Adam Saul of ‘Cop a Squat’ Toys, and ‘AS Printing’ is an American artist producing sculptural works and prints of the highest calibre.
Adam’s work is heavily influenced by the occult, 1980’s popular culture such as action figures, as well as early 90s comics. Adam releases his lush sculptural works through the ‘Cop A Squat Toys’ and ‘Viva Occult’ brands; with his prints produced under ‘AS Printing Press’.
(Picture below of a gang of the Semi Korosiya vinyl, by ‘Cop a Squat Toys’)
With 2 upcoming sofubi releases, and much more in the the works, now is the perfect time to get to know Adam Saul by reading the Art Talk below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
City, State n Country you’re Repping?
Salem, Virginia USA
(Picture of Adam holding up one of his prints)
Describe – a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together Mr. Saul’s pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, women, school, college… ANYTHING man.
* age 10 – pre pubes:
I feel very lucky to be “coming of age” at a time when there were SO many good pop culture icons – The Saturday morning cartoons were on point : Looney Tunes, He-Man, GI Joe, Smurfs. I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to a lot of music at this age, because my parents weren’t big music fans. (Weird, right?!)
I do remember my first CD was Led Zepplin. I was drawn to the album cover with the old man carrying his bundle of sticks. I don’t know why that stands out in my mind, but I just really appreciated the simple design.
I collected GI Joe, and He-Man action figures – and the M.A.S.K. toys. No, not like Cher and the dude with the jacked up noggin, the transformers-meets-GI Joe figures. I was there for the original Star Wars… I remember playing with the Millenium Falcon and fighting Darth Vader…. I was into all of that stuff.
I seriously feel like of any generation, we had the jackpot in toys/tv/music!!
* age 15 – pube rage:
Mid-adolescence was an awkward time, which I’m sure is the response from everyone.
I spent most of my time drawing/doodling random psychadelic designs, playing Nintendo, expanding my knowledge of rock: The Beatles, Led Zepplin, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley… I would get high with my girlfriends/friends and sketch constantly.
My cousin stumbled into an insane collection of comic books at a flea market, so I specifically remember digging through some of the weirdest comic books I’d ever seen. There were stacks of old Vampirella, Danzig, Gen 13 comics, and one Japanese style comic that I cannot remember the name…but I remember seeing a monster mole with four dicks. WTF? It definitely influenced my freaky, weird perspective.
* age 20 – acceptance of pubes:
In my late teens, early 20’s, I was roaming a bit.
Fresh out of high school, I’d been accepted to Barton College. Two weeks before I was to head off to school, I visited a friend in NYC and opted to accept an internship at a small design firm instead.
I listened to Beck’s “Odelay” album incessantly. I had just been introduced to old punk, too – so influences of the Ramones and the Clash were present. I was following a few design annuals, and Juxtapoz for my artistic fixes.
Most of what I was into was still considered “low brow art,” at the time. I worked at Zihal Design in NYC for a couple years before taking off on a cross country trip with a few friends.
I had a handful of girlfriends off and on, but while in New York, I was kind of married to my work.
I spent a few months couch surfing out West, before heading back to my hometown. When I came back, I began an apprenticeship at a tattoo parlor, providing yet another art medium to play with… I met my wife at a coffee shop in my hometown and began the process of settling down…. well, as much as I’m going to.
(Pictures below of the NapNapNap sculpt and one of the many resin versions, by Adam Saul)
“Illegitimi non carborundum” It’s a Latin phrase that means “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” I think it’s applicable to … well… life.
Tom Waits, Bob Dylan … I love throaty, off kilter vocals that tell a good story… And then some classics like The Ramones, Talking Heads, The Clash…
Old punk is always good for motivating me to get shit done, and well, David Byrne is just so weird – it makes for great music.
Favorite TV show(s)?
Looney Tunes, or any old cartoons for that matter.
I’m really not kidding that my inner child is … well, … a child.
But more recently I’ve found myself sucked into long running series’ like Game of Thrones, Mad Men & House of Cards. On Sundays, my wife & I watch Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos.
And for comic relief, a little Brooklyn Nine Nine.
Favorite sport(s) + teams?
I like to watch college football, and a little UFC/MMA, but for the most part I don’t have time to keep up with such shenanigans.
Truth be told, I am somewhat of a movie buff. There is always something new that I’d like to see.
Recently watched Wolf On Wall Street, which definitely lived up to the hype.
I like several old cult classics like Pulp Fiction and Animal House.
A little deadpan British comedy is always good – specifically, Monty Python’s Life of Brian and The Search for the Holy Grail.
I also appreciate nearly all things Bill Murray… Especially, Lost in Translation and The Life Aquatic.
Otherwise, I may keep a documentary on the tube while I’m working because I like to learn about factual happenings. I start with history and occult documentaries, and work my way through to things like Stephen Hawkings’ Into the Universe.
(Picture below of an illustration by Adam Saul)
Favorite books and comics?
Honestly, growing up, I placed more value on a sketch book than any kind of literature. You would NEVER catch me without a sketch book full of doodles and drawings.
Nowadays, I catch myself reading Shel Silverstein with my kids, Kurt Vonnegut’s short stories with my wife, and if I had to pick a childhood favorite – it would be The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe.
I didn’t really get into comics as a kid. Once my cousin fell into a slew of old comics, but I always loved the artwork more than the cheesy storylines. Go figure.
Is the rise of ‘art’ toys an indication of the changing nature of ‘art’? OR just a bunch of nerds with too much $$$ and time?
Honestly, I think it’s a blend of both.
Looking from a broader perspective, I can see where the toy scene is definitely contributing to pop culture in the current generation. But who wants to be THAT guy, answering all pretentiously?!
I think there is something to be said for a generation of overgrown kids who developed a love of monsters at an early age. We’ve grown up just enough to have a spot of money to invest in making our own vinyl versions of creatures from our imaginations.
I would love to make a living designing and producing toys, but at this point it’s really just more of an expensive hobby.
Favorite toy/figure? (I’ll allow self promotion)
I would say the Nakajima Astro Mu 5 nodders are my favorite toys.
All the small details in the masks, the tinsel in the arms, and the fact that the weapons and boots are all unique, really draws me in.
I think the overall simplicity of the design is what makes them so great! I am seriously a sucker for clean, simple details.
(Picture below of some of the Nakajima Astro Mu 5 figures – Adam’s favorite toys)
What are your thoughts of the toy forum scene as a way for fans and artists to communicate? Is it a real ‘community’ or just a virtual locker-room shit talk?
I really love Skullbrain. I’ve been a member of the SB community for 6+ years.
The entire dynamic has definitely changed over time. When I first joined, it seemed to be mostly hardcore collectors who were familiar with the toys they were after – they had all the knowledge and details of where toys originated, who sold how many when, which accessories could be found, where to find the coveted pieces…
Lately it seems to be more newcomers who are targeting the most hyped toys; Nags, Paul Kaiju, MVH.
I think most forums have kind of a “hazing” period. You have to sift through the shit talk and the ridicule to see if you’ve got what it takes to be blessed with the knowledge of the underlords of kaiju.
I’ve been able to have conversations with people who share a common interest, both from the perspective of the fan and now, more recently, as an artist.
I think the forum scene is a pretty good way to get word out for toymakers, specifically.
I’ve noticed a lot more people moving these conversations to Facebook, which I think has pros and cons. I used to frequent another forum for printmakers, gigposters.com. For years, it was a super tight community of poster artists and the like. It seems Facebook has all but killed it. I worry this will happen to SB at some point.
Video killed the radio star.
What does your wife/girl/woman/family make of the whole perpetual adolescence/Peter-Pan/man-child aspect of toy art + toy collecting?
My wife is COMPLETELY supportive of all of my ventures. She knows deep down if I’m not creating something I’ll lose my fucking mind.
She helps a lot with design decisions and things like this interview. She’ll totally be proofing this so I don’t sound like a complete ass.
What was it like working on the Lilith resin figures for ‘Death Cat Toys’?
I was interested in collaborating and painting a Lilith figure, because I really dig the sculpt.
I mentioned wanting to paint one on Instagram, not knowing if he’d take it seriously. He hit me up the next day and Boom!, they were on my doorstep in just a few days.
The figures were a lot bigger than I’d imagined, which gave me more creative freedom.
Those figures are so damn good; the design is so well thought-out. They’re just a solid piece of resin goodness!
(Picture below of the Lilith resin by Death Cat Toys, painted by Adam)
Connell Little is really into my NapNapNap resin figures. I asked him, since he works at TAG, how to get involved in their shows. Next thing I knew, Gino was emailing me and shipped me this gross little baby!
Those figures are INSANE! Every time I thought, “Ok, I’m done painting this little fella” another detail would pop out at me… then, I would have to rework the paint.
I think it’s awesome the TAG opening was featured on the A&E show Barry’d Treasure. Hopefully it’ll bring some light to this passion of ours.
A random fact: Jeremi, the owner of Miscreation Toys, is from a town about two hours away.
(Picture below of Adam’s custom Staple Baby)
What was it like having Chauskoskis provide the sculpt for your Semi Korosiya soft vinyl figure?
I had been teaming up with another sculptor on my Semis for well over a year and nothing was really happening. I was about to give up.
I was talking through my situation with Jeff Lamm, an old comrade from Gigposters. We discussed the sculptor for the Greasebat figure. He’s the one who put me in touch with Walter.
Walter was incredible! He walked me through the process and was an integral part of getting my first toy off the ground.
(Picture below of Chauskoskis’ original sculpt for the Semi – with a Greasebat photobombing)
How did you connect with Skinner regarding his painted run + tribute art for your Semi Korosiya soft vinyl figure that came out last year?
I literally just emailed him. He surprised me by being so outwardly friendly and grounded.
He is seriously the coolest dude – He painted toys, did an art print, encouraged me to print t-shirts, and we had stickers made!!
Skinner gives 1000% to everything he does, and everything he produces is sic as hell!! I respect that he is so humble about his talent and his contributions.
I cannot say enough good about that dude.
(Pictures below of the Semi + tribute art, as done by Skinner)
Adam Saul Art Questions
Describe the method of making an Adam Saul piece? (dot point all o.k.)
– your 2D art such as prints…
I constantly have ideas running through my head, so I sketch thumbnails a lot. 95% of the time the ideas end there.
If I’m really feeling a particular piece, I’ll try to develop the idea…
It could be a few days, or in some instances months, before I actually get around to printing it. Once I know I want to actually make a print, I’ll do quite a few more sketches before settling on it.
As with many artists, it will typically end up looking nothing like my first sketches. This is something that’s taken me a bit to realize… I used to go straight from my first thumbnail to the final design. After I’d completed the entire process, I would notice things I could’ve done better or laid out in a different way.
I’ve tried to make myself slow down which usually leaves me a little happier with the outcome. That said, I’m never 100% happy with how EVERYTHING turns out, but I don’t know many artists that are.
– your resin work…
I don’t take it too seriously – it really is just a fun process for me.
I was surprised to get such a great response on my little resin designs. Since I get so many requests for them, I try to keep it up when I have the time.
It’s a long process from original sculpt through revisions, mold making, and finally, the actual resin casting and painting.
I’m mostly self-taught, picking up things from various threads on Skullbrain, and a few individuals, like Steven Erst (LiverDiet).
I don’t know that the public understands the amount of work that goes into creating these resin figures. It kills me when people scoff at what the cost at the end.
(Pictures below of the mold process, and finished ‘Viva Occult’ resin works, by Adam)
– your soft vinyl creations…
I draw SO many little monster, heroes and villains. They usually end up on sticky notes in the garbage can, but every once in a while I’ll dig a design enough to actually want to spend the coin on having it made into soft vinyl.
As of right now the only sofubi figure as I have is the Semi Korosiya, but by the end of the year that will all change. I have at least two more designs in the works and a few more ideas rolling around in the noggin.
Hopefully, this will be the year for Cop A Squat Toys to really get on the proverbial “map.”
Making toys is but a small part of your artistic life… You also run a printing company called ‘AS Printing Press’… What do you get out of making toys that you don’t get through 2D art such as your prints?
There’s just something about holding a three dimensional thing that brings a whole other level of creative options.
I can paint the same figure 33 different ways and each paint scheme brings out a whole other aspect of the same figure. Plus, it opens up the capability of being able to collaborate with tons of artists that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to.
Are all your works hand made by yourself? If you use collaborators/producers; whom and in what capacity?
Other than my sofubi figures everything I do is all me.
Once, I built my own vacuum table for screen printing on stock. All of the header cards, shipping boxes, tees and art prints are printed by me.
The only time I’ve ever had someone else print for me was my Astro Mu Giclee prints.
All of my resin figures are sculpted by me, I make the molds and cast the resin in a pressure pot.
(Picture below of Adam’s paint area)
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
All of the above, really.
I do “re-purpose” found images in a lot of my prints. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of illustration, too. I mix and match pretty much every medium I’ve ever worked in.
I always sort of feel funny calling myself an artist, I mean I’m just doing what I enjoy. Sometimes I feel like its art sometimes not.
I’d rather call myself a print and toy maker. If someone’s sees it as art, then that’s ok by me.
When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (toys, drawings, paintings, anything)?
I just love toys. I was buying and enjoying others work for a long time until I was encouraged by my wife to just do it.
It was a long road getting the first figure made, but now that’s off the ground. I have a handle on how the process works and it all seems to be flowing now.
Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?
I never really decided to it just sorta happened.
I’ve been drawing and making things for as long as I can remember.
Any formal art training? Or pivotal moment/influence?
No real training what so ever.
I dropped out of college before I ever started, and took an internship at a small design firm in NYC instead.
My training in design was 60-80 hour work weeks working on anything from ads for Jaguar to direct mail stuff. If you received one of those Columbia House “Get 10 CD’s for $10” ads in your mailbox in the late 90’s, chances are I was the asshole that designed each of those tiny CD pics and info.
Once I moved back to VA, I tattooed for a while, and produced freelance graphic work.
After a few years, I landed a design job with a screen printing company. That’s where I taught myself to print on paper, and so began my screen printing passion.
Work hard, work often.
Favorite ‘other’ artist(s)?
Jonathan Bergeron, Brian Phillips, Hatch, Skinner, Uno Moralez many many others.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
That’s about the only part that gets under my skin.
Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
I think the best part about today’s art world is you can get your work in front of people with very little effort.
There so much opportunity out there you just have to go take it.
Why the name ‘Cop A Squat’?
My wife and I were brainstorming and after bouncing ideas back and forth – this one seemed to fit.
It’s sorta like “sit, slow down and check out these toys.”
Why the name ‘Viva Occult’ for your resin work?
I had been making a few resin figures here and there and didn’t want to put them under my (Cop A Squat Toys) CAST name, because I wanted to reserve that for my serious sofubi figures.
One day, I was holding down the couch with my son and he was watching a Japanese cartoon called Sgt. Frog (Keroro Gunsou). One of the main characters randomly screamed “Viva Occult!!!,” and it sorta stuck in my head.
I have a deep fascination for anything occult. You’ll notice a lot of symbolism in my art and toys really draw from the occult.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
I’ve got a couple things coming down the pike.
D-Lux has agreed to do a small run of Semis this Spring.
I’m also talking to another well-known toy maker about painting a release. Don’t want to jinx it by giving a name, just yet. 😉
(Picture below of the upcoming Semi by Cop a Squat Toys,painted by D-Lux)
Any major projects you want to hype man?
Hopefully by NYCC this year, I’ll have my two new sofubi figures ready.
We’re finishing up the final revisions now on the sculpts, then they’ll be off to Ricky in Japan for tooling and molds. I can’t wait to start showing these new fellas off.
They’re going to be tons of fun. You’ll see that they’re not similar to the Semis at all, but more of a vintage hero/villain vibe.
I want to say thanks to you, Josh for coming up with a great set of questions!
I want to also extend a big thanks to everyone who’s backed me up and supported this little indie toy venture!
It truly means a lot to me.
(Picture below of an army of Instigator resins, by Adam Saul)