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Old 08-12-2015, 09:56 PM   #1
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Interview with Clayburn Moore: Batgirl, Diamond Select Toys, and Leonard Nimoy!

Back in June, Diamond Select Toys announced that Clayburn Moore would be joining the company on a full-time basis. As Art Director and Lead Sculptor for Diamond Select Toys, Moore will help the company usher in a variety of new collectibles. This includes a re-launch of their Premier Collection 12" statue line, as well as a revival of their Marvel Premier Collection – a line which Moore himself helped start back in 2002. Along with the announcement of these new responsibilities came the news that CS Moore Studio would be wrapping up any remaining projects and closing its doors.

Eager to learn more about his new position at Diamond Select Toys, we reached out to Mr. Moore to see what he would be willing to share with us about this new chapter in his career.

SF - First, we at Statue Forum would like to congratulate you on your new position as a Lead Sculptor and Art Director for Diamond Select Toys. Could you tell us a little bit about the decision to move away from licensing and begin working for DST on a full-time basis?

CSM - Thanks very much! Well, it has become increasingly difficult dealing with Chinese factories over the last few years. Prices are going up and late shipping has become the norm. I could go on, but those are the main two problems. The late shipping is especially impactful on a small business like ours. Frankly, it was just getting old and tiresome. That’s always been a huge problem with factories overseas. I’m first and foremost a sculptor and dealing with another problem at the factory at 2 AM has always had a negative effect on the hours I can spend sculpting. So when Shawn Knapp at DC discussed with me the possibility of doing some pieces for DC, I thought I’d give it a try. It went well and that lead to several more projects. The Michael Turner Batman was especially nice to be a part of. Mike was a terrific, one of a kind person and one of the very best artists ever to work in comics.

DST then contacted me about the 1966 Batman TV line and the DC animated line. That led to conversations about a more full time position. My wife Shelley and I talked about the pros and cons and there were many pros and few cons.

It was a natural fit as I’ve known the people at DST for years. Shelley worked at Diamond for over 15 years. We met at the San Diego Comic-Con and I ended up moving out to Baltimore and continued my business from there. We met up with Diamond and DST people socially and I got to know them well. I had worked with DST some time ago on Spider-Man, Black Cat and White Queen. It went smoothly and we did some good work together. Of course, we would always see each other at San Diego and our booths are close by. To top it off, my brother-in-law Chris works at DST and we get along great, so saying DST is like family isn’t just a cliché.

The bottom line is that there has been a massive reduction in stress and I’m working on some fantastic projects.

SF - The new 12-inch Batgirl statue you've created for Diamond Select Toys looks incredible. What would you say was the most challenging aspect of tackling this sculpture?

CSM - Thanks! Sculpting live action characters isn’t normally my favorite thing to work on. You have three levels of approval to go through is the main reason. Let’s take Batgirl. First, there’s the employer, in this case DST. After that, you have Warner Brothers. Both levels of input are usually helpful. Warner’s actually uses tracing paper over photos of my work, which is a great way to make suggestions. Finally, you have the actor, which on this project was Yvonne Craig. That can be the x-factor. Will the actor see themselves differently than you did? It becomes a very personal thing to them and that can lead to input I find can take the portrait further away from what it should be, not closer. It’s a part of the process, but sometimes you end up trying to sculpt something that follows the actor’s input, but also is still close enough to the character that collectors will be happy to add it to their collections.

All that being said, Yvonne Craig, Julie Newmar and Adam West are great subjects and I loved the show, so working on these has been a lot of fun. I had met Julie Newmar at a show recently and talked to her a little about the project. When she got the photos from Warner’s, she approved the piece without added adjustments, which was nice.

SF - Does that mean Julie Newmar's Catwoman will be the next sculpture in this line?

CSM – I think that’s probably the case, but I’m not actually certain. There may be other figures being sculpted that will be scheduled in. There is a bust line, also, so to speak. But I can’t say exactly what the release line will be. I did the JN piece before I came on board to specifically work on the Marvel line.

SF - You mentioned you're not normally a fan of working on live action characters. How did you deal with the transition, changing from 2-D references in comic books to an actor like Yvonne Craig?

CSM - Well, while I’d rather sculpt comic characters than real life actors, if the subject is interesting it’s fine and it’s up to me to do the best job I can. Some of my first projects in this industry were live action. Years ago, I sculpted Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless from the old movie serials for Screamin’ Products. Buster Crabbe was a terrific subject and I enjoyed doing that. Those were large-twenty inches tall or so. These were early days….I had taken the Buster Crabbe in soft Super Sculpey in the front seat of my car from Austin to San Antonio as the owner of Screamin’ was going to be there and had asked me to bring it to show him. Back then I couldn’t say, “Not a chance” as I might now. So I was in my cherry red 1968 convertible Mustang and actually had a wreck coming back. That’s a good argument for using Z-Brush, I suppose….

I had also done a Lucy Lawless bust from Xena, Warrior Princess. Then there were Buffy, Angel and Willow from the television show for our action figures. I was pretty happy with the portrait I did of Anthony Head as Gilles for that line. We gave those action figures to each audience member on the Rosie O’Donnell show a couple of times, which was good publicity.

My favorite personally might have been Leonard Nimoy from the first Star Trek series for the 12” doll produced by Playmates Toys. What a fantastic subject! Mr. Nimoy was supposed to be rather difficult when it came to approvals, but he approved the likeness in one pass, which was nice.

Brent Spiner as Data was a very interesting subject as he has a very sloping forehead and a rather distinct nose. Very striking look. That was also for the Playmates 12” doll line. The figures were dolls with plastic portrait heads.

And finally, I just finished Jessica Alba from the first Sin City film. It’s currently out for approval, so fingers crossed!

In most cases, I’d like to do comic characters from the comics, though. I have more opportunity to have the piece reflect my own style as the figure will typically be more dramatic and exaggerated than a real person would be. There also isn’t as strict a requirement to make the face look specific.

SF - Here is hoping Jessica Alba gives it the green light on the first pass like Mr. Nimoy did. Will Nancy Callahan be the first in a new line also being lead by you or is this a one-off release?

CSM – It’s the same situation as the bust line and the Julie Newmar Catwoman. I would think there would be other figures, but I started on Marvel and my plate is very full.

SF - The colors on the painted prototype for Batgirl are very vibrant and evocative of the original show. Are you able to provide any direction for how these pieces will be painted?

CSM - In the past I was the art director on all phases of our projects. That being said, it begins and ends with the licensor approval. You do the best you can and then change things as the licensor directs. It comes with the territory.

With DST, I am also art director and have a say in the molding and paint process. In my projects, I’ll have them painted by Jim Rowell. He’s been working with me since our first Aphrodite IX project some time ago and is quite accomplished. We work very closely to get a piece ready for submission to the licensor. He also has suggestions and input along the process and I respect his opinion. He painted Batgirl and Catwoman and will paint Batman and Nancy (Jessica Alba). He also just painted our first piece for the new Marvel Premier line. DST also works with some very good people and some pieces may go to them. Jason Wires is the main person and he’s very good.

Last edited by Luminous; 08-16-2015 at 12:19 PM.
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Old 08-12-2015, 09:59 PM   #2
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Part 2

SF - Aside from photographs of the actors/models, what other references do you typically use as part of your process?

CSM - Over the years I’ve built up a good photo reference library of all body parts in all positions. I often start with muscular reference (but not always), I can modify or adjust that anatomy to meet the needs of the sculpture I’m working on. These days I don’t use as much reference as I’ve learned the figure well enough to sculpt from my cumulative experience. That said, I’ve been doing this for decades and I highly recommend any sculptor use reference and study anatomy to improve as an artist and get the best result.

SF - I understand that you will also be working on a 12-inch Marvel line for Diamond Select Toys. Have you begun work on the first character for this line? Is there anything you can share with us either about the character's identity or what art direction this line might go in?

CSM – Well, since it’s been announced, I can say that the first piece is the Wolverine tracking through the snow, which was the companion piece to Wolverine in the Sewer from the Hellfire Club story arc. I can’t say quite what the other characters will be yet, but I think collectors are going to like the line. I have a good amount of input on poses and character choice and I’ll be sculpting as much as I can on the Premier line you’re referring to. We start with poses from from the design team to get the conversation started on a particular character. They do excellent work and are terrific artists. From there, I’ll make suggestions if I see modifications I think will work better in 3-D or I may mock something new up or find images from the comics that I think are key to what fans of the character will expect. I may come up with an idea for a character that I’ve wanted to work on for some time (more like years) inspired by a cover or some iconic image I know people would love to see in 3-D because I’d love to sculpt it as a fan myself. Meaning, if I remember an image that just blew me away, then it is usually an image other people would love to see in statue form. We all have favorite images we remember from the comics and some of them are universally loved by all. These are what I like to think of sculpting partly because I want to sculpt them and partly because I know people will love to see them and hopefully add them to their collections.

As far as the process goes with Marvel, we approve the character first, then send over the pose idea we’ve all agreed on. They’re very good about getting back to us quickly which is always helpful in moving the project along.

SF - Alright, how about this... share with us one of your favorite comic book covers/images that you'd like to sculpt. When and if it ever gets approved for a sculpture, Statue Forum can say fans read about it here first! Deal?

CSM – Well, a good many of them have been done. Fantastic Four #51 was always one of my favorite single issues and covers. I think they should have gone with the Kirby cover just as it was drawn, but they beefed him up quite a bit and did a smaller head than Kirby drew. Silver Surfer #1 is a great cover and so is Submariner #1. Obviously, I’m a big fan of John Buscema. I did the Silver Surfer #4 cover, as you may remember, but it was never produced. Some people know that story. That is probably my favorite cover of all time and I got to do that piece, even though it wasn’t released. Maybe someday, though.

I worked with Frazetta on two of the very well known Conan covers and that is the pinnacle, really. I worked on three of his paintings total, one from the ERBurroughs Martian series. I met with him, spent time with him and got to know him. Working with the greatest fantasy artist of all time is about as good as it gets, but working with Jack Kirby and John Buscema, the two greatest comic artists of all time, directly would have been incredible as well.

SF - Thanks to Hollywood and the growing popularity of superheroes in pop culture, do you feel any more pressure now that you're working with characters from DC and Marvel on a full-time basis?

CSM - I think any artist has to have confidence in what they do, but they shouldn’t be over confident or unwilling to understand we can always learn and improve in our art. At the same time, I’ve been at this long enough to have a certain confidence in my work and my abilities. I’ve spent many years working with people who created their own characters and they have a strong emotional attachment to them. If they are happy with my work, then I feel I’m reasonably good at what I do. Marvel is also very particular about their characters as would be expected. I’ve done some of their characters over the years and they’re familiar with my work. They’ll be closely involved, of course, and we’ll work together to get the best look possible for this line.

SF - Your mastery of human anatomy is always evident in your sculptures. Do you find one aspect of the human form easier to sculpt over another? For example, is it easier for you to get musculature right or are proportions something you have an easier time with?

CSM - [laughs] Thanks, but I just work the sculpture until I think it’s right. I don’t use calipers or take measurements or anything except to get the height right at the start. Sometimes I get to a sticking point, but then I’ll step away for a bit and come back with a fresh eye. I’ll even ask someone I know whose opinion I respect to take a look. They’re not even necessarily artists, but a couple are, like Mark Schultz or Manny Carrasco. Shelley has a very good eye, but she says it’s from spending time with me.

Muscularity or tone in my work can differ from sculpture to sculpture, although I know I have a particular style, which I think is a good thing. Someone should be able to look at a piece and have a good idea who did it. I take each piece and decide what’s best for that body of that character. In comics, a male character is usually going to have a high level of muscular definition, but certainly not always. Some women are very cut and some less so. For example, you can make the abdominals very cut or indicate them in a more sensual, flowing way, a la Frazetta. It just depends, but I’d say it’s most important to get proportions right or the figure will look wrong and a lot of muscle or a pretty face won’t save it.

SF - What are your thoughts on the use of digital programs to create sculptures? Do you have any experience with software like Z-Brush?

CSM - Well, this may ruffle a few feathers or not, but it isn’t sculpting if you’re using a mouse or track pad. It’s 3-D design or whatever, but if you’re using Z-Brush or a digital program, you’re no longer sculpting. And I don’t use it although I have some knowledge of it. It’s the way things are, but to me, it’s more like drawing than sculpture and it doesn’t seem very fulfilling to me as an artist. For one thing, many people in the history of the program have developed the system to do the work for you. So someone else is doing the work for you, someone who came before and cut that corner for you. Textures, skins, flipping and matching one side with the click of a button is just a short cut someone else just did for you. Our human faces and bodies are not perfectly bi-symmetrical and that’s part of our beauty. The imperfection of a sculpture makes it that much more extraordinary and it must be made by human hands manipulating a material in the real world, not a virtual world. So no one can tell me it’s sculpting because it just plain is not. Period. To be clear, if I ever learn that system and I do a piece using Z-Brush, I won’t be sculpting, either. Many people can sculpt and some are superb, extremely accomplished sculptors who use these systems, but they’re no longer sculpting. And it may not matter to them in the least and that’s fine. I do find it interesting that many people who actually cannot sculpt or are poor or amateur sculptors look like stars (or at least appear much improved) using these systems and to me that says it all. If that is to be defined as sculpting, sculpting is no longer a gift to be thankful for, but a program bought with money, so let’s not fool ourselves.

SF - Lastly, I hear you're big into exercising. Is it safe to assume it isn't just to stay healthy but also a means to take your mind off of work? Are there activities that you do if you need to find some inspiration for your art?

CSM - There’s no question I’ve had some good ideas creatively while running or cycling or whatever, but that isn’t the motivation. It’s what you mentioned most of all: staying healthy and taking my mind off work and any of life’s stresses. I think it’s the same for anyone who exercises regularly. I want to do everything I can to stay healthy and able for as long as I can. So I can have a more full life and active life with my lovely wife and sculpt well for years to come at a high level. And anyway, I go crazy sitting all day if I don’t workout pretty much every day. I’ll take the dogs out or walk the neighborhood, but those aren’t my workouts. I do boxing, plyometrics and weights. I cycle, kayak, do P90X and Body Pump, my own routines and kick boxing videos; you name it. I’ve reached the point where I just do the workout that I feel I want to do that day. Sometimes boxing (bag or kickboxing or combination routines) is best to blow off steam. After my answer about digital, I may do boxing today.

SF - I think that's my cue to leave. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us. It seems the fans have a lot to look forward to from you and your new position at Diamond Select Toys. We wish you the best of luck!

CSM - Thanks very much to you, Danny and the forum members. And thanks for all the support over the years!

Last edited by Luminous; 08-17-2015 at 11:59 AM.
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Old 08-12-2015, 10:48 PM   #3
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Awesome interview. As always, honest, interesting and grateful!
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Old 08-13-2015, 04:18 AM   #4
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Excellent interview. I'd love Clay to sculpt a few 1/4 scale pieces.
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Old 08-14-2015, 12:27 AM   #5
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I am glad he is taking a less stressful path. And it sounds like he will be sculpting a wide range of characters which is great. If he picks up Marvel again...I am in. His white queen statues to this day are still great.
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Old 08-14-2015, 12:59 AM   #6
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The Jessica Alba part of the interview got my full attention
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Old 08-14-2015, 01:07 AM   #7
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Excellent interview Luminous!
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Old 08-14-2015, 01:34 PM   #8
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Great interview. Clay has always been a class act. I wish him all the best in his new role at DST.
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Old 08-14-2015, 06:47 PM   #9
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Glad you guys enjoyed the interview. Clay is a real nice guy and easy to talk to. He approached the interview with enthusiasm and professionalism. Could not have asked for more.
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Old 08-14-2015, 09:26 PM   #10
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I have the Wolverine statue and love it. It's based on a scene from my very first X-Men comic, which makes it that much more special. I'm looking forward to Clay's future Marvel output; maybe we'll finally get to see the Silver Surfer #4 diorama produced. It was also interesting to read his view on digital "sculpting". I couldn't agree more.
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