Alright, it's time for week two. This time I get the pleasure of bringing you a two for one interview. The Amazingly talented Shiflett Brothers. Brandon and Jarrod have been working in the commercial industry for a while now. Creating work for Bowen Designs, Dynamic Forces and for the video game industry where they worked on one of the coolest games out there "Odd World". These days the Brothers have been focused on creating their own original characters and in so doing have really raised the bar for inspiration and originality. Their online forum is a home of learning and support where sculptors young and old have come together to talk about and share their love for sculpture. It also happens to be the very first online forum that I ever joined, and I make sure to stop by every day.
And now for the questions:
AP: When you were kids, did you already have a sense that you would be artists some day? If so, what were some early sources of inspiration for you? If not, what kind of things did inspire you?
B: When we were kids, we wanted to be comic book artists. There's no doubt about it. That was our dream. It turns out, as we got older, we weren't nearly good enough at drawing to work in comics. We were really lucky to discover we had some aptitude at sculpting so that we could sneak into our beloved industry through the back door!
The things that inspired us were 1. Comic Books. 2. Star Wars. 3. KISS. KISS were kinda like living super heroes to us when we were very young. Star Wars, of course, affected all kids our age. The Rancor and its handler from Return of the Jedi were really important to Jarrod. You can see that relationship between beast and handler in some of his work still. And the Comic Book thing sorta speaks for itself in our work.
J: Our rock stars growing up were comic book artists. Back then it was all about Steve Rude, Bill Sienkiewicz, Frank Miller, Paul M. Smith, John Romita Jr., Mark Teixeira, and a few others. Also of course Fantasy Artists like Frank Frazetta. There is a photo somewhere of me at about 10 years old wearing a Frazetta T-Shirt. Of course, Frazetta affects everything we sculpt to this day. As does the work of Moebius, the French Comics Icon. Frazetta and Moebius may be our two oldest and greatest influences artistically.
AP: When did you discover sculpting? Who were some of your first "sculpting heroes"?
B: We discovered sculpting relatively late in life. Jarrod was about 18 and I was in my twenties. There was no pre-paint statue industry back then, so we only ever saw resin and vinyl kits...and not many of them. The first sculpted thing we ever saw that made a huge impact was an Incredible Hulk vinyl kit by Moto Hata. It was a "Holy Shit!" moment. The idea of these characters being in 3D was in our heads from that point on. There were also a few Horizon Kits by a legendary sculptor named Kiya. The Horizon Venom (from Spiderman). This was (and still is) one of the most amazing sculpted pieces out there.
J: And then of course everything changed when we were exposed to the Creature Core book. Seeing the work of Yasushi Nirasawa, Takayuki Takeya, and Fewture Models sent us back to the drawing board to reconsider everything we were doing. That was when the idea of original concept work became so important to us.
AP: How does it feel to have hardcore fans of your work?
B: Its humbling, you know? People wanting photos with us and stuff...its really an honor. The thing is, what we do is essentially a very lonely endeavor. We sit there for hundreds of hours by ourselves, late at night, working on stuff without being sure that any of what we're sculpting is any good or even makes any sense. So when we go to a Con and have this very intense experience of face to face contact with people who love the work, its very, very gratifying and sorta validating. It makes us eager to get back to the studio and get back to work.
J: We'rere just a couple of nerds from Texas. We don't live in California or New York, so when we get out to these places and people have even heard of us, we're always a little surprised! And the other artists, the painters, sculptors, comic book artists who say nice things about our stuff...that's really special to us.
AP: Do you still feel that you're a fan of this type of work? If so, do you ever find yourself getting excited to meet another sculptor?
B: Oh my god. Are you kidding? We're total fanboy geeks about this kind of work! At the Monsterpalooza show in L.A. we got to meet Steve Wang (a legendary sculptor) who we'd never met and we completely geeked out! I think I kinda started sounding like that old Chris Farley skit, I would say "Remember when you sculpted the Predator?..." He's probably putting out a restraining order on me as we speak. We got to hang out with Jordu Schell at his freaking studio! It was like a "Cathedral of Sculpting" for us. So yeah...anybody working in this industry who's not into it may as well go sculpt clowns or ballerinas or some shit like that.
J: Brandon is a fucking dork.
AP: Who or what are some of your inspirations today?
B: We love the work of certain concept artists: Carlos Huante is amazing. Daphne Yap is freaky. Wayne Barlowe is a genius. We follow closely the work of other sculptors like Simon Lee/Spiderzero, Paul Komoda, David Meng of Weta and Jordu Schell. Of course we are still obsessed with the Japanese Masters Takeya, Nirasawa, and Yuji Oniki.. We worship the work of French Illustrator Claire Wendling. Japanese Illustrator Kat Terada. Comic book artists Travis Charest, Eric Canete, Phil Noto, and Mike Mignola. We try to take in as many genre movies and read as many comic books as is humanly possible.
AP: How important do you feel it is to seek out inspiration? What are some things you do when it feels like inspiration is running low?
B: Inspiration is key. You have to get motivated to sit there for as many hours as sculpting takes. You have to get your juices flowing. Inspiration can strike us at anytime. Reading something in a magazine, watching a commercial on TV. But I mostly get inspired by other fantasy/sci-fi art. When I need a boost, I'll spend a few minutes looking through a Spectrum Book. If you don't have a few of these, they're essential for me. Not for any one specific thing I get from them...they just get me fired up for cool genre art and back into the swing of things.
J: Hey Alfred, we want to thank you for asking us to do this. We love your work and we were honored to take part!
B: Hell yes. Thanks dude!
Thank you Brandon and Jarrod for agreeing to do this. It really means a lot to me. I'll see you on the forums.
To everybody reading this, I hope you enjoyed this weeks interview. Catch up with last weeks, right below, and come back next week for the interview #3. Feel free to leave comments and talk about your inspirations.