A week ago I got back from L.A.
Other than Designer Con and Toy Break I spent a couple of days catching up with friends and seeing some of the sights.
My uber talented friend Neil Winn was able to arrange a little trip to Spectral Motion, a creature effects studio who he works with sometimes. So he, I and other multi talented friend George Gaspar Paid a short visit.
Spectral Motion have done some of my favorite creature character work in recent years so it was an exciting place to look around for me.
We were not allowed to look around the whole facility due to secret “Pacific Rim” work taking place in some of the workshops, but I did get to see their foyer and the machine shop. The foyer is a mini museum of films they have worked on. The first thing that greets you is the full sized Sammael from Hellboy. This thing is HUGE. The photos done really show its scale. But my respect for Brian Steel has gone up massively since seeing it. To ware a suit that bulky for any length of time, let alone perform in it is a truly awesome feat.
This is me and Neil with the portal opening glove which Rasputin uses at the start of Hellboy. It is a stunning piece of work. Up close you can see all sorts of mechanical and surreal gizmos which never read on the screen. For example :
Some of the glass vials have mummified frogs in them. And there is a scorpion under a mechanised hatch on the back of the hand.. You cant see these details from a couple of feet away let alone in the movie.
Note the swastika on the gauge!
Also from Hellboy they had on show maquettes of Behemoth and the Ogdru Jahad and the animated Russian corpse. Astonishing works all.
In the Machine shop we were greeted by some familiar faces.
Johann, Mr. Wink and the Angel of Death from Hellboy II stand upon a shelf overlooking the large very well equipped room. The detail in these figures was stunning and the physicality of them was very visceral. They really are like people not things such is the level of craftsmanship employed in their design and production. It’s hard to explain what meeting these beings in the flesh is like over seeing them in photos or in the films.
The grass wolf creature in the middle is from “Lady in the Water”. Not a film I am familiar with but since the trip one I want to see as soon as possible.
We were also treated to an impromptu demonstration of some amazing anamatronic pieces and had a poke about a preternaturally clean foam casting room. The whole place was amazing and I envied the people who get to work their magic there. Everyone was extreamly friendly and went out of their way to show this pasty faced English no-body a splendid time.
George and Neil with the Angel of Death.
Oh and if you haven’t seen “Don’t be afraid of the dark” yet.. Close your eyes now…….
After the Spectral Motion visit we drove out to the home and studio of a favourite artist of mine.
Chet Zar has been at the top of my favourite artist list since the moment I first discovered his work. His creature designs are among the most unique and inspired creations ever rendered. His paintings are masterful and his sculptural work is then best in the business. I was a little nervous about meeting him.
But as is always the way with awesome artists (in my experience anyway) he is the most wonderful, grounded and easy going fellow you could wish to meet.
We got some splendid pizza in a little place by his studio and talked about the art scene, tattoo conventions and general this and that. He was kind enough to add a sketch to my compendium of monsters (along side Neil’s ) and we planned a little project for next year.
His studio was a delightful tangle of creative chaos. Piles of old projects and part finished sculpts and a large current piece which had amusingly been partially eaten by his dog during the night… It was great to see some of his larger paintings and some truly wonderful works by his immensely talented father.
I am lucky enough to own a couple of small painting by Chet, but had never seen any of his larger pieces.
It was a very pleasant end to my short American adventure.
After dropping Chet off we headed out to the airport for my not so short flight back to rainy Blighty.