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Rob Morris
Rob Morris

Moore's Marvel Maker

Aug 02, 2019
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Walking through the front door of Paul Snyder’s Moore home is like walking through a magical portal into a wonderland of movie and pop culture history. Glancing to your left, you’re greeted by Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Professor McGonagall from the Harry Potter movies. A quick glance to the left will send shivers down your spine thanks to a group of Predators (from the Predator movie series), a couple of Chuckie dolls (from Child’s Play), Freddie Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street), and a “wampa” (the snow monster from Empire Strikes Back). Directly ahead is the “Hall of Presidents” featuring JFK, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

 

And the parade goes on and on and on.

 

Life-like and life-sized…and all created by Moore resident, Paul Snyder. Dozens and dozens of them. In nearly every room of his home. (Disclaimer: we didn’t check the bathrooms, so we’re not sure about that).

 

Snyder has been creating the figures in full-size or bust versions for years.

 

“I probably had about 30 or 40 in my old house,” said Snyder. “That house was destroyed by the 2013 tornado, so I lost most of them. I also had maybe 100 paintings and drawings there.”

 

Snyder is an artist who might just be one of Moore’s best-kept secrets. He stays extremely busy working on projects as varied as the life-sized movie characters he regularly creates, scoring music for movies and commercials, creating props for horror movies, set decorations, movie storyboards, sketches, paintings, and much more. His varied talents have allowed him to achieve a high level of success and consistent work even though he lives half-a-continent away from the center of the movie-and-music-making universe.

 

“Technology really makes it possible to live and work here,” said Snyder. “The internet, especially having high-speed access, really shrinks the world.”

 

Snyder said that between Skype, Facetime, Google, and other free or inexpensive communication technology, it’s easy to meet and collaborate online. As an example, he has created a lot of horror movie props for movie producer David Dentlinger while working at home.

 

“It’s great being able to live here in Moore and not have to pay those really high expenses of living in Los Angeles,” said Snyder. “With all this technology you can work with anyone in the world on just about any kind of project, including music. You can work with someone in Japan if you want to.”

 

The 46-year-old Snyder grew up in Oklahoma after he and his sister, both originally from Korea, were adopted. He went to high school at Putnam City North, where the creative nature of his family had a profound influence on him.

 

“I loved watching my father paint all the time,” said Snyder, “And all of my family was creative in one way or another, so it really inspired me as I grew up.”

 

Snyder was sketching and painting back then, but music was his real passion during and right after high school.

 

“Back then I wanted to be a rock star,” said Snyder. “I had long hair and the rock star attitude. You know how it is when you’re young.”

 

The rock star dream didn’t work out for Snyder, and he was struggling to make a living by creating paintings and drawings for people while working at dead-end jobs. Snyder said he began to realize he was going to have to come up with a better plan.

 

“In 2000 I started doing storyboards for some independent films,” said Snyder. “I was also continuing to do my art, and that’s when I realized that if all I did was draw people or painted, I would never be able to make a living. But if I diversified, if I did painting, drawing, sculpting, along with music and film stuff, I would always have a project where somebody wanted something, and that would keep me busy.”

 

Snyder’s first independent film connection was with Steven Paul Judd, the noted Native American artist, who has become one of his best friends. Judd has created several short films that have played various film festivals, even creating an Oscar qualifier.

 

“He writes, paints, directs, does just about everything,” said Snyder. “Most of the films I’ve worked on here have been with him.”

 

One of Snyder’s favorite projects with Judd was a stop-motion film that played before a screening of Star Wars at the Smithsonian.

 

“It was a stop-motion film that we made in my living room with a cell phone,” said Snyder. “It also played in Starbucks and the Disney Arts Theater.”

 

Snyder says that in addition to his father, one of his main artistic influences growing up was Dennis James Martin, a celebrated Oklahoma City artist known for his exquisite metalpoint drawings.

 

“He also did so many great pencil artworks that looked photorealistic,” said Snyder. “He was one of my biggest influences.”

 

The music side of Snyder’s personal business success has its roots back in his “rock-star-dream” days.

 

“We were working on one of these independent films, and one of the guys said, ‘Hey, we need some music for this part,’” said Snyder. “I said, ‘Well, I have Pro Tools (a movie industry-standard music software platform) at home. Let me go see what I can come up with.’ It just became a thing where people would say they heard I made music for promos and scores, so they would just give me these projects and I would go home and create something.”

 

The music, the storyboards, the paintings, and the sketches are all an essential part of Snyder’s life and career. But back to the life-sized figures from movies and popular culture. After all, they are literally everywhere in his house! Snyder said the itch to create these began with a family trip to a museum in Kansas.

 

“When I was a child, my parents took me to the Nelson museum in Kansas,” said Snyder. “This security guard was standing by a door, and it wasn’t until you got up close that you realized the guard wasn’t moving at all. It was a statue, and it was so incredibly detailed, right down to the hairs on his hand. That’s when I first thought I’d like to try and make one and make it look real.”

 

The first figure he ever created was of Michael Jackson after he moved to Moore back in 2005. The figure was one of the dozens lost in the 2013 tornado. It included several full-sized Iron Man models.

 

“The most important thing is that my wife and I were safe,” said Snyder, “My first thought was that I really don’t care that much, it’s just stuff. But as I kept cleaning up and looking for our cat, I came across some of the statues and thought, ‘Hey, this thing survived an F5 tornado, so I’m gonna clean it up and keep it.’ And the great thing about those Iron Man statues is that now they look like they have real battle damage!”

 

The scope of life-sized and life-like statues in Snyder’s home is truly breathtaking. Along with Iron Man, you’ll also find Thanos, a couple of Wookies, Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, Rocky, all of the main characters from Pirates of the Caribbean, Wonder Woman, Joe Dirt, Maverick from Top Gun, Jamie, and more. His personal favorite is a staggeringly-realistic statue he has dubbed, “Angry Morgan Freeman.”

 

“It’s really because he has so much character,” said Snyder. “I didn’t start out to make him angry, it’s just that his mouth was open when I was sculpting him and when I finished he just looks like he’s growling at you.”

 

The process Snyder goes through when creating one of the statues goes something like this. He begins with either photos or what’s known in Hollywood as a “live cast,” which are casts made of an actor’s face, so they don’t have to sit for hours while crews work on prosthetics and make-up.”

 

“Live casts are great,” said Snyder. “But not all movies require them, so there aren’t that many of them out there.”

 

Snyder sculpts the heads out of air-dry clay, a versatile substance which doesn’t need to be heated or fired to cure. He used to make the body of each statue himself until he quickly realized that he could just use mannequins by cutting them into pieces and setting the poses up as he liked. Making a statue from scratch typically takes a few days.

 

“If I work from a live cast and have all the things on hand that I need I can make them pretty quickly,” said Snyder, “But I’ll continue to work on the details for days.”

 

You might wonder what his wife, Kea, thinks about his passion. Snyder said she thinks it’s a lot of fun and has become so routine that there are times when she doesn’t even notice a new addition.

 

“There was one time I made a seven-foot-tall Groot,” said Snyder. “She came home, walked right past it, and didn’t even notice it until I mentioned it to her.”

 

Snyder said that Kea has a pretty intriguing creative streak herself, working with doll bodies.

 

“It’s really pretty amazing,” said Snyder. “She takes doll bodies, strips them down, then repaints and rebuilds them as anime characters. In fact, she has a whole wall of them in one of our bedrooms.”

 

While a lot of folks in Moore and the surrounding area might not know a lot about Snyder’s work yet, his neighbors are well aware of the unique artist living and working there. It does without question that Snyder’s house is one of the neighborhood favorites.

 

“I get knocks on the door all the time,” said Snyder. “Neighbors with friends or family visiting and they just want to bring them by to take a look around.”

 

Snyder says he never really gets tired of the visits but has created a rule to keep the visits manageable.

 

“If the garage door is up, then everyone is free to come on by and enjoy,” said Snyder. “It’s great because I love being with people.”

 

And as you might imagine, Halloween at the Snyder house is more than just trick-or-treat. It’s an event.

 

“Halloween is awesome because we do a whole haunted wax museum kind of feel,” said Snyder. “We have the mysterious lights and cobwebs. I wrote a whole Halloween album of music, so we put that on, too.”

 

The life-sized statues have caught the attention of some churches and businesses across the area. Folks have begun to come calling about renting or buying the statues for different events.

 

“LifeChurch has a bunch of them they’re using for their At the Movies series,” said Snyder. “There’s an art gallery down in Paul’s Valley that has some. And people love to rent them for events so they can take photos with them.”

 

While he mostly rents the statues out, occasionally he will sell one. Snyder said he has such a connection with his creations that when one leaves forever, he has to think through whether or not to make a replacement.

 

 

“I’ve made around five Wookies,” said Snyder. “I’ve made a couple of Thanos. A pawn shop bought the first one, and I realized I miss the guy.”

 

Snyder’s workload includes commissioned projects. He just finished up a set of retro-style movie posters for “Horror Movies That Were Never Made,” including Dracula vs. the Mummy and The Creature vs. Frankenstein. He’s also currently working on creating two life-size statues of Walt Disney for Bob Gurr. Gurr is a retired amusement ride designer whose most famous work was for the original Disneyland and the Disney World parks that opened later.

 

“He’s the oldest living Imagineer,” said Snyder. “He’s the guy they say designed the Haunted Mansion and a bunch of other rides. The guy is 90-years-old and still has more energy than people half his age. He’s going to use the Disney statues for tours and conventions.”

 

For Snyder, living a life where he wakes up each morning and gets to create something new is a soul-nourishing thing that he embraces.

 

“I’m kind of a day-by-day, moment-by-moment kind of person,” said Snyder. “I really don’t spend much time thinking about what I want to create long-term. Today, this moment is all I have…so I just focus on living in this moment.”

 

Living in the moment and being creative is something Snyder believes everyone is capable of doing and enjoying. While he admits that art is a tough way to make a living, he has some advice for parents of kids who attempt to express themselves through art.

 

“Encourage them,” said Snyder. “I think everyone is creative in some way, and I think parents should always encourage that creativity. Don’t neglect your academics because that’s really important, but help your kids embrace that creativity.”

 

That call to embrace creativity should extend to all of us, says Snyder. The critical thing to remember before you start is simple.

 

“The biggest thing I would tell anybody, no matter how they’re trying to create something, is to create without fear,” said Snyder. “There are no true mistakes, so don’t be afraid just to go out and try.”

 

If you’d like to keep track of Snyder and his work you can follow him online here:

 

Instagram: artbypaul

Facebook: artbypaul

 

And if you’re interested in commissioning him to do artwork or have questions, just email him at:

 

artbypaul@yahoo.com.



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