From time to time we will select one guest to answer questions about the hobby, and offer tips to the rest of the customizers on the forum. And we're kicking our first session off with a Yakface Forums favorite, and someone who needs no introduction for a lot of our readers.
But in case you need a refresher to recall just how good this guy is at customizing, here are a few past customs from Sithfire30!
YAKFACE - Dayton, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to discuss the hobby with you, and to share your perspective on customizing (as well as the exclusive sneak preview images you shared for us to put together throughout this session). This is a part of Star Wars that a lot of collectors can relate to and many are curious about! With so much variety in the Star Wars universe, this aspect of the hobby doesn't seem to be slowing down at all.
So, first off, how did you start customizing? And when did you begin?
Sithfire30 - Thanks for the opportunity Justin!
I'm pretty sure that I began customizing the same way many others have done in the hobby...by doing paint modifications. I started around 1996/97 just when the new Kenner Star Wars line was taking off. One of my first customs was a stormtrooper repainted to resemble a shadow trooper...was so happy with how it turned out I created my own squad of shadow troopers...they rocked! It wasn't till a year later when I began taking sculpting classes in college that I developed an interest in incorporating a little of what I learned into my customs â€“ I used testors contour puddy to sculpt hair!!! â€“ LOL, It was a trip!
YAKFACE - I think a lot of us can relate to similar experiences, but our results might not be that good!
Okay, as a customizer, do you find certain elements that inspire you? Do you find the same "fire" for it as you did when you first began?
Sithfire30 - Honestly, when I first began customizing it wasnâ€™t as fun as I thought it would be â€“ there was a time that I actually gave up the hobby. It wasnâ€™t till I began seeing articles in Toyfare and finding forums that devoted sections to the hobby that the interest returnedâ€¦Since then that â€œfireâ€ has been raging LOL!
As for elements of inspirationâ€¦I look to other customizers work, the toy companies (sculptors for McFarlane, Hot Toys as well as The Four Horsemen) and classical works that fuel my creative juices
YAKFACE - We'll, we're certainly glad you didn't give it up!
You do a lot of amazing sculpting, something that many other customizers don't experiment with as much as we'd like. In doing so, what sort of tools and materials do you use (or which ones do you suggest)? And can you share more of your process for us?
Sithfire30 - I began using Super Sculpty as my main sculpting materialâ€¦but became frustrated with the lack of detail I was able to retain working at such a small scale. Super Sculpty is a great product but best used when working in larger scales such as mini busts on up. Aves FIXIT Sculpt has become my material of choice â€“ I donâ€™t see how it can be outdone. It takes some getting used to of course â€“ the 4 hour time window given to achieve your goal before curing can rattle nervesâ€¦ the trick is to plan ahead and determine which parts of the custom you will be focusing on â€“ then mix just enough of the FIXIT to work on that particular area. You may slow down on cranking out finished customs but the quality of each finished custom will be much higher.
I use the traditional sculpting tools you would find at most craft or fine art stores, as well as the small rubber shaper tools used in both painting and sculpting. The tip of an Xacto blade comes in handy as well!! For textures and such I use whatever I can find that will give the effect I am looking for. I have a cabinet full of anything and everything accumulated over the years.
As far as a process â€“ After I have decided what the subject will be I begin doing some researchâ€¦and that means scouring the internet and local book stores, as well as my own reference library to find images which I will use while sculpting. I then begin by choosing parts to create an articulated body frameâ€¦and that requires having spare partsâ€¦A TON of spare parts, accumulated over the many years. Sometimes though I must visit eBay to purchase that particular figure that may have a piece of the framework I requireâ€¦a few bucks for a loose figure is worth it J After I have constructed the body frame, I dremel it down to a â€œskeletonâ€ leaving no details of the prior sculptsâ€¦then I reduce the contacts between the joints to reduce paint rub. I begin sculpting in layers, usually starting with the torso and neckâ€¦Roughly building muscle tones till I achieve the subjectâ€™s proper build. Similar to sculpting a nude figure!! Then I begin adding the subjects clothing, accessories etcâ€¦
As for the head, I try to find a casted piece that resembles the characterâ€¦then I mod the features to make the resemblance more accurate or at least close when working in this scale. In some cases Iâ€™ll create a completely new sculptâ€¦then cast it for possible future modsâ€¦and so on and so on. Sometimes though, Hasbro nails a likeness and all I need to do is make a slight modificationâ€¦for example the new Luke in Snowspeeder Uniform. Great likeness but I needed to shave down the head around the face then build it back to add ears and hair to be used as my Jedi Master Luke custom from Legacy.
YAKFACE - It seems like the paint that you use is top quality; your results are very life-like! What brand of paint do you use the most? Or are there different brands, depending on the look you are going for? Or any special painting techniques you would care to explain?
Sithfire30 - I have been loyal to the Testors acrylic brand of paints â€“ particularly the Floyquil brand of paints or sometimes called Railroad paints. Iâ€™m very happy with its application and mixing ability.
Some simple techniques Iâ€™ve learned over the yearsâ€¦
- I brush lightly several layers over large areas to decrease lines and clumps that may build due to thick applications.
- Water can be your friend when thinning out paint for blendingâ€¦a little can go a long way and dry brushing is the only way to blend shadow and depth of colors!
- Many ask how I am able to paint eyes in such detailâ€¦the secret is MAGNIFICATION! I have a head mounted magnifier that I use quite frequently and would never attempt to paint such detail without it. I suggest customizers purchase one â€“ itâ€™s worth every penny.
Eyes require practice, practice and more practiceâ€¦including patience. Donâ€™t push the processâ€¦do a little at a time and walk away.
I start out by shading the area around the eye, darker than that of the flesh tone of the subject to show depth. Then I fill the eye opening with black and let dry. Then go back and fill the eye opening with whiteâ€¦but allow the outer edges of the openings the stay blackâ€¦this takes a steady hand. Next I go back and add a heavier outline around the eye opening depending on the subject being a male or femaleâ€¦female having thicker, longer lashes. Then I add the iris using back once againâ€¦making sure the iris in both eyes are facing the same directionâ€¦if not careful you may end up having a lop sided or cross eyed Jedi LOL! Allow to dry. Then add the color of the iris (brown, blue etc) while allowing the edge of the iris to remain black. Add the pupil and a reflective dot if necessaryâ€¦but make it slight. I then sometimes add a little gray dry brushing around the white edge of the eye opening to break up any harsh back lines.
Again, practice, practice, practice.
YAKFACE - Seems like for those of us who are happy with our choice of paints (including myself), it might be worth our while to check out Testors too then!
Is there also a certain brand of paint brush that you use? Seems like you must go through a lot of very thin brushes to make such small, precise details in your painting. Is that the case?
Sithfire30 - I use the higher end brushes you may find sold individually at places such as Pear or Michaels. No particular brandâ€¦just so that I can get a fine tip. I may pay more for these brushes but they surprisingly hold their own after several customs. I replace my brushes possibly every 3-4 months.
YAKFACE - Some customizers rummage through parts bins to find something that inspires them (myself included). However your figures seem like you plan them out far in advance. How long does the average figure take you to make, from start to finish?
Sithfire30 - I do plan them out! I do a lot of research on the subject I choose to sculpt so that I am familiar with the character.
As far as a timelineâ€¦heck, I still have figures that are a work in progress from 2 years ago because I have so many WIPs on the shelf! LOL!
Seriously thoughâ€¦.if I was to concentrate on just one figureâ€¦.from start to finishâ€¦Iâ€™d say about 6 weeks.
YAKFACE - Well, your research has certainly paid off.
Since you do so much sculpting, it's very hard to tell what your base figures are. Do you have a preference, or does it just depend on the particular project? And for different parts that you need, how do you determine the parts required?
Sithfire30 - It depends on the subject â€“ Is it a male, a female, a large humanoid, and hulking alien?..I also determine the parts I need by the amount of articulation I will require.
YAKFACE - Okay, here's for people who may not be as familiar with this part of the hobby...
There are a lot of collectors who have never customized a figure before. What sort of advice would you give someone who is interested in starting out?
Sithfire30 - Iâ€™d say start simpleâ€¦repaint modifications. When beginning to sculpt, purchase some books on human anatomy and studyâ€¦youâ€™d be surprised how much it will help you at this scale! As for material to work with, I would recommend the FIXIT but for starters use Super Sculpty.
Many new to the hobby are becoming discouraged not because they are having a difficult time creating and having fun, but the lack of response or negative comments they receive when posting their new creations up on a forumâ€¦donâ€™t let that get you down. You have to break a few eggs to make an omeletâ€¦meaning you have to gain a bit of a reputation at being serious about the hobby before others will warm up to you. Ask your favorite customizers questions through PMs or E-mails. Let them know how much you enjoy the hobby and the challenges you are facingâ€¦and keep posting updates on your work! Donâ€™t lash back or make irate commentary concerning constructive critique about your workâ€¦youâ€™ll become alienated and unwelcomed. As for the ones that leave you negative feedback without a constructive critique..They are simply to be ignored and reported to the forum administrator.
Most important of all â€“ HAVE FUN! The moment the hobby becomes work than youâ€™ll run out of steam very fast.
YAKFACE - Great advice Dayton.
In customizing, a lot of the process is trial and error. Have you had any projects go completely wrong, or something that you learned from that you could share with other customizers?
Sithfire30 - Oh heck yeah! If I had a dime for every time Iâ€™ve scraped and idea and started over Iâ€™d be rich! LOL! Sometimes Iâ€™ve left a project feeling good about it one moment only to return to it a week later and wonder what was I thinking!!! The female sculpts have been a true learning experience for meâ€¦Deliah Blue in particular has been a nightmare. I have struggled to capture her sexy allure because letâ€™s face itâ€¦sheâ€™s a Zeltron and being sexy is in her genes! Itâ€™s been a challenge but I think I may be getting close to success! But I have gone through two figures, one with a microman body and the other using a joe body frame that have failed to capture what I wanted. I scrapped themâ€¦as painful as it was with all the work I put into them I had to start over because I knew I would never be happy with the outcome. I actually posted an image of the completed Microman version a while back as a teaser to a nearly complete Deliah but she has since met her maker LOL! I have several other finished female customs that will soon see the scrap heap and be reworked â€“ Thatâ€™s the way it worksâ€¦you do a custom, learn from it and revisit later down the road to improve upon it.
YAKFACE - You've made so many great customs, but what are a few of the projects you are most proud of? Is there one that stands out as something you look at and wonder how you even did it?
Sithfire30 - Iâ€™m happy with almost all my work for the exception of a handful â€“ and those will be reworked. I think the piece Iâ€™m most proud of would be my Darth Krayt figure. It was a piece that took a lot of time to plan and execute â€“ almost a year to complete (on and off of course). The detail I put into it was difficult but the payoff was tremendous. I love this figure â€“ he is sturdy, articulated and captures the feel of power the Sith Lord represented. It turned out exactly the way I imaginedâ€¦very proud of this piece! When looking back on the figure these days I do wonder what was going through my mind when adding all the detailsâ€¦I must have been off my rocker to commit to such a projectâ€¦TIP- always remember to challenge yourself.
YAKFACE - Other than customizing, are there any other artistic talents or hobbies that you have?
Sithfire30 - Well, I have a BFA in Graphic Design, with a couple years of classical sculpture instruction. I still take classes â€“ you cannot get enough education! I work in paints, draw, pen /ink, sculpt, lampworkâ€¦and graphic design which is my 8-5 job.
I am a Star Wars FREAK! LOL! Iâ€™m a big fan of the original trilogy and the EU â€“ Not so much the prequelsâ€¦although Iâ€™m digging the Clone Wars Animated series right now. I collect the toys and figures like most fans do â€“ big fan of the Dark Horse comics.
I will be at CELEBRATION V next year â€“ My first celebration! Iâ€™m so excited!
One thing that I am trying to break free of when it comes to customizing is only doing Star Wars themed customsâ€¦I am currently working again on my Metal Gear series of customs as well as a possible Gears of War and perhaps a Star Trek series of figuresâ€¦
YAKFACE - Ah, makes sense - educating yourself is a big part of getting better at this part of the hobby.
How about this, do you have any upcoming projects coming up that you would care to discuss?
Sithfire30 - Of course I do!! LOL! Letâ€™s seeâ€¦
- Will return to working on some New Hope figures such as the Tonika Sisters and the concept Tropical Rainforest creature from the cantina not shown in the movie.
- Working on a Death Star Diorama/Playset
- More characters from the Dark Horse EYU universe: Knights Of The Old Republic, Legacy, Dark Times, Republic, Clone Wars and Invasion.
- Metal Gear back in gear with Old Snake, Raiden, Ocelot and many more from the Metal Gear Solid game and Sons of Liberty.
YAKFACE - Death Star? I know a lot of people would love to see your take on something like that...
You know, a lot of us look to other people in the hobby for ideas... I look at your work a lot and I know others do as well obviously. How about you though? Are there any customizers that you look to for inspiration?
Sithfire30 - Jin Saotome, and Frenzy_Rumble are those I look to that encourage me to push the limits. A new customizer I have discovered on Flicker named Fdeasis73 has also become an inspiration â€“ he creates 1:18 scale statues of EU characters that are amazing! I also find inspiration from all of my fellow customziers out there on the forumsâ€¦some of the work blows my mind! Too many of to name but all are very talented and have their own unique style!
YAKFACE - Wow, that's a lot of questions that we've asked and we'd like to thank you for taking your valuable time to share your thoughts with us. Are there any questions or words of wisdom you would like to share with us, or with the community?
Sithfire30 - I want a job doing this for a living LOL!!! Seriously, it would be an awesome experience! Anyone know anyone in the business? Call me!
I do get a bunch of requests about commission workâ€¦unfortunately I am not involved with commissions at the present time but hope that will change for the New Year. I will be sure to let all of you know when that happens â€“ check out my blog at sithfire.blogspot.com for updates. Also I have a Flickr photostream you can check out at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sith_fire30/
I appreciate everyone for their interest in my work over the years and hope to bring much more to the table for the New Year. I will see you at Celebration V!!!
YAKFACE - Thanks again Dayton for taking the time to share a little bit more about yoursef, and we look forward to the next Yakface Customs & Answers Session with another one of our members! And also, we appreciate the sneak previews that you sent us as well - we can't wait to see the final results of these great customs.
If anyone has any questions for Sithfire30, please feel free to bring them up in this thread or drop him a line at his blog. You can also check out his and other customizer work (or even share your own custom work) HERE.