Using his detailed sculpting and painting techniques, Zard Apuya created a new series of custom food themed Munnys and Dunnys. Zard sat down to talk about how he makes his customs, and the challenges of snacking while sculpting.
Your customs aren't just straightforward static creations. Most are frozen moments of action, usually in the act of being eaten. What are some of your animation inspirations or other sources?
Food is meant to be eaten so it made sense for me to make it look like someone took a bite. It also gives me the chance to design the inside, especially for candy bars. I would say that the inspiration to include that “bite” into many of my designs work because it ties into a memory, like when you bit into your first Green Tea Kit Kat and you knew you were hooked, or biting into a Mickey ice cream bar whenever you visit Disneyland, both of which I have made into Munnys.
These Munnys and Dunnys make the viewer hungry. How much time does it take to achieve this level of detail? Do you ever have to scrap one and start over?
When I create my food-inspired customs, I always try to customize each piece to the point where it practically looks good enough to eat. To get such realism it definitely needs a lot of fine attention to detail. Many times, it requires a lot of trial and error but I create a food piece as if I was an actual cook preparing the real thing. I break down the design by ingredients. For example, when I created a Japanese Ramen Munny, I made each ingredient separately: noodles, egg, pork slices, green onions, fish cakes, bamboo shoots, seaweed strips, and the broth. I mostly use clay but I always try to play with different materials that might better represent the real thing. I found out that artificial green rose petals could work for green onion strips, or even lettuce leaves for another food creation. Or that slicing up a red straw will look like chopped red peppers—a green Starbucks straw if you need chopped green onions.
Resin would have to be my favorite material because it allows me to include “liquids” into my designs. I love using it for toys inspired by soups and drinks, or if a piece needs some oozing caramel. If viewers tell me they get hungry when they see my work, then I know I have successfully achieved the realism.
Sometimes I also paint my customs to look like the actual packaging if I was making a piece inspired by snacks or candy bars like Doritos or Twix. I try to get it as close as possible to the package design. Some people think I print out stickers of the logos and slap it on the figure but those are all free-handed if you look close enough. My secret: a very fine-tipped brush and a somewhat steady hand.
Like other artists, I also run into some roadblocks where I feel like I am just not loving the direction a custom might be heading into, even if I’m midway into the design. It’s just a part the creative process. It happens. But, that only allows you to challenge your creative thinking even more to see how you can make it better. Plus no one has to know you messed up the first one. Like I mentioned, it’s all about trial and error.
Are there any painting and sculpting techniques that you have developed through your custom toy work?
From making my very first custom about six years ago to where I am today, I definitely have picked up many new techniques in painting and sculpting. I actually use different types of paint. Spray paint works best for the base color for most of my figures because it saves me so much time and it provides a flat finish. Then, I hit it with acrylic paint and a fine brush for the detail work. Air brushing can also be a huge time saver because it not only dries faster than spray paint, but you can create some amazing blends of color. A stippling technique also is perfect when you need to paint a piece to look like baked bread, cookies, or cooked meat.
I would say my sculpting skills weren’t too great when I first started, but over the years I’ve managed to keep practicing to get to a decent skill level today. Definitely a lot of room for improvement there though. I’ve seen some insane sculpting work from other artists and I know I have a lot of work to do to get on their level.
What started your obsession with combining food and toys? What was the subject of your first snack piece?
I think my obsession with food and toys started mainly because of two things I love to do the most: create art & eat. Art has always played a part in my life and it wasn’t until I got my hands on my first Munny that I became obsessed with customizing vinyl figures.
Then comes the food. I eat a lot and find myself munching on something throughout the day. I’d rather spend money on food than on new clothes or the latest tech toys. Also, I just want to put it out there that diets never work out for me because of that. I’m not a picky eater at all and I love trying food I’ve never had before. I love cooking and baking because I see it as another outlet to get the creative juices flowing. So, when it came to combining two of my favorite things, it was an obvious direction for me to take and the feedback I've received from both art and food lovers continues to motivate me to keep heading in that direction.
I think my first food toy was inspired by Hello Panda, a popular Japanese snack. It’s a biscuit filled with chocolate and has some images of pandas on the front. This was fun to make because I did make it look like it was bitten into so you can see the chocolate inside. But what gave the toy some character was the painted panda face realizing it’s about to get eaten.
These pieces for PIQ at Five Points are amazing mashups, Stranger Things and Eggo, Pokeball and Matcha Cake, Zootopia and Popsicle, plus more. Is this the first time you have combined food and pop culture references?
These pieces are the first time I have included both pop culture characters with iconic food from their respective TV shows or movies. I have made some previous customs where the main design is made to look like food itself, but you can clearly see the pop culture reference. I’ve used the Stormtrooper Helmet DIY vinyl before and turned it into a Gingerbread House-like design with frosting and candy trimmings. I've also created some fake desserts inspired by the many Miyazaki films. With the pieces I have for Five Points, I already knew that fans would be able to recognize the iconic food from TV/movies, but I felt like I needed to include the characters they also love to make it more complete. True Adventure Time fans will remember the episode when Jake and Finn made their Everything Burrito. And you can't eat Eggo waffles without thinking of Eleven from Stranger Things. There will always be something new in pop culture and I feel like everything will have some kind of food reference in one way or another so I look forward to the next big thing.
Now for the important question. Snacks, sweet or salty? And what is your favorite snack while working?
I would have to say when it comes to snacking, I would choose salty (I save my sweet tooth for desserts). I’m a sucker for chips—Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, Lays, Pringles, BBQ, Sour Cream & Onion, Salt & Vinegar, etc. I’m guilty of finishing entire bags in one sitting, and I’m talking about the huge bags, not the “snack size” ones. Those would also have to be my favorite snacks while working. The only problem is that orange Cheetos fingers and hand sculpting do not go well together.
About Zard Apuya
Zard’s love for art began during childhood and has shaped his desire to explore many styles and mediums. He found his love for customizing toys in 2010 and since then has done over a 1200 customs. His inspiration comes mostly from pop culture but lately has been inspired from food. His food-themed custom toys challenge him to capture the realism of his subject to achieve the "good-enough-to-eat" look.
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