Artist Steve Missal took some time to sit with GoreMaster and talk about his influences and current projects. He teaches at the Art Institute of Phoenix and is a sculptor extraordinaire.
GM: When did you make the decision to enter the field?
SM: Literally in the past week. Long story, but with the development of my fantasy and realistic dioramas, I realized I was on the cusp of a change that had been brewing for some time in me.
GM: Who inspired you to start? Who was your influence?
SM:I’m not sure there was one source for inspiration….but perhaps, weirdly, the original artists for Fantasia, many years ago, were the real culprits, plus, of course, Charles Knight. Beyond that, I’d have to say my sources are all ancient….not rooted in today’s special effect artists or sculptors.
GM: What is a favorite early Special Effects Makeup memory (e.g. movie, book, or TV show- it can be practical or visual)?
SM: Oh, without a doubt the original King Kong movie….with Fay Wray….my folks let me (six years old) stay up til midnight to watch it. I will always be grateful. I just about floated to bed afterwards. It was a transformative experience.
GM: What are your top five special effects movies?
SM: The Blob (surprisingly….I liked their spare, low budget effects…they worked); It Came From Outer Space; The Creature from the Black Lagoon (holy cow…whoever had to swim in that suit….); Jurassic Park (the first movie)….paradigm shifting; King Kong (first one). I don’t care much for the contemporary glizty stuff….most films now are suffocated in effects. Just enough is my motto. Terminator 2, which I thought married action, reality and effects perfectly.
GM: Who is your favorite special effects person? (or person you admire in your field)
SM: Not a special effects guy really, but James Gurney really is remarkable. I do admire the late Stan Winston and Dick Smith. Also Rick Baker.
GM: How did you get started working in your industry?
SM: I’m not really ‘in it’ per se, but the corollary forensic art I have done started via a dare from my wife really….she was tired of me complaining about the art on forensic tv shows, and so I did something about it. The work I have done there really set me up to understand anatomy much more deeply, and to use visualization and sculpting techniques that I would never have imagined otherwise.
GM: Whose current work do you admire?
SM: The Polish surrealist artist Beksinkski.
GM: How have you gotten work in the industry?
SM: Still working on that….:) Aiming to approach museums, collectors etc….thru shows and website I will build.
GM: How do you pick out materials to use for a project? Do you make your own? Are there any brands that you recommend?
SM: Much of my materials are ad hoc….found stuff. Also use Sculpey, Woodland Scenics stuff, general sculpting/ceramics tools, even materials like pyracantha twigs from my back yard to use for trees. They work great. The materials match my needs sometimes, and sometimes direct the imagery through their own idiosyncratic nature. Kind of a back and forth process.
GM: Are there any new breakthroughs or ideas in the industry that excite you?
SM: Oddly, not the industry per se, but avenues like Etsy where people who make remarkable one of a kinds can finally get an audience.
GM: What current projects are you working on or excited about?
SM: I’m working on a diorama that will probably end up being a prehistoric scene….I admit it has changed course a couple of times.
GM: What was your toughest job?
SM: A reconstruction of a young woman whose skull was found in the east valley. Something about it touched me….I’ve tried three times to ‘bring her to life’. Very subtle stuff…difficult.
GM: What was your favorite job?
SM: Doing small diorama pieces for my kids when they had school projects really. Recently, I did a gig with Discovery Channel, where I was the sketch artist for filler and intro interviews for the series: Are We Alone? thru the Sci-Fi Channel. Aired in March of this year (2015).
GM: Do you have advice for the beginner or someone just getting started in the business?
SM: Pay attention to technique; don’t be in a hurry; learn from the best; be humble.
GM: What was the best advice or training you ever received?
SM: If a part of the artwork doesn’t work, scrap that part, even if you love it. The whole piece is what counts. If the part that doesn’t work gums up the works, then it has to go. Tough, but necessary.