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LMC: I’ve heard you like to give your masks a backstory.  Talk about the reasons for that?  What are some of the more interesting ones?

JR:   If it’s an original design, for a mask or for a character in a film, you have to give it some kind of history that will dictate its appearance. Your design might have a mouth full of teeth, etc. but why? If you give it a physical history…a logical reason to have a mouth full of teeth, it will improve on your design. The Chupacabra is an example. I took all the eye witness reports of the creature and found some common features. Small & ape like…horns on the crest of the head…large red eyes…sharp teeth, etc. I looked to nature to show me why these people were seeing these attributes. I shaped the head like an infant’s or a dwarf’s…the horns were extensions of the skull and were of similar tissue, like finger nails and growing in layers and based on a rhino’s…the skin around the horns was based on an extreme close up of my cuticles…the large eyes fit in with the infant type cranium, the ears were shaped like a bat’s since I figured it was nocturnal, etc. Once you have these physical reasons for the appearance, it’s easy to track down your photographic reference and apply each attribute. You piece all the varying references together to make a fictional creature come across more real…to “sell” it to the viewer.

LMC: What do you have on the sculpting table today? 

JR:   I just finished a “Wacky Wobbler” sculpt for Funko. You’ve seen those head bobbers? This one was of   Bossmoss from the 70s cereal, “the Freakies”. I also did the box art. I’ve just started gearing up for another commission for Ron Lassonde…Medusa from “Clash of the Titans”. It’s going top be interesting. It’s a “one off”, unfortunately. I’ve also decided to do another mask for myself for Halloween that I’ll be selling after Oct. I’m sure there’s a few fans of this character.

LMC: Any artists that inspire you now?

JR: Ooh…loaded question. I couldn’t say one or two, because later I’d think of five more and wonder if I’d insulted them. There are so many that I like for their particular style and subjects, that mentioning a few would open a can of worms. Suffice it say, I’d like to work with Henry Alvarez someday on a project…and maybe do something for Madam Tussaud’s.


LMC: What type of work are you doing these days to pay the bills?

JR: I’ve done my share of advertising premiums, resin kits, prototypes, etc. I’ve also moved into the CG world as a conceptual artist (yes, they still need stuff done in pencil first!) on some projects. I worked on the Jimmy Neutron feature and series as conceptual artist and storyboards. The same production company, DNA, is now working with Tom Hanks on another project where I’m back doing conceptual art and as acting liaison between the art department and the CG modeling department. I’m also doing more mask work now than I ever had. I just finished a piece for Darkside Paul.  Eventually…and I keep saying this…I’m going to launch my own mask site.

LMC: Do you have ideas what type of lineup you would do?                    

JR:  I’m trying to gear more towards a retro type of line. Some old Don Post retakes (like Tor) and some kooky stuff…pop monster concepts.

LMC: Any advice to give to someone wanting to get into mask creation?

JR:  Hurry up...it’s fun!! Don’t worry about screwing up, just jump in and make the mistakes. There’s nothing more thrilling than pulling, out of a mold, a rubber copy of what once was just clay.


LMC: What type of clay do you work in?   

JR: What do I not work in? I like wet clay and I’ve done a lot of pieces out of Kleen Klay for masks. Roma and Chavant I reserve for appliances, especially ones that I float off. Sculpey, of course, is best for prototypes, but I’ve heard it used for appliances.     

LMC: Any sculpting tips?

JR:   References. You got a sketch from your idea?…get reference photos of real things to use as a guide to sculpt with. A photo, or photos, of whatever, should be at your side like your sculpting tools. Let the clay dictate the organic feel for a sculpt. I see people (myself included) labor over a design trying to make it seem alive, just to get it to look like something sculpted…not organic. The clay IS organic and you can let it show you how the forms fall. Dick Smith talks about this in his notes and interviews. The building up of balls and rounded shapes of clay to rough out your forms is the best technique. You have to think of flesh which is encased in skin. Rounded, gaunt, or even tissue thin, flesh is an elastic material laid over bone. Weight effects the creases, the way it hangs, the texture. The best examples are Dick’s sculpts. The flesh has a weight to them...like they’ve been lived in.  

LMC: Did you take Dick Smith’s course

JR:    Yea. Best money you can spend. You know the ending to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” where they open the Ark of the Covenant and all this immense power comes flowing out? …the Nazi’s face melts off ‘n stuff? Well, they were gazing upon Dick’s notes! That kind of knowledge is too much for some people.

LMC: What paint medium do you use?

JR:   I’ve been using PAX since ’86 and really like the flexibility. I can go opaque or do wash after wash. I can put it on with a chip brush, sponge or airbrush.

LMC: Have you tried other mediums like rubber cement or latex based paint?

JR:   I tried the rubber cement in the early days, but didn’t like the toxic level. It did have a good bite, though.

LMC: Any tips on how to create that perfect paintjob?  

JR:   One of the key things about paint, is layers. If you want the skin to look real, you look to nature and see that almost all skin is in layers. On 99% of the creatures you will make, they will be based on things we recognize from this planet…even if they are supposed to be aliens or demons. Whatever. We all have layers of derma and that gives us that look or depth. Our teeth, hair, eyes, etc. all have layers. To get that look on something solid, like latex, you have to build up in translucent layers. Depending on the subject, I start out with a base coat brushed on, (sometimes I have used the latex color as a starting point) then break it  up with texture to hide the brush strokes. I then add a wash of it’s darker shade for the details in the creases and folds. If the shade color is too contrasting, I come back over that with a wash of the base coat to tone it down. If it’s human flesh, I add washes of brick red in the extremities and then light washes of a grey brown in the areas where shadows would fall. If the reds are too hot or bright, I go over them with a wash of ochre/flesh or sometimes a grey/green. The grey/green has to be a watercolor thin wash and it balances out the reds. All these layers will give your piece a fleshier look. Monsters can be done the same way…in layers of wash. For teeth, bone or horns, I leave the naked latex exposed and make sure to gloss it. Sometimes I do a brown wash at the base of the tooth or horn.

LMC: If you had 5 million dollars, what would you spend your days doing?

JR:    Probably the same thing I’m doing now. My ’63 Mercury Monterey would have it’s exhaust manifold gasket fixed and be running, but other than that...pretty much the same thing I’m doing now…working with the people I like.

LMC: So, suffice to say you might be willing to give me that 5 million since you don’t really need it J?  Well, minus the cost to fix your car of course.

JR:   Sure…and I’d know where to go to borrow some money, no questions asked.

LMC: Any regrets?

JR:   I should’ve stolen the grey ball of clay instead of the red. Red is hard on the eyes to work with.


LMC: Do you have trouble sleeping at night with that theft weighing so heavily on your mind?



LMC: What makes you happy

JR:   Watching my 6 year old playing with monster toys. Working.  Spending time with my best friend and the love of my life, Penny.


LMC: Any pet peeves?

JR:   Not having enough time to do all the projects that I want to work on.  Too many ideas…not enough time.



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