From Dusk Till Con's own Mr. Chainsaw recently got the opportunity to sit down with Neal DeConte, the artist extraordinaire behind Horror Idols, to discuss his craft, working with Amelia Kinkade, and the next big masterpiece he's looking to unleash upon serious horror fans.
Mr. Chainsaw: Please start by introducing yourself and telling us a little bit about Horror Idols - (how it got started, how long you have been doing it, as well as your background in working with this medium, etc).
Neal DeConte: My name is Neal DeConte, I started Horror Idols out of selfishness, I wanted figurines in my collection that were truly collectables…. Pieces that were more than just the action figures, statues and model kits that were out there. I started the company about 5 years ago now. It’s been part-time up until this year when my son (Bryan DeConte) and I decided to do it up right.
Each figurine we do is ¼ scale (about 18” tall) and are limited to ONLY 20 being produced, one these are produced the original sculpt and the molds are destroyed, no others will be made. Each is signed by the actor/actress and has a solid oak base, an acrylic case enclosing the whole thing keeping it dust free, a certificate of authenticity and we try to work something in from the movie for each one, it’s been gravel from the actual movie location so far (which we have photos documenting).
I have no formal training in sculpting on painting, I’m self-taught. When I was a child I was always into art, and I started building models, I was always interested in the figure kits and the sci-fi kits and the car kits, but I was mostly drawn to the figure stuff. I grew up the old Aurora horror figure kits….Showing my age now!
When I hit my teens, the interests turned to the full-size cars and the full size figures… girls. In my early 20’s I found some really cool figure kits in the local hobby shop from a company called Horizon Models, they were the Marvel vinyl figure kits they were producing, I was amazed with the quality and the detail of them, at that point I was hooked!
I started getting any information I could on what kits were out there and the best ways to build them, to hone my skills….. Magazines, videos, phpbb on the net, any way I could dig up more information on what I was doing, I did. I started competing in the model competitions, won my share, took some first places and best of show. For a good part of this time it was all horror figures, I was modifying the kits in some way, either re-sculpting areas I didn’t like, or re-posing them. My last model kit I built was one of the Pit Witch from Army of Darkness. I started working on the kit and realized I wasn’t happy with the pose or some of the details, I started re-working it….. By the time I was done, I ended up using the head ( from the upper jaw up), the hands and the feet…. That was it! That’s when I realized I wanted to do my own pieces and started Horror Idols.
Mr. C: How do you determine what the subject of your next work will be? Does a particular celebrity's participation and input play a factor in who you choose to immortalize with a Horror Idols and if so, then to what extent?
ND: I pick pieces that I want in my collection and pieces I want to do…. It’s that easy. We hope they’ll be an interest in them out there in the market place also.
We only tackle a figurine if the actor/actress is on board with the project, if the actor/actress isn’t on board, we don’t do it, it’s that easy…… I haven’t had that problem yet tho! ;) I also ask each actor/actress for their input on the figurine, what do they want to see for a pose, is there something they want in there specifically? Each piece is also approved by them for the sculpt and the paint master before we go into production. I want them to be completely satisfied with the finished piece it will be decorating their house also.
Mr. C: Can you tell us about the process that goes into creating one of these works of art from start to finish? What kind of materials are used in production? How long does it take to make each Idol from the point of conception to the unveiling of the finished product.
ND: The process is all done in our shop, nothing is done overseas or by someone else, it’s all done in our shop by our own hands.
Once we have the character picked out and the actor/actress is on board with it, it’s picking out the pose. Once this is done, it’s time to track down reference…. I do a lot of screen captures from the movie and any behind the scene footage and sometimes we get lucky where the actor/actress has some photos. For instance, the Agelia from Night of the Demons we’re working on right now, I grabbed 145 screen captured off the DVD.
Next the sculpting process starts, all of the sculpts are done in a wax based clay, holds detail really well. The process can average anywhere from 80-to 150 hours on average. I try to get all the minute details in that most people don’t even see….. BUT I know they’re there! J
Once the sculpt is done and approved we make the molds to do our 20 castings. We only use high quality platinum based silicone rubber for our work, they stand up the best to wear and tear and they have a longer shelf life if we need it.
Molds are done it’s ready to do the castings. We only do solid castings (no hollow castings here! Our leatherface weighs close to 20 pounds with the base and acrylic case!) and we use a high quality urethane for all our castings.
Now that we have our castings it’s time to assemble, paint and detail. We use lacquer based primer as a foundation to paint on, then we do all of our base color/detail painting in water based paints, we also use pastel chalks for shadowing and some detailing. Once we’re happy with everything, it all get a few coats of clear coat lacquer to keep everything sealed and preserved. None of the hair is sculpted into the figurines, we use dyed lambs wool for a realistic hair.
Now we still have to build the oak bases which needs the groundwork laid onto it, and all of the acrylic cases are built in the shop also. To build each painted figurine takes between 100 - 150 hours to complete, that's not taking into consideration the reference, sculpting, molding or casting.
Mr. C: How have you found the reception to be from both fans and celebrities to your work?
Reception all around has been wonderful! I’ve actually have had a few actors track me down wanting to know how they get their character done. The fans have been GREAT and very supportive, Always like meeting the people out at the conventions and seeing the responces on what we’re doing.
Mr. C: Your newest Horror Idol, Angela Franklin from Night of the Demons played by Amelia Kinkade, will be unveiled at the upcoming Famous Monsters Con this July. Can you tell us a bit about how it was working with Amelia on this new Idol and perhaps provide a glimpse as to what fans can expect from this latest masterpiece?
ND: Amelia has been a sweetheart and a total trip to work with, she‘s got a GREAT sense of humor and is really into the project! She had visualized from the beginning on what she wanted and she had problem telling me either! LOL! This is actually the first thing she’s done in the horror genre since the movies came out, I was pretty excited to know that she was on board with it!
The figurine we’ve come up with will have alternate version head and arms, a “lovely” and “possessed” version. I wanted to have the lovely from the dance routine ( who can forget the dance routine!?) somehow, it was a chore to pull off a pose that will work with both, but we’ve done it! It will also have a removable skirt with the see through skirt underneath.
Her figurine stands 15.75” tall and looks sexy as hell!
She’ll be with us at the Famous Monsters convention meeting fans, signing autograph, and premiering the figurine with us….. We’re all stoked about it!
Mr. C: Have you started giving any thought to who your next Horror Idol subject might be? Have you ever considered taking input from fans on who you should consider working with on future Idols? Are there any celebrities you would like to particularly work with if given the opportunity?
We’re always asking for input from fans out there, that‘s actually how the idea from Angelia came about, Mike one of our friends on Facebook actually recommended it. We actually have a BUNCH lined up already, but we‘re always keeping an eye out for others..
We actually have a few in the works right now….. Dee Sinder from Strangeland, Lesie Vernon from Behind the Mask, Michael Madsen as Gent from the movie Hell Ride and SpiderOne, lead singer from Powerman 5000. Michael’s piece is actually going to have his chopper (that he now owns) with the figurine…..The chopper will be 24” long!? And we’ll be working with Billy Bryan to do a Pit Witch and Marshmello man this year also.
I am dying to work with an idol of mine…. Alice Cooper!
Alice, if you’re out there call me! I want to do “Eras of Alice”, he’s changed so much through the years, it would be a fun project for me and an honor to work with him, I’m a HUGE Cooper fan.
Mr. C: I'd like to do a few non-business related questions: What are some of your favorite horror films? Is there one particular film you can recall as being "the one" that turned you into a fan of the genre?
NC: Some of my favorite horror movies…………Exorcist, Hellraiser, Evil Dead Series (Army of Darkness being my fave!), Dead & Breakfast.
I can remember watching the Creature Double Feature as a kid on TV, Creature from the Black lagoon is one that freaked me out as a kid, that and Frankenstein…. When I saw them I was hooked! I also remember seeing the Exorcist when it came out, that one freaked me out as an adult!?
Also a BIG fan of Mad max, I know it’s not horror, but I’ve seen that movie sooooo many times.
Mr. C: Are you yourself a collector off any memorabilia, models, or other such paraphanelia?
ND: I had one hell of a figure model collection for some time, still have my pride and joys, but I sold off a lot to make room for my own Horror Idols, those are my collectables now. I also started collecting movie posters of figurines we’re doing, both of which reside in my office. I have a few movie props also. And of course the usual 8x10’s… those line the stairway to the shop right now.
Mr. C: Finally, what is your overall impression of the growing genre convention scene, which has evolved from small gatherings in venues of very limited capacity to the quickly expanding, and for some, lucractive sub-culture?
I started doing horror conventions in the 90’s and to see how far they’ve come in that amount of time is amazing! There’s great conventions all over the country and overseas, if your into horror I can guarantee you there’s a convention of some size fairly close to you. Two of the most memorable ones that I’ve been to, just for the locations was the HorrorHound convention that was right in front of the Monroeville mall where they shot the original Dawn of the Dead, and Creaturefest that was at the lagoon from creature of the Black lagoon.
I’m a believer in preserving movie history and memorabilia, so when I have a chance to get to a movie location I don’t pass it up…… been to a few now and we have a bunch scheduled to visit.
I wanted to take a minute out to say thank you to you and the From Dusk Till Con for giving both Amelia and I the opportunity to do these interviews and to promote our upcoming FM convention appearance. I’ve been a member of the phpbb for a few months now and it seems like a well organized website and friendly people on the phpbb!
Mr. C: Thanks for your time, Neal. Look forward to seeing you at Famous Monsters for the unveiling of the new Amelia Kinkade sculpture! Thank you for choosing to speak with From Dusk till Con!
You can check out Neal DeConte's work at this weekend's Famous Monsters convention or by visiting his official site at http://www.HorrorIdols.com