In 1983 toy company, LJN, released a line of action figures inspired by Dungeons & Dragons. The toys weren’t directly from any particular version of the role playing game. They were more like archetypes of characters you could find in the game.
There was the heroic paladin Strongheart, a Dwarf named Elkhorn, a good and an evil wizard, an elf warrior, and a half-orc. They were all very cool 3.5” articulated figures with good detail. But of them all there was one that stood out as possibly the coolest action figure ever released, possibly even cooler than Kenner’s Boba Fett.
His name was Warduke.
Warduke looked to be straight out of a Frank Frazetta illustration, like his famous Death Dealer. With a dark blue helmet that had dragon like wings sprouting from the sides, a single arm and leg covered in some kind of matching blue chain mail, and iron gauntlet on one hand, and both a skull on his girded loins and a bigger skull making up the entire front of his shield, as a kid we knew Warduke wasn’t fucking around!
I loved this figure, and still do. I was lucky enough to have owned him and the now rare Fortress of Fangs. The fortress was a large two level playset that appears to be a snake’s head. The first floor is made up of a lake of lava surrounding a treasure chest. There are stalagmites and stalactites that add to the fangs part of the name.
A set of stairs leads up to the second floor where there are trap doors, a falling axe, a wall of spikes to crush intruders and a large winged demon guarding it all. I posed Warduke in front of one of the eyes for this painting.
Below is the time lapse video from painting g Warduke.
Last weekend I had a booth at ChisCon in Milford, MA. It’s a really fun meet up of action figure creators and fans. There were incredible custom action figures, mind blowing dioramas, and beautiful action figure photography all on display. Plus there were a ton of toys for sale.
@chris_con_collector_meetup was a blast. Every show is special; this one was full of people who not only liked my paintings, but who could identify every single figure in every painting. The conversations were always fun, interesting, and totally relatable. Everyone has stories about their toys and I love hearing them.
I also love meeting people I’ve only known or followed online. Today @mechazone stopped by and we got to hang out, I met @thecollector77 who put the whole awesome show together. I got to meet and chat with @mrstevie18 , @toygalaxy , and @red_wagon_dioramas plus I saw some familiar faces and got to talk to a ton of people about toys, art, and life.
I’m terrible about taking photos of and with people, but here’s a few.
“Me, Grimlock” 16”x12” acrylic on canvas. Soundwave, Jetfire, Prime, Bumblebee & Grimlock. They were, and still are my favorite Transformers. Grimlock tapped right into my love of Mechagodilla. Really how much cooler could it get a T-Rex, that’s a robot, that also turns into a more different robot! (I heard Strongbad’s voice as I typed this) (No robots were harmed in the making of this painting) I worked on this up until midnight last night to be able to fire up the printer to make prints and debut the painting today at @chris_con_collector_meetup
I’ll do a separate post about the show, but if you can make it next year, definitely go!
Growing up in my city, we had J&S smoke shop, which was also a magic and joke shop. It was full of magical, creepy and funny objects, including horror masks lining the walls by the great Don Post studio. I remember walking in and feeling terrified but fascinated at the same time by the ultra realistic, gory masks behind the counter, high on the wall staring down at me. The Magic Parlor in Salem Massachusetts is this kind of store. Full of magical items, funny, creepy, and just plain weird. Stepping in to the store I felt like I had gone back in time to J&S smoke shop.
These masks are primarily from @trick_or_treat_studios which has become the ultimate producer of highly detailed masks. Their placement on the walls mimics animal head trophies in a room from a different era, except these are monsters, and the den is a shop filled to the rafters with skulls, preserved spiders, practical jokes, and magical items from all over.
I will have a booth (#123) for the first time at this huge art festival full of a wide variety of artists with everything from 2D art and sculpture to woodworking and textiles. All of the work I am bringing will be for sale.
I was honored to have my painting Toy Chest 2 selected for the special exhibition With Flying Colors.
These two wind up monsters were everywhere in the 80’s and 90’s. Knock off King King and Godzilla along with a Creature from the Black Lagoon. I recently added King Kong to my collection and wanted to paint it immediately. The old wood and worn paint of the vintage Coke bottle crate looked great in contrast to the shiny bright plastic.
This was done in three sessions over three days. I don’t do anything to keep my acrylic paint wet. I’m constantly remixing colors as needed. I typically uses Cad. Yellow Med., Pthalo Blue (green shade), Quinacridone Crimson, & Titanium White. On this painting I used some pthalo green to save me a little bit of mixing.
Every painting is different, but mostly I try covering as much ground as possible to start and then gradually refine in passes, using colors I mix where they need to go across the painting. By the end I’m putting fingernail sized amounts of paint on the easel to mix colors for details.
This little robot is actually named Elec-Robot Brain-3, and is from the 1970’s line of die cast toys, UFO Commander 7 by Japanese toy company Shinsei. But the first thing everyone notices about is the arms that fold away from body making it look like it’s about to give you a hug.
I really enjoy enlarging small things in a painting. Especially when there the objects are worn, scratched, and chipped. That means they were played with and loved. The stories and love that were poured into something are a kind of magic that is visible in the wear and tear.
In preparation for the upcoming Small Works show Dec. 1- Jan. 12 at Hope & Feathers in Amherst, MA I’ve painted some small robots.
I found this purple old purple robot at a flea market over the summer. I love the design, and that purple was brilliant.
Next I played mad scientist with two Tomy Rascals, wind-up robots that were everywhere in the 70’s and 80’s. I replaced their mechanical heads with eye-balls. The first one I did sold immediately, so it won’t be on the show, but Eye-Bot 2 will be.
Prints of these robot painting coming soon!
I’ll be in Kittery, Maine on Saturday Nov. 19 for the New England Toy & Record Show with prints and originals for sale. 9-3 PM at the Kittery Lyons Club.
After spending almost 3 months working on defending the castle I needed to crank out some smaller, faster paintings. I do this after every painting that I spend weeks on for a few reasons.
I get so narrowly focused by the end of a long piece that I need to break that narrowed vision into a wider, broader view. Making a painting in a day or two forces me shift my perspective and think about the about a painting in its entirety.
First I started with a painting of my wife from a trip we took to New York in early Sept. I dove straight into this painting without doing a pencil drawing first. Quickly outlining the layout with a brush and then getting straight to work. It helped me loosen up quite a bit from having just spent days working on the tiny details of toy robots and the stones of Castle Grayskull. The graffitied wall and gum covered sidewalk allowed me to use the brush loosely and expressively, while focusing on the figure satisfied the remaining urge to focus tightly.
The next three paintings were much smaller and happened quickly but with some more detail. I’ll post about them next time.