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The artist behind the statue: an interview with sculptor Mark Newman

mark-newman-stanley-lau-batgirl
(Sideshow Collectibles)

Your friendly neighborhood jman recently had the opportunity to ask master sculptor Mark Newman some questions about himself, his process, what it’s like working for Sideshow Collectibles and collaborating with artist Stanley “Artgerm” Lau.


jman: How long have you been sculpting?  Are you self-taught or classically trained?

Mark Newman: I’ve been sculpting professionally now for around 29 years. I’m essentially self taught.

jman: How does the actual sculpting process work for you?  How long does it typically take?  Do you sculpt with clay exclusively or do you sculpt digitally as well?  Or both?  Which do you prefer?  Are there advantages to either?

MN: I still work traditionally almost all the time. Only a few digital sculpting projects so far. For the type of work I do for Sideshow Collectibles I typically receive a basic design sketch to work from indicating pose, attitude and feel of the piece. I gather relevant photo reference of the character on-line as well as any anatomy reference that may help. I start with building a wire armature attached to a wooden base. I then rough out the basic forms typically using Super Sculpey for 1/4 scale sculpts. Adjusting the pose and proportions I then send off progress photos to the client for notes and approval. Then I continue to work on the piece refining the forms, adjusting the pose, planning out the base design. I send progress photos in different stages to the client to keep on the same page and continue until final detailing and approval. At this stage I bake the sculpt solidifying it and then proceed to cut and key the sculpture so it’s ready for molding and casting when I deliver the finished piece.

mark-newman-poison-ivy
(Sideshow Collectibles)

jman: When you do a sculpture, do you do it at the size of the final product?  Or do you work bigger?

MN: I work 1:1. The same size of the final product minus the small percentage of shrinkage due to molding and casting the piece.

jman: Over the last couple years you’ve been working with Sideshow Collectibles sculpting statues based off of Stanley “Artgerm” Lau’s work.  What is that process like?  Does Sideshow give you the artwork and ask you to make the sculpt?  Do you have any input on the pose?  Can you go to them and say:  “I think the pose would look better if I did this…”

MN: Since I’ve been working with Sideshow now for around 6 years or so we have both become accustomed to working together and knowing each others strengths. Sideshow is really good at letting the artist ‘do what they do’. When working with existing art to try and reproduce it in 3D, like Stanley’s work, there is a respect to try and keep true to the original. I was given the artwork and started working up the sculpt. I do have input on the work but try not to stray from the original art. Since there is typically one view to work from I get plenty of input spinning the piece around filling in the blanks if you will. Sometimes we tweak the pose either suggested by myself or the Sideshow’s creative team.

conversation-with-mark-newman-poison-ivy-art
Poison Ivy art by Stanley Lau (Sideshow Collectibles)

jman: How do you visualize a sculpture of a pose off a 2-D picture?  Take for example Poison Ivy.  The art she’s based off of is only a portion of her.  Does Artgerm provide you with alternate views, kind of like a character/model sheet?  Or have you sculpted so much over the years, that your fingers know what they’re doing, i.e. muscle memory?

MN: It becomes second nature for a 3D artist to visualize 2D art into 3D. There was only the one image of Stanley’s Poison Ivy to work from. I prefer to work from just one or two flat art references to create a 3D version of it. Figuring out the turn around views, what works best as far as flow and dynamics of the pose from as many angles as possible. That’s where some of the fun is in sculpting.

mark-newman-sideshow-collectibes
Master sculptor Mark Newman (image courtesy of Mark Newman/Sideshow Collectibles)

jman: On a couple of the Sideshow statues, there’s a few people listed as the co-sculptors on the piece, along with yourself.  Is that a specialization thing?  Is another sculptor brought in to do a face or the hair or refinements of the statue?

MN: Typically for me with Sideshow, I receive the entire project to sculpt. Sometimes just the figure minus the base but not that often. I work up the sculpt and get final approval before sending it in. Sometimes there are small areas on the sculpt that need refining or tweaking after they receive it and comb over all the details of the piece. They generally refine and tweak these things in-house as opposed to sending back to the original sculptor. Sometimes the licensee want changes after the fact and they preform those tasks in-house as well. Sometimes they make changes to the original design after the fact. Some pieces are mixed media with fabric work that is handled in-house as well. Working with Sideshow is always a group effort as they utilize the strengths of each artist to achieve the best final result possible. They list all the people involved in the final piece on their website which is pretty cool.

conversation-with-mark-newman-poison-ivy
(Sideshow Collectibles)

jman: Of the Sideshow statues you’ve worked on, which one is your favorite?

MN: It’s hard to think which is my favorite but I really have to say that working on the ‘Court of the Dead’ line has been my favorite type of work. All original concept and designs, very collaborative effort. I was able to do lots of concept design work as well as sculpting a bunch of the pieces. If I had to pick one favorite sculpt it would have to be Death’s Siren Gallevarbe. I had the great opportunity to design and sculpt this piece. They had to do some tweaks and refining some parts which is why there is more than just one sculptor given credit for this piece.

jman: Is there anything in particular you prefer to sculpt?  Anything that you put off until the end because you can’t stand it or bores you?

MN: I enjoy most all of the process. One of my favorite stages is the beginning part of the process. Posing the figure, roughing it in, finding the gesture and energy of the piece. Making it look good and interesting from every angle possible. The most laborious part of the process is the final stage of cutting the piece apart and keying the parts together for the molding and casting process. There is often some re-sculpting areas to match up the joint areas. Final sanding and patching any cracks is always a pain.

jman: What’s your involvement in the process after the sculpture is done and approved?  Do you create the molds for the actual production pieces?  How does that process work?

-mark-newman-power-girl
(Sideshow Collectibles)

MN: I finish the sculpt and send it to the client. Done! Often glad to see it finally go out the door. The molding and casting and painting is usually taken care of by the client.

jman: Anything/anyone that you haven’t sculpted yet that you’d like to?

MN: Not really any certain character I’m jonesing to sculpt. I’m more of a Biological type sculptor rather than a Mechanical, hard edge type of sculptor. Robots and machinery are not my cup of tee. I kind of always wanted to sculpt a Hulk. Haven’t sculpted him yet.

jman: What do you do with your free time?

MN: I’m not sure what the definition of free time is. 😉

I’m a movie buff. My wife Susan and I like going to the movies.

When I do find free time I usually start a personal sculpting project. It’s kind of crazy but I really enjoy pushing clay around. Creating art for art’s sake. I’m so fortunate I get to do what I love to do for a living.


Many thanks for Mark Newman for setting aside the time to do the interview!

Before you get up and go, don’t forget to check out the new episode of the Almost Internet Famous Internet show.  We’re talking about Guardians of the Galaxy Lego Sets!

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jman
Just a dude. Talking comics. Raising kids. See what all the fuss is about at yfnjman.com. And for even more stimulus to your cerebral cortex? Check out the ! Almost Internet Famous Internet show