It’s impossible to tell where childhood ends and adult concerns begin. Somewhere along the way, we are expected to leave behind certain forms and pursuits. Monsters and imaginary friends ought to be handed off to charity along with the little coats we’ve outgrown and those terrible Christmas sweaters we’ve managed to wear only once. So we are told.
Sometimes, though, childhood never really disappears, and though age expands interests and develops skills, we never forsake our open passion for things seen in the mind’s eye. Doktor A has proven that, not only can that spirit continue into adulthood, but it can thrive. What’s more, he has brought the visions from his mind’s eye to our physical ones.
Doktor A’s work spans an impressive assembly of mediums, appearing as toys, paintings, sculptures, and digital art. His characters range from the cuddly clunkers known as Mechtorians to elegantly sinister works of fine art featured online at SpookyPop. Emotive and refreshing, these works are the best of – well – several worlds.
Each creation tells a story. I caught up with Doktor A to learn a little more about his.
Me: In your info section on SpookyPop, it says you’ve always drawn monsters, but how did you expand into building them?
Doktor A: Well to begin with I just kept drawing them. I didn’t let people convince me it was a bad thing to do when I was growing up. I never put away my childish things but kept developing them, ultimately into a viable income. Alongside the drawings were always models. First cardboard box robots and then plasticene, modelling clay etc. Then one day I discovered that there were grown up people who were model-makers for a living. It was a real and proper job. My world changed. I hunted out modelmaking courses an art collages and finally got on one and started learning how to use machines and different materials. Eventually moving out into the world as a freelance modelmaker and eventually as a toy designer and prototype builder.
Me: Your creations all seem to come with their own unique stories. The Mechtorians, for instance, have not only individual character biographies, but an over-arching plot to unite their world. Are toys, sculptures, etc. born from these tales, or are the tales inspired by the physical art?
Either I write their biography first then develop the look of the piece with drawings. then start planning the build. Some characters can go through a curatorial phase of several years whilst I hunt down specific parts, that is to say whilst I amass suitable found objects to create the form I am looking for.
Sometimes they start from a sketch or series of drawings and then morph again as the sculpture comes together. All the time I am discovering who they are and what their place in the world is.
Lastly a whole story and form may be suggested by the discovery of a single piece of “junk”. A specific found object may set in motion a whole character development.
Me: What has been the most exciting challenge you’ve faced as a maker?
Doktor A: Constantly pushing my boundaries and improving the quality of each piece I do. Learning new skill sets whilst on the job and hitting deadlines is the toughest thing of all. If you have to deliver a piece for a show date there is not a lot of opportunity to screw up whilst working on it as that chews up time. But messing up is the only real way to learn anything new. Trial and error, honing a skill. Reaching a little bit further with each piece is a good way to learn. Slowly, slowly you get there. It’s like turning a super tanker. You look ahead a couple of years and see something you want to achieve that you know you can’t do now, and you start moving toward it in increments over many pieces.
Me: Do you have any advice for developing makers? Particularly rebellious materials you suggest avoiding? Risks worth taking?
Doktor A: Keep at it. That’s the best advice. Just persevere. The only way to get better at something is to do it lots. Mess up, make mistakes, work out what went wrong and learn from that. Read up and watch Youtube instruction videos. There is lots of great free advice out there from people who know what they are talking about. If you really want to do something there is always someone who has tried it before and can give you some pointers. Just hunt them out. And as far as materials go, using them is the best way to learn about them. Pay attention to your own safety though. There are a lot of great resins and rubbers available these days but they are all a health hazard of some sort so take precautions. Even seemingly safe materials like wood and plaster should be treated with respect. Always wear the best safety gear you can afford.
Me: Anything about to emerge from the lab?
Also, I am currently working on a different sort of thing for me. A commissioned rendition of the flying train from Back to the Future III. That has been a lot more of a scratch build, pure modelmaking job than most of what I do. Though I have pulled it into my own world. It’s a big, complex piece which has been quite a challenge, but something I have always had a hankering to have a crack at.
Me: If you had unlimited funds and all the time you needed, what would you build?
Doktor A: Some life-sized, animatronic Mechtorians would be nice. Or possibly Automatons. Very high end pieces using real wood, metal, glass and with real tailored clothing. Those would be quite something to see. Maybe one day!