“I like a lot of the sculptors from the Renaissance and I like the special effects guys from the movie business,” says Vancouver sculptor Jesse Rubin. His pieces reflect that duality – beautifully rendered and finely detailed human shapes married with a touch of the bizarre, a unique combination that, admittedly, can weird people out. And oh yes, they stand no more than 20 inches tall.
Rubin can’t explain his fascination with creepy creatures or why he works with such tiny figures. “I don’t have a good answer for that other than I’m attracted to small sculptures having a lot of detail packed into a small area,” he says. True, his Dad was a jeweller, accustomed to intricate detail, but Rubin says he was never interested in the trade nor did he build scale models as a kid. “I glued a few pieces and lost interest. I never did any of that stuff,” he says. His favorite artists are creature and character designer Jordu Schell and hyper realistic sculptor Ron Mueck.
Rubin works in a plasticine-like product called Sculpey. (He tried clay but it didn’t work). Sculpey allows him to work everything, veins, arteries, nails and tendons into the piece, size as, before firing it in a low-temperature oven. “I make a silicone mold and then I reproduce it in a translucent, skin coloured resin and from that point I can begin the painting process.”
He doesn’t draw beforehand, preferring to use his imagination and work everything out as he progresses. He got the inspiration for “Man Walking Pet” while watching a WWI documentary – “I just loved this guy’s face” – and putting the recorder on “Pause” so he could sculpt a head from the still frame. After he completed the head, he hired a friend to pose for the body. “So then I put the two together and decided to build a creature.” The creature is the kicker to the piece, a bat-winged gargoyle, a stark contrast to the amiable individual walking his pet, or in this case, his monster.Man Walking Pet
“Man on Couch” is just as striking although the subject is resting and there’s nary a monster in sight. “Couch” takes on an ethereal quality, closer to Mueck in tone than Schell. It’s hard to believe this level of sophistication is coming from an individual who has had no formal training in art or anatomy. “It was often a painful learning process and there was a lot of frustration,” he says of his early days. Now that he’s found his voice and his style, the up-and-coming artist is realizing commissions and exhibitions. “I’m just trying to please myself and if good things happen along the way, that’s great,” he says.