Gordon Tarpley doesn’t like to limit his art. He makes everything from sculptures and models to paintings and costumes. Tarpley works in the realm of replicas, restores movie props, and creates fantastic original work. And no matter the medium he's working in, the fan uses to bring to life his latest creation some things in the process always stay the same.
“It all sort of blends together in my head because I feel like techniques for one thing almost always apply to something else even if it looks completely different to the outside observer,” the L.A. resident explained. “I feel like there’s some kind of mental steps involved that feel the same to me when making a sculpture or painting or drawing or building a costume.”
Choosing which medium to use depends on what he’s making. For example, sometimes he’ll use a slightly less fun method if it will get the job done faster or look better in the end.
“There’s nothing I would really put off the table creatively; if some aspect of the process is going to help me I would do it. Even if I don’t know it, I’ll learn it,” he said.
Art and building have always been a part of Tarpley’s life. He grew up in a home with family members who were all artistic in some way, whether it was pottery or painting. His father would make models for work that particularly piqued his interest. When he was bored, he wouldn’t watch TV or be given toys. Instead, there would be something to draw with or clay to use and he would entertain himself by making something.
It wasn’t long before that collided with his geeky interests. Tarpley remembers Star Wars as one of the first films he saw in the theater.
“My imagination sort of revolved around that as a little kid. So it blended together between when I would play with toys and create things, half the little playsets I would make for myself would have to do with Star Wars,” he remembers. “One thing led to another led to another. It began with making sets for toys, then making costume parts for fun so I could pretend I was a Stormtrooper or something when I was really young. I looked super goofy, but they spurred my imagination a little bit.”
Movies continue to be a source of inspiration for Tarpley, especially special effects-driven films. Even if the films were terrible, if there are great costumes or effects, it will get his mind working to figure out how everything was built and made, and he’ll leave the film happy. Studios like Spectral Motion and Legacy Effects also provide plenty of inspiration, as he watches what they do to analyze how they do it.
To start a project, he'll first decide what materials and what technique, like sculpting or 3D modeling, he wants to use for it. Tarpley said this is really the only part that differs from project to project.
“Those kinds of thing vary, but the one thing that’s really in common for most all the projects is being able to look at what I’m making and just sort of figure out if it’s working or not and be self-critical," he said. "That’s the tie-in factor that feels like the thing that will make anything work is just looking at it and if it’s working. If I say no, then I just change up my method and try something else with construction and the creative side."
Tarpley would advise any fan to be self-critical as they begin their creative journey. If it doesn’t look right, see what’s wrong and try to do better next time. He encourages fans starting out to be persistent, just try things, and don’t be afraid of failure because that’s how you learn.
It’s advice that has served Tarpley well in practice and led to many incredible creations. Recently he’s been doing more original work and that’s something he wants to steer more towards in the future. He’s started creating rubber masks which he’s really into because they’re completely original. Of course, he’s also still proud of his other work, including everything Star Wars he’s done and a new droid from the series he’s wanted to make since he was a kid that’s coming out well.
Whether original, replica, or something else, Tarpley’s creations are sure to impress fans everywhere and show what you can do if you just give something your all.
Get to know Gordon a bit better below: