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About Me

The midi music playing is the "Creator" theme from the "Makaitoushi SaGa" video game.
This web page was last updated on 1/7/13.


Name: Mark Patraw

Sign: Gemini

Base of Operations: Michigan (U.S.A.)

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F.A.Q.
(Frequently Asked Questions)

Quick Index

1. How long have you been making art?

2. What kinds of materials and media do you prefer to work with?

3. What's your academic art background?

4. Do you do commission work?

5. Do you take requests?

6. Will you help/participate in my art project, contest, etc.?

7. Can I link to your page?

8. Can I take an image(s) from your site and use it on my web site, as an avatar for a message board, etc.?

9. Will you put my artwork on your site?

10. Can I edit your artwork?

11. Sometimes when I visit your web page(s) I get an error message about bandwidth, what gives?

12. You jerk! I emailed you, but you didn't respond!

13. Why is the quality of some of the photos on your site so poor?

14. Why are the dimensions of most of your images so small?

15. Your web page design is fairly basic, why don't you spice it up a bit?

16. I get an error message when I click on a link, or there's a missing image, what's up with that?

17. I want to make some paper/cardboard figures like you too; can you show/tell me how to do it?

18. Why don't you make your figures larger/smaller?

19. Your site has too many pop-up advertisements, do something!

20. What the heck does '2.5D' mean?

21. Where do you get the information for your figure descriptions? Do you make it all up?

22. What happened to "..."? It's not on your site anymore.

23. What happened to your Guestbook?

24. How do you make the joints on your action figures?

25. How do you get so much detail into papier mache at such a small scale?

26. Why are many of your figures brown/black before you paint them?

27. Why don't you make some stop motion movies with your action figures?


1. How long have you been making art?
As long as I can remember. Even from my earliest memories, I was always making or drawing stuff. For example, when I was a young boy, I used to make "fake" toys, (which were really little more than drawings, cut out of paper, based on existing "real" toys), package them up, hang them up on my wall, and run my own little toy store, selling them for pennies to my siblings. If you've already had a look at my work here on the web site, it's not hard to see how that developed into my sculpting 3-dimensional toys/figures as I grew older.

2. What kinds of materials and media do you prefer to work with?
For drawing: pencil and ink. For painting: watercolor. For modeling/sculpting/fabricating: paper and cardboard.

I often get asked why I don't use clay for modeling, computer art programs for drawing/coloring, etc. All materials have their own distinctive advantages/disadvantages, depending on what you're trying to do--I use the things I enjoy working with the most, pure and simple. Over the years, I have come to prefer some over others, as most artists tend to do. There's really no right or wrong way to go about it.

3. What's your academic art background?
I had general art classes and wood/metal working in elementary/middle school. And I took a couple of illustration classes, physical and visual concept classes, and a course in American architectural history at N.M.U. (Northern Michigan University). I'd say I've had a fair amount of professional instruction in drawing, but I'm almost entirely self-taught in regards to modeling/sculpting.

4. Do you do commission work?
Very seldom--I generally like to work on my own projects, rather than someone else's. That said, commission offers should be e-mailed to me, preferably with as much detail as possible to help me make an informed decision on the matter. Please put something relevant in the subject line of said e-mail so it doesn't get deleted as junk mail.

The price I quote you for a commission will be based on several factors, including, but not limited to: The size/dimensions you want the piece to be; the complexity/simplicity of the project; how much money it will cost me in materials as well as shipping and handling to get it to you (there are no shipping costs if you commission something digital that I can simply e-mail to you); and how long of a deadline you give me to complete the project. Once all the details are hammered out and we come to an agreement, fifty percent of the commission price, along with a signed contract, must be submitted to me before I begin work--this 50% is non-refundable, except in the very unlikely event that I can't finish the commission. The remaining fifty percent is to be paid on completion.

I will not entertain any offers to do commissions for licensed/copyrighted characters, only original pieces. I believe it is both illegal and unethical to profit from someone else's intellectual property without their permission/compensation. None of the figures/drawings on my web site that depict copyrighted characters are for sale, so please don't inquire about purchasing them.

5. Do you take requests?
Very seldom, but occasionally. There are some pieces on this site that stem from requests or suggestions from others. It depends on what the nature of your request is, my temperament at the time, how much work it would take to accomplish your request, whether or not I'm already working on other projects, and several other factors. In the likely event that my answer to your request is "No", before you get mad, disappointed, or whatever, ask yourself what your honest response would be if a stranger asked you to spend many hours, maybe even days or weeks, making something for them. Excessive praise/pleading will not increase the likelihood of me making something for you; in fact, it will likely have the exact opposite effect.

6. Will you help/participate in my art project, contest, etc.?
Maybe. It depends on many of the same factors mentioned in my answer to the previous question. I generally prefer to work on my own stuff and alone, but I have participated in a number of group projects and other such things in the past. Be realistic - I'm far more likely to agree to commit to a small project/event than I am to a huge undertaking.

7. Can I link to one of your pages?
Yes, but, keep in mind that I periodically delete pages, consolidate them, rename them, move them from one web space provider to another, etc., so, you may find that the page you linked to has moved, or no longer exists, at some point down the road.

8. Can I take an image(s) from your site and use it on my web site, as an avatar for a message board, etc.?
Probably, but you need to have my permission first and I should be given credit, where applicable. I almost always say "Yes" to such requests. That said, if I see my artwork used somewhere without my permission, I may take steps against the person/group responsible to correct the situation, particularly if it's being used in any type of profit-making venture.

9. Will you put my artwork on your site?
Sorry, no, I don't take submissions. This site is intended to be solely for my artwork. However, I'm usually willing to temporarily host images for individuals if they ask (for contests, showing their artwork on a message board, etc.), but their artwork does not become part of my site and it eventually gets deleted to make room for my stuff. I strongly suggest you look into acquiring some web space of your own to showcase your work--it's easy to do, and, in the long run, I think you'll find it's to your advantage to have complete control over your own web site and files instead of relying on the goodwill of others. DeviantArt is a good option that I'd recommend; many artists utilize it for showcasing/sharing their work.

10. Can I edit your artwork?
Maybe. It depends on what exactly you're going to do to it and for what purpose. You need to ask my permission first and give me credit for the original work, where applicable.

11. Sometimes when I visit your web page(s) I get an error message about bandwidth, what gives?
I haven't gotten this complaint in a long time, but it used to be a fairly common problem. If all of my allocated bandwidth gets used up at any given time, parts of the site will go down for a brief period (usually an hour) before becoming available again. I apologize for any inconvenience, but it's just one of those things that happens with free web space. My files are spread out amongst multiple accounts now, so the site doesn't go down anywhere near as frequently as it used to when I had all of my eggs in one basket.

12. You jerk! I e-mailed you, but you didn't respond!
I do my best to answer all e-mail pertaining to this site and my artwork in an expedient fashion (I've even gone out of my way to translate e-mails from other languages I don't even speak/read). If you didn't get a response, here are some possible reasons why: (1) I didn't receive your e-mail for some reason, or, when I did reply, you didn't receive it, or my response to you was returned to me as undeliverable. (2) I sometimes delete e-mail that get directed into my junk/spam folder without looking at them, so, if your e-mail ended up there, it might have gotten the axe. (3) It may take me several days to respond to e-mails, so be patient. I'm not online a lot (usually two or three times a week, sometimes more/less). If you've tried e-mailing more than once, with no success, and you really want to get in touch with me, I'd recommend trying again with a different e-mail service (i.e., if you're using the e-mail address your internet provider/employer/etc. gave you, try one of the free services like Yahoo! or Hotmail instead).

13. Why is the quality of some of the photos on your site so poor?
For many years, all I had was a cheap digital camera (I definitely got what I paid for) and my scanner for capturing images. That said, I recently (8/23/07) received a better digital camera, via a donation, so, you should see an increase in the quality of the photos from now on. Additionally, I've been going back and re-taking photos of my older figures with said new camera. So, eventually, I hope to replace all of my old photos with better ones (with the exception of the few art pieces I don't have anymore and can't photograph again).

14. Why are the dimensions of many of your images so small?
To conserve space. I have tons of stuff on my site and I'm always adding more, so I tend to avoid large files unless it's absolutely necessary.

15. Your web page design is fairly basic, why don't you spice it up a bit?
To quote one of my former college professors, "I don't like all sizzle and no steak.", which is to say, content is what makes or breaks a web site, not flash. I'm more concerned with having a functional, easy to navigate web site than making it pretty. Additionally, my knowledge of HTML is intermediate at best, so I tend to stick with the basics.

16. I get an error message when I click on a link, or there's a missing image, what's up with that?
You've probably found a broken or bad link (that, or it's the bandwidth problem described above). If, after an hour, the link still doesn't work, or the image still won't load, please send me an e-mail about it and I'll fix it as soon as I can (be as specific as you can about the location of the bad link or missing image). I'm usually fairly thorough about testing my pages, but when you've got as many files as I do, some errors are bound to slip through.

17. I want to make some paper/cardboard figures too; can you show/tell me how to do it?
It is somewhat difficult to describe and explain the techniques and methods I employ using only words, nor am I particulary patient when it comes to instructing others. To be honest, I really believe you'd get more out of discovering your own "path", rather than trying to specifically emulate me. While it's important to learn the basics, and experiment with new techniques, adhering too strictly to another person's methodology will stunt your own growth and creativity as an artist in my opinion. One of these days I might make an online how-to/tutorial with photos, but for right now, all I can say is that many of the individual web pages for my figures feature mid-construction photos; you could try looking at several of those to get an idea/feel for my work process.

If you're really interested, I recommend you do some research at your local library and/or on the internet concerning the subjects of 'papier mache' and/or 'paper/cardboard sculpture'. To get you started, this is an excellent international online papier mache art group that I belong to and recommend. It features a forum, galleries for members, and numerous tutorials--and it's all free. Additionally, there may be artists (professionals, teachers, etc.) in your geographic area who could help you out, although you might have to pay for the instruction.

Also, just experiment--it's not rocket science. Nobody taught me how to model/sculpt (other than the basics almost everybody gets in elementary/middle/high school--pinch pots, snakes, and all that good junk). I learned most of my techniques through trial-and-error, and picked up other random bits from books, the internet, and other artists. Experience is the best teacher--instead of thinking "I'll never be able to do this", get some materials out and start working. And remember: There's no "right" or "wrong" way to model/sculpt, despite what others might tell you, make whatever you want using the medium(s) you like--if you're not happy with what you're doing, then what's the point?

18. Why don't you make your figures larger/smaller?
It's kind of funny, when I made larger pieces, people would ask me why I don't make them smaller, and now that I make tiny stuff, people ask me why I don't make them bigger. I can't win.

Regarding making them larger, there are three important factors: Cost, practicality, and time. A larger figure will require more materials, so it will cost more (granted, the materials I use can be purchased fairly cheaply in comparison to other mediums, such as clay, but still, it does make a difference). Why use up an entire bottle of paint, a whole bag of hot glue sticks, a stack of newsprint, etc. on one large figure, when you could make many smaller ones with the same quantities? A big figure takes up a lot of space and can cause numerous problems because of it (for example, it might not fit easily through doorways, its dimensions may make it difficult to work on, it could become too heavy, etc). The numerous figures I have made are piling up on one another as it is, so making bigger figures is only going to make the crowding/storage problem worse. Lastly, all things being equal, a large model is probably going to require more time to make than a smaller one. However, there are situations where making an item larger would take less time, simply because it may be easier, or more practical, to do what you want to do on a bigger scale.

As for making them smaller, paper is not the ideal medium for tiny detail work--it can certainly be done, as I think many of my pieces illustrate, but it isn't as easy to do as it is with other modeling materials, such as clay. Generally speaking, the smaller the paper figure, the more difficult it becomes to make fine adjustments. The primary advantages, as I see them, are that they take up significantly less physical space and materials (I can make an 8 fluid ounce bottle of paint literally last for years at the scale I currently work, whereas a single larger figure might use up one, or several bottles). I also enjoy the challenge.

19. Your site has too many pop-up advertisements, do something!
Out of my control. All of my files are hosted by free web space providers. They're not making any money from me, or anyone else who gets free storage space from them for that matter, so they indirectly profit by letting advertisers sell their goods/services on those accounts. If I paid the providers for my web space, I could get rid of the ads, but I don't have the funds for that (and even if I did, I'd opt to spend my money on something else). I know they're annoying, and I apologize, but you'll just have to live with them if you want to view my web pages.

20. What the heck does '2.5D' mean?
A halfway state in between 2D and 3D. In terms of relevance to my web site and work, 2.5D refers to figures I've made that consist primarily of 2-dimensional pieces/objects arranged in a 'pseudo' 3-dimensional fashion. My 2.5D figures are generally 'flat' in nature, but usually have several areas designed to give them some depth, or at least the illusion of it. A 2.5D figure only looks 'right' within a very narrow range of vision (think of a piece of paper, the front and back are rectangular in nature, but if you look at the side, all you see is a narrow line). A 3D figure looks correct from any angle because it is a 'true' 3-dimensional object. Keep in mind that all of the above explanation is relative, because all objects in our world are 3-dimensional, even a piece of paper; so, in that sense, all my figures are 3-dimensional, no matter what I label them. I first became familiar with the tag '2.5D' when it was used to describe early first person shooter video games (such as DOOM, Heretic, Hexen, etc).

21. Where do you get the information for your figure descriptions? Do you make it all up?
I look for official and unofficial sources of information when I can for reference (history, anatomical/mechanical data, instruction manuals, F.A.Q.s/guides, monster encyclopedias, mythology, etc.) If the character/creature is from a video game, I will generally use my observations from actual gameplay, whenever possible, to describe attributes and behavior (i.e., if a given creature jumps in and out of lava in the game it's from, I would probably write in my description that molten rock is its natural habitat and that it is immune to extreme heat, and might go on to further describe physiological attributes that make it possible to live in such a harsh environment). Some of it I do just make up, for the purposes of expanding on the background or making things more interesting, particularly in cases where there is little, if any, official information to base a description on. However, even when I'm creating original content, I try do so in a manner that is consistent with what one could reasonably expect of the character/creature in question (I'm not going to say something can fly or shoot laser beams out of its nose if there's no evidence or likelihood that it could do so). Nowadays, I usually post a list of my information sources at the bottom of a sculpture's respective web page, so interested readers can follow up on them if they like, but, unfortunately, that wasn't always my policy, so, for older pages that I haven't updated, you won't find said list.

22. What happened to "..."? It's not on your web site anymore.
I probably took what you're looking for down because: (A) I needed to make room for newer stuff, or (B) I just didn't want it on my web site anymore. If you're looking for something in particular, drop me a line and I can probably dig it up for you. I may also be able to provide a larger, higher-resolution scan of illustrations if I still have the original art.

23. What happened to your Guestbook?
My Guestbook was hosted by Yahoo! Geocities, and they discontinued their free web space services on October 26th, 2009. So, my Guestbook, and all of its entries, went bye-bye on that date. Sure, I could find another free Guestbook service and put up another one, but, I really don't see the point. If you want to drop me a line, just e-mail me.

24. How do you make the joints on your action figures?
It's actually quite simple. For the most part, it's done with bendable wire. I use twist ties to obtain said wire (the kind you usually find on bakery and garbage bags). Basically, I have wire running through a tiny hollow canal in the center of a given part of a figure's anatomy--let's say an arm for the purpose of this discussion. When I first started making these kinds of articulated figures, I used to sculpt a given piece, then jam a sewing needle though it to make said canal, but after perforating my fingers numerous times with that method, I got smart and started sculpting the pieces around a thin metal rod (usually an unbent paper clip), so that the canal is built in from the start. Now, when I assemble the pieces into their respective larger structure, using the wire to hold everything together, I leave small sections of wire exposed in the areas between the parts, that I want to bend, usually the shoulder, elbow, and wrist in the case of an arm. So, we're usually talking a separate hand, lower arm, and upper arm (and sometimes additional pieces, particularly when I make double-jointed elbows and swivel biceps), all connected together by a length of wire running through the center of each section. Obviously, you have to give some thought to the design of the individual parts so that you'll get a good range of motion--it doesn't do you any good to have a lower arm that blocks/obstructs the movement of the upper arm to the point that the joint is effectively useless.

Depending on how large the figure is, how much strength I need, or weight the wire has to support, I may use multiple wires, essentially combined into a cable. For example, on one of my mini figures, I usually only use one or two wires for an arm or leg, but on larger figures (say 7-9 inches in height), that might become a seven or eight wire cable (or even more) instead. It should go without saying that, for even larger figures, you're going to want to use stronger/thicker wire than twist ties--paperclips and coat hangers are two possibilities. Also, be aware that metal is subject to stress/fatigue fracture--if you use a joint too much, or exert too much pressure, it may snap. Be especially wary of twisting a joint around-and-around, that will snap it for sure--if you raise an arm, lower it in the reverse direction, don't twist it around completely back to the original position. My joints don't break on me too often, but, I'm not posing them constantly either.

Some of my figures, usually robots, have other types of joints that don't involve any wire (swivels, pivots, that type of thing). Those are usually made out of paper or cardboard, but I may use plastic or other materials as well.

25. How do you get so much detail into papier mache at such a small scale?
It's mostly just a matter of skill and determination (I'd tell you steady hands too, but one of my two nicknames in biochemistry lab in college was "Whiskey Fingers", because my hands tend to shake when I'm concentrating on doing precision work). When I first decided to try out making miniature papier mache figures, I didn't think I'd be able to get much detail into them, but I was surprised by just how much was possible. On that note, I've read papier mache how-to books where the authors felt that the medium was inadequate for work on a small scale--well, I'm living proof that they were selling the art form, and themselves, short (which also goes to show that you really shouldn't believe everything you read!)

On a very basic level, making miniature papier mache figures isn't much different than making large ones. For the most part, I use the same techniques on a small piece that I would on a big one. For example, I still employ multiple layers of glue-covered strips of paper, albeit very tiny/thin ones, to build up the figure's form. One of the big advantages of miniatures is that you can often forgo an internal support structure (i.e., an armature), because of how light they are. You also have to be really careful about your proportions/measurements--millimeters really do matter. One of the big disadvantages is how easy it is to lose what you're working on! I can't count the number of times that I've dropped, or blown away (with my breath), a tiny fragment that I was handling, never to see it again. Getting down on all fours and crawling around on the carpet, frantically trying to locate something the size of a small insect, isn't much fun...

26. Why are many of your figures brown/black before you paint them?
Two words: Wood Burner. You can do all sorts of things to your papier mache projects with a wood burner, but I mostly used it to shape/smooth surfaces, draw/sculpt details, gouge/burn holes, and dry/harden/temper it with the heat. Always remember: Woodburning is a subtractive process, not an additive one--it's a powerful tool, but it can only take you so far, the underlying form itself is of primary importance. It's also possible to over-do things and really char your paper, destroying it. If your paper starts turning really dark and flaking off, you went too far. It takes some time/practice to get a feel for how much is too much. Fortunately, if you do wreck things, you can usually apply some more paper and glue over the excessively burned area and try again.

Anyway, that's why many of my mid-construction process photos look brownish, or even black--they've been scorched. Wood burners are no joke--mine gets 800o Farenheit--you can burn yourself, and badly, if you're not careful. You can also start a fire if you're careless or leave it unattended. I don't recommend children use a wood burner at all without supervision, and not until they're old enough to understand and respect the dangers. The smoke that results from burning paper probably isn't very good for you either--even with a window open (which isn't exactly practical all year long with the harsh winters where I live), I often found that I felt slightly ill afterwards, so, I ultimately stopped using my wood burner because of concern over the effects that prolonged exposure to smoke might be having on my health. If you're going to use one, I'd recommend doing it outside, where there's lots of fresh air, if at all possible.

Don't feel you have to run out and get a wood burner just because I liked it so much. As far as I know, I'm the only papier mache artist who even used one extensively in their work. I made papier mache projects for years without one, and I do just fine now without it too, and so can you. If you're wondering, I used a simple $10 Walnut Hollow brand one (available in the craft section of your local Wal-Mart), and the universal tip (you can buy all sorts of fancy tips, to achieve various effects, if you so desire). There are certainly more expensive/elaborate models of wood burners available, but the cheap one worked fine for me.

27. Why don't you make some stop motion movies with your action figures?
I've dabbled in it a bit, mostly with simple 360o rotations. Setting up, and shooting, a stop motion sequence is usually a lot of work and time consuming. It takes very little to mess up a shot (bumping the surface the figure(s) are standing on, brushing them with a shirt sleeve, and, yes, even breathing too hard), forcing you to reset the scene all over again, which obviously leads to a lot of frustration. I'm afraid I just don't have the patience/temperment for doing any large scale animation with my figures. A stillshot, comic panel type affair, with word balloons, is more of the kind of approach I'd choose to portray a story with my figures.

On a side note, I made most of the video game sprite animations you see on various pages. Those generally aren't too difficult to put together, but they can take up a lot of time too, if a lot of editing is involved.
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