Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

When I was very young, starting at about 6 or 7, I played with clay and was exposed to art of all kinds by my father, who connected me to two local sculptors, who, in turn, inspired and instructed me in caricature and anatomy. I am primarily self-taught and only attended a few "formal" college art classes during my high school years. After that, I went to Europe, saw the works of the great masters, and studied drawing, painting, and sculpture briefly with a few European artists. Much of my character sculpture and design abilities are the result of many years of problem solving customized for each project and their impending deadlines.

How do you go about sculpting the maquettes, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

First, I build a strong, flexible metal armature. This is the foundation of the sculpture. Then, I start to apply the clay to flesh out the volumes or forms, focusing on the design or finding it. I make sure the pose is working, the proportions, the attitude, and the balance of all those elements. This has to be happening all at once and it is a lot to think about, so keeping a clear head is important.

How long does the whole process take to sculpt a maquette from when you get the final design?

That all depends on if there is a design already approved on paper or if we are searching for it in clay along with drawings. Whether it is an exploration sketch or final design maquette, it can take days, weeks, or even months. It also depends on revisions or changes by the director, the producers, production designer, or other execs, and if the character designs are hard to nail. Every situation is different, sometimes the designs come fast, and other times it can become a very long process.

Could you talk about what types of tools or materials that you use?

I use my hands first and foremost; they are my most important tools I have. Additionally, I use metal tools, wood tools, or whatever apparatus I may modify, improvise, or make to use which are secondary to my hands as they extend my abilities to model in the clay. I use several kinds of clays, wire, and wood among other things. Basically, I incorporate anything that is appropriate to keep the design process moving and the character evolving. Recently, I even used paper to find a design, sort of like origami.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

I am a freelance artist, so I usually work alone, but I have worked with people like Nico Marlet, Buck Lewis, Tony Siruno, Craig Kellman, Phil Tippett, etc. On a typical day, I can be very focused for many hours at a time where it becomes somewhat Zen with lots of problem solving. But there are the days with deadlines or approvals where it is very stressful and quite the opposite of Zen.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

Some of the more known films are: Ratatouille, Shrek II and III, Madagascar, Star Wars EP III, the Bee Movie and most recently, Henry Selick’s upcoming stop-motion animation movie: Coraline.

Is there a big difference between working on a live action film and an animated film?

Yes. Live action films can call for large-scale sets, sculptures, props of varying sizes and even animatronic characters. Small design maquettes may be needed of characters, creatures, or environments that can be scanned for VFX or scaled up to life-size.

Animated films usually use small maquettes to aid in the design process, to be made into physical puppets for a stop-motion film, or in a CG animated film, they are scanned into the computer, used for reference by the modelers, animators, riggers, etc. and for marketing or presentation purposes.

What are you working on now?

Lately I’ve mostly been working on some of my own art, oil paintings and bronze sculptures, but I have several upcoming projects that I can’t really discuss.

Who do you think are the top artists out there?

There are too many. It would be unfair to list only a few.

How close do you work with the other artists to get the design right?

Sometimes we work very closely. Nico Marlet is a great example of that. We have a great working relationship.

What part of sculpting is most fun and easy, and what is most hard?

Any part of the sculpting process can be easy or hard, but I think conceiving the stylistic and design details of the 3D object is more difficult than physically executing the piece. Each sculpture is different and they tell you how it’s going along the way. Personally, I enjoy all the stages of the process because it is a constant challenge, changing and evolving until the piece is finished.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

I love going to museums, reading art books, making my own art, and life itself can be pretty inspiring.

What is your most favorite subject to sculpt? And why?

The human figure, because it is the hardest to render convincingly.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

My dad was a big inspiration since he is a collector of art and antiques. I was exposed to the world of art through him and his artist friends. Also, the more kinds of art I saw and admired, the more I was inspired to want to become an artist myself.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

I’ve learned different techniques, I have seen that I have similar ways of thinking about character designs that other artists do, and I’ve also been shown different ways of approaching or looking at design by working with other artists and designers.

What are some of your favorite websites that you go to?

I don't go to many art sites since I have a large art book collection. But I do surf on the NASA and JPL websites. Astronomy is another one of my interests.

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

The wisdom I would offer is to persevere and don't give up. Listen to your heart, and keep making work. Being an artist can be a tough career to maintain.

Recently, some/most of the animation studios do not have sculptors making maquettes as often and it seems that it may be becoming a dying art. Let’s hope this is not the case entirely as sculpture is part of the heritage of animation and of the arts as a whole. I myself am going to continue to commit my efforts to it and I hope the studios also remain open to embrace this art form as an integral part if the creative process.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

My website shows many examples of the work I have done over the last 20 years. I can be contacted there.

Finally, do you have any of your work for sale for people that like your work can know where, and when to buy it?

Yes, I have a second site dedicated to my personal work:

There is more informaion about Damon at