I had been doing 3D illustrations for a number of years. I had been jumping back and forth between animation jobs, toy prototype sculpting and illustrations from the late 1980’s through the early 90’s. I had been hired in 1989 by Nick Didio, the art director at Golf Digest, to do a sculpture of Lee Trevino. I sculpted and painted the piece and mailed it off to them. Their staff photographer took the photo.
In 1992 Nick contacted me to work on another 3D piece. They were doing an article about how to have more fun playing golf and they wanted a double page spread of a really angry golfer with smoke coming out of his ears. I did some sketches and sent them over. After they picked one I started sculpting. I thought of a few ways to do the smoke like using cotton but I really wanted to use real smoke. This was pre-Photoshop so it could not easily be added later.
I made a wire armature of the figure to start and put a metal tube up one leg, through the body and into his head. I then split the tube to run out his ears. I sculpted with Super Sculpy polymer clay over the armature and baked it. I then painted the figure. I built a set out of styrofoam and used railroad grass and lichen to make the golf course and trees.
The piece was supposed to be horizontal for a double page but I got a call from Nick saying they decided that they liked my sketch so much they wanted to make the article the cover story and bumped it to the September 1992 issue.
I had been working with photographer Jeff Heiges (his current work is fantastic!) who had a studio in downtown Manhattan. We set everything up with a sky blue paper backdrop and he set up the lighting. I thought I was going to have to do something I had never done. I was going to smoke a cigarette. I was going to blow smoke through the tube running thought the bottom of the set. Thankfully, Jeff suggested that since he smoked and I didn’t he could blow the smoke and I could press the shutter cable. We did a number of takes to make sure we had just the right amount of smoke. I had to put small amounts of clay in the ears to adjust the direction of the smoke. It was hard to tell until the film was processed whether we had gotten just the right shot.
Below is the final cover. Since they used this for the cover they went with a photo for the inside article but they did run a small version of the cover on every page of the very long feature. They also made posters with tips for golfers that was mailed to golf courses across the country.
So this ended up being one of the last 3D illustrations I did. I had moved to England just before this magazine hit the newsstands. Luckily it was available at some retailers in London so I bought a few extra copies. My intention was to continue making 3D illustrations in the UK but I ended up working so much in the toy industry that I let magazine illustration fall by the wayside.
The story has a twist ending. Less than a year later I walked into a local pub on the high street in Chiswick, London where we lived. I was floored when I saw this pinball machine. This was the first time I had ever seen anything I had done ripped off. I was pretty angry at the time but never did anything about it. I now look back on it with pride, thinking that some artist liked my cover so much they combined it with Caddyshack to make a pinball machine.