Local Artist’s Creations Transform His Own Life
Sep 12, 2017 03:28PM ● Published by Bryan Scott
Russ Adams smiles next to one of his creature creations. Adams’ work has been seen in multiple movies and is possibly best known for his appearance as a contestant on the SyFy television show, “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge.” – Escape Design FX
Gallery: Local Artist’s Creations Transform His Own Life [4 Images] Click any image to expand.
By Travis Barton | email@example.com
Optimus Prime. Every kid had a Transformer toy, but not Russ Adams.
Adams is an award winning special effects artist in Ogden, may be best known for his work on SyFy’s television series, “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop.”
He owns his own design studio, Escape Design FX, and his work creating props and creatures has appeared in films like “Screamers,” “SLC Punk 2” and “Monolith” among countless others. More recently Adams helped create a deer puppet in a Colorado Wildlife Foundation commercial spot, built a seven-foot hairy monster with disturbing similarities to Sasquatch and a life size replica of Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
But it all started with Optimus Prime.
Adams grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania where “if you wanted a Transformer, there was no way in hell you were gonna get it.”
“So I started building my own toys,” Adams said.
Adams remembers creating his own Prime out of wood and using penny nails to help it transform.
“I liked it better than the actual toy,” Adams said.
That toy ignited a creative fuse that has yet to be extinguished.
“Being forced to create stuff like that kind of sparked [my creativity] early,” Adams said.
That imagination continued through Adams’ enlistments in the Air Force and his grandfather’s strongly urged recommendation that he become an accountant.
“That’s not sexy, I can’t pick up chicks as an accountant,” Adams joked.
After 10 years in the Air Force and deciding he needed to make decisions for himself, Adams opened his own studio in 2003. Adams said his grandfather continued his attempts to guide Adams into an accounting career.
Then reality TV happened.
In 2014, Adams appeared as a contestant on the reality television show, “Jim Henson’s Creature Shop Challenge,” changing his grandfather’s perception.
“[My grandfather] started to see how much attention the show was getting with millions of viewers from multiple countries and he’s on the phone with me and he goes, ‘you know, there might be something to this art thing,” Adams said.
Adams is a self-taught creature creator; he didn’t go to school for it. But that hasn’t been his only challenge.
The creature designer is partly color blind and has trouble distinguishing between reds and greens, which becomes a problem when making a ninja turtle who is predominantly green.
“It’s a real pain in the butt in this career field,” Adams said.
Different browns are affected, Adams said, because they have red in it and he can’t see it but he utilizes the help of his wife among others.
“I’ll paint some antlers or something and people are like, ‘wow there’s a lot of red in there,’ and I’m like ‘I used brown,’” Adams said.
Not only did Adams learn plenty about creature creation, especially with upholstery foam, on the Jim Henson show, but he also came to comprehend a lot more about the reality television business. From the way the show went about their shooting schedule to who they conveniently paired him with to conversations he had with other contestants on this and other shows.
Adams has written about the “misconceptions people have of being on reality shows,” in a book yet to be published called “Surviving Reality. Fallacies of Life on a Reality TV Show.” The book is geared to be fun with Adams’ typical “smart-ass humor.”
Adams, who graduated from Weber State with a master’s degree in Literature, said it was time he put his degree to use.
“I figured I just paid $100,000 for a master’s degree in Literature, I should probably use it, so this seemed like an opportunity” Adams said.
Adams’ “art thing” has seen him transformed into a certain celebrity status sending him to all sorts of comic or space conventions around the country signing autographs and posing for photos with fans.
Part of Adams inspiration into a life in special effects was when he was seven watching a TV special of how Lou Ferrigno was transformed into the Hulk.
“I was completely hooked at that point, they had little prosthetics for the brow and nose and this green paint that went on with a special powder to keep it from rubbing off,” Adams said of the memory. “I was like, ‘oh my god, that’s what I’m going to do.’”
If that was how life started, Adams is seeing it come full circle at the conventions.
“I find it comical with these conventions…because now I’m sitting next to Lou Ferrigno signing autographs, it’s so cool,” Adams said.
Adams isn’t allowed to talk about some of his upcoming projects, but he can say there is something coming out in Atlanta that has a “bit of a Stephen King thing going on but that’s the most I’m allowed to talk about.”
This fall Adams will be heading on a convention tour in Europe even stopping in Latvia where he’ll teach puppet making and performance to the students at the International School of Latvia.