Occuclaytions: An Introduction

I find history deeply enchanting.  While researching for my 1920s Vaudevillian character, George "Dutch" Williams, I would often get lost imagining what cities he might travel to on the circuit, what sorts of people might frequent his shows, what kinds of clothes those people might wear, where those people might work, etc.  During this time, my Pinterest boards became inundated with black and white photos, my Pandora playlists were filled with ragtime and jazz inspired tunes, and I reread The Great Gatsby for the first time since college.

Rather than discarding these hours spent immersed in early Americana, I decided to delve a bit deeper.  I've spent the last several months designing characters that might have populated Dutch's world.  Each character is, like him, an anthropomorphised animal representing a particular occupation of the era.  I'm calling the project Occuclaytions. Its underlying goal is character design, but at its heart, this project is my attempt to capture just a bit of the ephemeral exuberance that was the Roaring Twenties.

As promised, I'll be providing in-depth conception to completion progress posts here, but feel free to also follow along at Instagram and Facebook

Until next time...



A Mountain out of a Mole

I posted one of my favorite sculptures-an acrobatic mole with musical feet-a year ago this month. He was inspired, in part, by this image drawn while watching the movie The Book Thief (in which an accordion plays a significant symbolic role).  I didn’t, and still don’t, care for the drawing, but the accordion (later morphed into a concertina) reverberated in my imagination long after I shut the sketchbook.


Sometime after this, I read an article written by illustrator Joe Sutphin entitled, "A Cure for Head and Shoulders Syndrome." In it, Joe discusses budding artists’ tendency to draw characters straight on-portrait style, cutting off arms, legs, and any chance of a compelling story.  According to Joe, no matter how well rendered a character may be, head and shoulders syndrome is a malady that must be treated.

I suffer from a slightly different strain of the syndrome.  It isn’t arms and legs my sculptures sometimes lack; it’s just story.  My first attempt to alleviate this condition came when I decided to build a character around that ubiquitous squeezebox.  I took notes, consulted reference, sketched a few ideas, wrote a vignette, and then sculpted Vaudeville’s most highly celebrated mole, George “Dutch” Williams.

I’ve worked on several projects since then, but just like I couldn’t shake the inhale and exhale of the accordion from my imagination, I can’t shake the desire to create more story-driven pieces like Dutch.

It is, therefore, my goal to spend the remainder of 2017 doing just that.  I’ve begun work on a project that will, hopefully, breathe life into 16 fully developed characters.  If all goes according to plan, I will compile these creations into book form by year’s end.

I’m excited to get started, and welcome you to follow my progress via monthly blog posts and bi-weekly social media posts! 

Whim's Workshop featured on The Rabbit Room

I made the acquaintance of comic book artist, Jonny Jimison, through our mutual participation in The Rabbit Room community.  After a few online encounters, Jonny commissioned me to sculpt Martin and Marco, the 2-dimensional stars of his graphic novel series, The Dragon Lord Saga.  I worked from Jonny's detailed model sheets and read his first book multiple times to try to capture the particularities of each character.  It can be difficult to translate an image from 2-d to 3-d, but I consider it an honor that Jonny allowed me that opportunity with his creations. 

Please enjoy Jonny's comics and my sculptures on this recent post from The Rabbit Room!