"Sculpting: A Q&A with Eli Arndt"

An Interview by Craig Andrews


Eli Arnt, one of the sculptors for 15mm.co.uk's SHM range, answers some questions about himself and his work in the first of this years Christmas Interviews.


Q. Before we start with the sculpting questions, tell us a little about yourself; where you're from, what you do for a living ? etc.
First of all I appreciate the opportunity for a neophyte sculptor to share his experiences starting out with the folks out there. I think there are a lot of preconceptions and misconceptions about sculpting and what it takes to get into it.

I’m just a regular guy working a day job in Washington state. I work in a pretty low stress customer service job and so it doesn’t take a toll on my creativity or leave me with too little time. I’ve got a wife and a couple of kids and they get a lot of my time.

Like a lot of folks, I’ve been gaming for a while. I started with Dungeons & Dragons back in the day and cut my teeth in hobby gaming as a RPG player which gave me my first exposure to miniatures. We used them for characters and encounters and eventually started building armies to battle against one another using homebrew rules. It wasn’t until high school that I really started getting into miniatures wargaming and it was Warhammer 40,000 Rogue Trader that sucked me in. There have been many miniatures and many systems since then.

Q. When did you first start sculpting and what led you to start ?

Ever since my earliest days with Rogue Trader I’ve been sculpting to one degree or another, but it was always a bit here, a bob there – conversions to existing figures. The decision to dive into sculpting from the ground up came in October of 2010 when I looked down at a couple of conversions I had just finished and realized that there was only about 30% of the original figure left. It seemed silly not to try going all the way after that.

Q. Where do you do your sculpting ?

As odd as it sounds, at work. I have a desk job that leaves my hands horribly unused and with my mile a minute brain I have to keep them busy or I get distracted. I used to doodle, and still do, but now I also sculpt. The lighting in the office is good and the seat is comfy. I am working on setting up a proper spot to do so at home, but it will require a bit of work in my garage hobby space before that is a go.

Q. What materials and tools do you find you use most often ?

I’m not sure if I’m doing it right, but I tend to use a standard sculpting tool that I think I got from a set of GW conversions tools. Other tools include a sharp dental pick and an Exacto knife. Anything else is adapted on the fly and usually comes in the form of another dental tool or clay working instrument. It really comes down to the right sized point or the size of the smoothing head.

Q. A lot of wargamers modify their miniatures; swapping heads, arms, weapons etc. but a lot of people find the idea of even basic modifications a bit daunting do you have any hints or tips to help them ?

This is a tough one. I’m still figuring it out for myself. Best thing I can say is it’s no biggy. The green stuff peals away pretty easily so if you screw up you can start over. Also, take it slow and work in layers. Do a bit, let it harden then do another bit. Nothing sucks more than doing an awesome bit and then wiping it out because you squish it working on another bit.

Q. What would you say to them if they are considering a full sculpt ?

Do it. Really it’s that simple.

If you want to sculpt, sculpt. Even if it doesn’t look like a Perry, Copplestone or Guthrey, it’s still awesome because you made it and that is a heck of a lot more than most accomplish. It’s like anything else. Anybody can buy something cool. Making it is a whole different sort of cool.

Q. What inspires you and have you a sculptor or a sculpting style that you try to follow ?

Inspiration comes from a number of places. Movies, TV shows, my own imagination, comic books, even video games. I’m a visual guy so those tend to inspire me the most. Sometimes inspiration comes from odd places like he comment of another gamer. It’s funny how many times an off-handed remark has produced a great sculpting idea.

The Uhul miniatures I did for 15mm.co.uk started off as rough sketches of the Granz from Star Wars. Somebody saw them and asked, “Owl dudes?” And the Uhul were born.

I cannot say that I have any particular sculptors that I try to emulate. I do have a few mentors who have been kind enough to give me tidbits of help along the way. To be honest, I’m not one of those guys who can recognize most sculptors’ styles by sight.

Q. Who is your favourite sculptor, past and present?

Gads, I’m the wrong person to ask. I am one of those horrible people who pays less attention to who made something and just buys pretty figures. In the past it was D. Meiz, Sandra Garrity and Julie Guthrie. Currently I like Mike Broadbent, Richard Deasey, Mark Copplestone, Aaron Brown, and Roderick Campbell.

Q: Is there a particular range of figures that you would like to work on?

I have a dream…

No, seriously I have some ideas, but I really would like to wait until my skills have developed before I start trying to tackle a complete range. I have some concepts and ideas for things that I think would be fun, but not so sure they would sell.

I really see my future as a sort of boutique sculptor, offering a range of oddball stuff that other companies may not feel comfortable tackling. I can appreciate their position in choosing not to do so, but any sculpting I do would be on the side of a regular job and even now I do it for the fun and “greater good” of the hobby.

One thing I wouldn’t mind seeing is a full range of 15mm superhero miniatures. I am a HUGE fan of cosmic level comics like Green Lantern Corps, Legion of Superheroes, Guardians of the Galaxy, among others. I think that 15mm lends itself well to these sorts of comics where things are big and heroes are not just fighting one on one across a cityscape.

Q. What is your favourite race found in miniatures?
Really if I had to name one, it’d have to be the Quar from ZombieSmith. For inspiration, clarity of vision, overall design and execution they really are amazing. There is just such a cool, quirky character to them that harkens back to my early days when my imagination was inspired by Heavy Metal magazine, Ralph Bakshi and more recently Hayao Miyazaki.

Q. Can you tell us anything about any sculpting work you may be doing at the moment?

That’s always a tough one. Most of the stuff that I do, that folks will see, is for other companies and they do tend to like to keep a lid on things until they are ready for release. So far, the only things I have done for production are for 15mm.co.uk in their SHM miniatures range. I’ve already got 7 minis out through them and another ten on the way.

I’ve always got personal projects in the works. These are practice, fun, and sometimes for my own gaming use. I’m doing a lot of mutants, zombies, and horrific creatures lately.

Q. Is there a website where people can see all the sculpts you've worked on ?

The best place to see my stuff is on my gaming blog, I See Lead People. I post WIP pictures there as well as completed greens. Not all of what I post there goes into production. Painted examples of the stuff I have had go into production can currently be found at 15mm.co.uk in their SHM miniatures section.

Q. Some people listen to the radio whilst sculpting. Do you listen to the radio or have music in the background? If so what is your favourite music to listen to when sculpting?

Because I don’t do a lot of sculpting at home, no. when I do I tend to listen to a lot of music. Anything from soundtracks, metal, new wave, industrial, I even listen to various forms of world music. My latest guilty pleasure in music is folk metal. When I’m not listening to music I listen to my favorite podcast, Minions of the Monster Master.

Q. Which do you enjoy the most sculpting, painting or gaming?

I loathe painting. Odd as it sounds, it’s a real chore for me. Sculpting is easier than painting. Gaming is something I rarely get to do but I do very much enjoy it. So, I suppose right now, most of my hobby enjoyment comes from sculpting and building terrain.

Q. What is your favourite book and why?

As odd as it sounds, the one book I have owned more copies of and read most often is “The Prince” by Machiavelli. There is a lot of wisdom in that book that I have applied to my real life and work.

Q. Have you ever been inspired to create something only described in written form ?

Inspired, yes. Acted on the inspiration, no.

Q. Have you any 'other' interests that take up your time and if so what are they?

Mostly my family. World domination fits in there someplace. During the summer I do a lot of grilling and am constantly in pursuit of the perfect BBQ. I am addicted to superhero animated series as well as the new Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series.

Q. Thanks for taking the time out for these questions, do you have any final words for readers of OITW?

I am pretty sure I have said it all. If I had to say anything about sculpting it would be this – Sculpting is for anybody. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it is some mystical art that only a few people can do. If you can convert a miniature, you can sculpt a miniature.

Even if you don’t want to make a job out of it, it’s worth doing. When you sculpt your own stuff you have an opportunity to bring something to the table that is uniquely yours.

If anybody gives you crap, ask them to show you the miniature they sculpted from scratch!

Webmaster's Notes

The above interview is an Orcs in the Webbe exclusive and was first published on December 6th 2011 as part of it's Countdown to Christmas Advent Calendar.

I'd like to thank Tony Harwood (Dampfpanzerwagon) for for first suggesting the sculpting interviews and coming up with most of the questions for last years Advent Calendar.