By day, David Östman works at a nursing home, caring for those who need a little extra help. By night, the 38-year-old digitally sculpts the faces of heroes he's known all his life: superheroes, starship captains, and beings from outer space. He then sells his sculptures online to fellow geeks who can 3D print them at home.
Östman got an incredible eye; his Batman, Captain America, and Superman designs are the Platonic ideal of each character. They're immediately recognizable, though rendered in a format many geeks don't often engage with.
The folks who buy his designs, Östman says, are collectors or decorators, more keen to fill their homes with superhero paraphernalia than he is. "Surprisingly I'm not [a collector]," he tells SYFY WIRE. "I've moved around quite a bit in recent years, so collecting things hasn't been very feasible for me. Now that I'm settled down with a family in a much-too-small apartment, I find every inch of shelf space a premium. I do own a complete Deluxe Edition collection of the TV show Farscape, which should count for something!"
We spoke with Östman via email about his artistic eye, his journey as a self-taught sculptor, and his relationships with other gamers and fans.
How did you get into digital sculpting?
Originally, I taught myself digital sculpting as a means to find employment in the video games industry, because at the time it was not as common a skill as it is today. I'm self-taught in the sense that I didn't go to school to learn it, but there were various videos and tutorials online that certainly helped me along the way.
But that was nowhere near the huge amount that exists today, which is absolutely fantastic because I never stop learning how to do this. There's always a better way to do something and there's always someone out there willing to show you how it's done!
Do you create mini-figs for gaming, or primarily your decorative busts? What do most people use your figures for?
To date, I have made only one mini-figure for gaming, but it wasn't the most satisfying process, so I've stuck to my decorative figures, mainly the busts that I am mostly known for. From what I can tell, people print them, sometimes paint them, and put them on a shelf to look at, or they just think it's something fun to print on their new 3D printers.
Who are the geeky characters you're most inspired by?
Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Most of us bald men experience a genetic kinship with other bald men, and Picard is the bald man in the culture of geek as far as I'm concerned, so that's obviously my main answer. The more serious explanation is that Picard is good representation, and inspiration, of a future that I can get behind and work toward in my small ways, and in these more bleak times we find ourselves in currently. Other than that, Batman is a pretty okay dude as well!
How do you decide which version of a character to produce, especially when a character like Batman has appeared so many different ways?
Most of the things I do are somehow related to memories from my childhood, or characters that are fond to me, because I enjoy the pangs of nostalgia I get while working on them. I try, and admittedly not always succeed, to put my own twist on the characters so I'm not just another Xerox copy machine. The design choices I make are usually not any more complicated than, "well, okay, this looks all right, let's go with it!"
Can you describe your experience in the gaming industry? Why is it an exciting space to work in?
In a few words: a lot of fun in the company of insanely talented people, and many late night hours eating way too much unhealthy food. Because of the very nature of the industry, it's always moving forward technologically, and that is always exciting to me. While it's a constant race to stay one step ahead of the competition it is also, a bit paradoxically, a very open community where developers love to share technology and solutions to problems with each other.
You can purchase Östman's designs (and print them!) on his website.