Welcome to an interview for the series Game Credits Who’s Who (#GameCreditsWW). Ever read the credits page of a game you enjoy and wonder about the various positions listed? Would you like to work in the game industry someday but are not sure how some of the positions work? This Monday series will take a personal look into those positions and introduce you to real people doing those very jobs in the game industry. This week, let me introduce you to Russ Charles, Miniature Sculptor.
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do as a miniature sculptor.
I’m Russ Charles, and I am the lead sculptor for Steamforged Games. Prior to this, I worked as a freelancer (elementalminiatures.co.uk) and worked for projects such as Warmachine and Hordes, Dreadball, Dropzone Commander, DUST and Beyond the Gates of Antares. I’ve also supported a number of Kickstarted games with miniatures and promotional item designs.
My daily life is a combination of sculpting and managing a group of freelance artists working with me. All my work is digital, and I also assist in running a high-end 3D printer to actualise our sculpts. At its core, my job is to take the concepts from our art team and realise those as dynamic and exciting miniatures, with an eye for casting, assembly and painting throughout. So I am either sculpting myself, in a great programme called ZBrush, or I am reviewing and advising on other sculpts. Once a sculpt is complete, my job switches to the task of cutting and prepping the model for printing, generating the parts that will eventually be cast. This is a dark art all of its own! It can be challenging and frustrating at times, but nothing beats seeing a model you’ve made on screen become a physical reality.
How did you become a miniature sculptor?
It began as a hobby. I used to be a school teacher with friends in the video game industry. One evening over dinner, my friend was telling me about spending the day directing a stunt team in combat simulations for motion capture footage for the console game he was working on. I looked over at the pile of reports I needed to write and resolved to get a cooler job! Cue a period of long days and late nights, as I was doing a couple of hours morning before school and a couple of hours after coming home very day to develop the skills I needed. 5am till midnight days and weekend work was a reality for about a year! I am entirely self-taught as a 3d sculptor and modeller, so initially I was able to produce a few models of my own and market them alongside a friend. This caught the eye of the Modiphius team, who needed someone to create a range of WWII Cthulhu models for the release of the Achtung Cthulhu Kickstarter. This led to more work, with a variety of companies. The turning point was simultaneously landing a regular contract with Warlord Games to create three of the armies for BGoA (Ghar, Algoryn and Concord factions) and getting the job of creating all the Guild Ball miniatures for the Guild Ball Kickstarter. Those two jobs allowed me to do this full-time. That was several years ago, and I haven’t looked back since!
Share with us some of your recent projects.
Please check out The Warlord Games website (www.warlordgames.com) for the BGoA stuff, and www.steamforged.com for Guild Ball. Aside from that, go to www.privateerpress.com and head to the Hordes gallery to see Bradigus Thorle and Una the Falconer for the Circle Orboros faction, and the new version of Grissel Bloodsong for the Trollbloods faction. I am also the lead sculptor for the epic success that has been the Dark Souls Boardgame kickstarter, which is the highest funded boardgame in Kickstarter history. So no pressure at all :P
What is your greatest frustration or pet peeve as a miniature sculptor?
Aside from the daily frustration of any tech job with crashes, freezes etc, I would say the two things I find frustrating the most are client indecisiveness and sculptor ignorance.
By this, I mean that my job is to articulate a client’s vision into reality. This is problematic when a client has no clear idea what they want. I always say, the most expensive and time-consuming place to make design decisions is in the sculpt, but a surprising number of clients have no concept art, or vague art at best. Direction such as ‘feel free to do some things differently’ or ‘make it look cool’ pretty much guarantee a process of me trying to guess what is in people’s heads. Likewise, telling me what you don’t want is not exactly useful but really common! I want to do a decent job, but I have to charge for my time, so my top advice to anyone thinking about getting models made is this: ask in advance what kind of reference and art material the sculptor needs. Set expectations on both ends and KNOW what you actually want!
The second one I find I come up against a lot is having to revise work from sculptors who are very talented artists but are not cognisant of the needs of miniature production. This usually leads to miniatures with incorrect proportions, uncastable parts, detached elements, and other show-stoppers. This is due to the fact that the majority of information out there is intended for the video games and visual effects market, which has very different technical needs than printing and casting. My key piece of advice to starting artists (aside from learning anatomy) is to research and understand the printing and casting process. I find it baffling that some sculptors don’t think it is part of their job to know how the model will be produced.
Both of these things frustrate me, but only because I am keen to see the industry thrive. Digital sculpting is a relatively new technology for miniature production, but the speed of adoption demonstrates that it fits into a production pipeline really well. I am committed to seeing it develop further and want to enable new artists and content creators to get the best they can from the process.
These days I work pretty much exclusively through Steamforged Games so firstname.lastname@example.org is the best contact for me. Because I have a number of excellent third party sculptors working with me and am part of a 3d printing service producing high end castable masters, I get a lot of enquiries from developers and writers who need miniatures for their games. I am always happy to field such enquiries and help find a way to fulfill projects!