An ‘insurmountable’ obstacle drove Hunter Sparagna to do whatever it took to succeed – Reuters
When Sparagna Hunter was a child, his older brother drew the entire Pokémon Sapphire Generation – the third generation of the Pokémon video game series circa 2002.
“It blew my mind of my 5 year old,” Sparagna said. “He had drawn everything the pokemons. I loved those guys, and there they were, on that piece of printer paper.
It was the first time that Sparagna thought of getting involved in art like that. From that moment, he was destined for a career in art (although in retrospect, it is “pretty sure” that his brother had just traced all the Pokémon).
“I studied it in college because it was really the only thing I liked to get better at – and I really hated math,” he said. “I just didn’t know how to effectively monetize them until I came across and took Sterling Hundley‘s senior portfolio class’ at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Arts.
In his communication arts capstone course, Hundley encourages students to lead the conversation by defining their own interests, ambitions and expectations. “Once they identify their intended direction, they focus on developing a visual identity for their business operations and portfolios to showcase their work to potential clients and employers,” said Hundley, who, in addition to teach at VCUarts, is the Artist-in-Residence and Clinical Professor at VCUHealth.
Unfortunately, Sparagna said, the pandemic stunted his growth during his senior year at VCU. This reduced his access to equipment, valuable reviews, and in-person instructors. (Although on the positive side, he said, it reduced his daily commute.)
However, in his search for work while graduating in 2021, he went to interviews all over the country – even working for a short time for contemporary sculptor Jeff Koons doing secondary and tertiary detailing on his stone carvings. “The pandemic really pushed my will to do whatever it takes to succeed by placing what seemed like an insurmountable obstacle in my path,” he said.
In October, McFarlane Toys offered Sparagna a one-week contract to create a figurine. It turned into a two-week contract and then a job offer.
McFarlane Toys is part of Todd McFarlane Productions, led by comic book creator, artist and writer Todd McFarlane, and is a sister company to Image Comics.
“So we have the team that makes the ‘Spawn’ comics and McFarlane Toys in our office,” Sparagna said. “We mainly focus on action figures, but we also do a lot of other things like resin statues and vinyl figures, all aimed at an older, more serious toy collector audience with lots of toys exclusive to GameStop.”
As a 3D toy sculptor/designer, Sparagna focuses on intricate tertiary detail, using programs such as ZBrush and 3ds Max to sculpt and cut out figures.
Once he joined McFarlane, Sparagna began working with senior 3D modeler and digital sculptor, Stephan Ehl, who showed him the ropes.
“From there, my work exploded, along with advice from other fantastic colleagues,” Sparagna said. “I feel like people underestimate working for a good supervisor or art director.
“If I had to tell you one thing, it would be to work as hard as you can to achieve your goal. It’s going to be new and scary, but it’s worth it. Whether it’s moving out in the middle of the desert or leaving everything you know behind, I guarantee it will be worth it.
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