It’s our great pleasure to welcome action figure customiser Jeremy Hunnell of PlasticSurgen Designs to Fantha Tracks. Jeremy creates wonderful customised action figures with fully realised backstories and presents them through atmospheric photography.
JH – Thank you very much for having me. It’s great to be here.
FT – What inspired you to begin customising?
JH – I would say it all began when I was nine years old. I had received a large bucket of green army men for my birthday and was out in the yard playing with them. I divided them up like you would normally do, one side against the other, good guys vs the bad. Well, after about an hour of ‘intense’ fighting, the sides had gotten mixed up and I couldn’t tell one from the other any more. After a few moments of quiet contemplation I decided to paint one of the sides to ensure the mix-up would never happen again, which I did. As I painted I realized how much fun it was to take something and make it completely different. Make it unique. Make it your own. I would say that that was definitely the start for me. Over the years my techniques and skills in the field may have changed, but my love for the hobby still remains the same as it did when it began in that nine year old boy all those many years ago. On a side note, I still have the very first army men I ever painted. Its a prized possession of mine in my ever changing collection.
FT – How long have you been customising?
JH – Over 22 years.
FT – How many customs have you completed?
JH – Hold on, let me check…..575. I’m not sure if it’s the OCD or just the monkeys in my head, but I like to keep a ledger of all the figures I’ve made.
FT – What’s your favourite piece from your customising work?
JH – I get asked this question A LOT. Unfortunately, I still have yet to come up with a definite answer. Each piece is special to me in one way or the other, which makes it impossibly difficult to choose only one.
FT – Your work ranges from miniature through to larger scale pieces. Do you have a favoured scale to work with?
JH – I do not have a preferred size per say. Each scale comes with its own unique challenges and opportunities. Those of which, I really enjoy.
FT – What are the challenges between working with miniature and large scale customs?
JH – The biggest and most obvious challenge for me in dealing with various scales is definitely the detail. The smaller a piece is, the less detail is needed to achieve the desired look. With bigger pieces EVERYTHING is noticeable, therefore every detail has to be present, perfect, and easily seen.
FT – What’s been your most challenging custom?
JH – I would say the most challenging project I have ever done was painting a large scale nativity scene for a local church I attend. Because it was going to be on constant display in front of everyone I personally knew, I had to make each detail as flawless as possible, which made it extremely difficult due to its large size. Overall, the biggest concern for me was wondering if all the people who attended were going to like it or not. Fortunately, they did and I wasn’t excommunicated.
FT – What are you currently working on?
JH – At the moment I am working on a custom 6 inch Black Series 212th Airborne Trooper.
FT – Customising encompasses many artistic disciplines, which part of the process do you enjoy the most?
JH – Agreed. For me, the most satisfying part of a build is right before you are completely finished. When you know you’ve done everything right and you can’t wait to send a completed picture to your client because you know they are going to love it as much as you.
FT – Your creativeness extends beyond customising models and onto photography and special effects. Were you previously a photography enthusiast or has this developed as an expression of your customising?
JH – It was definitely acquired along the way. At first, I would take pictures indoors to post on my various social media pages. They always turned out ‘ok’, but really lacked in capturing all the detail I wanted seen. My wife, who is more of a photographer than me, suggested that natural light was always the best, so I took her advice and began to take pictures outdoors. I really loved the results and from there it grew into what it is now.
FT – Your imaginative and beautifully crafted customs are eye catching in their own right, however the natural settings used during photography enhances the experience. How do you approach locating a suitable setting?
JH – A lot of times I try to pick an environment based solely on the figure itself. You ask yourself, ‘where would this guy be located right now if he were here?’ Then you simply try to match the background accordingly.
FT – What’s your customising thought process, do you begin with a plan or develop as you work?
JH – I begin with good ‘ole research and reference pictures. From there I use the acquired information to formulate a plan.
FT – Could you tell us about your ‘Forgotten Ones’ series?
JH – Sure. The Forgotten Series is what I like to call, My Trinity. Mainly because it not only encompasses my loves for customs and photography, but also my love for storytelling as well. It’s a very personal almost real look at the individual lives of various soldiers from both sides, who were left behind or Forgotten after battle has been long over.
FT – Are there any fellow customisers work you admire?
JH – Absolutely!
FT – If you could pick one custom from a fellow customisers work, which piece would you chose?
JH – Not to give any names, but I did see a customizer once that made a fantastic sculpture of a 1989 Michael Keaton Batman bust out of cheese. I kind of wanted it.
FT – Do you employ and recycled or repurposed household items within your customs?
FT – Do you collect any action figures?
JH – I do. Ironically, not of my own. I enjoy collecting other people’s work.
FT – Can you offer any words of advice for anyone considering taking up customising?
JH – Yes. Never compare your work to others. It is SUPER EASY to get discouraged. To think, ‘what’s the point? I’ll never be better than THAT guy.’ The truth is, THAT guy was once where you are now and through years of determination and hard work he was able to hone his craft into something amazing. There is absolutely NO reason why you can’t do the same! You don’t have to make something big and elaborate that the whole world likes. Just make something that u like. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks as long as you’re happy.
FT – While customising can embrace the repurposing of spare or damaged parts, have you ever utilised recycled materials within your customs?
JH – All the time. My fodder bin runneth over. Kit-bashing can be a handy money/time saving tool in a customizer’s belt. Oftentimes you will find yourself in need of a specific part to complete a figure, this is when kit-bashing comes into play. Instead of wasting money on buying the part or wasting time trying to make it, you can simply repurpose an already existing part to suit your needs.
JH – Yes. I currently have an Elegoo Mars that I am using to make an army or Baby Yodas. #moneywellspent.
FT – What do you enjoy from the Star Wars Universe?
JH – I love the fact that is always growing. Always changing. There is always something new and exciting unfolding.
FT – Are you watching The Mandalorian?
JH – Does a bear take a dump in the woods? I have spoken.
FT – This is the way! Are you looking forward to the Rise of Skywalker?
JH – Yes I am, very much so. This is the culmination. The payoff for all those fateful years watching each movie repeatedly until it was embedded into our brains. The countless hours debating each other with random bits of Stat Wars trivia. The late nights that you laid awake wondering what it would be like to be a Jedi or to save a galaxy far, far away. This movie is for all of us and I for one cannot wait.
You can see more of Jeremy’s excellent customs on Instagram @ plastic_surgen88.