it never will be. Once the casting is complete I do paint tests. One to two tests different tones etc. At the same time I work closely with the tailor making sure the clothing details are as close as possible to the costume. Sometimes it's just not feasible at this physical scale and production level but we do all we can to get it right. Once the prototype is complete I photograph it and post it online and hope for the best!

What has been your most successful figure? Why do you think that is?

That is a hard question to answer. On a personal level all have been successful to me.  If I'm having fun it's a success. There is always going to be one that sold faster than others and one that didn't sell well but I am pretty proud with how they all have developed. I'm certainly not the type of person who is satisfied easily with what I do so I am always looking to improve with each new project but If I had to choose just one on an artistic level I'd say maybe "Nexus 7: Rep-Detect Deckard"; though I love all my "children" equally, with that figure I really feel the character when I look at him.

I noticed that most, if not all, of your figures have sold out. Has there been a figure that you weren't sure it would sell out? One that you took a gamble with?

Every one of them. With every figure I release I'm never sure what will happen. There is always the unknown. Maybe nobody will like it, maybe it won't sell, how am I going to explain this failure to my wife? haha! I just never know. Interest in a particular character never translates exactly to actual sales. I was really worried with the "Nexus 7: Rachael" figure. I wasn't sure if she would do well because it seems female figures aren't usually as popular as male figures especially in a niche market. I felt it was a big gamble for a small fry like me. She did really well though, thankfully, so I guess that shows what I know.

You mainly do custom figures of popular movie characters. Have you considered doing an original character?

I think that would be fun but haven't really explored that idea yet.

If I recall, you did a "Blondie Zombie" How did that figure come about?

First off I should mention that Blondie is one of my all time favorites. I have done several version and variations and still continue to try to get him right! Trying to perfect and do proper justice to your favorite character is next to impossible. I don't think you can ever be satisfied. I remember being so scared of the movies when I was a kid when they'd play them on tv. Later, of course, I realized how brilliant they are and have been hooked ever since.

Anyway, I was pouring casts for some Blondie sculpts and one came out with a terrible bubble hole over the nose. So it looked like an open nasal cavity. I thought it looked kinda cool and a bit like a zombie! Blondie zombie! A pretty silly idea but I went with it. The idea sat for awhile until a couple of years later when I saw the cover of a comic book called "The Man with No Name" and it reminded me about it. There was a drawing of a zombie Blondie on it. So when Halloween rolled around Blondie Zombie was finally born!

There are a handful of artists who do what you do. Who's your favorite and why?

They are all very talented and I think they are all great! Hard to chose just one favorite. I definitely have to give a shout out to Rainman though. His sculpting prowess always amazes me. The man lives and breathes sculpture. He's a true artist with no pretense and a genuinely nice guy. I admire that.

Now that you have finished the "Nexus 7: Rachael" figure, what's next?

I have plans for another "Nexus" model.

You really seem to enjoy doing this. Where do you see the hobby and your place in it in say 5 years from now?

Yeah, that's true, I'm really fortunate to have a job I enjoy!

I'm certainly no expert but it seems to me that in just the last few years, over a short amount of time, the hobby has really grown in leaps and bounds. New companies, techniques, technologies, artists, collectors etc have emerged. The level of detail that folks are able to create these days is incredible. The bar is already set really high it will be interesting to see where it goes. Hopefully it will continue to thrive and hopefully I will continue to grow and find my place within it all.

To view Mr. Pettersen's amazing work, visit his blog Figure Art of S. Pettersen.


No comments:

Post a Comment