Check out this creepazoid. He (?) is called the S.L.E. Creature, and once I get over being freaked out, I feel really bad for … it. Poor thing, you look at it and just know this is someone who’s had a really serious problem.
The S.L.E. Creature is a new release from Artist Proof Studio, sculpted by Norman Meyers, 32, of Santa Monica, Calif. Here’s how Norm describes the creature’s origin:
“A strange virus takes over its host mutating them into a twisted deformed being.
“During the mutation process, the virus allows the host’s face to appear and look at its new body, the virus being proud of its work.
“When the host/victim inevitably freaks out, the head is re-absorbed and the virus gets to work creating an even more horrifying mutation. It’s an endless cycle.”
What bothers and impresses me when I look at some of Norm’s work is that I can see the person underneath all that weirdness, maybe someone who didn’t deserve to end up how he is.[caption id="attachment_1321" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Paul Komoda's Elephant Man."][/caption]
You can say similar things about some of the pieces by Paul Komoda, Norm’s partner in Artist Proof Studio, who created an Elephant Man bust slated for release soon.
Norm’s mother and sister are established fine artist figure painters who regularly have solo shows throughout Los Angeles and galleries on the East Coast. Check out their work online at www.neilahmeyers.com and www.pattimeyers.com.
His father enjoyed sculpting, mostly figurative, working in water clay, bronze and stone.
“Growing up in a family of artists, it was common to come home and find a nude model in the living room. Needless to say, I had many friends always wanting to come over after school!”
Norm works for Cinemaquette / Toynami, a toy and statue company in Van Nuys, Calif. “I do a large variety of jobs there, from quality control, customer service, shipping and receiving, project managing along with sculpting. It’s a small company so there’s always tons to do.”
SHAPING A MONSTER MAKER, NORM’S OWN WORDS[caption id="attachment_1323" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Norman Meyers works on a collaborative sculpt at Monsterpalooza. Do you think he can really use all those tools at once? Other sculptors who worked on the piece include Paul Komoda, Toi Oguynoku, Jarrod Shiflett, Simon Lee, Damon Bard and Jordu Schell. "][/caption]
I’ve always been fascinated/obsessed with horror movies, creatures and special effects. I started sculpting when I was 11 years old and was determined to get into the special effects world. I tracked down every back issue of Fangoria magazine and went to every convention I could find that was horror related.
When I was 15 I put together a portfolio of my sculptures and sent it to Stan Winston with a letter saying I wanted to work for him. Many months later to my surprise, I got a phone call from him, inviting me to work at his studio for free as an intern.
It was an amazing experience! I came into the studio after Jurassic Park, and worked on the resin dinosaur maquettes that would eventually become the Horizon vinyl kits (cleaning up seams, puttying with milliput, etc.).
I was also there for Michael Jackson’s “Ghosts” music video and “Interview with the Vampire”.
While there, two artists told me about the first Mad Model Party
Show and said I should check it out. I’d already discovered Terry Webb’s garage kit books, but this show was huge for me, exciting me even more about garage kits.
Around that time I started a small garage kit company with a friend called A Clockwork Resin. We sculpted a handful of kits from “The Dark Crystal”. I sculpted a Mystic and Pod Slave and my friend sculpted a Skeksis and Land Strider. The only two that were released were the ones I sculpted. The kits were sold at Kit Kraft and Creature Features.
I moved onto filmmaking in my late teens, focusing on writing and directing. I made a bunch of short films, designing the creatures and doing the special effects. After high school I went to NYU film school to study writing and directing. I made a few more short films and upon graduating moved back to Los Angeles.
When I got back to LA I ended up writing a bunch of commercials and music videos. My first big break was with director Brett Ratner, who hired me to write a music video for Michael Jackson’s song “Unbreakable”. Sadly this video was never filmed because of Michael calling the head of the record label a racist and white devil. I’ve done quite a few music video gigs since, working with Mariah Carey and the Black Eyed Peas among others.[caption id="attachment_1327" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Fat Zombie Mini-Bust, sculpted by Norman Meyers."][/caption]
Back to the sculpting thing – I’ve also been creating maquettes for a variety of low-budget horror films for the last few years. Working as a freelance writer, I do a lot of script doctoring (rewriting) of scripts. Many of these are horror or exploitation creature projects that I’ve ended up doing maquettes for, when the producer finds out I also sculpt.
Back to garage kits, I’ve been collecting them since the early ’90s.
When I started working at Toynami / Cinemaquette I met Toi Oguynoku Jr., a super-talented sculptor who’s sculpted two classic garage kits: Little Big Man from “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and Mondoshiwan from “The Fifth Element”. Toi came over and saw my shelves filled with sculptures and said I needed to start posting images immediately. That’s when I started posting on the Clubhouse and other forums.
MORE ABOUT ARTIST PROOF STUDIO
Artist Proof Studio is, as Norm describes it, “a collective of like-minded creature designers, sculptors and illustrators, hell-bent on releasing all the stuff we’ve always wanted to see.
APS formed a little more than two years ago. Norm and Paul were hanging out at Jordu Schell’s studio nearly every weekend, “working on our stuff, and tons of incredible artists were always coming by. Bill Basso, Norman Cabrera, Erick Sosa, Bruce Fuller, Michael Norman, Toi, etc. Really just a staggering amount of insanely talented artists.”
“APS came together organically with the Death Corps Zombie bust, just wanting to release a few castings and the whole thing exploded.
“At the same time Erick started his Chelonian Warrior sculpt and it was a no-brainer that it needed to be released under the APS banner.”
Monsterpalooza 2009 was their first show as a company.
Norm and Paul Komoda are the core of Artist Proof Studio. They collaborate with other artists who release their work under the APS banner.
Norm handles many of the day-to-day duties, picking up castings, shipping, updating the blog and “generally coordinating releases and promotion.”
“A great deal of who handles what is constantly changing and shifting due to everyone’s hectic work schedule,” Norm said.
“Jordu has been incredibly supportive of what we’re doing, constantly contributing ideas and thoughts,” Norm said. “He’s also a huge garage kit fan. We just released an original bust by Jordu called Demon Dog and two creature busts by Aris Kolokontes.”[caption id="attachment_1331" align="aligncenter" width="680" caption="From left, Norman Meyers, Paul Komoda and Steve Wang. "Steve hopes to get into the f/x industry as a sculptor/designer," Norm writes in his Facebook photo album. "We told him his work showed promise, but he really needs to practice his painting... Steve Wang Rocks!!""][/caption]
Q&A WITH NORMAN MEYERS, SCULPTOR AND GK PRODUCER
Resin the Barbarian: How did you come up with the name Artist Proof Studio?[caption id="attachment_1333" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Jordu Schell's Demon Dog, an upcoming release from Artist Proof Studio."][/caption]
Norm: In the collectible statue world, an Artist Proof edition is a highly sought-after piece by collectors. You can find artist proof editions in nearly every aspect of the art world — from prints to sculptures. In the mass-produced collectible statue world, it’s supposed to be something that’s produced before a full production run, so that the artist can sign off on it and approve it for production.
What’s been happening with a lot of the statue companies out there currently, are that the A/P editions aren’t produced until the very end of the production run. Most of the time, these pieces are given to the sculptors and people involved in the project and rarely make it out to the general public.
The idea of calling our company APS was a way of saying that every piece we produce is approved by the artist involved and that all our pieces are Artist Proofs so to speak. Some of our limited editions are numbered, but you will never see something that says 1 of 25 A/P editions, etc.
It’s also sort of tongue in cheek, there are a lot of people that take themselves way too seriously. I think it also sounds cool.
All of the pieces we produce are sculptures that we want to see. Stuff that we sculpt to please ourselves first. It’s been rewarding knowing that there’s a group of collectors out there that share our taste.
RtB: You have some seriously talented people involved. How has business been?
Norm: Most of our releases are original designs. They are not characters that people recognize, like comic book or film characters. Because of this, we try our best to create a story behind each release in hopes of people connecting with them.[caption id="attachment_1335" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="The OctoApe, sculpted by Aris Kolokontes, is a new release from Artist Proof Studio."][/caption]
Most of our releases have been a slow but steady stream of purchases, word of mouth from other collectors really help get the kits out there. It’s also satisfying to see the pieces built and painted by the collectors.
One of the most challenging things about sculpting and producing garage kits, is the fact that you’re relying on other people to complete your work. When you buy a prepaint statue, what you see is what you get. You remove it from the package, place it on your shelf and enjoy. When you buy a garage kit, you hold a sculpture in your hands and it’s up to you to paint it. It’s a great collaboration…..
As far as duds, there have been some pieces that have done really well and exceeded our expectations and there have been certain pieces that we thought would do great because we were so excited about them, but took a little longer to get out there and gather steam.
It’s really all about getting the pieces out there and getting people to see them and take notice and have a true reaction good or bad.
RtB: How do things work? Is Artist Proof Studio a collaborative effort or do the partners work mostly independently?
Norm: As for the sculpts themselves, each sculptor works independently on their own schedule designing and sculpting their pieces. Everyone involved in APS makes their living designing and sculpting creatures for film, etc.
The collaborative part comes organically where we give each other comments on the pieces, sometimes just simple encouragement, other times hard critiques and advice when a person asks.
The collaboration is most apparent in the way the pieces are presented, boxart, instructions, etc.
The sculptor works with our graphic designer tweaking the images until everyone is happy. Also, we try whenever possible to include bonus pieces from the artists involved. For example, my Fat Zombie kit comes with a Fat Zombie art print designed and illustrated by Paul Komoda. Other pieces include bonus sculpts, etc.
There is no bigger thrill for me, than seeing a new Paul Komoda sculpt or drawing. Or seeing a new piece by Jordu or any number of artists that I admire. That’s the coolest thing for me personally.
RtB: You’ve been doing a lot of one-of-a-kind sculptures and selling them through Artist Proof. Are those going over well?
Norm: That’s been a lot of fun to do – I finished up a bunch of them before this past Monsterpalooza. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough pieces at the table, and pulled out these little 1/3 scale Super Sculpey heads I’d been working on.
Jordu taught me a few years ago about mixing colored flocking into Super Sculpey — it really adds a lot of life to the sculpt. One of the most challenging things for me has been sculpting human faces. These heads came from my desire to get better at sculpting portraits.
I really enjoy feeling out a character with these one-off pieces. The one complaint I’ve received from other artists/producers is that I’m selling these pieces for far too cheap.
I think anytime you can bring the collectors into the process of creating a sculpture it’s a good thing. I think having a one-of-a-kind piece in your hands is something special and unique. The first 15 castings of the S.L.E. Syndrome bust include a one-of-a-kind Super Sculpey head. When I was thinking about what to include as a bonus, I thought what would I love to see, what would get me super excited?
The idea of having something that’s the only one in the world is pretty cool, so that’s where the idea came from.
RtB: What can you tell me about the N.E.R.D.cast? Are you still involved in doing those?[caption id="attachment_1340" align="alignright" width="359" caption="Works in progress by Norman Meyers. Most were slated to be sold as one-of-a-kind sculptures. Norm regularly posts photos such as this on Artist Proof Studio's blog, /artistproofstudio.blogspot.com."][/caption]
Norm: Absolutely! In fact we just recorded one yesterday afternoon.
We started off discussing prepaint statues and collectibles, but that quickly transitioned into conspiracy theories, and bad horror tattoos.
N.E.R.D.cast started when Jordu, Paul, Michael Norman and myself were hanging out at Jordu’s studio talking about a wide array of different things — from monsters, to movies, the industry, you name it. We thought it would be a cool idea to record it and get it down just for fun. It’s really turned into a cool thing, a lot of people come up to me at different conventions saying they listen.
At first it was really challenging, because whenever we’d start talking off mic, one of us would scream, “No, stop, save it for N.E.R.D.cast!” So there were a few awkward silent moments in the studio – which is very rare. Ask anyone who’s hung out with us and they’ll tell you, it’s crazy, non-stop stories, impressions, etc.
I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
RtB: You’ve designed many memorable creatures. Should I take this as proof that you genuinely enjoy creating those, or do you simply have a talent at it? What’s the background there?
Norm: I love creatures. Nothing gets me going more than seeing a new monster – something new and original from someone’s imagination. Whether it’s in a film, someone’s sketchbook, a sculpture, whatever, it excites me beyond end.
I love being able to sit down and create something out of nothing.[caption id="attachment_1343" align="alignleft" width="375" caption="One-of-a-kind sculptures Norm made for Monsterpalooza."][/caption]
Coming from an artistic family, creating art, expressing oneself is something I just always did. It was always around me and I’m grateful for that. I was always encouraged by my family to create and do what makes me happy. Growing up, my bedroom was filled with creatures of all kinds, horror movie posters on the walls. Any free wall space was covered with my creature drawings. I would paint right on the walls. As long as it stayed inside my room, and not on the outside of the door, it was all good.
Sculpting has always been very satisfying to me. I love being able to hold a sculpt in my hands and look at it from all angles. There’s a moment when working on a sculpt where everything comes together and you can see the forms clearly and the character, and that’s a wonderful feeling.
I also enjoy telling stories, and creating new creatures gives me an opportunity to create the world that it lives in.
RtB: I’d like to focus for a minute on the S.L.E. Syndrome Creature Bust, which is probably my favorite of your works. What’s the background of this specific piece? How did it start taking shape, when did you come up with a background story, that kind of thing? Basically, I’m curious how you take such a creature from concept to final execution. Is it basically the same every time, or does it vary a lot?
Norm: Thanks Todd, I’m glad you like it. The S.L.E. bust was one of those pieces I wasn’t sure if people would connect with.
I have a sketchbook that’s filled with drawings, short stories, dreams, garage kit ideas, etc.
The S.L.E. bust came from a drawing I did years ago. The story was something I was playing with on and off for a while and when elements of the story started coming together, I jumped into sculpting the bust.
The piece went together rather quickly, I started it in Super Sculpey and skinned it in wax. Once I got far enough, the story behind it really came together, pushing me to finish it.[caption id="attachment_1346" align="alignright" width="350" caption="Norman Meyers built this maquette for the director of "Animal", an independent horror film."][/caption]
I would say that my process does vary quite a bit. Certain sculpts I do just to warm up and have fun, can often end up having stories behind them. It’s just a blast to create the worlds these creatures live in.
Other times, the story comes first, followed by the sculpture.
RtB: A lot of what’s coming from Artist Proof are original creations. What do you think, are hobbyists open to subjects they don’t know from other media? How often do you come up with “stories” for these pieces?
Norm: Absolutely! I think collectors are definitely open to new subjects.
This hobby was founded on established characters from film, TV, etc. And that’s what brought most people into it. The first resin kit I ever bought was William Paquet’s “Bub” kit from “Day of the Dead”. It blew my mind! I couldn’t believe that someone could create such a wonderful sculpt from one of my favorite films, and I could hold it and stare at it, enjoy it. A large chunk of my early garage kit collection was based on film related characters, mostly horror. But as I continued to collect, over time, my tastes changed to the point where now, most if not all of the kits I pick up are original designs. If you look at my shelves, you’d see original works by Jordu Schell, Paul Komoda, Simon Lee, The Shiflett Bros. William Paquet and many others.
I think as the hobby continues to move forward and more artists create original designs and continue to push their creativity, we’ll see more and more companies producing original works.
It’s tough though, with originals it’s up to the artist to create the mood and emotion of a piece and hope it resonates with the collector. With a film character or creature, you’ve watched him for 90 minutes fight a creature or terrorize the people. So when you see a Predator, or Alien garage kit, the excitement and nostalgia is already there for the collector. I think there’s definitely room for both.
RtB: What can we look forward to from Artist Proof in the second half of 2010?[caption id="attachment_1351" align="alignright" width="278" caption="Paul Komoda's La Pestilencia"][/caption]
Norm: We’ve got quite a few kit releases very close to being announced.
More pieces from myself, Paul, Jordu and other artists we’re thrilled to be working with.
RtB: Would you like to add anything?
Norm: Todd, thanks so much for allowing me to participate in your site and share my thoughts with the community.
Most of my closest friends are in the garage kit scene and the amount of amazing people I’ve met and continue to meet is at times staggering.
I’d like to give a quick thank you to those people behind the scenes who support Artist Proof Studio in too many ways to mention here.
First off, Nitai Kearney, our fearless and talented graphic designer, responsible for our boxart, instructions and more. Nitai always delivers on time regardless of how crazy the deadline is we put in front of him. He’s a super talent we’re thrilled to have on board.
Jason Tarpley, a talented painter and writer for Amazing Figure Modeler who has painted nearly all our kits. He continues to surprise and amaze us with his skills and never ending support of what we do.
Lastly Jordu Schell, for being an endless well of inspiration and constantly pushing creature design to new and exciting places.