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Career path interview with Joseph Menna

By 3dtotal staff

Web: http://www.josephmenna.com/ (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 3rd December 2013

3dtotal catches up with experienced character sculptor, Jospeh Menna to discuss his career path, experiences, inspiration and the challenges of working in the digital medium.


Please Note: all images and characters are copyright by their respective owners and used by Joseph Menna for portfolio purposes only


3dtotal: Who are you and what do you do for a job?

Joseph: I am a professional sculptor working in the toy and collectible industry. I sculpt action figures and high end collectibles for a variety of clients including DC Collectibles (DC Comics), McFarlane Toys, Gentle Giant Ltd, and many others.

Joe created this image of Darth Maul for Gentle Giant Ltd

3dtotal: What were your childhood inspirations and what's your earliest artistic memory?

Joseph: My earliest artistic memory is the cover of DC's Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth, number 29 by the immortal Jack Kirby. Jack Kirby and Neal Adams are the cornerstone of my imaginative foundation and I still look to them regularly for inspiration.

I also loved all things comics, sci-fi and fantasy-related; Star Wars and classic Trek, Doctor Who, classic sci-fi and fantasy paperback covers, Dungeons and Dragons, etc... my imagination swam in those kinds of waters continuously.

I was also a huge fan of mythology including ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Arthurian legend. Still love all of these things to this day and am grateful to be able to turn to them for escape and inspiration.

This is a drawing of Marvel's Guardian that Joe drew at the age of 13

3dtotal: What training have you had (if any)?

Joseph: I've had quite a bit of training. I earned my BFA in Sculpture at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia US; my MFA in Sculpture from the New York Academy of Art in lower Manhattan; and completed my post-graduate studies in Russia in the Stieglitz Academy of Art, formerly known as the Mukhina Institute.

I supplemented all of this with studio classes at places such as the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Fleischer Art Memorial, the Philadelphia Sketch Club, the Art Students League, The Sculpture Center, and others. A lot of my schooling was with a bunch of brilliant Russian ex-pat artists living in NYC and I spent about 6 years with them during and after my formal U.S. training before deciding to finish my studies in Russia. One in particular, Leonid Lerman, was a profound influence on me and it was he who gave me the direct connections to study in Russia soon after communism fell in the mid-90s.

This is a cast drawing from the Russian Academy

3dtotal: Are there any particular schools or courses that you'd recommend?

Joseph: I'd recommend the Bridgeview School of Art in New York City for studies in the U.S. If you can get yourself over to Russia, I think that the Repin Institute and the Stieglitz Academy in St. Petersburg are the greatest schools in the world.

I am a firm believer in working from the live model in tandem with studying form via drawing and sculpting copies from antique casts – just like it's been done for centuries – but when I see the kind of work that I do and compare it to kids' work, who have done nothing else but push pixels, I realize that I need to keep an open mind (I'm all digital, all of the time these days so I refer only to training, not one's medium of choice).

This is a life-sized figure study

3dtotal: What was your first job in the industry and how did you get it?

Joseph: I worked as a ghost sculptor in an east coast foundry making life-sized figures and monuments for the artist that owned the place. He worked like a film director, telling me and others what he wanted done and we made it happen for him in clay, plaster, wax, and ultimately bronze and aluminum depending on the gig. I just applied at the right time when there was a vacancy and got in. The work in my portfolio from my time in Russia got me the interview and acing a traditional sculpting test got me the job.

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