Saturday, June 29, 2013

My daddy is a superhero!

“My daddy is a superhero!”
Sun.Star Davao, June 29, 2013

Engr. Harold Lega Soriaga is one remarkable dad with multiple accomplishments, hobbies and interests.

Armed with degrees in Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman; Master in Management degree, specializing in Human Resources/Industrial Relations from UP Mindanao (graduating with highest honors); and Master of Science in Manufacturing Systems Engineering from Stanford University in California, USA, you would think that it is all work and no play for the hardworking dad of two as he heads the Systems and Standards division of one of the major local players in the export industry.

Far from it!  During his spare time, he plays the piano, guitar, bass and drums or dabbles in sports like basketball, tennis, skiing, parasailing, bowling and volleyball, among others.

Since 2005, he has also been retreating to his ‘man cave’ during weekends where he painstakingly creates his intricate DC Comics and Marvel superhero sculptures.

Recently, his growing and impressive collection of superhero art pieces was showcased during the “My Daddy is a Superhero” Father’s Day art exhibit at the Abreeza Mall in Davao.
Let’s unmask the identity and passions of Harold, the superdad, in this exclusive interview:

*As a child, were you always artistic? How did you express your creativity?

I remember I liked to draw when I was about 6 years old. My favorite subject then was kings. I would draw and then color with crayons, cray-pas in grade school, then poster color in high school. A couple of my works got posted in our school bulletin board when I was in Grade 3 and made my mama really proud! I also have a notebook filled with my drawings of Transformer robots which I copied from my 6th-grade classmate's catalogue to help me paint a huge poster but never really got to do it.

*Were you always a DC Comics and Marvel fan? Who were your favorite superheroes growing up?

I liked DC more than Marvel when I was a kid because that's the line of comics my dad used to bring home for me and my brother. My favorite was Batman, because my brother has Superman already. Marvel became interesting only recently when X-men became a movie.

*How did you continue being creative as an adult? Why did you decide to make sculptures of superheroes?

I think whenever there's an opportunity to be creative, I make sure that I make the effort stand out. Not so much for glory, but more to please myself and my family. Having kids gave me a lot of opportunities. Birthday parties and school events required costumes that my wife Jolla and I would rather make than buy if we had time.

I also wrote a few songs when I was inspired to do so, like when I proposed to Jolla and again for my wedding day which was written just a few hours before the ceremony.

I decided to make sculptures because when I saw superhero sculpture in Greenhills, and a lot more in the US when I was studying, I knew I wanted to have my own collection. Since I could not afford them, I thought of making my own.

*Did you have any formal training in making sculptures?

No. With so much material available online, I thought I could teach myself. Many sculptors are generous enough to share their techniques in YouTube. One just needs to find time to watch them and must really be passionate about it. My sister also bought me a book on sculpting. That helped a lot, too.

*Can you explain briefly the process of making your sculptures?

The basic process is as follows:
1. Formation of human wireframe with superheroic proportion (8-9 heads-tall instead of the normal 7)
2. Selection of character/s and conceptualization of scene/pose (this is when I draw the figure/s)
3. Posing of wireframe and addition of thicker main wire to support the load of the figure when mounted
4. Wrapping of wireframe with aluminum foil with enough coverage to require only 1/4"-thick clay
5. Balling of clay bits into about 1/2" diameter
6. Kneading of clay onto the foil to form the basic humanoid figure
7. Detailing of parts using tools (knife and dental tools)
8. Smoothing of surface using solvent and brush
9. Oven-baking at 130-degC for 10-15 minutes
10. Final smoothing with sandpaper
11. Painting (airbrush or paintbrush, depending on effect requirement)
12. Assembly (if more than 1 part) with accessories 

*Are your materials readily available in Davao/the Philippines?

Some of the materials for accessories are available locally but I haven't had luck finding the right clay here in Davao. I get it from Manila and sometimes import the petroleum-based clay from the US.

*How long does it take for you to finish one sculpture?

Since I work only on weekends, it takes me roughly 3-4 months to finish one. Although I think I can finish one in about a week if I work continuously.

*How many sculptures have you made so far?

All in all, counting those that have already been discarded, I've sculpted about 50 figures already. The Justice League relief alone has 20 already.

*How do you feel every time you finish a sculpture?

I rarely feel I've really finished a piece already. I would always find something amiss and debate with myself if I should correct it just to satisfy myself. I also tend to want to paint sooner, then later blame myself when I discover that something still had to be perfected and the paint would make it difficult to do so. I now understand why one famous painter (I forgot if it's Monet) would sneak into museums just to correct his paintings which are already on display.

*Have your sons also tried making sculptures with you? How did they find it?

My eldest, Cylo, once tried the water-based clay to make Brainiac 5 of DC's Legion of Super Heroes. He was able to make a humanoid form but couldn't bring out enough detail so he got frustrated and gave up. I'll make sure he tries again with petroleum-based and with tools safe enough for him and Mati, my other son, to use.

*Do you think your sons also got their creative side from you?

I think they got it partly from me and their mom (Jolla sketches and paints much better than I can), but most, I believe, is brought about by their own fascination for subjects they enjoy. Cylo draws Transformers while Mati can fill an entire page with all types of battleships.

*Do you allow your sons to “play” with your creations? 

Like I keep telling them and those kids who went to the exhibit, they are NOT toys! The figures are fragile, especially the water-based. Cylo has broken one already when he was about 4 and he had never seen me more furious before. That, and the several sharp tools taught him and Mati to stay clear of my work area.

*How does your wife Jolla support you in your hobby as a sculptor?

Whenever Jolla has a trip to Manila, she gets clay for me. But more importantly, she frees me from the responsibility of tutoring the kids on weekends, except when she's away. Having an eye for proportion and form herself, she would critique my work before I finalize it.

*Are you open to conducting workshops for those who might be interested to learn your craft?

Since a lot have been requesting for this, I'll see if I can put together a short course just for the basics, especially for the kids. 

*How did you feel when you were asked to stage an exhibit to showcase your masterpieces?

I'd actually inquired before on how much an exhibit would cost, and since it was going to be expensive, I decided to postpone it until I've produced enough figures. Abreeza called a couple of months later and asked if I'd be interested in holding one for Fathers' Day. They remembered my artwork (the Marketing Manager, Ms. Ruby Ochoa, confessed to be a huge Superhero fan, herself) and found them appropriate for their theme: “My Daddy is a Superhero”. Since they were going to shoulder all the expenses, I grabbed the opportunity and worked weeknights to produce more statues. I felt honored that Abreeza found my artwork showcase-worthy enough for them to sponsor.

*Are you open to selling your sculptures? How much do you think will each sculpture cost (price range)?

I make the statues primarily for my personal collection, but if I run out of storage space and someone makes an offer that can make me overcome my attachment to the piece, I can consider selling them. Since each piece is built from scratch and one-of-a-kind, the price range can be anywhere from P10,000-P20,000 for one character, depending on the size and detail. But my favorite works are priceless. 

*What was the response of your guests/public when they viewed your exhibit?

A lot of people initially thought that the figures were bought commercially and asked where I got them from. When I told them they were all hand-crafted from scratch, they stared at me in disbelief. Then they would go back to each figure again, probably to validate what I just disclosed to them. It's amazing how many people seem to have seen such statues only for the first time.

I would always make sure I drop by Serendra every time I was in Manila just to ogle at some statues which I've seen for several times already. Some asked if there's anyone else in Davao who's into the same hobby. I honestly don't know. I know a lot of collectors who showcase their statues in toy conventions, but have yet to hear of anyone actually building them in Davao. I know there are a few who do in Manila.

I also had some senior citizens who thanked me for sharing my hobby. They said it brought back fond memories of their childhood.

*Will there be another exhibit in the future?

If I get to work on more pieces, I'll probably hold one again. Perhaps, in time for Christmas.

*What is your advice to kids/parents who might want to pursue sculpture making or expressing their creative side in general?

I didn't initially think I could actually learn to sculpt. My first attempts were really discouraging. But because I was really passionate about superheroes, I was able to drive myself to keep trying. I thought I'd never be able to sculpt a face, yet several ill-proportioned heads later, I was even able to mold an actual person's face--my wife's!

So for the kids, or anyone really interested but are not sure if they can do it, I say just give it a try and don't let initial failures dampen your enthusiasm as these failures are part of the learning process. If you just put your mind and heart into it, you'll be amazed at what you can actually do.

For parents, please find out more about multiple intelligence and discover the genius in your kid!

Special thanks to Anthony Serafin, Bingkoy Villegas and Lyndon Ong for the photos.

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