Gremlins in the Garage!

Interview with Paul Komodo
by Ed Martinez

EM: Tell us about your art background.
PK: I do come from an artistically inclined family. Both of my parents are illustrators. I've always had a natural ability to get what was on my mind onto the paper or into the form of sculpture. I did mostly unusual things. I took a lot of inspiration from my dreams, which were very vivid from a very early age. Also, my influences were things at the time; like dinosaurs, monsters, and various forms of mechanisms have always been inspirational. I remember one of my earliest comments from a teacher to my parents was as far back as nursery school. And they said, in most children artistic talent is an attribute; in your son it is a detriment. I don't know why they said that. I was always very focused in what I was interested in. Perhaps they thought I was too focused. It seemed that no matter what my assignments were, I would always find a way to weave in a dinosaur or some other horrific element. And I think that upset a few people. In high school, my direction was to go into doing comic book work. I would do sequential stories at this period. And as I progressed and got older, I got into animation film making.

EM: Really? You were an armature 8mm/super 8mm animator?
PK: Yes, I did a lot of stop motion clay animation and scratching on film type of work. I found it very intriguing. At that time, it was a big focus of my life. I've always been into sculpture off and on all my life. At this period, it was mainly sculpture for the animated films using plastilina clay.

EM: Did you get into molding and casting in latex for stop motion models?
PK: Not at that time; much much later I did. It wasn't until after art school.

EM: What art school did you attend?
PK: The School of visual Arts in New York, which was an experience that I don't have many good things to say about. It was a very tumultuous time in my life, you know, you get to that point where you say, "What the hell do I o next?" And the sculpture was actually something that came from within me. I thought, this is what I need to be doing right now. And sure enough, as I began doing more of that I began to get recognized. It seemed to be the one thing to elevate me at the time. was doing very surreal portraits and incarnations of feelings that I was going through at the time. Sort of agonized forms.

EM: In what sort of materials were you working?
PK: I was working in Super Sculpy.

EM: How was it that people saw your work?
PK: Mostly through the different classroom projects I was doing it the time. I was able to impress my instructors enough that they allowed me to produce my sculptures instead of the assignments for the class. I managed to make an impression on people with what I was doing in sculpture. In my final year at school, I seemed to be looking around for someone of a like mind so to speak, to relate to. Chat lead up to my meeting a friend of mine named Axel, who is a very well known surrealist jeweler/sculptor. He's had his work featured in videos, such as Guns'n'Roses and most recently Nina Hagen. He does extraordinary work. He utilizes very organic forms.

EM: So he works in lost wax and has his pieces cast in metal?
PK: Yes. He uses parts of real creatures, such as lobsters, beetles, and rodent skulls, etc.

EM: So he would mold those and cast them in wax and then they would be cast into the lost wax process and made into metal?
PK: Yes. His work was very inspirational to me - where his mind was at and his aesthetic of his very organic forms.

EM: And so through your friendship with him, you hooked up with Joe and Netherworld?
PK: Yes. Joe originally intended to work with Axel at first, but it became apparent that Joe and I had more in common. It evolved that we ended up working together. We generally hit it off and we began discussing what we could do in terms of different projects together.

EM: Can you describe a little bit about what your working relationship is? Are you partners? Or do you work as a hired gun on commission?
PK: A little bit of both. We usually toss around ideas and decide which one would be the most enlightening to pursue at the time. Our first project together was the Vincent Price kit, which evolved out of a ring which we were going to mail to Vincent as a gift, as a tribute to him. It eventually became a portrait bust, which also included a small gothic archway. It received such a good response, that people were requesting a full figure kit. And that is what provoked us to do the first kit in our line.

EM: What was your next project with Netherworld?
PK: The Vampimatrix kit. Our idea was to create a female figure kit that would be quite a bit different from anything else that was out there. We had access to things like silver metal casting and Joe had a source for the flashing light thing. The idea was for all these ambitious things. It nearly drove us all crazy, like those translucent wings, for instance. We're very ambitious about those things.

EM: What was the next project?
PK: That was the Xenomorphous Rex. With this one, we decided what the hell, let's make the most obnoxiously loud piece imaginable. We really didn't know what we were getting ourselves into at that point. This was way beyond anything either of us had imagined I literally made this damn thing up as I went along. Joe had an idea as to how he wanted the base to be, composition-wise. It was a miracle that it worked. It was such a big piece that it really cost a lot to mold also. It'll only be available for a very short time. But perhaps Death Inc., which is another resin kit company on this coast, will be reissuing it with some slight modifications, such as no white metal parts and a few of the pieces simplified. Such as hands connected to arms and feet connected to legs, etc. But in some way, shape, or form you should still be able to track one down.

EM: After the Xenornorphous piece, what was your next project?
PK: We were going to do Edward Scissorhands next, but we wound up doing Frank N. Furter instead. The reason for that was Joe had called 20th Century Fox and Johnny Depp's lawyer to make a proposal. I did a prototype of Edward Scissorhands. We sent it out to them and Fox loved it and Johnny Depp loved it, in fact Johnny owns it right now; it's in his personal collection. Everything seemed like we had the go-ahead; we were just waiting on word from Depp's lawyer. We thought, well, that should be coming in soon, so in the meantime, well get Frank N. Furter stared. And it kept dragging on and dragging on where we were getting no word from Depp's lawyer and we sort of jokingly said, we'll probably get Frankie out before Edward. And sure enough, that's fine way it turned out!

EM: I wanted to ask how you did the fishnets on Frank N. Furter's legs.
PK: Well, I sculpted the legs first. Then Joe and I went out shopping to the fabric store for some in scale fishnet fabric and Joe stitched up some little tube-like stockings. Those were then glued onto the legs and molded. I'm quite pleased by the results.

EM: Then what came next?
PK: That's when we decided to do Julia. It was quite a passionate thing for me. The plan was to get it out in time for the May 1994 Chiller show. I feel it's probably to date one of the best pieces I've ever done.

EM: What was your reference on that piece?
PK: An interesting combination of elements; I watched the film of course and once I had the impression in my head, I wanted to kind of bring my own artistic vision into play. I also used the Color Atlas of Human Anatomy, which has beautiful photographs of real cadavers, skinned and in various stages of dissections. I had a feast doing the corpse at her feet.

EM: When you're working on a figure do you sculpt the head and hands separately?
PK: Yes, I sculpt the head separately so that I can get all the detail under the jaw and to get the proper expression. And the hands, I also sculpt separately so that all the tendons and muscles will be right.

EM: Do you use a mirror to help you with your symmetry?
PK: Always, always. If you don't use a mirror, you can be working on it and think it's perfect, then you hold it up to a mirror and it's a horror story; everything is off, one eye is higher than the other, etc.

EM: Do you use an opti-visor for tiny detail work?
PK: Oddly, no. I can manage to focus on the tiny detail quite well with my eyes. It takes a certain level of concentration.

EM: Do you use custom made tools at all?
PK: I use anything that works. Tiny dental instruments, very sharp X-acto blades, standard sculpting implements that can be bought at any art store, but I like to improvise.

EM: What about your armatures?
PK: I usually use standard aluminum armature wire, reinforced by a layer of epoxy putty.

EM: You mean standard two-part epoxy putty like Magic Sculp or Milliput?
PK: The brand I use on this coast is called Propoxy.

EM: How do you prepare the figure for cutting up for holding purposes?
PK: Before I bake I usually pre-score the piece down to he wire armature. That way I don't have to saw through the baked Sculpy which can crumble. I usually have to pick one area that I will have to sacrifice such as the shoulder, which, if it has detail, I will remove a wedge of unbaked Sculpy and save it aside and then bake the piece, saw through the metal armature with a jeweler's saw, then reattach the wedge of Sculpy, touching it up and fixing any imperfections. Then I will re-bake that piece.

EM: What do you use to do small, thin, machine type pieces, like the hands on Edward Scissorhands?
PK: I use a material called Promat, which is made by the same people who make Super Sculpy, but it's much more resilient after it's baked. It doesn't crumble the way Super Sculpy does. So I was able to sand the blades down until they were very thin and they held up and did not break. When they were molded and cast in white metal.

EM: What was your next project after Julia?
PK: The next thing was the Channard kit, which brings us up to date. At first, Joe and I discussed it and threw our ideas back and forth. My main concern was the design of the costume itself. I have this thing in me where I like to reinvent things. There were a lot of elements to that character that I thought could be augmented. In terms of producing it as a sculpture I wanted to focus on certain elements, like the redesign of the costume. I think that we've kept to the spirit of the thing. I wanted to give it a bit more dynamic vitality. There are some pretty wonderfully vile things going on in it.

EM: When you first started working on it, did you start with sketches?
PK: Yes, this is probably one of the most thought-out kits I've ever done in terms of design. I used Super Sculpy for the whole piece. I also used electrical wiring baked right in for some of the accouterments. We used a lot of little things like jump rings and jewelry pieces as some of the buckles and pieces like that. The head and hands were made separately. It wasn't so improvisational this time. We used a lot of wire in the corset. The things like tentacles which come out of the hands, we were scrambling for anything that we could find that was kind of a nasty implement that would suit our purposes.

EM: Tell us a little bit about the base.
PK: We used a rubber stamp technology where any 2 dimensional design you can provide to this company, will be returned to you as a rubber stamp. It comes back with a beautifully raised surface. So we arranged the box design geometrically into a design and that's how we made our base. My brother did the box art for the hit for us. I've been very focused on getting this piece finished in time for the April 1995 Chiller show. So I am a bit muddled right now. As soon as the Chiller show is over, I'll be in touch with you to keep you informed as to any future projects. Till then, farewell.

EM: Thank you very much, Paul, for your time and I look forward to seeing this piece in person.

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


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