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
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’.”
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.