Batman Begins by Scott Whitworth

Originally published June 8, 2006, at GJSentinel.com.

Batman Begins

Batman Begins“BATMAN BEGINS” BUST
• Sculpted by Scott Whitworth of Formation Designs.
• Produced by WebbHead Enterprises.
• 1/4 scale, about 10 inches tall.
• Two resin parts.
• The kit in the pictures was painted by Steve Riojas of Denver.

Back in my preschool days, late ’60s until about 1970, the world was all about the campy “Batman” TV series. While grown-ups were laughing at those silly “POWS!” and Robin in tights, little kids like me were taking the show dead seriously and making capes out of bath towels.

Move to my elementary school days and Batman was still an important character, but he was the Batman, a dark hero battling villains such as the maniacal Joker and the exotic Ra’s Al-Ghul.

Jump to college. Comics remained an occasional interest, but mostly as bathroom reading and the only titles that came into the house were stuff Dad found at garage sales. In 1985, I was buried in pretending to do homework and most of the fiction I read was what my teachers assigned. That’s when I happened on a story in the newspaper about Frank Miller’s “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” a four-issue series about the Batman coming out of retirement in his 50s. Like millions of others, I checked them out and loved them. Those comics were hugely popular, as was the follow-up “Batman: Year One,” also written by Frank Miller and presented in four issues of the ongoing “Batman” comic book.

Batman BeginsOf course, Warner Bros., owner of DC Comics, couldn’t help but notice that the Caped Crusader was more popular than ever and decided to make a movie. Tim Burton’s original “Batman” – starring Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Michael Keaton as Bats – debuted on the big screen in 1989 and generally pleased fans like me, even though the story pretty much fell apart in the last hour. It was followed up in 1992 by “Batman Returns,” featuring Michelle Pfeiffer as an interesting Catwoman and Danny DeVito as a disgusting Penguin. Fans are split on that one; I didn’t care for it and found Joel Schumacher’s follow-up – “Batman Forever” (1995), with Val Kilmer as the title hero and Chris O’Donnell as Robin – an improvement despite the forgettable villains and increased camp. However, I’ll never forgive Schumacher for the fourth movie in the series, “Batman and Robin” (1997), a film that failed so spectacularly further Bat-projects were shelved for years.

Scott WhitworthThose of us who liked Frank Miller’s vision of Batman found things to enjoy about some of these Batman movies, but it wasn’t until summer 2005 – when Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins,” starring Christian Bale, debuted – that we got the movie we’d been waiting for. “Batman Begins” takes some of the elements that worked in the previous movies, but its larger influences came from the Batman stories of the ’70s and Frank Miller’s Dark Night of the ’80s. Not all Bat-fans were thrilled – the Batmobile, called the “Tumbler” in the movie, seems to be a particular point of contention – but many were, including me.

Now, sculptor Scott Whitworth, working with Terry Webb of WebbHead Enterprises, has something new for fans of “Batman Begins” in the form of the bust that’s the focus of this entry. Like most garage kits, it’s available as an extremely limited edition for hobbyists and only for a limited time.

Scott, 33, of Phoenix has made a lot fans in the garage-kit community in the last couple of years, thanks in particular to the work he has offered throughFormation Designs, of which he is the owner, sole operator and sculptor. He also works as a computer graphics artist. Scott is married; no kids yet, but he and the wife look forward to the day they’ll have them.

Scott sculpted the Batman bust in Super Sculpey’s Extra-Firm Gray Sculpting Compound; let’s take a look at that process before this week’s e-mail questions and answers.

Sculpture takes shape

Q&A WITH SCOTT WHITWORTH

Resin the Barbarian: Can I safely assume that you liked the movie “Batman Begins” and that’s what inspired you to create this bust? And, how long ago did you start work on it? I seem to recall seeing pictures of it on your Web site late last year.

Scott: I thought the movie was great. I think Tim Burton did an amazing job with the first two films, never really cared for Joel Schumacher’s take on the third and fourth films, I think Christopher Nolan’s approach was refreshing and created a much more realistic tone to the film.

BatsFunny thing is, I was never really inspired to sculpt the character after seeing the film until I was contacted by WebbHead Enterprises and asked if I’d be interested in sculpting a “Batman Begins” bust. Of course, my first response was, “When do we start?” From there I had my concept artist sketch up the discussed design and about five to six weeks later the piece was finished. I was first contacted near the end of August and wrapped the piece up around early October.

RtB: At the first glance of my untrained eye, this sculpture looks pretty simple. Then I start to notice things like the angle of the bat ears, the symmetry of the emblem on the base, the folds in the clothing, the ridges on the cowl… What detail of the Christian Bale Batman look was most difficult to re-create in clay?

Scott: Actually, the original idea for the piece was to be a simple upside down triangle, arms crossed as seen in the final piece. We toyed around with some different ideas as you can see in the concept design, but in the end we went back to the upside-down triangle design.

I can honestly say that I really never confronted any difficulties with this piece, which is something I wish I could say about every piece I do. When I finally started the piece I was so excited about doing it everything just came together. Also, it didn’t hurt that Christian Bale is one of those actors who has very definitive facial features, which makes replicating them in clay that much easier.

RtB: This is kind of a standard question, but the answer is still usually interesting: What other sculptors do you most admire? Did you discover their work before you became interested in sculpting yourself, of did you gain an interest in them after you got involved? (I ask this because of a personal experience. When I returned to the hobby a few years ago, I had no idea who the well-known kitbuilders were, but now I do and I follow their work avidly, looking for tips I can incorporate into my own work.)

Scott: This is a funny story, I never considered sculpting and had never even heard of Super Sculpey, pretty much the only material I use, until one day I had picked up a copy of Wizard magazine, issue No. 35, and saw an article about this guy Randy Bowen. In it, he had sculpted Frank Frazetta’s Death Dealer, the Predator, Frankenstein, etc. I was so blown away by this I ran out to my local art supply store and picked up a box of Super Sculpey. The rest, well we’re here today…

Now, who do I admire? Well, of course there are the old masters Michelangelo, etc., etc., etc…

My greatest inspiration has come from Mark Newman. Not only is this guy down to earth and generous, this guy has a traditional style that most of us can dream of reaching for. So, other than Mark Newman there are Takayuki Takeya, Tony Cipriano, Steve West, Mark VanTine, Jarrod and Brandon Shiflett, Ray Villafane, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say friends like Gabe Perna.

Eight and a Half TailsRtB: What goes through your head when you sit down to work, looking at a lump of clay and knowing you want to turn that into something like this Batman bust, or perhaps an Eight and a Half Tails” or “Cyber”? Are you excited about what you expect to see taking shape or do you feel intimidated?

Scott: The train of thought I always try to maintain is the final result as well as dissecting it as I move forward. I think about the final result and then break it down to the armature, the basic form, the lines/curves, the textures, and so on. I try not to let any possible piece intimidate me. I try to use the principles I learned reading all of those Burne Hogarth books and that is everything is made up of simple geometric forms. From there, it’s just adding all of the fine detail.

RtB: When you were 10 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? And how old were you when you realized that you weren’t simply interested in art as a pastime, but that you wanted to seriously pursue it?

Scott: I grew up in the automotive capital of the world, Michigan, and I knew at a young age that I didn’t want to spend my life grinding the hours away. I was raised with a passion for sci-fi, horror, and fantasy films thanks to my mom and dad letting me stay up late watching movies that were probably inappropriate for me at the time. I told everyone I wanted to work in films and the typical response was, “That’s just a dream!?” and 10 days after I graduated college I was working at Digital Domain working on “X-Men” and later working on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “Red Planet.”

RtB: What are you working on now?

Scott: I have a couple pieces in the works. Unfortunately, I can only share one. Cable is the garage kit I’m currently working on; the other four pieces I’m working on are commissioned pieces that I can’t disclose.

RtB: Do you have any long-term hopes or plans for your career as a sculptor?

Scott: My long-term plans are to raise children with my beautiful wife and sit in my studio and sculpt. I’ve been very fortunate with my career working in the film, video game, prepaint, and garage-kit industries. Although I’m still doing the computer graphics, I’ll continue pursing a career in sculpting. No matter which path I stay on, I’ll make sure I’m happy.

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