Yes, that's the guy.
Bowman Arts. The end. The beginning. The in-between bits. The smelly stuff no one will admit to possessing. That's all him.
This is a guy who wore a goatee for exactly two weeks. Just long enough to get the photo for his driver's license.
Where are the fashion police when you need them?
Nice photo, eh?
In lieu of an Autobiography, here is the original, uncensored, interview which appeared in the April 2004 issue of Prehistoric Times. If you find anything herein offensive, you can just take it outside.
Tell us about yourself and life in Portland, Oregon, Bruce. (schooling, art training, job, everyday life).
My schooling had nothing to do with art or dinosaurs, except for a few basic classes. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Theater, of all things, but I left that path behind years ago. I'm an almost entirely self-taught artist. Currently, I'm between day-jobs, caught up in Oregon's unemployment slump. With luck, that'll change for the better, come November. Life in Portland is wonderful, except when killer ice storms take out all my subtropical plants. I had such a lovely pair of tree ferns started on the north forty. And you should have seen my banana! I spend a lot of time on the Internet and work around the house - we have several on-going home improvements in tow right now. Someday I'll have that basement studio finished, and then you'll see some amazing things, baby. I also keep our rabbit Nestle company. We lost her friend and my buddy Frank a couple weeks ago, and we miss him. On top of all that, I spend an enormous amount of time and effort keeping my partner Debbie as content as I can manage.
About once a year, you and I (and others) get together at whatever model convention we can find to sell your latest work at the PT table. PT readers have heard me describe these numerous times. Talk about the model conventions for those who have yet to attend one. (please go ahead and describe the diff. ones we've been to a little if you don't mind; what goes on, any good? favorite)
Well, I've been to five so far. The last two Mad Model Parties in Pasadena, the first two Imagine-Nation Festivals in Las Vegas, and the last years' Wonderfest in Louisville. The shows are pretty fun on the whole. Conventions are usually set up at a modest hotel or convention center and divided into three parts: the dealers area, a modeling contest, and seminars/presentations. There can be fifty to two hundred different vendors in the dealers room, hawking anything from model dinosaurs (weird!), to swords and spaceships, to rare videos, to life-size Creatures from the Black Lagoon. Not to mention the occasion starlet signing autographs. I spend most of the time wandering the dealers areas weeping because I don't have enough money to buy everything there. The Wonderfest model contest was amazing. It was so huge, I missed large chunks of it. Seminars cover an enormous range of topics, from Bob May's memoirs as the Lost in Space robot, to how-to-clinics for junior and senior modelers, to the great Ray Harryhausen himself at last year's Wonderfest, talking about why he thinks dinosaurs look daft with their tails in the air. Unfortunately I didn't get to chat with the man himself, so I still wonder if he feels the same way about dinosaurs with feathers! But I did walk in his shadow several times though, and patted his back as he passed me in the buffet line, so I can die happy.
You only offer about one dinosaur sculpture per year. This apparently works well for you but what is your reason for so few? How about two this year?!
Why only one? I don't know. Maybe I'm just lazy. No, really, I envy people like Max Salas, who says he can't sit still without working on something. I'm just the opposite. Not to mention the creative process is a highly frustrating and painful one. I'm a perfectionist to an obsessive degree, and I usually can't get started unless absolutely certain of the final product. It's a fault I've been working on correcting, but it'll probably take the rest of my life. So maybe this year I'll do two.
Tell us a little about each of your sculptures. favorite?
My first was the ever-popular Feathered Velociraptor mongoliensis. He's getting a little long in the tooth these days, but then, I did do him back in the last century. And it's about time he received a facelift to match more recent findings. People seemed to really like him, but many said bigger would be better. Luckily Sinosauropteryx prima was described that year, and fit the bill nicely. Perfect size for 1/1 sculpting, and covered with fuzz. Nyeah, I said to the dino-bird naysayers, nyeah! And Lo! Sinosauropteryx became my most popular kit so far. I followed that with Caudipteryx zoui for many of the same reasons, but also as a reaction to the majority of the reconstructions that were appearing out there. I mean look at Luis Rey's version! It's just silly. And Brian Cooley's, nice as it is, was done before all the facts were in. So mine became, and rightly so, a dignified, if not demure, interpretation. Next came Archaeopteryx lithographica, which I'd been itching to do for some time. There are so many visions of this animal out there that are just obscenely bad. Most belong in an Irwin Allen movie, an iguana with feathers glued on. So mine is also a very dignified and perhaps ordinary looking piece. Just a male Archie, doing what males do, showing off to the ladies. Then I decided to take a break from feathers. I'd yet to do a "classic" dinosaur: A giant, scaly, clawed monster with nasty big teeth. I picked Spinosaurus because, you guessed it, Jurassic Park III had done such a good job making it look like a Muppet. But if I'd known so many other sculptors were so easily influenced by bad movies, I would have chosen some other subject. Perhaps Tyrannosaurus. Yeah, nobody's done that. My favorite is always the one I'm working on.
Would you tell us from idea to armature to finished sculpture, just how you work and how long it generally takes to make your sculptures? (any "secret" techniques, tools, materials, etc)
New ideas take forever to percolate up in my head. I've been wanting to do Mononychus for years, but I haven't come up with a pose I like. But when I do finally come up with a pose, I scour the Internet for any information about the skeleton. I'm the most grateful when I find someone has already done a Greg Paul-style silhouette, especially if it was Greg Paul. For Spinosaurus, Tracy Ford seemed to have published the most complete info about the sail, so I went with his work as a basis. Unfortunately, the only complete outline even he had was a small sketch on one of the t-shirts he sells on his website. But it was good enough for my needs. I import the image into a vector drawing program and trace over it, thus creating a version that can be cleanly enlarged to whatever size necessary. Sometimes 1/1, sometimes smaller. It's a fun part of the process, seeing just how big a dinosaur was in real life. Anyway, I can then use the enlargement to trim up the wires for the armature. I don't bother with expensive art store armature wire. It isn't necessary. I go with Radio Shack aluminum grounding wire, 50 feet for only a few dollars. The wires are glued, stapled, tied with string, and screwed down, until it looks something like the final goal. I'm not all that adept or patient with armatures. That's another facet I need to work on. Now I can bend and wiggle the armature to my heart's content, and usually find the pose I fretted over for so long looks like crap in three dimensions. Back to square two. But at least the armature's done. Eventually, minutes or years later, the pose will be finalized, and the hard part begins. I mean the "fun" part. Yeah. Slapping Super Sculpy on until it looks like an animal. Here's a pet peeve of mine. This is where a lot of artists, sculptors and painters alike, get into trouble. Many insist on not using the proper references, and end up with Tyrannosaurs with human legs and swan necks. People! Stop using imaginary logic and personal biases to visualize dinosaurs! They just end up looking goofy. I'm pointing my finger at you Spielberg! Where was I? Slapping Sculpy? Good. This stage usually takes about one or two weeks, and then it's finally time for the detailing, which takes another week. Detailing can be amazing and aggravating at the same time. Amazing because sometimes, after you've been working for hours scraping and scratching and carving and hacking, you sit back and a dinosaur looks back at you. Most of the time, though, it doesn't look back. That's the aggravating part. I redid the Spinosaur details about three times before it looked acceptable enough to finish up. And how long did it take to sculpt a Spinosaurus? Well crumbs, just the sculpting, two, maybe three weeks. On the calendar however, total time was about eight months. Anyway, you want techniques and tools don't you? Not going to tell.
I'm looking at your latest (Spinosaurus) right now. Your skin detail is excellent. This is one of the toughest parts for new sculptors. You have some great ideas. Subtle; not overdone. Can you tell us some things about how you accomplish it? (sorry if you already covered it in the last question. perhaps just move that part down here).
Oh I love talking about tools and techniques! The skin of the Spinosaur was fairly simple to do in the end. I'd struggled a long time with individual scales, somewhat like Shane Foulkes' style, but I couldn't make it look natural. Then the Internet proved it's worth yet again. There's an Argentinian sculptor name of Martin Canale who is phenomenal in both style and his willingness to share his "tricks". His website is www.goregoregore.com. There you'll find a tutorial section that will blow your mind. I found him through the Shiflett Brothers bulletin board, www.theclubhouse1.net, where he posts occasionally. Anyway, one of his tricks for creating beautiful organic textures is done with a loofa. You know, those bath scrubby things you can get in the soap department at the grocery store. It's the dried innards of the loofa gourd. You cut the loofa into one inch squares and use them as texture stamps. You have to overlap and blend the pattern to make it work on a dino, but as you can see, it's pretty neat. The scutes and scales on the Spino were done the old fashioned way, by hand, individually. You put a little blob of clay down where you want it, then you squish and squeeze it with a hand tool. I use a "Clay Shaper" nowadays, but a flat toothpick will do, until it looks like a scale.
Heroes that have affected your work?
I aspire to be as good as Tony McVey and as cool as Viggo Mortensen. No, really. Tony is the man in my book. He is one of the few sculptors out there that can take a hand-sized lump of clay and make it look like fifty tons of flesh. I don't think I have to explain about Viggo.
Thoughts on current theories/ recent discoveries? If nothing else you must have a lot to say about feathers, flying and the whole dino/bird connection.
Well, if anything, it forces a rethink of Evolution as a process doesn't it? For years evolution has been thought to be a straight line affair, one step leading to the next. But it's more varied than that apparently. With every new feathered dino discovery, the line between dinosaur and bird is becoming more and more blurred. What with advanced animals like Archeopteryx being some millennia older than a "primitive" Microraptor, yet Microraptor has feathers that are equally advanced, and Psittacosaurus has quills, for goodness sake! And don't get me started on Therizinosaurs!
Are you ready to tell us about your new release for 2004 and any idea(s) for future projects yet?
This year's piece is in mock-up stage right now. It's the most complicated project I've attempted so far. So complicated, in fact, I had to build a mock-up because I couldn't draw it in two-dimensions! I also want to incorporate a more polished plug and socket system for the parts, which it'll need for internal support. A little super glue won't be good enough this time. Other than that I'm not ready to reveal the subject, as I don't like to announce anything until it's done, just in case plans change. I will say, just to tease you, that it's back to the feathers again. For the future, I have loads of plans as always, and not all of them dinosaurs. Someone recently suggested Postosuchus as a subject for a kit. I kind of snorted at first, but on thinking about it, that crocodilian scalework could be an exciting challenge. I know, I know, Postosuchus isn't really a crocodilian, but it's more likely to look like one than a sinornithosaur. And besides, the crocodiles up at the Oregon Zoo have been dying to pose for me. Also, as I mentioned to you at Wonderfest, I really do want to try and produce a kit of Jules Verne's Nautilus as described in the book. There's some artwork on my website. I don't know if anyone else would be interested, but it's something I'd like on my mantel. Right next to my Spinosaurus and my Velociraptor, and Talos from Jason and the Argonauts, and a Fine Mold's X-Wing, and a Cave Troll, and an iron bunny.
Any last words? Perhaps on the dino model industry today?
There's a bit of a "boom" in the dinosaur cottage industry these days, isn't there? Your What's New in Review column just gets bigger every issue. I don't know if this means people are buyingmore than they used to, but there sure are a lot more producers out there! Sometimes I'm afraid to open the newest issue and see the new "competition". Then I remember that no one is actually making a living selling dinosaur kits, so let 'em come! The more the merrier. I do have to say that am eternally grateful for everyone who's purchased my kits, and it warms my heart to know that my work is enjoyed by so many people. Not to mention I'm very proud to count you as a friend, Mike. Without your inspiration, there's no way I would have done what I've done.
ęBowman Arts 2006