Marshon, known to the world outside Instructables as Simon Smith, has an impressive resume that includes quite the list of qualities including photographer, artist, body artist, sculptor, prosthetic maker, and model engineer. These traits seem quite obvious once you take a look through his profile and see the variety of projects he has created. Learn more about him in his interview below and don't forget to check out his projects while you get ready for Halloween!
When did you first start making things? What was your first project/what types of projects were you interested in?
I have always made things. Ever since I was an apprentice Lithographer, more years ago than I care to mention, I have made things. Initially, most of my personal projects were to repair things or improve things. I don't believe in simply dumping items unless the outlay for my own repairs would be more costly than buying a new one.
I got into making scratch items about 30 years ago when was asked if I could build a model of a bridge-laying tank for Bovingdon Tank museum. The tank they wanted no longer existed in real life, so I built one from the original drawings at 1/35th scale.
I got into making items for photo shoots and bodypainting much later, probably about 15 years ago and this was almost always due to cost. It is far, far cheaper to try and make stuff myself than to buy in prop items you see. Also, some items simply aren't available. Try buying a latex prop lizards tail about 5 feet long and you'll see.
Tell us about your workspace.
My workspace is very small. My long-suffering wife agreed to let me occupy two of our bedrooms. One for a small photographic studio and one as a workshop. The studio is 4m x 4m and the workshop is 3.5m x 4m. The workshop is lined with workbenches along three walls, along with some cupboards and a filing cabinet. It's so small that I regularly have to move stuff around to make space for projects. The biggest item I have built in the workshop was a full-sized prop cow - it took up the entire workshop for a month.
What are some of your biggest sources of inspiration when deciding what to make?
Sources of inspiration? I have been asked this a lot, and I still find it hard to answer. Part of an image, an old master, a taste, a smell, you name it and it may trigger a response in my mind. There's no rhyme or reason to it. I love 1960's, 70's and 80's sci-fi and fantasy artworks and sometimes I will attempt to create a 'real' version of a piece of artwork I have seen.
Sometimes a model will ask for a specific 'theme.' I try to restrict them to just a word or two. As an example, some years ago I was asked if I could paint a model as a 'Steampunk Robot'. I had never heard of steampunk at that point and had to Google it. That triggered LOTS of ideas - from just two words. Sometimes I can get inspiration from a scene in a film, or sometimes I look for a method to make something (like a Venetian Mask) very cheaply and the outcome of that might inspire something else. I love using materials for purposes that they were never designed.
Will you tell us about some of the other designers and/or other Instructablers whose work you admire? Why?
Oh dear, this is going to sound very bad, and I certainly do pinch 'bits' of ideas from people, but generally, I just get on and try to make things with whatever I have laying around. I very, very seldom follow anyone else's ideas from start to finish. I tend to borrow a few ideas and then just change them to suit my own needs. As an artist, I really don't want to just clone stuff.
I do admire the work of Steve Wang (original maker of Stan Winstone's Predator), and he has been very generous in giving me snippets of advice. I love the artwork of Chris Foss, Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta, Bob Lazell amongst others (I am friends with Bob's daughter). Their work blows me away, I also like the work of Dorien Cleavenger and he has inspired a number of prosthetics builds and bodypaints.
What are your goals, plans, or hopes for your future projects?
Goals and plans? Ha ha ha ha, I have never known what I wanted to do or be, I still don't. At 54 I have as little idea as I did at 14. I like to make stuff, I like to paint stuff and I'm a reasonably good jobbing photographer - but apart from that gawd knows. I'd quite like to be able to get to The World Body Painting Championships held in Austria each year, actually enter and place, but the reality is that even if I could afford to go I probably wouldn't enter the competitions. Art is very subjective and I don't see a need to compete. Since losing the sight in my left eye 8 months ago, the time it takes to make and paint things has lengthened a lot and I doubt I could now do a full entry in the allotted time. I was the SFX make up designer on a low budget movie in 2015, I'd like to do some more of that kind of work.
How do you decide what to create each Halloween? Have anything special in store for us this year?
Although Halloween is becoming more Americanised here in the UK, it still does not carry the kudos that it does over there. Most Halloween bookings are just for face painting, I very rarely get asked for anything more elaborate than that. There are plenty of 'blood and guts' make up artists and enthusiasts who can do a far better job than me. Most of my work is more to do with body art and that's a year-round thing really. Most photographic models want to look attractive even if they're being painted as the devil with horns and pointy ears; total gore isn't really my thing.
What is a dream tool you hope to own someday and what would you make/design with it?
Now the last question is an interesting one. Without a doubt, I would love to own a better micro-lathe and milling machine, but that would require a bigger workshop. Right now I'd just like to be able to repair the motor on my antique pillar drill, but don't have the funds (as usual).
However, I did start a project to build the ABC War Robot from Judge Dredd (the movie version), entirely from cardboard, foam, and bits of old junk. I got as far as finishing the head and then realized that the entire robot would be HUGE and I had nowhere to put it. I was going to build it in a sitting position - I think it would look awesome in an office reception area - I thought the design used in the film was perfect, totally menacing. Maybe one day...
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