Dragadventures: How did you get started as an artist and who influenced you to make it a steady career?
Chad O’ Connell: I’ve always known that art was my calling in some form. As far back as I can remember I was dabbling in every art form I could get my hands on, but I was also addicted to horror. When I realized that I could mix the two together and turn people into the creatures I was obsessed with on film, I found the art of special effects makeup. I started studying sculpture and prosthetics in my early teens, and by 15 I was accepted into an advanced prosthetics course by my favorite makeup artist Dick Smith (responsible for makeups such as ”The Exorcist” and ”The Godfather”). For the next four years I mentored under Mr. Smith, and basically learned everything I know. I eventually took all of that knowledge and applied it to figure sculpting to create the figures I do today.
DA: What’s your most and least favourite step when creating a sculpture?
COC: My least favorite step is hair insertion, all of my figures have hair that is inserted into the sculpture one at a time with a long needle which can take weeks to complete. My favorite part however is when the eyes are inserted because they truly are the soul of the piece. It’s the moment that every artist is waiting for, Dick Smith used to call it ”The Dr. Frankenstein Syndrome” – ”It’s alive! It’s alive!” You feel like you created this person. Your creature is coming to life.
DA: Do you have a favourite art piece you’ve created?
COC: My favorite piece (and I’m sure this is generally the same answer from any artist) is usually the last piece I created, The Wicked Witch of the West. Your most recent piece is the current culmination of a lifetimes work as an artist.
DA: Could you recommend some artists we should definitely look out for?
COC: If you’re into special effects makeup, my favorite company @vincentvandykefx and his wife @sasha_camacho are constantly churning out incredible work on Instagram. Also, @ameliarowcroftsculpture is a mind-blowing portrait sculptor who’s definitely worth a view.
DA: How do you juggle everyday life with creating/sticking to a project?
COC: I work on sculpture every second I have free, I’ve never lost interest in the project I’m working on simply because I love doing it. I do have to take long breaks at times when I’m on tour with Sharon (Needles) but I can always pick up right where I left off when I get back.
DA: What’s the biggest misconception about being an artist? As in the UK, some people tend to write it off as a ‘silly, unsteady’ career choice.
COC: Well it IS unsteady, maybe that’s what the misconception is. Being an artist is tough for everyone and there is a lot of competition. The term ”starving artist” didn’t stick around for no reason. But if you have a passion for what you do and you work hard, it will show through in your artwork, and people will recognize that.
DA: What advice would you give to aspiring younger artists who either don’t know how to get started or feel too scared to leave a steady job to pursue a creative career?
COC: Well, first and foremost I’d say use common sense and don’t quit your day job unless you know you can survive on the earnings from your new creative career. As for younger artists not knowing how to get started, social media is a wonderful thing for self-promotion. Open an Etsy store or an eBay account, see how your work sells and always be respectful to your clients, word of mouth can make or break a business.
DA: When traveling abroad do you tend to go to local waxwork museums and which has been the most bizarre/ worst you’ve seen?
COC: Yes! It’s my favorite thing to do! I have been to a lot of bad ones but I’m not going to call them out by name because that’s rude. However, I can tell you my absolute favorite is Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery located in Salem, Massachusetts. It’s a horror museum of life-size movie monsters from the 1920’s to the present, and it holds a special place in my heart because it’s where I got my start and contributed a few pieces which remain there today. Currently, the museum has moved to a larger location in Salem so check out their website if you plan on being in the area.
DA: Will fans get to see more merch designed by you that they can buy?
DA: And finally everyone loves the movie nights you tweet, what are your five favourite horror films?
COC: Hardest question by far, because they are always changing but:
- House of Wax (1953)
- Sleepaway Camp 2 (1988)
- Dead Alive (1992)
- Night of the Demons 2 (1994)
- The Exorcist (1973)