Gremlins in the Garage!

Interview with Mark Van Tine
by Ed Martinez

EM: What is your age and date of birth?
MVT: 32, I was born June 20, 1962.

EM: Tell me a little bit about your background and where you get your artistic talent from.
MVT: Well, I had an uncle that used to work at NASA in Florida working on a lot of the early presentation work, and art talent runs in my family. My older brothers are artistically talented.

EM: What are some of your influences?
MVT: King Kong and comics & monster movies.

EM: How did you get into model work?
MVT: I first saw kits like the Screamin' kits in the earls 80's (Jason and Freddy, etc. ) also Horizon kits. I decided to try my hand at sculpting. The first kit I did was a small Clint Eastwood bust being released by Jayco Models. I had seen Paul Gill's name & picture in the model magazines, and one day I happened to be in Village Comics in Manhattan. Paul came in with his partner, John Diaz of Jayco, and I recognized him. I introduced myself. I guess I kind of forced myself on them. That's kind of how we got together. Every time I saw him after that, I made sure I always said hello. When I got this thing started, this first bust, I just happened to run into them and showed it to them.

EM: It was already done when you saw them?
MVT: Yeah. It wasn't a commission at all. I had had this thing and I thought, what the hell, let's see if they'll cast it for me. I was actually going try to do it myself.

EM: You didn't know how to make molds at that point?
MVT: I still have never made them myself. I know the basic idea of it; I could probably do it, but I'm still a little nervous about that part of it. I'm still debating about trying it on a little piece I have, but as of yet I haven't done any casting. It just kind of like happened. They liked this piece, and they talked me into doing another piece. One that was basically a commission. That was the Outlaw kit, which was my first full figure. That debuted at the last Chiller [Theater Con] which was Halloween. That was the first time I had anything at that show. In fact the bust of Clint Eastwood sort of debuted then (as far as any kind of mass market.) It had only been cast a few months before, so it was still kind of fresh. So this one that I'm doing now is my third one, second full figure.

EM: So tell us about this one.
MVT: Well it was an idea that Paul Gill had. Maybe he and John Diaz had talked about it. They felt that I was right for this piece. They talked about doing Uncle Frank. I thought about it and decided, this would be a good idea . It was something that I was interested in. I didn't want to do just anything they suggested, but this was a good idea, I thought. I felt I could do well with it because of the human aspect of him, the realistic anatomy. It was something that I was interested in; I thought it could it be a really dynamic piece. There were some things about that character that lent itself to more than just a visual photograph in 3 D. A lot of kits are, they are just like, this is what it is or less. They look like they're standing there like mannequins, not moving sometimes. Although some of those tend to be the best likenesses, they are also kind of the dullest. This guy I felt lent himself to a good interpretation without having to be completely literal to what's seen in the movie. The kit is 1/6th scale, more or less. I based it on, I think like everyone, a lot of the kits that are already built. That seems to be the standard now. I don't know, it may have just happened but everyone but Screamin' does pretty much the 1/6th scale.

EM: It's a good size for the shelf.
MVT: And it keeps everything in scale. People can create dioramas, it's not too big. Especially for the people who are pouring resin. I understand that once you start getting into that size, it starts getting expensive for the mold making. This size can be worked with. We had discussed going larger, but we felt that that might be a little too much. Especially for the weight of the resin and things like that. We kept it at 1/6th.

EM: What did you use for reference?
MVT: I actually put on my suit, got a box of about the right size. (I didn't have the Screamin' puzzle box, yet) I did what I thought the pose was. I had a few small sketches. So I did the pose and just had my girlfriend walk around and shoot me. Basically I told her, here's what I'm going to do, get over there shoot from that side now. I used a lot of that as reference. Plus some of the pictures from horror magazines for some of the other detail, but for the most part I used myself. I tried to make it fit the statue of the actor playing the character. He's supposed to be very thin, probably a little thinner than I am, but that's where the artistic license comes in. I can trim it a little bit, idealize it.

EM: Did you try to go for a facial likeness from the photos in the magazines?
MVT: To an extent. I used the magazine to get the general likeness of the face, the proportions. Then, it was kind of a dilemma at that point. Should I make it look like him from the movie, which changed every ten minutes on film. The way he looked was evolving through out that. In the scenes which had the suit that we wanted, he was a little more progressed and basically it looked like the make up was a lot of ooze, a lot of red. I felt that was kind of tough to get past, plus there seem to be a lot more people that are getting involved in realistic anatomy. So I got out the reference books. I even got a few medical books. I used cadavers as references, you know, photographs from one of the libraries where I work. I pretty much started working with it from there. I had the basic thing sculpted. I had to get the rough likeness of him, but I didn't go for a photographic likeness from the movie because I wanted it to look more real. Like he might really have looked. I went with more the way the muscles should look on the face. It wasn't too bad of a movie but there were some places where it looked like they made things up, which is nice for film. But when people start examining it, they say, wait, this is wrong. So I tried to keep it a little more realistic. I thought maybe it would be more interesting in the long run to people. I think the pose on it was much more dynamic than any of the scenes in the movie.

EM: Tell me a little bit about the physical techniques involved; what kind of armature did you make; aluminum or steel armature wire? Did you use Sculpy?
MVT: I tend to be kind of a mixed media person. I used kind of a grab bag technique which I did when I was in school. I learned how to sculpt with regular earth clay and an armature; you know, how you take an armature and secure it to a board. I used a very similar method to Randy Bowen; I got galvanized steel plumbing pipe, about an inch piping, and ran that up a board with an elbow. That I basically place in his back. The armature was kind of a mix of aluminum and some gage wire. Aluminum is easy to work with and to cut.

EM: So you did intend to cut the original sculpture apart?
MVT: Yes. Because the gage wire was so thin, it was easy to cut. I used it on some of the extremities, like the arms. I worked with Super Sculpy, but I also used Promat (a professional version of Super Sculpy from the same company which is a slightly harder variety.). When you take a block of it that hasn't been handled, and try to pull a piece off, it's not going to pull, it's going to break and tear off, like a wet piece of earth clay. It will kind of crack, so you've got to use your hands to warm it up. I've been mixing Promat with Super Sculpy to give it more flexibility. Promat bakes more stone-like than Super Sculpy. You have to bake it a little bit longer. You can get finer detail with it. When you work with it for a while it does sort of get that texture like bubble gum, but if you let it sit for a while it'll harden up again.

EM: Do you coat your armature with a thin layer and then bake it so that it has thin covering, building up layer by layer; baking each one so as not to mess up an area that you just completed?
MVT: I don't do it to make a stiffened layer, I do it because I don't like it sliding around. I used regular Sclupy, the white stuff, on the initial layer, because it's a cheaper (as the sculpture is so big.) Actually I think it was a mixture of Sculpy and Super Sculpy. I like to experiment, like Leonardo used to do with oil paints. It's also a way to economize your materials. They tell me that this stuff hasn't fallen apart when removed from the mold like the original Sculpy did. I got the originals back of Clint Eastwood bust and the Outlaw, and they've held up. There's nothing missing from them at all.

EM: Do you sculpt your heads and your hands separately?
MVT: Yes, I do. On this one I actually used little tiny armatures for the fingers. The clay rolled a little bit on the wire, but it gave me something to work with. It worked really well. I'm going to continue to do that. The hands have a lot of detail. I like to do the heads mounted on a small board so I can spin it around and around, and work on it from all angles. I like to get the head done before the body is done, so that I can match the body to the head. The same thing with the hands.

EM: Do you use little ball bearings or spheres for eyes?
MVT: I have not used those yet. On this one I got kind of lucky and the eyes are actually round. It just takes a lot of work.

EM: So how do you approach the planning for mold making and cutting the model apart?
MVT: Well that's something I'm still learning about. On the first one, the bust, that wasn't necessary. On the second one, I only removed the arms. For this one, the head, the hands, and one leg will be separate pieces. But for mold making I hand it off, so that's the concern of others.

EM: So what does the future hold for you, Mark? Do you plan to stick with garage kits for a while?
MVT: For now, yes. I'm going to keep on doing it and see where it takes me. I'm definitely not making a living from it right now, so I guess it's a hobby. But I really enjoy it.

EM: So what's the deadline for the kits? What's the price range? Will instructions be included or color box art?
MVT: The kit will be debuting at the April Chiller Theatre Con., they'll have maybe a dozen or more kits. They'll be taking orders. I'm hoping it will sell well. The price range will be competitive, but I'm not sure what it is. I'm going to be doing the box art. It will be color. I was trained as an illustrator. I've done my share as an illustrator, but I don't do it for a living anymore. It'll probably be a mixed media painting. My medium of preference for control is colored pencil, with some oil on top of it to pull it together. It's an interesting technique. Jayco doesn't usually provide an instruction sheet, because the kits are pretty self-explanatory. We're hoping that the box art plus common sense will do the job. As far as the positioning of the hands, people will have a choice. There are going to be two different hands; one will have the puzzle box and one will have the switchblade. I'm sure everyone has their own preference. I have mine, but I'm not saying what it is now! You can have it look the way you want it to. You can take that extra hand and stick it in the middle of the back if you want (laughs). Customize it!

Originally published in Coenobium. Reprinted here with permission. Thanks, Coenobium!


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