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Clay Underneath My Nails

Title: Clay Underneath My Nails
Length: 45 min
Filmed November, 2010

An inside look at the past, present and future of being a sculptor and contributing maquettes in the animation and surrounding fields. Join legendary sculptors and Z-Brush artists and hear insights into how this process evolved? How do a sculptors skill set cross boundaries and continue to contribute in an ever changing visual field? Where is the best today in a digital pipeline?  Where is this art form heading over the next 5-10 years and where do these veteran maquette artists see this masterful skills of working with “Clay under My Nails” heading?

Moderator: Kent Melton has spent the past 25 years working in animation.  He was the first staff sculptor employed by Hanna Barbera.  He then worked as an art director at Universal Studios before embarking on a full-time career as a sculptor for feature films.  Melton has sculpted countless maquettes for Disney, Warner Bros., Don Bluth, Dreamworks, MGM, Pixar and Laika Entertainment.

Kent’s maquettes have recently been featured at the New York Museum of Contemporary Art and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.  He is currently working on a one man show of both sculpture and oil paintings.


Michael Defeo

Making people feel warm and cuddly about a time when earth was draped in polar ice sheets is not a problem for Michael Defeo. Michael worked behind the scenes to sculpt and model the wildly popular animated stars of Ice Age and sequels: Ice Age 2, Ice Age 3 and upcoming Ice Age 4.

When Horton Hears a Who was approved for development as an animated feature, Michael Defeo, meltingly hot off his Ice Age success, was entrusted with the challenge of transforming Seuss’ iconic drawings.   He captured the Seuss’ spirit so well, he was subsequently commissioned by Illumination Entertainment to do it again for Seuss’ The Lorax, which is scheduled for release in 2012.
Top character development artist Michael Defeo began his career working in special effects and make-up, later making sophisticated stop- motion puppets for commercials, television, theatre and film.   At Blue Sky Studios, Michael used traditional and digital mediums to sculpt subjects ranging from commercial products like teddy bears to creatures for the film Alien Resurrection.
As a complement to his commercial work, Michael continues to create personal art in terra cotta, bronze and marble. He combines his extensive expertise in state-of-the-art software with traditional materials and techniques.  This creative experimentation gives Michael’s work an increasingly deep range of expression and emotion.
Michael’s additional credits include: upcoming Leaf Men, Rio, Robots, Star Trek Insurrection, A Simple Wish and Academy Award winning short Bunny.

Panelists: Damon Bard – For close to 20 years, Damon Bard has been working as a freelance artist in the entertainment industry primarily as a sculptor and designer of characters and creatures. Since then, he has contributed to nearly 30 films and other various projects during his career.

At an early age, (about 6-7 years old) Damon discovered window putty, (that stuff that holds the glass in a window frame) with the help of his sister who showed him how to make “putty ducks”. His mother would paint pictures on the glass windows during the holidays while his father had a knack for carving wood figures. He was immediately fascinated with the shapeable substance and displayed a natural talent for making sculptures out of not only “window putty” but assorted other mediums that inspired him to make forms from the fantastic to the familiar. These were some of his first exposures to the world of art. Other early inspirations were movies and fine art that fed the imagination and development of the young emerging artist.

Two local sculptors provided fundamental inspirational to Damon during this period. The first was Dan Reeder, who made wacky monster caricatures from cloth-mache, and Kim Graham who instilled the need for precise and scientific anatomy, even in fantasy creatures. Other local artists that contributed to his development were two painters, surrealist Ilene Meyer and fantasy artist Zak Pasco.

Along with sculpture, drawing and painting were also experimented with, and during his first year of high school, Damon had attended college art classes at night in his hometown of Seattle, WA. Upon graduating high school, 16 yr old Damon immediately started working professionally in the entertainment industry on TV commercials at Will Vinton Studios in Portland, OR where his career officially began, although he was selling bronze and clay sculptures for years prior to that to numerous art collectors.

From then on, Damon has been working along side some of the most talented, acclaimed, and awarded artists and directors in the industry and on some of the most successful films ever made; Kung Fu Panda, Ratatouille, Shrek 3, Shrek 2, Star Wars: Episode 3, Over The Hedge, Madagascar, and Madagascar II, to name a few. He is currently developing characters for several projects, one he recently finished is Henry Selick’s “Coraline”. Damon also works on his bronze figurative sculpture and oil paintings between and during projects as time allows.

Panelist Ruben Procopio:

Rubén Procopio has been in the animation industry for over 25 yrs., with scholarships to both Cal Arts and Art Center College of Design. He later trained under Eric Larson, one of Disneys legendary nine old men. A chip off the old block he also was trained by his dad Adolfo Procopio, a 35 yr. veteran sculptor at Walt Disney Imagineering. Rubén was instrumental in bringing back the maquette process to feature animated films in the early ’80’s. Having a wide variety of skills from 2d to the 3d world and as an Artistic Supervisor as well as head of departments he has now opened up his own studio appropriately called for his admiration of the masked heros of yesteryear, Masked Avenger Studios, where father and son have joined forces with a combination of over 50 yrs. of experience to make their talents available to the motion picture, animation, toy and collectibles community.

Panelists:Jim McPherson has worked primarily in Film Character Design, Visual Development, Sculpture, and Modeling. His early interests include comic books, puppetry, and animation, but character sculpture became primary. Kevin Lima, director of Enchanted and 102 Dalmatians was an early and influential collaborator. In the Makeup and Special Effects Industry, Jim has worked with Rick Baker’s Cinovation Studios on Gremlins 2, the Nutty Professor, Matinee, Men in Black, and Planet of the Apes. Rick’s philosophy of sculptural character design has been a huge influence in Jim’s work. Theopportunity to design characters under his tutelage was an educational experience that cannot be matched. In the Animation arena, Jim sculpted and modeled characters for Chris Bailey’s Major Damage and sculpted characters for Rob Minkoff’s Stuart Little. Jim has also done sculptures based on the designs of John Kricfalusi and for Tracy Lee’s “Electric Tiki” maquette line. At Walt Disney Feature Animation, Jim first worked as a Orthographic Designer on the film, “Wildlife,” with Art Director Hans Bacher, Character Designer H. B. Lewis, and sculptor Kent Melton. This basically meant blueprinting all the characters for the Modeling Department. He returned and blueprinted most of the classic Disney characters for “Mickey’s Philharmagic,” a film for Disney World. In the Visual Development Department at Walt Disney Feature Animation, Jim modeled new characters for Sam Levine’s Joe Jump with veteran designer Joe Moshier, and for Chris Sanders’ American Dog with designer Chen Yi Chang. Highlights of his work in the digital realm include digitally sculpted characters in the Fight Club Game, and Sega’s Golden Axe. Jim currently 3D Art Director at Gentle Giant Digital. He works closely with Film Directors on Character design. At Gentle Giant he has done Character Visual Development on Yogi Bear, Mr. Limpet, Thundercats, and Alice in Wonderland. He also continues to digitally model characters for CG animated films, videogames, maquettes, and toys

Panelists: TBA


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