Nate McCartney AKA Nate the Milkman is an American artist and all around creative powerhouse who has quickly gained a firm foothold in the art toy scene thanks to his varied and highly unique releases – which at this point includes ‘Stomak the Upset Stomach’ (2016) and ‘Gordon the Garbage Goblin’ (2018). Both of which are creepy meets cute, human body inspired figures with a whole lot of personality!
(Photo below of the Gordon the Garbage Goblin art toy by Nate)
Like many artists these days, Nate notes small town isolation, and a chance encounter with some Pushead merch as a kid as major reasons for his interest in art and everything outre – stating how:
“While at a car show in West Point, Nebraska, I came across Ministry’s “Scarecrow” t-shirt done by Pushead. I became an instant fan of both artists, and couldn’t believe I was able to find something so cool in a place so boring… Seriously, finding that Pushead design was a pivotal moment for me. It taught me you could do big things with creepy artwork.“
Fittingly – just like Pushead before him – Nate is a highly accomplished musician and an artist, who ultimately found his community in the art underground.
So without further ado – get to know all about Nate’s life, art, thoughts on the current state of the art toy scene, see some photos of his cats, and a whole lot more – by reading the Art Talk interview below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
Nathan Daniel McCartney.
March 4, 1982.
City, State n Country you currently call home?
Tucson, Arizona in the US of A.
City, State n Country you’re from?
Gillette, Wyoming USA.
Describe a memory from some stages of your life ….basically trying to piece together some pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, crime… ANYTHING really!
* age 5 – beginnings:
I grew up in Lyons, Nebraska. Land of corn and cow shit.
I was always obsessed with He-Man, Transformers, My Pet Monster, Silverhawks, and Thundercats. When I wasn’t begging my mom to buy me whatever monster toy was just advertised on TV, I was drawing weird creatures and painting what I thought Halley’s Comet looked like.
At a town Halloween party, they had a “time out” jail for unruly children. It was all decked out with bars, bricks, shackles, and cobwebs. I wanted to be in time out so bad just to check it out. I remember being really mad that bad kids got to see the cool stuff and I didn’t.
(Photo below of Nate as a kid)
* age 10 – continuations:
Wanting to be like my grandpa who would “shred” some Hank Williams, I picked up my mom’s old guitar and started the long process of “trying to figure it out”. I continued to suck at it for a few years before discovering tablature books. At this point, I was still drawing monsters and collecting toys.
While at a car show in West Point, Nebraska, I came across Ministry’s “Scarecrow” t-shirt done by Pushead. I became an instant fan of both artists, and couldn’t believe I was able to find something so cool in a place so boring.
* age 15 – getting serious:
Outside of getting in to all sorts of illicit substances, I continued to focus on creating weird art.
Maybe the substances helped a little with the creative side… Kids, don’t do drugs!
Classmates frequently asked me to draw things for them but were always creeped out by the result.
I got suspended from school for wearing a Baphomet t-shirt in an attempt “stick it” to all the WWJD apparel wearing kids. I didn’t have a problem with folks liking Jesus or the Bible. I did have a problem with kids telling me I was going to hell for painting my fingernails though. SUCK IT, TONY B!
(Photo below of Nate and his family, when Nate was in his teens)
* age 20 – young adult:
Shortly after my high school days, I got a girl preggo, got married, moved to Tucson, and got divorced.
I guess time flies when you’re having fun…
Moving to Arizona was the best decision ever. I was able to meet like minded people who were in to art and music.
I spent some time in a few unknown AZ bands until joining a group named Grace Gale from Colorado. They happened to be my favorite group at the time so, it was a dream to join. I didn’t make much art during this time at all.
I got to see most of the United States and some of Mexico while touring with Grace Gale. I helped write the last record the band released which is still available on most music streaming platforms.
* age 25 – adult mode:
Grace Gale ended, and now it was time to get a “normal” job. I landed back in Sioux City, IA, and got myself a gig in customer service answering calls for satellite radio customers. FUN!
On the side, I was still playing music with a group called Thick Mistress. Art was slowly becoming the main focus for me again as I wanted to become a tattoo artist. I started an apprenticeship at a local shop which was cut short by my decision to move to Tucson, AZ with my gal.
On a Monday, I asked myself “why the hell do I live out here again?”… By the following Thursday, I had all my shit packed and was headed back to Tucson.
(Photo below of Nate in his 20s)
* age 30 – fully formed:
The ol’ customer service gig gave way to all sorts of opportunities in the corporate world. I was a training manager for a major financial company, the customer experience manager for a major online retailer, and a fledgling software engineer for an even larger online retailer.
With a little money in my pocket from the day job, I was able to fund my first toy Stomak the Upset Stomach which I released in 2016.
* age 35 – adult continuations:
Here we are!
I’ve been able to put out two soft vinyl toys and table at a handful of conventions. I’ve got big plans for more toys and weird stuff, and still work a day job that helps me fund most of what I do.
(A recent photo of Nate below)
Don’t sweat the small stuff because it’s all small stuff.
Why the name ‘Nate the Milkman’?
I got the “milkman” part from when I was in Grace Gale. I’ve always been a fan of strawberry milk which the band dudes thought was gross.
The phrase “Yo, Milkman, you want the usual?” became a common thing when stopping at a gas station.
When and why did you first start making art of any type!?
When I was a wee one, I started drawing and painting. Subject matter was either monsters or space related.
(Some art and photos of the Stomak the Upset Stomach figure by Nate below)
Any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?
Seriously, finding that Pushead design was a pivotal moment for me. It taught me you could do big things with creepy artwork.
I was really influenced by album artwork and music videos too.
Do you consider what you are making to be art, ‘design, re-hashed crap?
Any type of creation is art.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
People who complain about the price of art.
Best aspect of the contemporary art hustle?
Just about everyone in the scene wants to teach or learn themselves.
I feel like there is more collaboration than competition.
(Some photos of the Gordon the Garbage Goblin figure by Nate below)
Favorite other artist(s)?
Chet Zar, Skinner, Pushead, Izumo, Paul Kaiju, and TKom to name a few.
I’d be here all day listing amazing artists and would probably forget a few in the process.
Whilst we know you through your art toy and sculptural work – care to share with those at home the details of your other creative endevours… if any?!
Feel free to check out the following music I’ve made via web search, Spotify, or Soundcloud:
Designer Toy Questions
Describe the process of producing your soft vinyl designer toys? – from original sculpt, moulding, production, to finally holding that sweet sweet finished product in your hands… (dot point all o.k.)
1) Sculpt something using polymer clay or a similar medium
2) Cast a copy of your sculpt in resin
3) Send messages to vinyl toy companies with pictures and measurements of your figure
4) Choose the company that best suits your price range and preferred turn around time
5) Send your resin master to said company
6) The manufacturer will re-cast your figure in wax
7) They’ll electroplate the wax version which creates a metal mold
8) They’ll send your mold to the vinyl factory who will do the actual “pulls” of your vinyl figure
9) Factory send the vinyl to you!
This whole process can change a bit depending on the factory, your sculpt, etc.
Digital Vs Hand sculpting – what wins and why?
Sculpting is sculpting no matter the medium. You’re creating a three dimensional figure from reference art or off the top of your noggin.
Either method is difficult, and both produce amazing results.
I prefer hand sculpting because the result isn’t printed and doesn’t need additional sanding.
(Some more art and photos of the Stomak the Upset Stomach figure by Nate below)
Are art-toys for the kids?
Yes! There’s no age restriction on collecting art.
What a cool way to get your kids into appreciating artwork!
Is the rise of art toys an indication of the changing nature of art? OR just a bunch of nerds with too much money and time?
Things will always be in a state of change. Especially when it comes to what people want to collect.
I’m sure art toys will decline at some point in the future but they certainly won’t disappear. If there is a decline, it’ll be followed by yet another rise in popularity down the road. Trends repeat themselves. You see it in clothing and music. I don’t think toys will be any different.
Thoughts on the current state of the American Art Toy Scene?
Overall, it’s amazing. Most of the scene is pretty positive and inspiring.
We could use a few less assholes and keyboard warriors though.
What role did toys play in your childhood?
Toys taught me that it was okay and cool to be different. They allowed me to connect with characters and imagine what it was like to live in their world.
They taught me to respect people’s differences while nurturing my own.
What are the top 3 toys you own?
Adam by Violence Toy, Gamaotoko by TKom, and Shikabane by Izumo.
(Photo below of Nate’s three favourite toys!)
What impact do you think 3D sculpting and printing is having, and will continue to have, on the art toy scene?
In the past, if you couldn’t draw or sculpt, you couldn’t create a toy without a lot of help and money. 3D sculpting and printing gets more affordable every day which opens up doors for those without a ton of traditional artistic ability.
In addition, you can do most of the prototyping without having to fiddle with messy materials like silicone and resin.
How did you and ole Aaron aka ‘Berzerkaroth’ come to connect? – We ask as he has provided some amazing art for a few of your recent toy releases.
I’ve been a fan of Aaron’s for quite some time. I’ve never been a big fan of art that’s common or tries to be pretty. Aaron’s stuff is raw, gross, and a bit scary sometimes.
I felt his art would be complimentary to Stomak and Gordon. I hit him up out of the blue asking if he would be down to make some header card art for me.
I can’t tell you how excited I was when he accepted the task!
If people wanted to collaborate, work wth you or just buy some art – how should they get in touch?
To buy stuff, check out my web store or Etsy.
To collab or request a commission, send me an email at email@example.com or a DM in Instagram.
Odds n Ends
Please describe your experiences growing up in America?
Since I’ve lived here my whole life, I don’t have much to compare to.
There are what I feel are obvious differences between us yanks and the rest of the world, but we’ll get to those in the next question…
Please describe what you think the American Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?
A lot of Americans are looking for a way around the rules in order to benefit themselves regardless of the negative impacts on others. They don’t follow traffic signs and laws, and like to complain about how their tax dollars are being used to benefit the greater good.
On the other hand, a lot of Americans are kind, empathetic, and trustworthy. They follow laws and are passionate about giving back to society.
I’d like to think there are more folks that fit into the second category but I think the current state of things in American point in the other direction.
The good news is that everything is temporary.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
She looked amazing to 9 year old me in the movie Career Opportunities.
(Photo below of Nate’s first crush – Jennifer Connelly in the 1991 film Career Opportunities)
Does sex change everything?
I don’t think so at all. Love changes everything, y’all. Sex can be disposable without love attached.
Which cartoon character would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
Mr Bogus as a butt plug.
What a terrible character, he might as well go up your ass.
(Art by Nate below of his Mr Bogus tribute butt plug)
Who would win in a fight and why: Stomak Vs. Gordon the Garbage Goblin?
Without question, Gordon would win. Mainly because he has a weapon and Stomak doesn’t even have arms.
If it was a puking fight, Stomak would win because he’s full of stomach acid whereas Gordon doesn’t have the ability to puke.
(Art by Nate below showing the battle in all its beauty!)
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I was in a large building with what seemed like hundreds of rooms.
Most of the rooms had glass windows/walls but I couldn’t see through them. I just wanted to escape.
All of the doors had complicated locks that required me to stand on my head to operate.
When I’d leave a room, the door would slam shut on my heel, cutting it open.
I moved room to room with a bloody foot for what seems like forever.
I never got to leave the building before I woke and the dream ended…
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
At this point, I can’t think of one thing I’d like to be remembered for.
I’d like for people to remember who I am as a culmination of experiences I created for them directly or otherwise. The way one remembers a family pet or relative that changed their lives for the better.
(Some more photos of the Gordon the Garbage Goblin figure by Nate below)
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Drugs that no one should take: Heroin, cocaine, and meth.
Drugs that can be a gateway to the universe depending on the person and how they’re used: LSD, DMT, and psilocybin.
I don’t recommend or condone the use of anything listed. I just feel that – for the better – they were part of my psychological and emotional development.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
Nothing I can talk about just yet!
Any major projects you want to hype?
I’ll be tabling at Five Points Fest in 2019 alongside some of my homies.
There will likely be a new toy or two by then!!
- Nate the Milkman – Instagram
- Nate the Milkman – Facebook
- Nate the Milkman – Online Store
- Grace Gale – Discogs
- Thick Mistress – Facebook