I’m pretty sure many of you either saw or bought one of his creations. Transiting through worlds of fantasy and gothic, Matthew J. Black brought to life a series of iconic creatures, from monsters (Vampires, Jins) and mutants (Wolverine, Nightcrawler) to famous characters such as Hellboy, He-Man and Skelletor… let’s understand a little bit of what goes inside his mind!

The Interview… (held on 03/13/2018)

01 – How old are you and how long you’ve been working as a professional sculptor?

(MB) Im 39 now, and have been working in the industry since i was around 19. Going on 20 years.. it has been a long road. Lots of valuable lessons learned. Some good, some bad. I have seen a lot of major changes in the industry. It is really exciting where it is heading.
02 – How did you discovered yourself as a sculptor? Do you prefer using the “old-fashioned” clay or are you an adept of the 3D modeling (Zbrush, etc.)?

(MB) I have always been creating art. Ever since i was very young i would never leave well enough alone, I was always modifying my toys, or building new ones. College was when i really made the shift towards sculpting. I was dabbling in 2d, and 3d. At one point i really wanted to become an anthropologist, but that didint pan out. I took a class taught by jordu Schell. He was teaching a class on how to make a latex mask, and sculpt maquettes. I was hooked after that.

Of course I started traditionally. Back when i started it was all done in wax, or clay. Most of what i have sculpted proffesionally was done in a hard toy wax. Now it is very rapidly becoming all digital in the industry. Digital just provides so much more dextarity. It allows for faster revisions, and improvements. Also, it opens up the field to artists all ver the world. You no longer have to ship a delicate sculpture frm argentina, or thialand. You can jsut email it. Its great to see such amazing talent all over the planet have access to an industry that was so limited 20 years ago.

03 – Which companies have you already worked for?

(MB) Too many to name. I worked for many years at a few service bureau sculpting houses. They would create prototypes for nearly every major company. So i had a chance to do a little for just about everyone. I also got to work ona huge variety of product. Anything from princess shampoo bottles, to spiderman key chains. I have not always sculpted high end collectibles, sometimes you gotta pay your dues sculpting walkie talkies, and tooth brosh holders. Those projects are not without value though. You are always learning, no matter what the job. 

04 – Is there any kind of character that you consider easier/or that you prefer to sculpt?

(MB) After a while its ALL easy. Its just shapes. I used to look at concepts and get really intimidated, and think “ how the hell am i going to make THAT?” now though after doing it for so long, i can look at some art, and digest it into small tasks mentally. Even complex designs like a Giger alien are not that difficult, if you can see it ins broad geometrical froms, and layers.

I really love to sculpt anything that is a mix of organic forms, and clothing. Things with tons of layered detail, drapery, anatomy, anything i can stretch my skills. When you are really into a project you can get into this Zen like state where the world disappears around you, you dont even feel like you have a body. It just becomes you, and the art. That is what I love about creating.

05 – When you are on the sculpt process, which you consider the easier, the hardest and the more pleasant parts of it?

(MB)  Starting is always the hardest part. Its like looking at an elephant, and thinking “how am i going to eat this?” it always feels like climbing a hill, but you take your first step, and once you get going, you get a rhythm.  Before you know it most of that elephant is gone.

The most pleasant aspect is when you are finished, you step back, take a look, and enjoy it for a little while, before saying, “ok, whats next!”

06 – I see you are a huge Anne Rice fan – and so do I. Did you ever had the chance to sculpt any of her characters? If not, which would be the first of her characters you would like to sculpt and why?

(MB) I loooooove Anne Rice’s vampire chronicles. i first started reading her books around age 14, and they had a huge influence on me. they really helped me through some troubling times. her characters are so fearless, and live life to the fullest. Its something I try to live up to.

Sadly, I have never had a professional opportunity to work on any thing related to the chronicles, but personally I have. I have been working on a life size lestat based on Tom Cruise for a number of years, but never really have the time to finish it. Its one of those some day projects.

07 – I do own two statues sculpted by you (Wolverine Brown Premium Format and Nightcrawler Comiquette) and soon, a third one “touched by your hands” will join my collection, Alucard from Symphony of the Night by Mondo. Can you tell us a little bit of how it was joining such project? How much your style influenced it? Do you foresee any other Castlevania statues coming live throught Mondo?

(MB) Its funny you ask. I have had people tell me, they can tell when I have sculpted something. maybe I’m just really bad! ha! Its always great when you have a chance to influence the design of a project, rather than just copying the desing sheet. Its really fun when you can do a few pose studies and really help to lock something down in 3d. It really makes it feel more like a personal endevour.

Of course I would love to do more from Castlevania! I love working on anything Vampire themed!!! Thats up to Mondo however. Put in a good word for me.

08 – What is your favorite work/project (up to date)?

(MB) Oh my God,  thats a really tough one. usually my favorite is always my current project. You really have to immerse yourself in the world the subject in habits. You get a sense of familiarity with whatever it is. Usually after its done, I have a hard time looking at it for more than a few moments. It feels some how over. I’m ready to move on.

I do have favorite licenses I like to work on. I love all things Star Wars, and Harry Potter, and have been lucky enough to work on a great deal of product for both. Some of my favorite works have been on those subjects. I’m currently work on a DREAM project. Of course I can’t talk about it, but it really is something that has always been on my wish list. I just can’t wait until I can share it. The subject is really dear to me, and its based on a movie I have always loved. Its something that really shaped my childhood. 

09 – As you are part of the collectibles Market and a great influence on it, we would like to know: do you collect anything or have any other kind of hobby? Do you collect the statues you’ve worked on?

(MB) I used to collect a LOT of stuff. Mostly sixth scale, but my collection got so large and burdensome that I gave ALL of it away. It was liberating. Since then  my collection has crept back up. Lots of Star Wars. From time to time I cull the herd though so I dont die in a toy avalanche. Luckily I have lots of friends that are more than happy to take them off my hands.

My wife and I love to collect odds and ends. Antiques, and odd items. Our house is like a huge art project. All items are carefully curated. So there is not much room for statues, and toys. A lot of what I work on gets stacked in my garage. Maybe some day my daughter will pull it all out and enjoy it.

10 – What you would suggest or give as an piece of advice for those who are starting to sculpt?

(MB) You HAVE to LOVE sculpting. NOT sculptures. Its the process that you need to focus on, not the product. You have to spend most of your time making mistakes, and throwing your art in the trash. Don’t be afraid to start over. Falling in love with your work is one of the biggest mistakes you can make, it will only limit growth. If it doesnt look right, rip it apart, and do it again, and again, and again.

Working professionally mean doing mindless repetitive tasks. There are times where you will be doing nothing but cutting out scales, and gluing them on a body, over and over and over, but so long as you enjoy the process of creating, you will never mind.  Also this! don’t rush into detailing something just because its the fun part. FORM first. Too many people skip locking down the forms and just want it to look neeto.

My main advice would be to sculpt something amazing, then toss it in the garbage. When you learn its not about the result, or the praise, then you are ready to begin really learning.
11 – For which companies you would like to work for?

(MB) Any company that has a clear plan. A company that has creative like minded humble people that just love what they are doing, and love making really cool stuff. I really love working with people that have zero ego, and are very collaborative.

12 – Could you name 3 of your favorite bands and movies?

(MB)  That changes every minute of the day!!!

Ok. Three movies would be “Only Lovers left Alive”, “What we do in the Shadows” and “Interview with a Vampire”. Super cheesy I know, but so am I! Bands, Gary Numan!!!  Bauhaus would have to be in the top ten, and… hmmmm let me see. This is for posterity…. lets say Adam and the Ants.

13 – If you had the chance to meet a supernatural creature/being, which creature you would like it to be?

(MB) Well duh… a vampire of course. Not one of them sparkly ones either. Lets make it Marius.

14 – Well, that’s pretty much it. Thank you once again for accepting our call and we leave an open space for you to share a message with your brazilian fans.

(MB)  Thanks for giving me this opportunity!!!

Many, many thanks for accepting invitation and sharing with us your thoughts Mr.Black!


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