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Old 01-21-2007, 03:51 PM   #1
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lost interview with Seth Vandable

Well once again folks, here is another interview in our series on interview/articles for Statueforum. This month’s interview is with Hard Hero’s Seth Vandable a sculptor that has been around the comic industry for some time as well as sculpting many other fine pieces that are considered more “fine-art” than folks give to comic sculptures.

Recently Seth has completed one of the largest figurative bronze sculptures ever created in the US. This sculpture is approximately 38’tall. This piece is called Man Made Energy and will be located in Casper Wyoming.

In researching this interview I’ve found sculpts by Seth all over the internet. Seth has worked with all kinds of clients from high schools to folks like Carol Shelby

As you can see there is more to Seth than just the typical comic pieces we have enjoyed from him over the years. Seth was responsible for sculpting the Bowen Designs Iron Fist and Thanos busts, The Hard Hero X-men evolution maquettes as well as being the main man for the new Hard Hero line of Marvel full figure statues.

Seth hails from Texas, but we will not hold that against him, there are a few good Texans out there for sure. He got his start as a commercial artist and painter.

Normally I write about a persons training in the bio area of the interview but this time I am going to going to quote and email that Seth sent me about his start as a sculptor and being “discovered” by Rob at Hard Hero.

“Hi Charles.
As far as training goes, it would have been great to get some kind of instruction, but never took an art class of any kind. I've always had a fascination with the figure, and devoured every book on anatomy and art history I could find. (still do). Developing artistically has all been trial and error...and error...and error.
I grew up in small towns in Texas and just never came across artists or teachers who were doing the things I wanted to do. Back then everyone was painting bluebonnets and sculpting cowboys. I guess in retrospect it worked out since I was allowed to develop a style without being overly influenced by someone else. I sought out professional fine artists and was constantly loitering in their studios, pestering them and picking their brains.
Being naive and overly optimistic, ( necessary traits for all artists ) I cast my first bronze when I was 15 after sculpting a dozen or so pieces. Meanwhile I started doing 2-D portrait work ( great discipline ), small commercial jobs, and horrible wall murals all over Austin.
If someone is reading this looking for inspiration, or wanting to become an artist, I would encourage them to simply go for it. Don't wait for talent to miraculously materialize. Don't wait for the right training, the right studio space, tools, materials or even encouragement and support from people you love or respect, though all of those things would help. Becoming an artist is never external, but takes place in your chest. If you are willing to put your heart into it and your guts out there, good things will happen. Rob from Hard Hero actually found me when he saw my bronzes in a gallery in California.
I firmly believe that talent is way overrated and is always trumped by heart and a willingness to work hard. My buddy Kent Ullburg calls it the "Fire in the Belly".
Charles, I have a simple philosophy on developing as an artist….”. Thanks.

Seth has also been quoted on more than a few places in saying "My sincere wish is that through my work, people will recognize their own heroic nature, May they find hope through a sense of connection to all souls conquering life's changes...reaching for the same dreams...succeeding with integrity and beauty."
This is a pretty cool quote I think and sums up what I’ve been finding out about the large body of work that Seth has been involved with.

Seth’s wife is also an accomplished sculptor in her own right. Missy Vandable is known for her ability to see the world through the eyes of a child and this has garnered her awards and recognition in the sculpting arena as well.

I would think their studio would be a incredible visit at some point in a young sculptors life. Or even and older person wanting to sculpt.

Q & A session:

SF: Seth I want to once again say thank you for agreeing to do this interview. I’m sure that folks would like to know more about you and your sculpting. So here goes the first question. Seeing that you are from Texas does location have anything to do with the work that you do? I know some sculptors are in Burbank CA. all the way to Gloversville NY. Does today’s internet society allow for you to work from where you want to live?

Seth: First off, I want to thank you so much Charles for the opportunity to share my experience, though most forum guys would probably be more interested in an interview w/Rob since he is Hard Hero.
As far as location goes, I think as an artist it really doesn’t make any difference where you are. If you have a passion for what you do, the right people and opportunities will show up for you,,,usually just before the landlord throws you out on your rear!

SF: Do you ever get out to the comic convention circuit? If not do you have plans to hit the conventions next year with heard hero to show off the line?

Seth: I have not had the chance to get to any of the cons, but I would like to do that in the near future. I think it would be awesome to sit at a con and sculpt something start to finish, but I don’t know if our licensing would allow that sort of thing since everything has to be approved before it’s shown.

SF: since you are a self taught sculptor is there something you learned along they way you would like to share with the latest group of sculptors that are emerging onto the scene? A tiny tidbit of knowledge that you feel really helped you in the beginning.

Seth: There are so many amazing artists on this forum….they certainly don’t need my input. But to someone just starting out- boy, where do I start?… Are you compulsive? Do you talk to yourself? Do you like watching grass grow? Do you like beans and rice? Can you handle rejection, I mean lots of rejection, no, I mean like kick you when you are down rejection, and then does it hack you off and make you want to say,” oh yeah, watch this?” Good, you are ready to be an artist!
I guess the biggest thing for an artist is learning to see. Really study your subject before you start. LEARN YOUR ANATOMY. I would say relatively few artists are willing to work hard enough to get the results they hope for. A couple of years of intense, and then ongoing study will get you where you want to be faster than years of frustration because the basics were never fully grasped. There are millions of mechanics out there, and they all must understand exactly how each part of a vehicle functions. Figurative sculptors should understand the mechanics of the figure .how bones move, origin and insertion points of muscles, volumes, how muscles stretch and contract, how they change as the figure moves and so on. Shakespeare started with his ABC’s.
One of the most important factors is being willing to make the changes in a sculpt when necessary. Be willing to mutilate the thing when you know something is off. The early stages are important. With a superhero, it seems that posture, attitude and proportion are everything and individual to the respective character. In other words, say you are sculpting Superman: You should be able to recognize him as Superman before the details like facial features, and an S on his chest. That is why it is important not to commit too early in a work when blocking up posture, attitude, bone structure, and muscle mass….…sure the details are exciting, but if they come too early, the end result will suffer and it will be difficult to want to undo all the hard work.
Finally, the best teacher an artist can have is his/her own work. If there is always one part of the figure that seems especially frustrating ……(eyes, back muscles, hands, whatever…) that is the area to concentrate on and study.
Having said all of that, it is still important to have fun with it and stay excited! Take your work seriously, but never yourself. Learn from criticism, but don’t internalize it. You are not your work. This forum is unique in that every dude with a keyboard can sit there shoving Cheetos in his pie-hole while blasting away at the work you have courageously shown the world. Your guts are on the table, but you gotta have a thick skin and let things roll right off, or better yet, laugh a lot! Responding to every negative comment will only drive you crazy and at the very least prove counterproductive to trusting in your own artistic vision.
One more thing: When you get a job, whether it pays gobs of cash or just peanuts, sculpt as if your life depends on it. The body of work you create is your legacy, and will still have your name on it long after the coins are spent.
How’s that for a tidbit?

SF: since you where kind enough to share some very amazing pictures of your monument work. What is the material that we see you sculpting for the Man Made Energy piece? Did this piece start out as a normally say 1/6th scale sculpt then you must re-sculpt the piece in the “blue” material? Or is your work scaled up in some process and you just fine tune it at the end? It is not often I’ve seen this scale of sculpting and I’m sure many folks have not either.

Seth: Thanks for asking about that. I feel really blessed to have been able to create images of this scale. I know the statue world seems competitive, but here you have a handful of artists that are sculpting statues and it is pretty easy to land a job, whereas the competition for monuments, and even the top art shows is just insane. There are literally hundreds, sometimes thousands of incredible artists competing for one job or a space in a show.
When you are a finalist on a monument, usually the field has been narrowed to about 5 or 6 artists, who are all called upon to sculpt a scale maquette of the proposed sculpture. Hopefully, there are no politics going on, and the best maquette proposal actually has a chance at the commission. So you must be willing to spend 4-5 months sculpting for nothing if you are not awarded the job.
In this case, after getting the job, the maquette was cut into pieces, and each piece was scanned, and then digitally enlarged (milled) into high-density foam (the blue and yellow stuff) with a computer and a CNC type machine. So what you have now is all of these huge foam parts, which have lost all detail because the enlargement factor is so great. The details just explode into nothing. I sculpted all of the details directly into the foam, while it was still in pieces, then assembled it like a giant puzzle, covered that with clay and finished it out. It was cast in traditional lost wax bronze. The whole project, from concept to installation took about 2 ½ years. It would have taken about 7 years using the older point up methods. I still pinch myself when I consider some of the projects that I have had the opportunity to work on.

SF: Seth your original Iron fist bust for Bowen Designs was one of your first pieces in the comic market. How did you get the gig to sculpt this piece? Did you get a copy of the re-released red version? How tough was sculpting this one? How did you get the headband straps to flow so well and be manufactured?

Seth: I had done a few things for Rob at that point, including the barbarians. I guess Randy must have seen that stuff. Randy was great to work with, and I really appreciate the opportunity. He even sent me a check and a few mini-busts when he produced the red variant! Randy is a great guy, and really a modern day Medici considering the breaks he has given to so many incredible artists. Rob and I both think the world of the guy and what he has accomplished.
I think he must have fabricated new straps for the red version since they are a bit different than the original ones on the green Iron Fist.

SF: While you worked for Hard Hero on the X-men line of sculpts was it hard to transition from a standard character sculpt to a animated style?

Seth: Not really. I have created so many 2-D and sculpted portraits, that it is just more portrait work. Rob is very intense about making the characters reflect the look of certain artists. In the case of the Evolution maquettes, he worked closely with animator Steve Gordon, and then busted my chops till they were right.
Rob is a perfectionist, and really deserves all of the credit for what you see coming from HH. He loves the characters, and seems to know every story line from even the most obscure heroes. I’m guessing he didn’t date much in high school!

SF: During the X-men line there was an episode with Captain America and hard hero decided to sculpt Capt. For the line as well. Do you know why they chose Capt.? Or was it since it was one of his first appearances in any form on TV or movies in some time Marvel allowed/wanted him to be sculpted?

Seth: It’s funny how everybody says,” Marvel is giving away licenses”, when in reality it is like pulling teeth to get the rights to anything worth doing. Cap is one of Robs all time favorites, and when he made an appearance in an episode, we pounced on it….who wouldn’t? It was a chance to do Cap!

SF: Seth please let me know if we are trying to get to much information from you because everyone wants to know what else hard hero has install for us. I’m not sure but I thought I saw that you or Rob posted that there will be 25 or so sculpts in the first phase of the hard hero line. We’ve seen Hulk, Thing, Iron Fist, Thor, Silver Surfer, Namor, Captain America and Hawkeye. Some of those are considered some of the biggest characters Marvel has. Folks have asked though where is Spidey? Dardevil? Or some villains?

Will Rob allow you any hints or teases of what you are currently working on? (we will buy Rob Beer if need be… lol )

Seth: I will leave that for your interview with Rob. I am just the grunt here, and am probably as excited as anyone else to see what Rob has up his sleeve.
I will say that Rob started out as a collector, and views this line as his dream project.
He is so thorough, that I am sure he wants this collection to feel complete.

SF: When you are working on the new sculpts do you have an idea of what the base will be in the beginning ? I’m wondering what the final base for Iron Fist will be and so are many others? Is there a plan to have bases interlock? Or at least go well together?

Seth: Again Rob eats sleeps and drinks this stuff, and had a vision going into this thing. There is a compelling reason for every base decision he makes, and it is always for the good of the collection. Iron Fist will have a suh-weeet base. I’m pullin for a Power-Man to go along with IF, but that’s not my call.

SF: What has been your favorite character to sculpt up to now? Also what character do you want to sculpt but have not yet?

Seth: Hulk….another Hulk………maybe a couple more Hulks. The fun part is making all these stupid mad faces while you are sculpting him.
I think it would be fun to get into Wolverines head, and can’t wait to give him my best shot, though people probably want to move on to other characters. Don’t get me started on the DC stuff…

SF: OK Seth this is a question I ask a lot of sculptors. What is your favorite medium to sculpt in a why?

Seth: I haven’t found the perfect medium. They all have their limitations. I have been using casteline mainly because it holds detail and is easy to ship.

SF: OK Seth this is the end of the questions and answers. I want to let this last part be something from you. Is there anything else you would like to add at this time? This last spot is for you to give some profound statement about life………. Lol.

Final comment: I wouldn’t call this words of wisdom, but to sculptors: You know that feeling you get when you see someone’s sculpture that just blows your mind, and your like,”Holy @#%*#@”, then this sick feeling comes over you like you have been kicked in the gut? That is the best thing that can happen to you as an artist. The universe is helping you grow. Be truly happy for that artist…..that their work has inspired you, has raised the bar for you, and given you a glimpse of what is possible for yourself. Thanks to all of the artists on this forum whose work continually gives me that feeling and inspires me to do the best work I can!
Thanks again to you Charles for letting me blab!
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