Interview With Jeremy Dale aka Valleydweller

I first knew of Jeremy Dale aka Valleydweller when I had first returned to this blog; post-Stroke. I had remembered his series of FatCap customs done circa DesignerCon 2010, with the proceeds benefitting my illness (as reported on VinylHearts) - and thinking back then, "How cool is this guy for doing so?" ~ Especially coming from someone whom I've not had the pleasure of meeting online or corresponding with priors. Post-Stroke, and seeing loads of his work, I gave come to enjoy the "kitbash" quality of a lot of his customs, as well the palette of his choice, embraces me like the "toy'hoe" I am, influenced with decades of engulfing comicbooks - which I personally see a lot of "stories" when I look at his work online, and I knew I had to somehow get to the bottom of Jeremy's work. This interview is my attempt.


TOYSREVIL: First and foremost; why "Valleydweller"? What made you decide on this nick?
VALLEYDWELLER: I’ve actually lived in a few valleys, namely Rio Grande, Saddleback, San Jose (Silicion), and  Diablo, but ultimately it’s really just comes down to my last name being Dale.  I love being surrounded by visible geology, and would rather see mountains in the distance than an endless stretch of horizon.  That’s really what it evokes to me. 

Embrace the Grand.
Eschew the Uncanny.

There, I just made up a slogan for my company.


TOYSREVIL: What does the Valleydweller do? (I feel I must add a "The" in front of your moniker LOL)

VALLEYDWELLER: I’ve been working in video game development doing art since 1996, most recent shipped title credit being Lead Animator on Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning at EA Mythic.  Illustration on the side here and there.  I just recently finished doing all of the art for a board game that should be out later year from the guys who own the rights to the Shadowfist CCG, to which I’ve also been a fairly regular contributor over the last decade.


TOYSREVIL: Nice. I like the history-lineage (even tho I've never had the chance to partake in the games), and the conceptualization of your customs really shows this, IMO. The sense of stories-to-be-told and a measure of in-built "history" is evocative and evident in your works, moreso that other genres like hip-hop or acid-pop etc. How active has The Valleydweller been all this while? How active is The Vallydweller? Where has The Valleydweller been?
VALLEYDWELLER: I don’t have a huge pedigree of train cars, walls, or gallery shows. The only Graffiti I’ve done was on my brother’s garage wall for my mom’s 80th birthday.  I’ve always got some hobby going, usually involving tiny toy soldiers in various states of assembly or paint, or building worlds for them to inhabit. The Miniatures thing really let me drop into the toy scene fairly comfortably.

I’m used to painting armies of guys that are about 2” tall on the big end, so it’s almost luxurious making the switch to 3”-8” figures.  I then get a bit out of my comfort zone again on the larger stuff like this Mega Munny sitting behind me.

TOYSREVIL: Ah yes, the magic word "Mega Munny"! (Will bug you more when more work has been done to it ;p). I see a whole heck of customization going on in your life, and most particularly the WIPs of your work. Not many folks / artists share as much about their the making-of their work as you would have? Why is that? Or rather, why do you share your WIPs?

VALLEYDWELLER: Sharing WIP is a Golden Rule kind of thing really.  I figure I ask so many questions, and so many good people are patient with me, that I might as well share as much as I can.  It feels really good when people tell you that you’ve inspired them to do something. 

Being interested in Movie VFX, Comics,  Illustration, Miniature painting, and most recently the Designer Toy scene, I’ve seen a lot of Q&A across the board and there’s always the “what tools do you use”, in every industry.  There is no magic software/paper/pen/brush/sculpting tool.  You do just have to get in there and do it. And pretty much universally, the best tool is the one you develop yourself.  I just offer as much data as I can so someone can hopefully skip a couple painful steps.

TOYSREVIL: What do you say is THE style of Valleydweller? What do you hope to achieve in your craft and do you think you are on the right road, or have already achieved it?

VALLEYDWELLER: I don’t know why “Sounding” comes to mind.  Dropping rope into the ocean isn’t really a good fit, but a lot of times that’s how I approach a piece.  There are very few pinpoint design decisions where I know exactly what I’m going to do then execute on that.  My dayjob’s very technical, so I like to just dabble around until something ends up just being done.  If it’s a full-on DIY I might just start scrawling on it with a a sharpie until something emerges, and then prime over that when I know what I’m doing.  You can see this with Baharroth and Battery before and afters. 

[Above: BAHARROTH Custom Celsius / Below: BATTERY Custom Qee Bears]

VALLEYDWELLER: On many other pieces, I just pick parts of a palette and begin working really broadly, and then honing down when something makes sense. 

My default paint style is consistently mentioned as being “nicely weathered”.  I like working in a lot of layers with combinations of paint and wash with brushes in my trademarked “Three times larger than necessary for twice as long as is reasonable” technique.  This goes along with the advice I give a lot of people regarding the WIP thing earlier.  Showing them that I have passes with really unsatisfactory coverage with brush strokes showing, and how I deal with it.

[Jeremy's submissions for Kaiju For Japan / Buy here / Closing May 6th]

VALLEYDWELLER: As time goes on you’ll see me using less and less plastic kit parts and more of my own resin accessories until I’m fully fabricating my own pieces from scratch, and ideally getting my own designs manufactured with the big boys when the time comes.

TOYSREVIL: Sweetness. With your craft out of the way - let's touch a bit on "result". Push comes to shove, what is THE single custom figure you would choose to represent your style the most? Or what is your favorites of customs?

VALLEYDWELLER: Thinking about this a bit, I think from a Total Package standpoint, I’d have to go with my custom Sketchbot, “Slashbot”.  It’s got all the elements of my current “style” with a vinyl platform, found-object / model kit additions (kitbash),  weathered acrylic paint, and sculpted terrain base, Glow-In-the-Dark paint gimmick, magnetized components for easy storage and shipping (and because magnets are cool).


VALLEYDWELLER: The funny thing about the Slashbot, is that I hijacked parts from a hundred dollar model kit to make him (I was hoping to use pieces from a $50 kit, but the scale wasn’t right).  I wouldn’t say I regretted it, but It forced me to get creative replacing the head and right arm with balsa, plastic sprues, some Dixie when I actually wanted to build the kit for a game the other day.


[Above: SLASHBOT VIDEO / Below: STOMPA Custom]

 TOYSREVIL: Do you feel that joining multiple group shows dilutes an artists' appeal and craft? Or hones it? I remember a day when a group show listed less than 20 names per show, then can the advent of monster-shows, where anywhere between 60 to over 200 names are listed. And ironically, we now get to see shows that perhaps list 3 to 6 man per event. What do you feel about such a circumstance?

VALLEYDWELLER: I remember a day just over a year ago when I bought my first blind box from Dragatomi’s booth at Wondercon, so I’m super green.  I think it really depends on the artist, whether it dilutes or not.  I was thankful to have been personally invited to participate in the Sketchbot Custom Show 2 at Munky King, and now in Lunartik’s Mini Tea Tour, both being well over 50 people.  Again, since I’m new, it’s really exciting to be involved in that kind of event, especially when it’s close enough to personally attend and get on-the-spot feedback.  What I hear from a lot of people is that they just get too busy and either rush or pull out entirely.  Neither are good. 

[Above: Mini Tea Custom / Below-Left: Battle Bracket 2 on CTU]
[Heavily Warhammer-component-conversions / Mid-to-Right: 40Kanti / Hive Fleet Kaiju]

VALLEYDWELLER: The upcoming "They Came From the Streets" with Urban Vinyl Daily is one of the first really themed shows I’ve been invited to.  I’d love to do a collaborative themed show with a couple close friends, but then that takes a ton of work as well.  So for now I’m happy throwing one-offs into boxes and paying exorbitant shipping fees for exposure.

TOYSREVIL: "Shipping" is one of the few realities which suck out the joy of collecting these days, IMHO. But then we the world so so connected, we CAN own a piece of your work, regardless of where you are - which frankly is a sweeter deal than being unable to (but that's my rant for the day). With the variety of customs you produce, they seem to veer towards a particular theme and influence (or perhaps I am looking at things differently). What inspires you? What are your influences?
VALLEYDWELLER: It’s kind of ridiculous how closely toys and animation are tied together.  I think that’s so obvious that it’s almost not worth mentioning.  Maybe I should just say “the usual”. Am I that bland?  Growing up on American Sci-Fi movies and comics, Japanese Anime and video games, and British Miniatures are the staple of the scene today really.  I’m more from that side than the graf/punk/rock poster design background.  Not quite Nerdcore… to quote The Mighty Boosh: “Elements of the past and the future combining to make something not quite as good as either”
Making myself sit down and grab 5 names out of my head after churning for a bit, I go with the following for total impact visually, from character design through to animation: Stan Winston, Phil Tippett, Miyazaki, Jes Goodwin, Bill Sienkiewicz.

TOYSREVIL: A swell list to be had, indeed! (You had me at B.Sienkiewicz - his early Elektra" Assassin was one of the handful of mini-series that shaped me who I am today LOL). Name that one form of your customizing poison? Which toy-form do you love customizing the most?
VALLEYDWELLER: For the projects that I haven’t done yet, but want to do, the Celsius would play a huge part.  The proportions are just really excellent, and you can go a number of ways with it. The Celsius figure mentioned earlier in the Warhammer note was actually one of my first customs, done last year for a contest Spanky Stokes put on. Speaking of which, Kuso’s other Rotobox figure, Fahrenheit is the core of another commissioned piece I’m in the process of finalizing, a Raziel conversion from Soul Reaver, a game on the Dreamcast back in the day.

[CLICK for full-screen making of RAZIEL - Soul Reaver Celsius custom]

 VALLEYDWELLER: The Super7 Monster Family has also been really good to me so far.  Something there clicks with me, and the surface treatments and slight customizations I’ve done in that line have been really well received.  I’ve done 4 Garurus and 2 Big Sal’s in the last 9 months that are in other people’s hands now (I had three pieces in the Super7 One Offs show, and sold all of them), and WIP Rose Vampire and Honoo, Power Mister in progress on my bench,  and have a Leroy C on its way soon.

 TOYSREVIL: With customs on show, do you have designs of your own you'd like to be made into toys one day? Share!

VALLEYDWELLER: This is the really hard part.  There are characters I’ve been drawing since college and beyond, and have existed in various forms of half-finished sculptures from time to time.  But I’m tempted to just bang out a couple new pieces to make sure I’m getting the important things done correctly before punting on something I don’t want to screw up.
Like this last Christmas, I just wanted to make something for family and friends, so I created some ornaments and cast them in resin because I wanted to try hand-rotocasting something.
["Charlie Bomb" Ornaments]

TOYSREVIL: I've been seeing loads of customs being done for "Screaming Sky", so what's the story on that? Will we be seeing a solo show from Valleydweller at Screaming Sky Gallery soon? We should though!

VALLEYDWELLER: Spanky Stokes was kind enough to lend me some space in his booth at DesignerCon in 2010.  The only piece I sold at the show though, was a Garuru, to Doug and Andria.  I ran into them again later that night at a party, and they were really kind people.  I dropped Andria a line few weeks later letting her know that I was available for commissions if she was interested, we chatted back and forth a bit, and eventually this two foot cube showed up on my doorstep full of things to keep me busy for awhile.  I’m about halfway through, and need to get that first shipment of vinyl out to the post office.  It’s really great of them to take a chance on me like that, and I’m jazzed that it was a “go do your thing” commission, and not a tightly constrained set of requests.  Very liberating. 


VALLEYDWELLER: They’ve also been very understanding as well.  As I said, they purchased a piece from me at DesignerCon, and in the box I received, there was another Garuru. J  I had him painted up and ready to send back when I’d heard about the One-Off’s show at Super7.  I lamented for a bit, but then asked if they’d mind if I “got the band back together” and used the one I did for them to fill out the Monster Family pack with Sal and Steven (shout out to Leecifer for being kind enough to let me join the show), assuring them that if it sold, I’d do another one for them.  Which it did and I have.  There’s EVEN MORE Garuru that spins off that tangentially, but that’s a story for another time.


TOYSREVIL: What should we be looking out for in 2011, from Valledweller?

VALLEYDWELLER: Most ambitious thing in 2011 is doing hopefully doing my 20 QeeSassin In A Can blind box run using Toy2R Baby Qees.  They’re a variant of the piece I had in the Dragatomi show, done in that universe as smaller, no less deadly, but less likely to wreck the lab if they go out of control like Model 242 did.

[Above: QeeSassin-in-a-can prototype in Apex Vinyl’s booth at DesignerCon
Below: The Seeker Module]

VALLEYDWELLER: It’s funny too, because that hard drive part that I used as the “seeker module”, which is a tracking device on the BATTERY custom 8” Qee has turned into a unifying element in a bunch of customs.  I keep using it partly because it’s a piece of my own (albeit from an obvious source) produced in resin.  It will be on all of the QeeSassin In A Can figures, but has also been used on a Dunny I did for the Almighty Dunny show for Genuine Artikle, and on my piece in the Mini Tea Tour (coming soon to a country possibly near you), both using backstory the they are different experiments by Dr. Arsenault.

[Above: Almight Dunny Custom]

TOYSREVIL: What is the one thing people do not know about Valleydweller / Jeremy Dale?
VALLEYDWELLER: About as “Gangsta” as I get was getting collared as a kid boosting M.U.S.C.L.E. figs from a Venture in my hometown when I was like eleven.  Don’t steal kids. It’s not cool.

[Go vote for Jeremy's custom Foomis by clicking "Like"
on KR's Munnyworld Megacontest here / Dateline ends May 13th]


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