Your Home for Toy News and Action Figure Discussion!

Customizer Spotlight – Grownnerd

Welcome to the first installment of Customizer Spotlight, a (hopefully) monthly article where Fwoosher Whiskeytango will be interviewing some of the amazing customizers we have here at The Fwoosh.  Click through to read more about Customizer Grownnerd!

I wanted to kick off the inaugural issue with someone who has been around here for a long time, and is known not only for his work, but also for his involvement in the community on the site, so who better than Fwooshs own Grown Nerd?

Whiskeytango: Hey man, why don’t you introduce yourself?

GrownNerd:  GrownNerd. Sometimes “the Nerd” if I’m feeling frisky. Most board members call me GN because we’re all lazy about typing.

WT: Frisky, huh? Gross. Tell us a little about yourself outside of customizing.

GN:  Ok, heres some stalkish personal information (work, family, etc): I’ve worked as a graphic designer since graduating from college. That’ll probably change soon as I’m preparing to make some big life changes. Family consists of mom, two sisters, a brother, and numerous relatives which in the Asian culture are considered family as well. But on a day to day basis my two cats are who I live with.

WT:  I think that information will only make it margainally easier to stalk to you. Lets get into the questions then. How’d you get into the hobby?

GN: When I was a kid reading comics I wished that there were cool posed statues of my favorite characters. If Bowen statues and the like had existed back then I would probably have gone insane wanting them. It wasn’t until decades later that my interest in 3D versions of the characters got piqued again. I can’t remember which came first in my collection, it was either the Moore Collectibles Buffy figures or the DCD Hard Travelling Heroes Green Lantern and Green Arrow. From there I wanted to expand the collection to other characters while still keeping the scale and general sculpting style. I started buying other figures, plastic models, even mini statues, as long as they were around the same scale and were sculpted well so I could display them together.

WT: What was your very first custom?

GN: I don’t remember which came first. Either it was a head swap on Buffy or an attempt at Hulk, Iron Man, or Thor. I was doing these in total isolation without knowing that there was such a thing as other people who customized figures. Except for the simple Buffy head swap, they were all very crude and were like semi plastic statues.

(Heres the first custom GN submitted to his gallery. Quite a way to kick it off)

WT: What was an early work/works that you feel really taught you alot?

GN: My DCD Watchmen. They were the first where I attempted to do more sculpting than just smoothing over seams caused by gluing parts together. The costumes were difficult as well so I had to be resourceful because I didn’t have the ability to sculpt very complicated things. That project was a watershed moment for me since it made me confident that I could actually tackle more than just head swaps.

Six to eight months after their completion, the Sculpey product I used on them cracked just being on display. I felt like crying. But that in turn taught me to be on the lookout for better ways of making my customs durable, either by materials used or by technique of construction.

(notice the deft placement of Ozymandias’ left hand. Sly move Nerd.)

WT: Woof, tough way to learn that lesson. You’re definitely known in the community as someone who does some outside the usual Marvel/DC box sort of stuff, alot of which doesn’t really have much of a reference point to go off of (your 7th Kingdom stuff really comes to mind here). What would you say some of your inspiration for the designs you make come from?

GN: The general idea of making an animal into an anthromorph is pretty standard in fantasy fiction so there was no specific reference that I followed so much as what’s been generally established and permeated in the genre itself: hominid looking arms, torso and legs, but head and feet remaining animal specific. I suck at costume design though so for that I just use what the toy companies make. Hence you don’t see quite as unified a look from my anthromorphs as what the 4H do in 7th Kingdom.

WT: I’d say you’re also known as someone who does a remarkable amount of frankensteining while making figures. Do you have a gold mine of fodder, do things just catch your eye in the store, do you go out alot specifically to buy certain parts? I guess in short, how would you describe your process?

GN: I do have a pretty large collection of fodder, but not as big as it may seem. Because I like to frankenstein parts together, each custom ends up with a long recipe. String 5 customs together each with a long recipe and it looks like you used 15 bucks to make them, but it actually may be just 6 or 7 bucks with all their parts switched around with one another, and leaving you with a few parts left over for something in the future.

And I frankenstein not because I have the fodder to use, but because I like for my collection to have some diversity in body build, even if it’s just a bit. For example, If I only had a Bullseye buck and an Iron Fist buck and I had to make two medium build figures, I wouldn’t just repaint them. I’d swap torsos, swap arms, heads, whatever I could easily do. That way I’ll end up with two figs that are slightly different from BE and IF and each other. I also just enjoy frankensteining. It’s probably my favorite thing to do in customizing.

(Try and guess how many figures went into making these figures. Did you guess around 20? Cause its around 20)

WT: On top of the frankensteining, alot of your stuff required a ton of sculpting, including alot of unorthodox stuff. Your great ape, zabu, and raptor really come to mind. Do you have a background in art and such, or has it all been a figure it out as you go sort of thing?

GN: I do have a background in art, but none of it was in sculpting so I still suck at that. I prefer using pre-existing fodder to resculpting things or sculpting from scratch. I stumble along practicing sculpting as I go. The large amount of sculpt work you’ll see from me tend to be organic things that don’t require much symmetry, precision, or smoothness. You can hide bad sculpting in fur textures, but forget trying to hide it in faces or smooth symmetrical mechanical armor. It’s no coincidence that I don’t sculpt mechanical looking things or heads because I can’t. Often I’ll toss out comic accuracy on a costume because I don’t have fodder that matches and I’m unwilling to attempt sculpting it.

(Heres an example of both GNs frankensteining and his sculpting)

Here's an example of both GNs frankensteining and his sculpting.
WIP shots of the above figure.

WT: What is your personal favorite custom that you made?

GN: It changes, but right now it’s Zabu.


Zabu WIP

WT: What is your favorite custom of someone elses?

GN: That I honestly can’t say because there have been so many that have knocked my socks off. I really wouldn’t be able to choose from so many. And if I were to list some of them instead of one top fave, I’m sure afterwards I’d recall some others and smack myself on the head for not remembering to list them. And it’s not just the many that come from consistently great customizers, there are surprising ones that come along from someone that I wouldn’t expect, and I’d not remember who did what a few days later. So I’m going to wimp out on answering the question. Really, there’s too many that I truly love.

WT: What customizer would you say has been your biggest inspiration?

GN: I’m going to separate this out into two different categories. First are those who inspire me but I don’t even attempt to get my work to be like theirs because they’re at such a higher level technically or creatively: DoubleDealer, Zombihamma, Liquidisk, and Glorbes. DD and Zombihamma have that perfect blend or technical skills and artful eye that makes their customs flow. Liquidisk does some amazingly detailed sculpt, and does engineering that’s mysterious to me. And Glorbes vision and artistry is unique and unmatched.

Second are those who may not have the high skill sets as the guys above, but somewhere along the way they influenced me directly and made me set and raise my own standards. Old timer Bruenorbat’s work may seem simple compared to today’s, but back when I started out I made it a goal to achieve his level of cleanness in my custom. And a visit to Industrial’s pad one day years ago where he was playing with and tossing his customs into storage boxes made me realize I had to really get better at preventing paint rub and construction.

WT: You’ve been a part of the customizing community here for a long time, any tips, warning, general words of wisdom you’d like to give to the newer members?

GN: Don’t skimp on buying and using good materials. Saving a buck or two on a low quality bottle of paint isn’t worth it. Same with brushes, especially small detail ones.

Sand, sand, and sand some more.

Spend some time studying anatomy.

Send me all your money. (This especially).

Thats all for now, make sure to check out GrownNerds gallery  for more awesome customs and WiP pics, of which he takes many.

11 thoughts on “Customizer Spotlight – Grownnerd

  1. great job guys, (thanks for the complement),
    i agree with Bruce it could be way longer i love reading about other customizers

  2. Oh My Goodness, Grownnerd is a Star now! Can I get your autograph please! His work has blown me way, especially his eye for detail! To build Zabu from fodder parts…AMAZING! That’s not guess work, thats shear talent and a true craftsman’s eye to see beyond what it the piece was meant for. His work deserves to be recognized and I go nuts every time I see his X-men! Great interview!

  3. i don’t disagree with you, but it was actually a mandate of doing this article that it stay as concise as possible. We’ll see though, the format will probably evolve.

  4. Good interview, and I’m definitely looking forward to more of these.

    One piece of constructive criticism, though. you mentioned that you cut it down a bit, I’d say have these pieces be even longer in the future. If you’re cutting only to make it more concise, then I think there’s not much point. Anyone reading this is doing so because they’re a fan of the customizer, and/or they want to learn more about customizing.

    This feature should is more Inside the Actor’s Studio than it is a Tonight Show interview, so if someone wants to ramble on, I say let them!

  5. Awesome, I’m glad everyone seems to like this. We actually had to cut it down a little bit, GN had alot more praise to heap on other customizers that didn’t make it in to the final edit.

  6. This article was the idea and work of fwoosher Whiskeytango! I just published it for him. I also enjoyed it quite a bit and I’m looking forward to the next one.

  7. Wow, great article. Really interesting from a customiser’s perspective to read GN (lazy typing) being reflective on his work. Good stuff MK (lazy again).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *