Geeking out with Jarrod and Brandon Shiflett...
To insure your action figure collection, get in touch with our sponsor Collectibles Insurance.
To get your figures graded, go to ActionFigureAuthority.com.
For a great selection of action figures and collectibles, check out BigBadToyStore.com, BriansToys.com, ToyWiz.com, SmallJoes.com, MonkeyDepot.com, Urban-Collector.com, NeutralZ.com, and Sekaido.com.
For a great selection of pop culture apparel, check out 80sTees.com.
For all the praise poured onto them, the Shiflett Brothers remain two of the most unselfish talents in the industry. There's no ego with Jarrod and Brandon Shiflett, just passionate love for the cool things that geek them out. That fandom is clearly reflected in their stunning work, sculptures - both licensed and original - that demonstrate a level of skill not taught in schools. This is art, each piece uniquely crafted in a style that can only be called... the Shiflett Brothers.
To find out more about this amazing duo, we went to Jarrod and Brandon Shiflett with our burning questions. Read on to discover their inspirations, techniques and future ambitions...
FIGURES.COM: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you to become sculptors?
JARROD SHIFLETT: Comic books were our gateway medium into sculpting. I can remember the first two comics I personally ever bought, Thor #337 and X-Men #172. We could draw a little and Brandon even created a comic book with panels and everything, but we eventually started sculpting little Wolverines and Lobos, and setting those up at conventions.
FIGS: Did each of you always know you wanted to sculpt?
BRANDON SHIFLETT: Yes, most really good sculptors we know in the industry started sculpting because of movies. They saw Star Wars or Aliens or Predator and wanted to do that stuff. We love movies too, but for us it was all about the comics.
JARROD: Not at all. We tried a lot of different things first... wittling wood, taping newspaper together to build arms or hands, lots of 3D type stuff, but there was no clear vision until I was about 18. Brandon did a Dr. Strange then I realized it was on.
BRANDON: We had no idea we could sculpt at all... I never sculpted until I was in my 20s. It was really exciting when we realized we both could do it. But it was immediately obvious that I was a genius artist and Jarrod much less so. I knew then and there that I would have to carry my brother like a weight around my neck, which I've done for our entire career. :)
FIGS: Tell us a little about how you learned to sculpt. Are you formally trained or self-taught?
JARROD: We are self taught, for better or worse. It's all about repetition and learning by doing. I say do not hesitate to create. If your hands are moving, you are making decisions and learning. We've made every mistake there is and that's a good thing.
FIGS: Technology has really come a long way in recent years. Do you find modern modeling programs such as ZBrush and Freeform replacing traditional sculpting methods? Is there a happy medium?
BRANDON: Yes, we trained by reading old copies of X-Men and studying Frank Frazetta paintings. I often still feel like I'm making it up as I go on every single piece. I think in many instances, especially in our original work, one might be able to see that we're self-taught. People might notice when they see our armature building and such... it's definitely not the way they teach you to do it in art school! The irony is: now me and Jarrod are teaching people!
JARROD: We just heard about a new type of computer where you are placing your hands into little metal balls or something and the balls tell the computer the pressure you are applying. That sounds rad. I've also heard we will all have resin printers on our desk in 10 years. People a lot smarter than me love it so there is a place for it and I've seen a lot of cool ZBrush stuff. I've already been called a dinosaur, and I'm 38, so I might have to try it.
FIGS: Do each of you do certain sculpting jobs or techniques better than the other? What are some examples?
BRANDON: We have only love in our hearts for people creating 3D art. As Jarrod said, I've seen some incredible work done in ZBrush and I totally respect it greatly. But we are clay guys... Even if we do try it (and I think we will) I think we will probably always be clay guys.
JARROD: Neither of us do great mechanical stuff, clear sharp lines seem to be difficult for us. Brandon is more cables, gears and wires, I'm a little more sword and sorcery. I'm the guy who read those Conan novels that were under the Frazetta covers, Brandon is the guy who reads all the William Gibson Neuromancer type stuff. Brandon does a lot of the girls, I do a lot of the guys. What? I'm just saying.
BRANDON: Yeah, it has more to do with who has enthusiasm for what project. As Jarrod said, he's more about fantasy and I'm more about science fiction. One of us will take the lead and the other will art direct or get the piece later and work some magic on it. I do gravitate toward sculpting girls and Jarrod to sculpting muscle guys. When there are animals on my piece or in my design, I will invariably leave that part to Jarrod. I'll be like, "Here's where a monkey goes... now sculpt a monkey."
FIGS: Your style is very unique and unlike most other sculptors out there. When coming up with a new statue, from where do you draw your inspiration?
JARROD: We try to think what would we like to see if we are walking up to someone's booth. Simon Bisley has affected what we think looks cool. Japanese sculptor and Designer Yasushi Nirasawa's look and what he has accomplished is something we always consider. We want our peers to like the stuff, and the fans to dig it as well.
FIGS: You've sculpted a variety of different subject matters; from fantasy to sci-fi to comic book characters. Do you prefer to work on original characters or do you enjoy working on licenses?
BRANDON: Also French comics genius Moebius has been hugely influential to us. Whether you see that so much in any specific piece is not that important, but you should know that me and Jarrod are always thinking and talking about his work. Right now I've been loving to look at the art of Katsuya Terada, Claire Wendling, concept artist Daphne Yap and sculptors Jordu Schell, Simon "Spiderzero" Lee, Paul Komoda and David Meng of Weta.
JARROD: It's like different tasting pies, it's all good. We are into genre stuff so we can get into all kinds of characters. We've been very lucky and have worked on some cool projects. The original designs are obviously like your little babies and they are very special and everything that happens with them is exciting whether it's making a bronze or doing a prepaint run, shirts, stickers, seeing people paint new ones, seeing customizations. It's a little sweeter when it's something you've made up.
BRANDON: We're still fanboys at heart. So when you're asked to work on The Juggernaut or some character that was (or is) really important to you, that's a very cool feeling. You feel like you're adding to the canon of that character. We've also gotten to work with so many artistic heroes like Alex Ross, Matt Wagner, David Mack, Randy Bowen, Clay Moore, and Wayne Barlowe. Still, nothing beats your own original stuff. It's just a different feeling when it's your baby.
FIGS: What is your favorite subject to sculpt and why?
JARROD: Wolverine. I can't front or even hesitate... it's a happy place I found long ago
FIGS: Tell us a little about the process you use to sculpt. About how long does it take you to complete a sculpt? What materials do you use or work in when you sculpt?
BRANDON: It's true. He's sculpted over 100 Wolverines since we started... and only a handful of those were paying jobs that were to be produced. Most were just for his own enjoyment. For me, its some sort of girl-with-a-giant-weapon piece. A girl who's in charge of her own situation and circumstances.
JARROD: We work in Super Sculpey Firm. We used to work in Super Sculpey and mix a small amount of black FIMO into it to create a nice neutral grey.
BRANDON: We use Super Sculpey Firm almost exclusively these days. We encourage all up-and-coming sculptors to try as many different clays as possible... it really is just a personal taste thing. Whatever feels right to you.
We start with an aluminum wire armature and slowly bulk up the piece with clay. We don't do any sketching or drawings... we just make the piece up as we go along. Our sculptures usually take us 150-200 hours to complete. It's a long process, beginners need to understand that and be willing to put a massive amount of time into their work.
FIGS: Who are some other sculptors you really admire or like and why?
JARROD: I really like SPIDERZERO, Paul Komoda, The Jordu, Takayuki Takeya, and Yasushi Nirasawa. Randy Bowen and Clay Moore have been very good to us and taught us a lot. We really enjoy meeting the other sculptors. We have an online forum at our website and we talk shop day and night. We love going to the shows and doin' a 'lil drankin and all that stuff.
FIGS: Given the opportunity to sculpt anything you wanted, what would you do and why?
BRANDON: All the people he said. Simon Lee is a phenomenon. I'm trying to study his stuff and rip it off as much as humanly possible. Jordu Schell is obviously a genius. David Meng from Weta is a real badass. I respect the work of guys like Tim Miller and Martin Canale at Sideshow who are working in such a tight and clean style... something we can't necessarily do that well.
JARROD: At the end of the day we are fans, I would like to do a project with Nirasawa or Takeya.
BRANDON: For me, something with Moebius would be a dream. And of course we will work on Frazetta projects for free. These four names-Nirasawa, Takeya, Moebius, and Frazetta-probably make up the core of our influences. Each one's work taught us something different about art... ideas that we still use in each and every sculpture we create.
FIGS: What amazing sculptures and projects are in the near future for the Shiflett Brothers?
JARROD: Well I don't know how amazing they are, we just shoot for "un-suck". We are very proud to be releasing Wayne Barlowe's "Thype" as a resin kit... it's a very cool character originally found in Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials. Thype is one of his original characters and it's our first licensed piece, the first character that we are producing ourselves that we didn't create. We also have an exciting girl kit about to come out called and "LuLu: The Destroyer".
And thank you Shiflett Brothers for taking the time out for this interview! Keep the awesome sculpts coming. If attending San Diego Comic-Con this year, be sure and drop by the Shiflett Brothers' booth #4621 to meet the talented duo and see their amazing work in person. The Shiflett Brothers will also be doing a sculpting demo and Q&A panel at the show on Friday, July 22 from 10:00-11:30 in Room 28DE. Don't miss it!
Our Instructional Sculpting DVD
, produced in conjunction with The Gnomon Workshop, is out and is available on our site. We also have some sculpture projects coming up based on characters from a very big comics publisher and produced by a very big company. I'm afraid that's all I can say right now!
Our site is www.shiflettbrothers.com
. Anyone can feel free to email us with any questions at any time. We're both on Facebook
, and all that stuff. Thanks Figures.com!
- Interview by Jeff Saylor and Jess Horsley