Pop Sculpture
By Tim Bruckner, Zach Oat and Ruben Procopio

Pop Sculpture by Bruckner, Oat and Procopio

Have you ever wondered about the process of creating and sculpting action figures and statues? Perhaps you're a budding artist yourself, or just a curious collector. I know that while I haven't sculpted anything since my 2nd grade ash tray (do kids even do ash trays anymore?), and that might be difficult to ascertain as an ash tray, I'm always fascinated by the creative process. And when that creative process hits the cold, hard reality of business, it's a more interesting event than The Event.

I constantly get questions around the process of creating, manufacturing and selling toys, so you can only imagine the deluge that guys like Ruben Procopio, Zach Oat and Tim Bruckner get. Regular readers should recognize all three names. Ruben founded Masked Avenger Studio in 2003 after years with Disney, and has been involved with some of the best loved collectibles from DC Direct and others. Tim Bruckner has also worked as a sculptor and designer on some of the finest products from DC Direct and Gentle Giant, and is extremely well known for this exceptional work in the collector community. And Zach Oat was the editor of Toyfare Magazine, has worked with the guys at Robot Chicken, and has an intricate inside knowledge of the industry.

These three powerhouses have gotten together to collaborate on a new book called Pop Sculpture: How to Create Action Figures and Collectible Statues. The book has been released by Watson-Guptill Publications, and has a suggested retail of $30.
Pop Sculpture by Bruckner, Oat and Procopio
Pop Sculpture by Bruckner, Oat and Procopio
Pop Sculpture by Bruckner, Oat and Procopio
Pop Sculpture by Bruckner, Oat and Procopio
This is a large format soft cover book, 8 1/2" by 11", with almost three hundred pages of illustrations, artwork, photos and text.

The book walks you through the entire creative process, with plenty of helpful tips and tricks along the way. It's intention is to give you an inside look at the process, and if you're a budding sculptor yourself, some great ideas for making the process less painful, more effective, and even more fun.

The book starts out with how to use artwork (either yours or someone else's) to begin the process. There are side notes along the way as well as specific examples to show the pitfalls and upsides to various techniques. There's some great stuff in this first chapter on the do's and dont's of design, and how to think about the manufacturing process when considering pose, style and articulation.

Next up, they discuss what materials are available, the pros and cons of each, and even have a great section where they talk to other sculptors who favor one material over another, and get their additional insights. You'll recognize folks like Karen Palinko, Jonathan Mathews and Tony Cipriano, among others. There's even a brief discussion with Jim Mcpherson, who looks at the differences with digital sculpting.

In this section they also discuss your tools, provide a 'getting started' checklist, and even your workspace.

In the next chapter, they discuss creating the rough sculpt, including the armature and base. They also briefly review working with Art Directors and Product Managers, a theme which recurs throughout the book. This isn't just about sculpting for a hobby - they are giving you the information you need to do it professionally as well, and setting appropriate expectations.

Chapter 4 covers casting your figure in wax, and creating the mold. While this might not be the most artistic of the processes, it's still an art to get it right. The figure has to be cut into the right number and type of pieces, the 'gates' (the opening in the mold where wax is poured) must be placed correctly, and all the materials must be mixed with a chemists deliberation.

Once the wax casting is complete, it's time to finish the sculpture with finer tools. This section also has some excellent tips for handling eyes, and lots of little tidbits that you probably never thought of. For example - did you know that if you're sculpting a piece that will be cast in clear or translucent plastic, that the recesses should be deeper and sharper than usual? That's to allow for more refraction and reflection of the light within the item, giving it the impression of fluid movement.

The next couple chapters delve into the intricate details of creating your master mold, casting your final piece in various materials (such as resin), and completing the fabrication process.

Have you ever wondered if sculptors worry about the final articulation? Yes, they do! In fact, they try to do what they can to include intended articulation in their prototype sculpts, and the eight chapter gives you details on the basics.

Great figures and statues usually include great accessories, and they've dedicated an entire chapter to them. There's also a chapter dedicated to paint, a true skill if there ever was one. Not only do they include the basics on paints, brushes, and technique, but they give a 'ten steps to perfect eyes', complete with detailed photos.

You might think the job is done, but they've added a chapter on the photography of your completed figure. This is written from the aspect of showing off your work in a realistic setting, highlighting the details, and building a portfolio.

Finally, they briefly discuss tips on going pro, what to expect, and what they've found important when it comes to the business aspect of the work.

The book design is engaging and attractive. There's plenty of full color close up photos to illustrate the various points, and the checklists, sidebars and recipes are a great addition. The book is easy to read, easy to navigate, and a great resource for both sculptors and fans.

Overall - ****

I'm not sure what I was expecting with this book, but it certainly took me by surprise. It's a good cross section of the basics with some great advanced techniques, and the full color photos and checklists add to the appeal. 

These guys know their stuff, and their work is proof of that. By bringing in a variety of opinions, they give you a bigger picture of the entire process, and do it with an engaging style and design.  Whether you're a budding sculptor looking for inspiration and knowledge, or an artistically incompetent but curious collector such as myself, this book is an excellent resource.

Where to Buy -
This is an early copy I'm reviewing tonight, so it's not yet listed at Amazon. It will be in about 3 weeks though, but until then you can pre-order through Random House's website.

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Pop Sculpture by Bruckner, Oat and Procopio

This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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