Jonathan Hoffman is a sculptor, writer and painter. He lives in Oakland and works at Pixar.
He has sculpted since he was very young, and he considers his journey one of very slow, incremental improvement over several decades. When Jonathan was about thirteen, he was introduced to polymer clay. It was a very natural progression from sculptures in oil-based modeling clay to working in polymer clay.
However most of Jonathan’s early attempts at figures were disastrous. It wasn’t until he was out of high school that he had figured out how to incorporate an armature into the base of the sculpture. Almost all of his methods and procedures have been self-taught, by simple trial and error. Since that time, Jonathan has expanded that simple formula and gotten more sophisticated in his techniques and understanding of the human figure. Studying illustration and then animation at Brigham Young University (BYU) helped him also to understand character design and composition.
He works as a technical principle artist at Pixar. “I’ve always wanted to work for Pixar, and I was fortunate enough to get into the animation program at BYU. I applied for an internship and on my second attempt was accepted. I do shading and texturing for Pixar, which uses both my technical knowledge as well as my artistic abilities. I’m essentially a detail fanatic, so shading is a perfect place for me,“ explains Jonathan. He is credited in six major films, has worked as a game designer and a story developer. He’s received two Visual Effects Society (VES) awards for character shading on Hank from movie Finding Dory and Hector from movie Coco. This attention to surface detail shows up in all of his polymer clay sculptures as well.
Many of Jonathan's sculpted characters are taken directly from a series of novels he's written. He considers it a source of pride, that he doesn't use paint on his sculptures, but rather uses colored clay. He even crafts his eyes from polymer clay canes, and uses fabric to texture sheets of clay for his drapery.
Jonathan also often collaborates with his engineering brother to add LEDs into his sculptures, adding another layer of complexity to an already laborious process. “After the electronics are in place, I build the clay in layers on top of the wire, adding specialized parts like the eyes, which are made with a combination of clear epoxy resin and polymer clay,” says Jonathan. His sculptures often take hundreds of hours to complete, each their own passion project with months or years in the making. “My last several pieces have been intense on the electronics side, so I’m going to take a break and do some LED-free sculptures,” says Jonathan and we wish him all the best of luck in anything he is going to decide to do.