Friday, March 14, 2014

Interview with Sculptor and Toy Designer: David Silva

Today we have a really fun interview!  David Silva is one of my favorite sculptors mainly because he does dinosaurs and all things beastly so well. 

After graduating art school with a BFA in both Sequential Art and Illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design in 2003, David Silva began working in the toy industry just three weeks later as a freelance designer for McFarlane Toys. A year and a half later this design job would lead to an in-house sculpting job which would last until David left in 2008 to go work for Hasbro as both a temporary in-house sculptor and a freelance sculptor. During this time, David completed his first dinosaur sculpt for what would later become Creative Beast Studio- a small side business of prehistoric and fantasy model kits. In January of 2010, David cut ties with Hasbro to sculpt in-house at NECA where he still remains today. All the while, Creative Beast Studio has continued to grow with new products and a supportive fan base.

David Silva surrounded by some of his creations at Wonderfest 2013.

Question 1: At what age did you become interested in dinosaurs?  Were they always a subject of your art?
DS: While I don't remember the exact age, I do recall dinosaurs being an influence as far back as I can remember. Seems like I always had a little bag of plastic dinosaurs with me when I was younger. I probably drew my first dinosaurs in preschool back when I first discovered my love for creating art. However, I got away from dinosaurs for a while as a teen as I became more interested in comic books and super heroes. That lasted until my adult years. It wasn't until working on the McFarlane Dragon toys did I rekindle my passion for prehistoric reptiles.

David's Scavenger Dragon design and sculpt for McFarlane's huge line of dragon figures.

Question 2: What medium do you most prefer to use for your art?  Any particular reason why?  Do you ever try digital sculpting or do you prefer to work with actual materials?

DS: I almost exclusively work in castilene wax clay for all of my sculpting work- personal or professional. It's a material that is very common in the toy industry and it's what I had to learn when I began sculpting for McFarlane Toys back in 2005. I have dabbled a little with digital sculpting and while I can appreciate it's benefits, I am very partial to traditional methods.

David's sculpt of Leo for McFarlane's zodiac line.

Question 3: Is there any particular artist who particularly inspired you growing up?  How about today?

DS: My artistic influences have varied depending on age and what I was into at the time. I think the first time I felt inspired by another artist was when I got a dinosaur calendar as a kid - I think I was eight maybe nine years old. I didn't know who's artwork was on the calendar at the time but I later discovered it was John Sibbick, who's work I still greatly admire today. These days I am very much inspired by the paleoart of James Gurney, Shane Foulkes, David Krentz, and Sean Cooper just to name a few.

Question 4: When did you decide to pursue a career in art?  How did it happen?

DS: I suppose it was around third or fourth grade. Ever since then, a career in art seemed inevitable and was the only path I'd considered since. The short of it is, I went to art school with a focus on comics and illustration, earned a job as a freelance toy designer three weeks after graduating, and that led to sculpting toys. The rest just fell into place.  (Include some design work- cyber spawn)


Question 5: Have you ever received any negative feedback on any of your work?  How do you respond to that?

DS: Occasionally yes- but who doesn't? I think I've always dealt with criticism fairly well outwardly, but when I was younger it was much harder to deal with inwardly. These days I welcome the negative feedback and critiques. Having your mistakes pointed out to you not only offers a fresh perspective but I've found that it is also the fastest way to grow as an artist.

Predator Dog sculpted by David Silva.

Question 6: Art and illustration is such a diverse field.  It has also changed dramatically within the past decade or so.  What advice would you have to give an aspiring artist today?

DS: Do what you genuinely love, find what you want to say and be humble when you are shown how to say it. Commitment and persistence are essential to effective creative productivity. Expect to make mistakes along the way- this is the best way to learn. And know that your greatest obstacles will likely be created by your own ego, not others. Once these things are understood and mastered, success is sure to follow.

David's Jabba the Hutt sculpt for Hasbro's Star Wars line.

Question 7: Out all of the sculpts you have done do you have a favorite? 

DS: My favorite sculpt is often, and should be, my most recent. Right now I am finishing up my second Acrocanthosaurus sculpt. I'd have to say it is my favorite dinosaur sculpt to date. I can tell how far I have come since my first Acro sculpt back in 2010. I am also very fond of my Dragolina Dinosaur Slayer piece. It was a great experience because I created that character back in high school, even sculpted her a few other times. So finally bringing that character to life properly with the skills I have now felt like the end of a journey. I'm very please with how that tuned out. 

Dragolina.  I guess the Masiakasaurus oogled her a bit too much.

Question 8: You have sculpted for many well-known companies in the field of toys.  Was there a particularly fun experience with any of these that stands out? 

DS: There have been a lot of great projects that I've had the pleasure of being a part of. No particular one stands out as my favorite but there are a few that come to mind. With McFarlane Toys it was the Scavenger clan dragon from series 6. That was great because I got to design and sculpt it. It was a very vulture-like dragon design. With Hasbro it was easily Jabba the Hutt for obvious reasons. And with NECA so far, I guess my favorite would be the Pacific Rim kaiju- Axehead, Knifehead, and one more yet to be announced. I'm a huge Pacific Rim fan so working on the toys was a dream for me. I'd love to do more, but time will tell.

Pacific Rim kaiju figures sculpted by David Silva.

Question 9: You are famous for portraying lots of subjects in addition to dinosaurs.  Do you prefer any over the others?  Why?

DS: 'Famous'? Wow. Well although I was trained in human anatomy studies, I've always had a preference for animals and creatures. At McFarlane I would always try to get my hands on the animal-like creature designs like the dragons and fantasy creatures. At Hasbro my favorite projects were again the more creature oriented ones- the dewback and Jabba the Hutt come to mind. The Jurassic park projects were cool as well, but a bit constricting. At NECA I've really enjoyed working on the predator figures as well as the occasional kaiju (Pacific Rim or Godzilla). 

Dewback from Hasbro's Star Wars line of toys, sculpted by David Silva.

Jurassic Park!  I wonder if anyone reading this would be interested to know more about that?  How was sculpting for them restricting? 

DS: In my particular case, I had sculpted two dinosaurs that we're not in the movies (Pachyrhinosaurus, and one that shall remain anonymous ). In both cases I was made to follow line drawings done by the Hasbro design team. I am not familiar with the process they went through for creating these designs, but they were to be followed by me explicitly, to the point that the images of the sculpt had to line up the the drawing when overlapped in Photoshop. I found this to be very constricting because the drawings were not scientifically accurate - I can only assume that modifications were made to appeal to a younger audience, though some details seemed to simply be incorrect. In either case, already having knowledge of these beasts actually worked against me. Most of the revisions I had to make were due to me attempting to make a more accurate a realistic dinosaur. However if it contradicted anything in the drawings, it had to be changed. Eventually I had to resign to the fact that I wasn't sculpting a dinosaur, but a dinosaur-like fantasy creature. The experience left me feeling disappointed and exhausted, but it also made me realize how important my own personal work really is to me.

David's prototype of a fantasy creature loosely based on a real genus of dinosaur, Pachyrhinosaurus.

Question 10: What was your favorite dinosaur (or other prehistoric creature) growing up?  How about today?

DS: I've always liked the large meat-eating dinosaurs best and at the risk of sounding predictable, T. rex was my favorite growing up. Now days I'm more of an Acrocanthosaurus guy. Dilophosaurus is way up there for me as well (sans neck frill).

Acrocanthosaurus sculpted by David Silva.

Question 11: Jurassic Park and Land Before Time (opposite ends of the spectrum I know) were the movies I remember as a kid that fueled my passion for dinosaurs. What was your most memorable movie?

DS: I don't recall too many dinosaur movies growing up, but Land Before Time may have been my earliest dinosaur influence as far as movies go. Jurassic Park was great as well. As a kid though, I think what got me most excited about dinosaurs was the Dino Riders toy line. I had a lot of the toys and the VHS cartoon for it as well. Someday I hope to get all of those back- they were so cool!

Question 12: Dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals were amazing. Why do you feel they continue to fascinate us?

DS: Most likely it's the large scale of the creatures that grabbed peoples attention initially but despite all of the recent discoveries, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding these animals. And now that we all know that dinosaurs weren't just giants but came all sizes, I think it's this mystery that is now the most intriguing aspect. It's just really fun to try and imagine how each one may have looked, sounded, or behaved. No matter how much information is uncovered, there will always be unknown variables and that's very exciting.

"Dragon vs Raptors" sculpted by David Silva.

Question 13: What is your favorite time period?

DS: Nothing really beats the Cretaceous period for me. It's when dinosaurs were in their evolutionary prime and were the most diverse. Permian and Triassic are of interest as well, but I always come back to the Cretaceous.

Question 14: Do you have any other hobbies or interests? 

DS: While I try to sculpt as often as I can, professionally and for myself, I also enjoy drawing as well. But as far as non-art related activities go, I really enjoy toy collecting. I have a pretty big collection of everything from vintage Transformers and He-Man, to Hot Toys. Aside from this, I'm also a bit of an exercise nut. With a job like mine it's important to find ways to stay active- it just make everything run more efficiently. And if I feel better I can work better.

Thank you so much David!  

1 comment:

  1. It's an honor to have an interview to the one of the famous sculptor and toy designer as well. For the beginner it's a challenge to try this and I hope the sculpture supply materials that you used are not expensive.