Cul­ture­mas­ter

What does it take to cre­ate clay char­ac­ters from gam­ing’s best sci-fi and hor­ror se­ries'? We talk to artist Samo Kram­berger to find out

Games Master - - Contents - Anne-Marie Coyle

Meet the artist bring­ing your favourite char­ac­ters to life as in­cred­i­ble clay stat­ues.

While gam­ing’s main­stream stars are read­ily avail­able in model form on shop shelves, it can be pretty tough to ac­quire mer­chan­dise de­pict­ing the more ob­scure char­ac­ters. Should you have a cer­tain fond­ness for Dead Is­land’s Xian Mei, for ex­am­ple, you can’t just waltz up to a counter and ob­tain a statue of the lead­ing as­sas­sin lady. That’s not a prob­lem for Samo Kram­berger, though, who uses his free time and su­perb sculpt­ing skills to re­pro­duce his favourite char­ac­ters from movies, comics, and videogames in clay. When it comes to artis­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, Kram­berger’s got it in spades. A qual­i­fied art teacher, he’s also worked as a de­signer in many stu­dios, and in 2009 set up his own busi­ness as a pro­fes­sional free­lance artist spe­cial­is­ing in web­site and ap­pli­ca­tion de­sign. His spare time is de­voted to sculpt­ing. “I was draw­ing and sculpt­ing since I can re­mem­ber,” he says. “My first sculp­ture (in el­e­men­tary school) was a life-size Yoda in pa­pier mâché. I never fin­ished it, but I still have it in my base­ment. To­day, af­ter years of be­ing a ‘se­ri­ous’ artist, I still find joy and in­spi­ra­tion in fan­tasy and pop cul­ture.”

Feats of clay

De­scrib­ing the process that goes into his cre­ations, Kram­berger says, “The ma­jor­ity of my sculpt­ing is done in poly­mer clay. It al­lows me to sculpt with my hands, or I can use sculpt­ing tools when I need the de­tail. The fi­nal prod­uct is durable when it’s baked. I don’t limit my­self to one ma­te­rial, I also like to use a ‘mixed me­dia’ ap­proach and com­bine all sorts of ma­te­ri­als. The fig­ure is painted with acrylic, and, at the end, a light colour wash and a bit of dry brush is all they need.” There’s more to the process than the phys­i­cal act of sculpt­ing, how­ever. Kram­berger is very thor­ough when it comes to study­ing his source ma­te­rial. He cre­ates sketches and pro­por­tional sheets to achieve the right look, while also leav­ing room for his own in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the char­ac­ter.

Find­ing the time to ded­i­cate to each project can be chal­leng­ing. “I sculpt in my spare time, mean­ing I don’t sculpt as much as I would like to,” ex­plains Kram­berger. “In gen­eral, it takes me a month to com­plete one fig­ure, or even more in some cases. It took me a year to com­plete the whole Di­a­blo set with six main fig­ures and the en­vi­ron­ment.” Look­ing at the fin­ished 1/6 scale dio­rama of the he­roes from Bl­iz­zard’s ac­tion-RPG, we reckon it was time well spent.

In­ter­est­ingly, Kram­berger’s favourite thing about sculpt­ing these char­ac­ters isn’t the cre­ation process it­self, it’s gath­er­ing the knowl­edge he needs to bring these vir­tual per­sonas to life. “As a fan artist, you have to ex­plore and learn as much as you can about your sub­ject and his/her role in the imag­i­nary world. The game fans are the tough­est au­di­ence out there. You have to know the mean­ing of ev­ery sin­gle de­tail.”

When play­ing games, Kram­berger’s al­ways on the look­out for in­ter­est­ing new char­ac­ters to com­mit to clay.

“It took me a year to com­plete the whole di­a­blo set with six main fig­ures”

“My favourite games are Doom, GTA, The Witcher, Fall­out, but I don’t re­ally have time to play them,” he says. “Me play­ing the game usu­ally means mak­ing print screens for study­ing the char­ac­ters or even try­ing to ex­tract the mesh mod­els so I can study them even bet­ter. My favourite sculp­ture is a fe­male player from Fall­out game. I wanted to cap­ture the mo­ment when the player takes a break in the game and just looks around for a mo­ment, maybe has a Nuka-Cola. It’s a nice feel­ing read­ing com­ments of some play­ers say­ing: ‘see­ing this sculp­ture made me re­play the whole game again’.”

Role mod­els

While Kram­berger does sell his sculp­tures, his fan art pieces are pri­mar­ily done for him­self and to reach other fans. Be­ing a lover of science fic­tion and hor­ror, char­ac­ters from these game gen­res are what he mainly fo­cuses on. He’s not purely lim­ited to sculp­ture, ei­ther – his artis­tic meth­ods are as wide-rang­ing as his sub­ject mat­ter, but Kram­berger says he doesn’t have a pref­er­ence when it comes to work­ing with dig­i­tal and tra­di­tional meth­ods. “I think that be­ing a tra­di­tional artist first is help­ing me with my dig­i­tal art­work. Some­times my fo­cus is on wa­ter­colours, then it’s sculpt­ing, and then I’m com­pletely dig­i­tal for months.”

As well as work­ing on his own orig­i­nal fan­tasy sculp­tures Kram­berger teases that there are plenty of ex­cit­ing char­ac­ters he’d like to sculpt from games due to re­lease in the next few years. He doesn’t go into fur­ther de­tail, so we’re left to look back over his port­fo­lio and spec­u­late about what his fu­ture moulded mas­ter­pieces might be. We reckon one of Doom Eter­nal’s hellish demons or a shuf­fling zom­bie from the Res­i­dent Evil 2 re­make would do nicely – plus per­haps the one-armed wolf, Sekiro, just to keep us all safe.

Sculpted in poly­mer clay and painted with acrylics, these 1/6 scale fig­ures are sure to de­light any Di­a­blo fan.

The de­tail re­ally makes these char­ac­ters come to life – when it comes to these Silent Hill nurses, that’s not ex­actly a good thing.

For Kram­berger, the most en­joy­able as­pect is learn­ing the back­grounds of the char­ac­ters he cre­ates.

Games­mas­ter ed­i­tor Robin is weep­ing into his Warham­mer paint box at the shad­ing here.

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