INTERVIEW: JAMES W. CAIN, KENSHIN VS SHISHIO 3D SCULPTOR
February 03, 20203 min read
Kenshin VS Shishio 25th Anniversary Edition Elite Exclusive Statue is Figurama Collectors’ most historically and culturally researched piece yet. In keeping with the rich heritage of the statue, we selected a 3D artist who specializes in fictional/historical crossover sculpts, James W. Cain. Enjoy this exclusive, never-before-published interview with the master sculptor himself.
You enjoy incorporating historical elements into your 3D sculpting and original work. Is Rurouni Kenshin your first experience sculpting a statue inspired by historical Japanese culture? How has the experience been unique from your work based on other cultures?
Yes, I love weaving some historical elements into my work! Not only does it feed into my own interests, but I also feel it adds a sense of grounding and focus. Rurouni Kenshin was definitely my first experience incorporating Japanese culture in this way. Every historical culture is unique and presents its own challenges in representation. However, I think Japanese culture is especially notable in its forms and visual language, and this is something I was keen to address in the Rurouni Kenshin statue.
Tell us about the process of researching a culture to ensure elements of a statue are historically accurate while also maintaining the fantasy elements of the statue. How did you incorporate this practice into Kenshin VS Shishio?
The key element and major stage in the process of making a statue is gathering as much visual reference material as possible. Of course, for Rurouni Kenshin, I was fortunate enough to have an abundance of source material—the anime and manga—to refer to. To achieve authenticity, I worked with the concept artist to identify areas where we'd need more reference to fill in the gaps. This could be anything from photos of the texture of wood, concrete, and roof tile patterns, to the way both characters wear their swords on their hips. In fact, I had several videos bookmarked that showed the precise steps of tying the scabbard to the belt and was able to use this during sculpting. As long as you have this strong base layer of reference in the work, you can then mix in and layer fantasy elements on top to achieve the desired look and feel whilst staying authentic to the source material.
What has been the most challenging aspect of sculpting this statue? What has been the most rewarding aspect of sculpting this statue?
I think capturing the movement of the characters and how they form shapes and silhouettes that uniquely interact was one of the most challenging aspects of this sculpt—and ultimately the most rewarding. Finding ways of reflecting this movement on other parts of the base was also an important challenge. Shishios' bandages needed to be carefully considered so they'd show his body and muscle structure underneath. I had to make sure they were thick enough to be produced, but not so thick as to make him look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!
What about Kenshin or Shishio is unique from a 3D Sculptor’s perspective?
In many ways, both Kenshin and Shishio are fairly simple in terms of design. Both are slight in build, but ultimately very powerful characters, so capturing this was important. Shishio’s rough, torn bandages and Kenshin’s long flowing hair were especially fun to sculpt.
What do you hope fans and collectors will most appreciate about your work on Kenshin VS Shishio?
I hope our attention to detail on the little things in the design is well-received. We left no areas half-finished or unconsidered when making the statue! Ultimately, you can't help but add a bit of yourself to each statue you make, so I really hope the fans enjoy our take on both characters.
What inspires you as an artist?
Storytelling is paramount for me. I studied Illustration at university, and although I no longer do much drawing, I still find I’m attracted to visual storytelling in some way. Some of my favourite artists at the moment are illustrators like Dulac and Arthur Rackham—artists who really understood the craft of storytelling in an image. There is always so much to learn just from looking at their work.