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A Passion for Sculpture

'Eel Walker' bronze sculpture

'Eel Walker,' bronze sculpture. Sculpture by Mark Newman.

School of Illustration alumnus Mark Newman has carved out a successful career in the collectibles industry and beyond, by melding his skills as an illustrator with his passion for sculpture. After graduating from the Academy in 1986, Newman landed work immediately, sculpting and prototyping for clients such as Bowen Designs, Department 56, Hallmark, Sideshow Collectibles, Lenox Inc and more.

“I found a job listing on the job board in the Sutter building that said: ‘Mask Sculptor Needed,’” said Newman. “And I started right away getting freelance jobs from there. For one, I was able to design wizards and dragons and crystals, and it evolved into a figurine line.”

The remarkable thing about his success is that most of Newman’s sculpting skills were self-taught. He simply had a passion for sculpture and the drawing and illustration skills he honed at the Academy.

“I really got a lot of information just drawing from life for 3-D,” said Newman. “Making things look 3-D and rendering it was really a great foundation for sculpture.”

His introduction to Polymer clay, a medium that can be baked without molding and casting, broadened his horizons.

“If you can draw really well and see form really well you can transform yourself from 2-D to 3-D,” said Chuck Pyle, director of the School of Illustration. “So in a way, it’s an extension of being a really good draftsman. You just switch mediums from paint to clay.”

Newman also has a distinguished career designing and sculpting for special effects and video game companies, including Dreamworks, Electronic Arts, Tony McVey and Tippett Studio. He has also been commissioned for bronze sculptures and devotes much of his free time to his fine art sculpting.

“I would like to break more out into that where I’m the art director and I just do it myself,” said Newman. “I think that’s always an artist’s goal and dream.”

“Mark is very relentless at getting better and better and better,” said Pyle. “He’s savvy at exploring new markets and he goes around the world telling stories. He went from the toy industry to a highly regarded figurative sculptor. He really embodies [following] your passion … [being] a good business man … and if you are patient and persistent, it will pay off.”

Mick and Keith

'Mick and Keith.' Sculptures by Mark Newman.

During his time at the Academy, one of the classes that really stood out to Newman was head and hands drawing taught by Randy Berrett at the time. In that class, he learned the detailed nuances of the head and hands, which you can see in his sculpture work. He also learned a direct approach to painting technique from Thomas Blackshear, where he discovered how to get a rendered look without rendering. “Just light and dark,” he said. “A lot of that stuff stands out more than anything.”

Newman recalls the Academy only having four buildings downtown at the time he was enrolled. “I think it was an intimate feeling when I was there,” he said. “You knew a lot of people and got to go to parties with the teachers. It was very fun, cool.”

Newman still enjoys his work in collectibles and gets a lot of original concept work. He’s currently working on a new project for Sideshow Collectibles called “Court of the Dead.” It’s an original property conceived and developed by Sideshow’s creative director Tom Gilliland. They use in-house and independent artists to help create the entire world of “Court of the Dead” in comic books, graphic novels as well as art prints and a one-quarter scale collectible sculpture line.

Death's Siren 1

'Death’s Siren.' Sculpture by Mark Newman.

“They give me a lot of freedom and let me do my thing with the designs and concepts they’ve come up with,” said Newman.

Newman has also enjoyed assisting and teaching lately on a series of anatomy workshops with renowned aesthetic anatomy instructor Andrew Cawrse, also known for his VFX work on films like Avatar, Van Helsing and Star Wars.

“Andrew walked on water as a sculptor,” said Pyle. “For him to hire Mark is a testament to where he has come to.”

The two were introduced by a friend and when Cawrse broke off to start his own company in fine arts, he asked Newman to assist him when he lectured and demoed.

“I really enjoy teaching and assisting, we’re good friends now working together on that,” said Newman, who just finished his fourth workshop with Cawrse. The intensive five-day workshops take place in Las Vegas and utilize nearby models from shows like Cirque du Soleil. “It’s very intensive, a lot of information, lectures, note taking and sculpting,” Newman said. “They say it’s a total art workout. I’ve never seen a person freeze up or not enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun.”

Newman’s advice to emerging artists and students is to meet people and network as much as you can and to stay inspired.

“Keeping the passion is easy and hard for certain people,” he shared. “Keep going out to galleries, conventions or searching the web, anything to keep that fire burning. The vastness of what’s out there really opens up your eyes and really inspires you."