Interview by Lily Feliciano/ photo by Victoria Lara
Neil is a gem. He looks tough as nails, but the genuine nice guy is revealed within seconds of meeting this talented artist. Always working hard, moving forward and waiting to greet you with a warm welcome. He has an inexorable vision and follows that dream, a path which hasn’t led him astray, he has picked up innumerous friends amongst peers and admirers along the way. I feel it’s high time we put a little spotlight on Neil and what he’s been up to lately. He likes to run away from that spotlight from time to time … squirrely…. but I caught him for a few brief questions.
When did you move to Los Angeles? What career goal did you have in mind at the time?
I moved to LA in Nov of 2002 from Ohio where I had been living for 6 years after graduating from art school. Originally I am from upstate NY, but ended up moving there (Ohio) with a buddy of mine from school. Long story short, it wasn’t for me. I had dreams of working in the movies doing special effects and the closest thing to an artistic job was working at a sign shop. So I saved my money in hopes I would one day move out here. I wouldn’t do it any different though. The friends I made in Ohio are some of best I’ve ever had.
What types of projects have you been working on the last few years?
Mostly practical effects for movies. I primarily paint creature suits and prosthetics at a company called Spectral Motion. Although I’ve had a few character design jobs as well.
Are you enjoying studio work or still craving time to work on personal projects?
I really like the studio work. It challenges me and every project is completely different so it doesn’t get tedious that often. I get to work along side some of the best artists in the business, which has helped me out immensely with my personal work. And the more personal work I do, the more I want to do it! Sadly it doesn’t pay the bills, but I’m working on it!
What is your preferred medium of the moment?
Oh man…I tend to jump around a lot. Mostly it’s pencil and paper, but I’ll do a lot of rendering in Photoshop, and when I sculpt I mostly use Chavant NSP (medium) clay. For my personal paintings I’ve been using oil paints. And I plan on getting back to Zbrush at some point. Like I said, I jump around A LOT.
How do you approach creature or monster design for a new project, does it often feel like it’s all been done?
Yeah, a lot of the creature designs feel like they’ve been done before and it’s not the artists fault most of the time. Producers tend to go with what has worked in the past. They end up going the safe/cheap route and sadly don’t like to take chances. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a design go from amazing to horrible. It’s really frustrating.
What do you consider the highlight of your career and work thus far?
I’ve got 3:
a. Painting the Abe Sapien makeup for Hellboy 2
b. Working at Rick Baker’s shop Cinovation.
c. Designing at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
More personal art! Like I mentioned before, the more personal work I do the more I want to do it! I just opened an online store ( neilwinn.bigcartel.com ) so I plan on putting lots more stuff in there this year!
To learn more about Neil and his work check out his twitter page and a facebook fan page.
Check out Neil on Sketch Theatre here