Arts

This Regina artist's figurines of big cats are blowing up Kickstarter

Artist? Taxidermist? Cat lover? If you, or someone you need a gift for, falls into these categories, you'll want to high-tail it to Jun Huang’s Kickstarter campaign before it ends at 11:29am Friday.

Artist? Taxidermist? Cat lover? If you, or someone you need a gift for, falls into these categories, you'll want to high-tail it to Jun Huang's Kickstarter campaign before it ends at 11:29am Thursday. The Regina artist's campaign to make anatomical models of wild cats has proved to be a roaring success, with 116 backers raising a total of $23,779 (at the time of writing). He reached his initial goal of $4,350 within the first six hours of his campaign.

Huang's resin figurines of big cats — including lions, tigers, cheetahs and smilodons — are a labour of love. He's been researching and collecting reference material for years in order to sculpt the most accurate miniature animals (which are one-sixth the scale of an average big cat) and spent a full year drawing and sculpting his designs.

A lot of reference materials are based on domesticated drawings of zoo animals. They look quite different from their wild counterparts.

"I think with my project, 90 per cent is research and only about 10 per cent is working on the models," says Huang. The models can be used by artists, designers, taxidermists and students for anatomical reference, but also just look awesome frozen in full roar on your desk.

Huang's interest in painting and sculpting animals started when he was growing up in Regina. His father, Zhong-Ru Huang, and his uncle, Zhong-Yang Huang, both oil painters living and working in Saskatchewan, taught him the foundations of drawing from a young age. "They instructed me on how I should go about capturing the proportions and the spirit of the animal," he says.

Inspired by films like Jurassic Park, Huang began sculpting dinosaurs and animals out of model kits, and taught himself mould and cast-making in resin. While still in high-school, he created scaled-up models of insects for the Royal Saskatchewan Museum's displays. More recently, he's worked as an artist in the video game industry, modelling characters using CGI software.

To create his big cat figurines, Huang first builds the animal's skeleton using 3D software. He then painstakingly sculpts the muscles to match the precise details of a real wild cat's anatomy. 

"A lot of reference materials out there are based on domesticated drawings of zoo animals. They look quite different from their wild counterparts. The wild animals are… just generally more sleek and built," he explains. Once he is satisfied with the digital model, he sends it out to a 3D printing service. He'll then receive the printed model, tweak it, and send it off to a manufacturer to cast the final resin versions.

There's still time to pounce on one of Huang's models – his Kickstarter campaign closes at 11:29am on Thursday, July 23. There are varying reward levels, but the most popular is the $155+ level, which gets you one Big Cat Anatomy model and one anatomical poster.

What's next for the artist? "Elephant, rhino and hippo would be the next ones… lots of people are asking for them," he says.

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