The Man Behind The Mouse
Sculptor Brian Wade moves from film to fine art.
Thursday, February 24, 2000
Sculpture & Animation
The man is Brian Wade, a noted special effects designer, make-up artist and sculptor whose fantastic creations have graced some of Hollywood''s wildest and wooliest sci-fi/horror masterpieces.
The mouse is Stuart Little, the eponymous star of the popular family film who, before appearing as a computer-animated creature, began life as a miniature clay model, or "maquette," designed and created by Wade.
To understand how Wade went from the severity of monster-making to the whimsy of Stuart Little, and why he gave up a lucrative career and peer recognition in Hollywood to pursue a career in fine art as an apprentice with local sculptor Richard MacDonald, one need only to look at the boy that still lurks behind the man.
It is anybody''s guess how it all begins, how for a certain type of kid growing up in a fairly normal and wholesome environment there is a compelling and unnamable fascination with movie monsters. Whether it was the love of the adrenaline-fueled kick of being scared, or a way to embrace and overcome the terrors of childhood, for Wade, seeing monsters on screen was nothing less than an epiphany.
"I would cross my fingers and hope the creature or alien was cool," recalls Wade, who began working in film at age 14, and who at age 37 now boasts numerous film credits that include Harry and the Hendersons, Gorillas in the Mist, The Terminator, The Blob and John Carpenter''s The Thing.
"I would sit through some god-awful movies for whatever juvenile reason, but if the monster was good and looked real then the movie became good. Sometimes, though, I would come home so scared that when I went to bed, I''d wrap a towel around my head."
Despite having no formal, academic training, Wade early on found inspiration and lessons in the popular art forms he enjoyed.
"I started sculpting at eight when I was a little kid playing with Play-Doh and I never stopped," says Wade. "I also grew up reading comic books and was drawn into the art work of panel artists whose style caught my eye. I was envious of their ability and would copy their work, drawing line for line. That was how I became familiar with how anatomy works."
Decades later, Wade has kept his childlike enthusiasm for all expressions of art--from low to high--intact. He is as animated, insightful and comfortable extolling the virtues of Renaissance sculpture, and why Bernini far surpasses Michaelangelo as a sculptor, as he is discussing the hilarity and energizing pleasure of watching the clay-animated gorefest, "Celebrity Death Match" on MTV.
With his recent move to the Monterey Peninsula, Wade says he is pursuing what is merely the latest step along a well-thought-out path toward becoming recognized as a "serious" artist. Wade currently works as a mold shop supervisor at the Richard MacDonald Studios in Monterey, and is vying for a chance at the coveted position of apprentice sculptor to MacDonald himself. He''s also working with the team producing a 15-foot, 15,000-pound monument to commemorate the 100th anniverary of the U.S. Open, which will be installed at Pebble Beach in June.
"I''ve appreciated Richard Mac-Donald''s work many years, the two main factors being the dynamics of the poses and the anatomy," explains Wade. "I''m a tough critic and there is a lot of bad sculpture out there in my opinion, but this guy knows anatomy."
While recognizing the obstacles that stand in the way of making it as a fine art sculptor, Wade finds the challenge a particular source of inspiration.
"My dream was always to make my fortune as a sculptor in the film industry, to push it as far as I could and make my chunk of change, and move to Carmel and do fine art," says Wade. "I''m at a crossroads, and if things go well, I''ll stay on, but if there isn''t an opportunity apprentice-wise, I would return to the film industry. I''m too passionate a sculptor be anything less than a sculptor. That passion is my reason for being."
Brian Wade will be teaching a series of courses in Special Effects Make-Up and Sculpture, starting with "Character & Creature Design" and "Lifecasting." For info, call Brian Wade Studios at 785-8234.