Today, I’m going to give up the spotlight (on my own blog, no less) and shine it on a profoundly talented friend and colleague. I’ve worked with Jason Soles for six years in his role as the lead developer at Privateer Press, and he’s one of the best game designers in the tabletop gaming industry. But Jason has other talents, just as noteworthy. He is a gifted sculptor who produces works in a variety of media that are both hauntingly beautiful and deeply unsettling.
Jason has partnered with Strix Publishing to produce Apocrypha: The Art of Jason Soles, a stunning premium edition art book that collects hundreds of photos of Jason’s work for the first time. I recently spoke with Jason about this essential volume for all fans of dark art.
1) Your work is very unsettling (in the best way possible). Where do you draw inspiration?
I draw a lot of inspiration from folklore and archaeology. As a kid, I loved books on Egyptology and witchcraft and heavy metal album covers. Later, I developed a fascination with horror movies, especially classical horror. And then German Expressionism via Fritz Lang. As I got older, I discovered visual artists I really appreciated, such as Hieronymus Bosch, H. R. Giger, Ian Miller, and Yasushi Nirasawa, but I have always drawn as much influence from science, anthropology, and the natural world. My earliest works look like the desiccated remains of Capuchin monks. I have also been influenced by what I have read, especially the works of H. P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe.
2) What media do you typically work in?
I sculpt either in clay or with found objects. My found object work is fast and freeform. It is really an experimental process to rough out a shape in my head. My work in clay is a lot slower and methodical. I am always willing to tear down something I have spent hours on (sometimes weeks or months) if I cannot get it right and start over again. Once complete, I will cast it in a number of media. My found object works are never reproduced.
Originally, I reproduced my works in polyurethane resins that I would paint to a high degree of finish. Later, I discovered cold casting, which involves adding ground marble or bronze to a clear resin. The cold cast sculpture takes on some of the qualities of the added material. I especially like the look of cold cast marble, which looks like alabaster and polishes up to a fine finish. From there, I moved into casting bronze, which involves first casting your sculpture in a wax “pattern” that is later melted out to create a cavity for hot bronze to be poured. In recent years, I have really come to think of myself as a bronze sculptor.
3) The title of the book you’re Kickstarting is Apocrypha: The Art of Jason Soles. Tells us about the significance of the title.
One of the themes running through my work is the establishment of a false historical record, faux fossil remains that speak to a lost era of human, or proto-human experience. I like the notion that researchers are forced to redefine the origins of man with each archaeological find, and the facts as we know them are increasingly mercurial even as we move ever closer to likely extinction of the species. The title Apocrypha is a nod to that verisimilitude I seek to capture with my work.
4) You’re working with Strix Publishing to produce the book and handle the Kickstarter. What’s your connection to Strix’s Simon Berman?
Simon and I have a long history of working collaboratively together, first at Privateer Press and later on Unhallowed Metropolis, alongside Nicole Vega. Simon has successfully managed two publishing projects on Kickstarter via Strix, and I thought my book would be a good fit.
5) Okay tell us what folks can expect out of Apocrypha, the awesome rewards they can get through the Kickstarter, and how they can rush out and throw money at it.
The book itself is a retrospective of my work over the past eighteen years. In addition to some really great photography, the book also includes an in-depth look at my processes along with lengthy descriptions of my techniques.
The basic reward for the campaign itself is the book, which is going to be an impressive hardback. I am really happy with the look of the book. It is going to be incredible. Additionally, I have created a number of smaller sculptures that serve as rewards and add-ons for the project. These include a Cthulhu statuette and a bone-finished mask bearing the Leviathan Cross, an alchemical symbol for sulfur. Alchemical and occult symbols and themes are common throughout my work. A small number of these pieces will also be produced in bronze. The campaign will feature updates as I continue to work and finish the bronze through the month of July.
Jason Soles is a Seattle-based sculptor and game designer. He is the lead developer of Privateer Press’ award winning WARMACHINE and HORDES tabletop miniature war games and is the co-creator of Unhallowed Metropolis, the gas mask chic roleplaying game of Neo-Victorian horror. As a sculptor, Soles works primarily in bronze and clay. He also possesses keen interests in history, folklore, anthropology, travel, and rare spirits.