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It's all about making time for what you love to do -- so says Jason Babler, a former WoW player who's nurturing a love for sculpting fantasy and gaming characters, with eye-popping results. It took four months of patient, part-time work to create this troll hunter, based on artwork from Upper Deck. Jason's managed to combine a passion for gaming with a lifelong interest in fantasy, carving out a hobby that he describes as his way to get away from the computer and develop the art skills he's always wanted.
Read more about Jason's sculpture, after the gallery and break.
Gallery: Troll hunter sculpture
Carving out a new hobby
The pull toward sculpting was inevitable for Jason, sprouting from the seeds of a childhood spent reading fantasy books and drawing dragons and monsters. "As an adult, I collect specific toys and always secretly wanted to work for McFarlane Toys," he admits. "A few years ago, I stopped wishing I could sculpt and took the plunge and started sculpting. I am a complete amateur and self-taught. I did a ton of research and started buying training DVDs on how to work with clay and wax and how to mold with silicone and cast copies in resin."
A longtime fan of Blizzard games, Jason returns to Blizzard art concepts time and time again. "I still play Diablo II from time to time and can't wait for Diablo III," he confesses, "but I had to stop playing WoW, or I never would sculpt."
Good thing he found the time, because this troll sculpture turned out to be more ambitious than Jason ever dreamed. "The final sculpt was molded in 25 different pieces: his ears, spikes, armor plates, bow, base, head, etc. ..." he says. "It was crazy. I had to sculpt each piece so that it fits together, and then take it apart to make molds and cast separately. I could have used Sculpey to just make one copy and bake it, but I wanted to learn more about molding as well. I loved this illustration and thought that the armor detailing was amazing. His shoulder armor, bicep armor and shield can all be taken off, too."
Jason's managed to squeeze his love of gaming and fantasy even into his work. He's a creative director and co-owner of a small iPhone development company which expects to launch its first game soon. "I'm mostly a graphic designer," he notes, "have a little bit of illustration background but am getting into 3-D work as well. I got into the video game business by working for Ziff Davis back in the day at Computer Gaming World, then Official US Playstation magazine. I worked for ADV Films as creative director of Newtype USA (an anime magazine). Then I did design work for marketing for games, and now I'm making casual games!"
Getting started in sculpting
His enthusiasm for enthusiastic ventures of all types extends to anyone interested in getting into sculpting. "The first thing I would do is say buy John Brown's sculpting series," he advises. "It is expensive, but it shows everything on how to make sculpts and molds. Amazing series. The next thing to do is practice, practice, practice -- and learn your anatomy! There is no shortcut for this, and I am constantly trying to improve my own anatomy skills."
So what's under Jason's sculpting knife now? "I won an award for a Diablo III sculpt I did, awarded by Kerner Optical (the new company that the original Industrial Light and Magic guys started when ILM moved into the Presidio), so I'm pumped about that," he says. He's working on a massive sculpture of Illidan, a Diablo III shaman and WoW's Sindragosa. "Not enough time in the day!" he laughs. "But lately, something has been making me want to sculpt Magtheridon from WoW -- specifically, this pose. This guy would be a beast. All the texturing would be insane!"
Actually, we don't think it sounds insane; we think sculpting of this quality makes quite good sense. See more of Jason's work at his web site, Mantle Studios.