The Hotdog Shop - Butler, PA - 2003
An Early Love for the Details
At a very early age I began to enjoy putting together plastic models. In fact I can recall the first one was snap together kit my kindergarten teacher gave to me. It was an Aurora prehistoric scene I believe. Anyway, for years I built planes, tanks, and soldiers. I'd buy up a variety of magazines that taught how to perfect the details of the hobby and I began to make dioramas.
1982 - 1/35th Scale Diorama
My Best Friend Jim Lawless (for real, that was his last name) - 1986
A Kid & A Camera
My first camera was a Canon T50 and I had one FDn 50mm f/1.8 lens. Naturally I shot a ton of photos of my friends. As I followed a few of them on an adventure into the late 1980's hardcore punk scene I learned how to photograph in low light, with fast action. Just like my own teenage rampage that I was on, it was a learning process fraught with a lot of trial and error. I can honestly say I fell in love with photography, but by the time I went to art school in 1987 I felt it was a form of expression I simply couldn't afford. Thankfully I found that passion again years later.
That's Me in 1986
Alley Off Moravian Way
Off to Art School
Having decided to not join the military and with no real plan for after high school my first year out was chaotic to say the least. While talking to an older friend one night she told me about her experience of attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I hadn't even considered an "art school" or a career in the arts. Though I'd thought about making dioramas as a living it wasn't until that one pivotal talk with a girl named Anne that I realized there just may be a way to do it after all. I had found a direction to apply myself and I have never looked back.
My Mentor & Creator
The Mother of Inspiration
Finding my Motivation
The Object Works - 1987-1989
I've no recollection as to who took these photos. I just happened to find them as I assembled content for this page.
Me - December 1987
Dragon Cast in Foam Latex
Foam Latex Dragon Head
A Little Recognition
This is one of my coworkers from the Object Works in Pittsburgh. I took these photos in 1988 when I was just an apprentice. He was an amazingly talented artist. His flamboyant manners, and crazy stories made working with him very interesting. I learned a lot about what it takes to "make it" as a pro-artist from him, but more importantly I learned how to be a better person. Having come from a very backwards, rural area where "fags" were hated as a matter of course. If you were gay there was "something" wrong with you and you deserved to be spit upon. I'm glad to have had a chance to see how wrong that thinking can be. When he passed away suddenly in the early 1990's I was saddened to see such a vibrant life gone from this world.
Pittsburgh - 1987
Egyptian Glass Bead Maker Figure - 1989
For one of my design classes we took a "behind the scenes" tour of the Exhibits Department of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. By the time I'd begun art school I have fantasized about the possibility of having a career as a "diorama artist." Soon after the tour I became a volunteer (you can even see it says so on my badge!) to the head diorama artist, Patrick Martin. He'd been working on dioramas for over 20 years by this point, and was a very serious, quiet man when I met him. By way of introduction to him I was taken to a small room through a basement full of dinosaur bones, crates, and other assorted items that can't help but tantalize your brain. The room was ice cold. It had to be as he was sculpting a nearly completed life-sized figure of a seated man, sans head, hands, and feet. Made of mostly of a type of plaster it had to be kept cold and damp or it'd get too dry to work on. For a long time he just worked quietly away, the curves of a torso taking shape under his intense gaze. We didn't speak much. I began to hand him the tools I thought he'd need next, and to clean plaster from the used tools. I won't lie. It was very intense.
Eventually, he stopped, stood back and while looking at it asked me what I thought could be better. On the wall and on just about every table could be found photos of the model who posed for the body. I'd been looking at them all through the session so was able to comment about some proportion that was just "off." He then handed me calipers and said, "Show me." I did and with that walked out of the room saying, "I'm leaving for vacation now and won't be back for a week. Have that done."
I did, so when he got back we then had a fun period of time as I began to do something I never thought possible. I was working at the very place that given me inspiration to follow my dream at the age of 17. I eventually had to return to my paid apprenticeship, but was told to, "Come back in a few years. I'll have a job for you."
Link to Website
Egyptian Life-Sized Figure
Egyptian Life-Sized Figure
The Glass Bead Maker
Egyptian Life-Sized Figure
Egyptian Life-Sized Figure
'The Black Cat' - Animatronic Cables -1989
A Short Stint with Buckets of Blood
Towards the end of my attending the Art Institute in 1989 I became friends with one of the special effects teachers. He liked they way I worked and followed direction so asked me to partner with him on various special effect makeup jobs. This culminated in my doing a very brief period of working in the special effects studio owned and operated by Tom Savini. On my first day in the studio I was being given the usual "tour" of the place, which was full of gory props from the numerous horror flicks Tom designed effects for. At one point I was directed to "check out what's in the big garbage bag over there." On opening it I found the original Jason from the first 'Friday the 13th' film. "Cool beans," I thought as I went to place it back on it's place of rest, which was on a bench next to a coat rack with a severed head mounted on the top. As I walked away the body fell over, striking the coat rack causing it to fall over. As it went down it catapulted the severed head directly into the center of the workshop! After that they all remembered me...
The photos on this page are from when I helped install and then pack out the very graphic horror scene for this movie. I'd just graduated the night before and maybe slept all of an hour (the graduation party was at my place...). We worked all day, and in my dream like state I couldn't believe I was on an actual sound-stage doing an actual movie job (for cash). All these talented people were working away, and it was very exciting for me. Pure adrenaline kept me functioning for around 16 hours, at the end of which they effects crew and I went back to Savini's workshop. After putting everything away it was time to watch "the dailies." These are videos recorded on VHS that are shot side by side with the actual film. They help the team review their effects and plan any corrections to the design if needed. I sat in front of Tom as we watched, but sitting there just watching TV after a long couple of days with no sleep had me nodding off. As the room grew dark, and I slipped into dreamland Tom pulled a fast one on me. He took a started pistol, which fired blanks of course, held it behind my head (pointed at the ceiling) and pulled the trigger. Needless to say I had more than enough adrenaline to get through the rest of the dailies...
In the end though, after a few months of dabbling in special effects with his crew I decided I'd rather find work doing set construction. While I appreciated the work they did, I just wasn't passionate about dealing in buckets of blood. I've never been a real horror movie fan so it just didn't grab me.
Link to Buy This Movie from Amazon
Greg Funk - 1989 - Savini Studio
The Devil's in the Details
Gore & Nudity Warning! This Clip is not appropriate for all ages or the workplace.
The Twin Stupas
An Artist's Apprentice
I spent about two or three months as an artist's apprentice. It was very enlightening work and I learned a lot about the "Fine Art" world. It was a period of attending gallery shows, setting up installation art in various high profile locations, and learning how to get by on your whits. And those parties! Fun stuff! In the end though, while our projects where large and the work was very entertaining I found I had to go in a different direction. My student loans where coming due, and I wanted to buy a jeep, have my own place to live, etc..
Link to His Website
My Mentors - 2006
Pittsburgh, An Industrial Garden - 1990
A Set Piece by Park Place Studio - 1991
Park Place Studio
One day I received a phone call from Park Place Studio. The caller had heard that I was a very enthusiastic, and hard worker and they had a job for me. It turned out he needed the basement of the building cleaned out so they could use it to store sets and prepare crates for shipping. It had about 60 years of accumulated junk in it. I was handed a sledge hammer, a cart for hauling things, and pointed to where the dumpster was located. The guy then left for the day. When he came back I was sweeping up an empty basement, and thus began a few year stint at this studio.
As time progressed I went from cleaning things up to helping run the place. The original guy who hired me wasn't actually the owner, but was his "right-hand man." He eventually parted ways with the company after some crazy shenanigans. By the time this all went down I was already doing most of his job. I walked in one day and Park said, "So & so is no longer here. Congratulations, you have his job. Here are the keys."
It was a very exciting time for me. I had a very unique opportunity to help organize, and run a small company. I learned a LOT in a very short period of time. We produced a number of sets for movies, theater and trade shows across the country. Learning how to manage the carpenter and paint shops, and keeping the books straight as well as helping direct the marketing was an invaluable lesson. I won't lie and say it was always fun. There were a lot of very stressful moments, but the rewards were plentiful, especially in pure experience.
If I hadn't always dreamt of working at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and that new opportunity hadn't presented itself I believe I would've spent many, many years working at Park Place Studio. It had the feel of being somewhat of an adventure to me, almost like being on a pirate ship.
Link to Website
Park Warne - Owner of the Studio
Ron Lutz II
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