Dug Stanat Art: An Interview with Dug Stanat
WORKING AS A DIGITAL PUPPET MAKER,
FINDING INSPIRATION WITH GAIMAN,
AND RIDING OLD DONKEYS.
There is nothing ordinary about Dug Stanat's sculptures. Truly, I have never seen anything like them. The emotional details in his creatures' facial expressions, their overall astounding intricacies, and the creativity and originality behind them are phenomenal. Dug's sense of humour also shines through his creations making them stand out even further. I admit he had me at the foreskin monster. If anyone can pull off creating something called a foreskin monster while successfully balancing the humour surrounding the concept with that of the exhibition of serious artistic skills, it's Dug.
Too often, artists have had to compromise their creativity in order to make a living. Working hours unrelated to an artist's passion is often a necessary and often reportedly draining exercise. Dug has always been immersed in the arts both as an employed artist and an independent one. In a sense, Dug has had a taste of both worlds. He's held a dream job working for Dreamworks for 12 years where he's been able to utilize some of his skills and passion. After 12 years, he quit to pursue the life of an independent artist. It takes an exceptional artist to be able to acquire work in the field his passion dictates, and I have no doubt Dug Stanat will only find further success in his solo career. If there was an 'it' factor when it comes to artistry, Dug has it - one only needs to take a look at his engaging creations to see exactly what I mean. It's difficult not to be fascinated by Dug's distinctive and visually stimulating sculptures - they tend to warrant a longer or second look. Though I am only one person with an opinion, I have no doubt in my mind Dug Stanat's artworks will continue to grow in popularity and appeal.
What inspires you?
Things that eat humans, the artists of Oaxaca and Bali, Bruegel, Bosch, death, a few words from a song or book or poem, the lips of a long gone greek, and bijillions of amazing images that you find all over the web.
How and when did you first get started creating your artwork?
I graduated from college in 1990 with degrees in Economics and Environmental Studies. I had no clue what to do. I started spending all my free time sculpting. I guess I've always enjoyed making things.
I read somewhere long ago that a good way to motivate yourself is to pretend someone you really respect is always watching you.
What is the most challenging part about creating your artwork?
Carving out time to actually sculpt. Running your own art business really doesn't leave you with much time for actually doing art.
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I have trouble with scary movies. They make me scared.
Can you tell me a bit more about these creations - the process you took to make them, what inspired you to make them etc.
I have always liked creatures that have protruding gums and teeth, that sickly stretch the lips, straining to eat. One day I was playing around with that idea, and decided, hey, it might be fun if it is the whole head that is poking out of the lips. I really liked the result...it felt like something new, for which I am always striving. Foreskin monster is actually the second creature I have sculpted with that sort of design...I am sure I will continue to come back to this design until it feels old. Plus it gets funny comments online, like "looks like a monster peeking out of an elephant's butt." Which makes the whole thing worth it on its own.
This fellow on Instagram (@jake.posh) was running a daily sketch thing last December called #DemonaDayDecember. Sounded fun. I had been thinking about sculpting a clown. So for my first December demon I sculpted a demon clown, thinking that all the torturers in Hell are probably pretty likely to need some comic relief at the end of the day. Like Foreskin monster (which is also a December demon, and whose official name is "Obb 'ot Abis, Collector of Foreskins"), Hell Clown is ceramic (stoneware clay covered with oxide washes and underglazes fired to 2167F). So the process of making them is sculpting, letting them dry for a long time, and then cookin' 'em real good!
Your role and artistic process in Rise of the Guardians?
I was a Lead Character Director on Rise of the Guardians, which is just a fancy way of saying, "digital puppet maker." I oversaw the rigging of the faces of all the characters so that the animators can make them talk, emote, squash and stretch, etc . It is basically taking a digital teddy bear (a model) and turning it into a marionette (a "rigged" model). The characters I rigged personally on that show are Pitch, Bunny, Mini Bunny, Sandman, and North (but not the beard or hair...that is best left for others who know what they are doing). In terms of the "artistic process", a lot of effort goes into trying to create a rig that the animators will be happy with. There is a lot of aesthetic work to be done, making shapes that are pleasing, that fit the character, and that fit the overall vision of Gabe Hordos, the Head of Character Animation on Guardians. And then all the shapes you make have to work together, so you start to feel a bit like Sisyphus rolling his boulder...except you are sculpting...in a computer...wearing oven mitts...but it was actually a great job and I always really enjoyed working with the animators (and learned a ton from them which continues to help my work today).
How does the artistic process of creating 3D computer graphics differ from creating physical sculptures?
Oh. This is a big topic. I will limit it to 3D modeling vs physical modeling. Even then it is a big topic. Physical modeling is more tiring, harder to do for a long period of time, but also easier on your body in the long run. Scale is irrelevant in 3D, except for perhaps dictating level of detail, whereas in the real world, if you are sculpting big, you are faced with all sorts of problems, and if you are sculpting small, you are faced with a whole different set problems. Some people say that it is harder for a sculptor to impart their style in 3D. I think there may be some truth to this in that part of style is how one physically interacts with one's tools and with the medium and how the medium reacts to different methods of manipulation, and I think these interactions are more uniform and limited in the computer world. But people do amazing things in both realms. And the digital tools will just get stronger and more powerful and more flexible. But, at least for now, I am happy to be doing only real media sculpting.
Favourite or most inspirational place where you live?
I am not sure I understand. Favorite place near where I live? I like Point Lobos just south of Monterey Bay...hard to beat it for rugged natural beauty. I also like Ano Nuevo, where you can see the huge elephant seals. And I like any place with big redwoods. And I love Yosemite. I like nature :). But I don't get out enough :(.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
I watched that Neil Gaiman commencement speech video where he talks about walking towards your mountain. That is some good advice...if you don't know what I'm talking about, go find the video. I read somewhere long ago that a good way to motivate yourself is to pretend someone you really respect is always watching you. That is a good one, too.
Most interesting critique you have ever received regarding your works?
Oh, I had a funny one the other day. I can quote it directly because it was online: "I enjoy your sculptures and thanks for sharing them. The following is not meant as an insult, but for me, in that price range, the piece would have to be 3 times larger or one third as much." hehe! But the best one ever I had in a dream a couple years ago...I can quote that one, too, because I wrote it down: "Stanat's work leaves you with no doubt whose old donkey you are riding." Yeah.
When you think of the concept of 'the artist's ego', what comes to mind?
I've never heard of that phrase before. I guess I'm too self absorbed with my ego to pay enough attention :)
Most challenging part about being an artist?
Making ends meet.
Why do you think there is a growing interest in macabre and grotesque art?
I have always been interested in it, so I guess I wasn't aware there was a growing interest. All aboard, the more the merrier!
Your favourite novel?
Hmmmm, I don't really have a favorite. I've always liked Jack London.
Any future plans you intend to pursue with your artwork?
Right now I'm only making and selling one-of-a-kind pieces. Someday I might do some massed produced stuff, like a book, a deck of cards, or some cast sculpts. Don't know.
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