Two weekends ago, my wife Erica and I took the kids with us for the Monsterpalooza convention. Needless to say, it was a very busy weekend. The two weeks before the show, I was scrambling to complete two new sculptures that had been haunting me for years.
In late 2007, I was approached by Andrew Cawrse of “Freedom of Teach” (now Anatomy Tools) to create an instructional DVD for his site/brand. The DVD was to be about the creation of a Stop-Motion Puppet, from the script, storyboards, design, sculpting, armature building, casting, painting…the whole gambit. I had been working on a new installment of STASIS, so it was not a stretch that I was going to be creating new puppets anyway. I was thrilled to do something with Andrew and immediately set about designing.
One of my first rough ideas was sketched below. But before I got too far into the design phase, Andrew wanted me to buy every single instructional DVD I could find about sculpting in small-scale to armature creation. I ended up with like 10 DVD’s, that took me forever to watch because they mostly bored the shit out of me. I told Andrew that I was determined to make an instructional DVD that was not only professional, but funny and entertaining.
I spent the better part of the next month or two writing my syllabus for each DVD chapter in conjunction with 50 or so storyboards illustrating what the character I was calling “SHIVA” had to perform on film. I also came up with budget scenarios for a low-end to high-end production. Then, I was ready to move forward, BUT, by this time, Andrew was changing the name of his company to Anatomy tools and now wanted to put forward only “anatomy” type instruction. I totally understood, but I was crushed. Andrew asked if he could pitch the idea to the Gnomon school and I agreed, of course, and asked if he would please let me know what the outcome was, but never heard from him again. I didn’t care that much about scrapping the instructional DVD, but it burned when he never called me back, even after I left messages. Friendship was more important than a stupid DVD to me.
I continued to do sketches of “SHIVA” because I was not going to let go. I built an armature based off of my sketches. Then, for some reason, it sat for maybe a year, collecting spiderwebs and dust.
Then one day in August of 2011, my friend Clint Burgin had a sculpting party at his sculpture shop in Santee. I grabbed my armature, clay, my heat lamp, and dove in. I had an old casting of just the chest and face of my Eve character I did in 2000 that Andrew and I originally planned to use and include as a selling point for the DVD. Below, you can see me integrating the white resin chest into the oil-based clay. That was a fun sculpting party, with old and new friends like Jim Moore, Jonathan Fuller, Mike Biasi, and Ryan Buckalew. When you get a group of like-minded guys working together in the same room, the stories shared quickly digress….I had a blast.
Pictured from left to right: Clint Burgin, James Moore, and Jonathan Fuller. Not pictured: Jason and Rachele King.
Unfortunately, the day after that party, I was in pain. I tried to keep working on SHIVA at home but my neck was really stiff.
I thought maybe I slept on it wrong, but as the weeks went by, it was steadily getting worse. After an MRI, doctors discovered two herniated disks in my neck. My life took a turn for the worse. I was having trouble raising my arms and the pain in my upper shoulders and neck was becoming chronic. Thinking that my career as a sculptor was done, I became severely depressed. At one point, I even considered taking my own life. After about a year of physical therapy, chiropractic care, and corrective exercise, I finally turned the corner. What I discovered, was that being active and going back to Karate, of all things, is what saved me.
On June 22nd of 2012, I was home for a long weekend after a vasectomy. I was bored out of my skull icing my crotch and wanting to sculpt something fun. I dusted off the Shiva sculpture, and found my old self again. I spent many nights that summer listening to H.P Lovecraft stories like “In the Mountains of Madness” while sculpting her. She was a pleasure to create and a reminder never to give up on my dreams.