We interviewed @HardingArt about Star Wars, Marvel Animated Busts and more!
Paving his way into the Graphic Illustration world, Paul Harding graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in Illustration. He was hired out of school for Graphic Illustration by a company in New York which led him to move to the city, where he started doing freelance illustration work on the side for magazines and newspapers, such as Golf Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. In 2017, he spearheaded a new graphic novel idea, Beasts of the Black Hand, working with artist Matthew Dow Smith and writer Ron Mars!
Harding got his start in the Toy Collecting Industry at MetzCo Toys with only two classes of sculpting under his belt. From there, he mastered his skills in rendering 2-D designs into 3-D sculptures and continued his freelance work with other top toy companies and brands! Read on to learn more about the talent behind the collectibles on your display!
DST/GG: Hi Paul, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us and discuss all things design and collectibles! We’re so excited to get the chance to peek inside the mind of a sculptor. How long have you been in the industry/ designing collectibles?
Harding: I've been working in this business designing and sculpting for over 18 years.
DST/GG: What got you into the business?
Harding: My love for toys, comics, and drawing. That and losing my job two decades ago and being forced to pursue what I truly love.
DST/GG: Were you a collector yourself before you started designing?
Harding: I've been a serious collector since the tender age of six. So, basically, since I can remember.
DST/GG: What are some of the challenges you face when it comes to sculpting 3-D renditions of 2-D Skottie Young designs, such as the Hulk?
Harding: The only challenges that come with Skottie's pieces are what they might look like from all angles. They have to look good from each point of view so choices must get made. I sort of try to get into his head for a short time.
DST/GG: Fans are thrilled with the latest Skottie Young-inspired statues like Apocalypse, White Tunic Doctor Doom, and the Dr. Strange Animated Style Statues, all of which have shipped or are in comic shops soon. Which character did you enjoy working on the most?
Harding: I've done about 15 of Skottie's pieces so it's hard to pick a favorite but I'd have to say Dr. Strange, Logan, and the Punisher are some of my faves.
DST/GG: What is the amount of time it takes to go from getting the reference to completing the sculpt? Can you walk us through the steps of the process?
Harding: The general rule for a statue, bust, or action figure is that it can't take much longer than a few weeks. First, research get's done to learn, visually, everything about a character's design, taking into account personal styles that such characters have been drawn in before. Then, I or another illustrator will go straight to drawing the character, often doing gestural drawings first to run by our art directors. That final drawing will get approved by licensors such as Marvel or Lucas and I will then move on to the sculpting stage. I do a few rounds of sculpt phases to pass by the art director then, once completed and approved internally, images of the sculpture will go to the licensors for approval.
DST/GG: The new Skrull Gallery Diorama was designed AND sculpted by you. How is it different working on a piece you’ve designed yourself?
Harding: Drawing was my first artistic love, so to be able to conceive the whole style of the piece I'm about to sculpt is always a pleasure. Once I'm sculpting it I learn a lot about my drawing process and how I might improve or tackle the next project. Also, it feels good to have the added bit of control. It's quite a gratifying process actually.
DST/GG: You’ve done quite a few pieces for us from Skottie Young Statues, to X-Men: Animated Series busts, to various Star Wars characters. What has been your favorite DST/GGLTD piece you’ve worked on so far? What piece has given you the most creative leeway?
Harding: Two of my favorite things in the world are Marvel and Star Wars™ . To make statues or figures that look like they jumped out of a comic or straight out of the movies is so much fun. Zuckuss and Darth Revan Gallery statues were a really good time as well as the classic Skrull Gallery piece. The Deadpool model kit was fun too. Another cool one was the Batman '66 Shakespeare bust bank. Those are some of the older ones that I enjoyed. If only I could talk about the pieces that you haven't seen yet!
DST/GG: You recently did a Star Wars: Rebels™ Darth Vader Bust with battle-damaged helmet that was out-of-this-world exceptional, straight down to the burn marks on his cheek and forehead. How closely do you try to follow the designs you get?
Harding: I'm so glad the fanbase is on board with these Rebels and Clone Wars busts. Designs received from Lucas are followed so closely and overlaid right on the in-progress digital sculpt for maximum accuracy. In the Star Wars™ world it is either wrong or right and we really try to get it right.
DST/GG: You recently illustrated a very realistic Transformers comic cover for IDW. Do you have a preference between working in 2-D vs 3-D?
Harding: Something I've discovered over the past few years is that I can create illustrations using my sculptures. This King Grimlock comic cover was completely sculpted in Zbrush and rendered in Keyshot, a program that applies realistic materials to the sculpture. I used various lights in Keyshot to get the mood exactly how I wanted it and finished the whole piece off in Photoshop by adding environmental elements like the sky and fire.
DST/GG: You are on multiple social media platforms, and get a lot of feedback. What is it like hearing the fan responses to your artwork?
Harding: I think, as a freelance artist that has been working remotely for 20 years, it is a real benefit to be able to engage with people about the work that I do. I have a real appreciation for the energy and enthusiasm that the collectors bring. It keeps me going!
DST/GG: What DST/GGLTD item are you working on now?
Harding: I'm currently working on a number of Star Wars™ and Marvel statues and busts and I can't wait to show everyone!