Cosplayer Highlight – Andy Valentine
Welcome back once more ladies and gents to another week of Cosplayer Highlight.
We’re slowly coming towards an end of this series *Audible groan of sadness from everyone*. Yes, it’s sad I know. But don’t worry – We’ve got another 5 great interviews including todays one which is with the awesome Andy Valentine. We’ll then be wrapping up the series at Alcon where we’ll grab a bunch of cosplayers and do a podcast. Oh yes, we will! If you’re coming to Alcon, drop me an e-mail at GeekOutSW@gmail.com and we’ll get you involved! Otherwise, I might just randomly run up to people and get them involved in some way!
Andy has been taking commissions for a while now and has been gaining more and more popularity, even being asked to be a guest for some conventions. He sells props and costumes via his store which is powered by Etsy. Genuinely an interested and interesting individual who I noticed is attending Alcon, Andy took the time to sit down and have an interview with us. Let’s see what he has to offer!
Interview with the Cosplayer – Andy Valentine
Q: Welcome to GeekOut South-West! In case our readers are unaware who you are, could you give us an introduction of yourself?
A: Hey. I’m Andy Valentine of Valentine Cosplay. I’m obviously a cosplayer, but also a prop and costume maker based out of Bristol.
Q: I’d first like to thank you – I’ve known about your cosplays since I started cosplaying (last year) and I find them incredible. When did it all start for you? What were the driving factors behind your first costume?
A: Actually not all that long ago in the scheme of things. I went to my first con mid 2013 so have only really been on the circuit for a little over a year. My first cosplay was a version of Ezio from Assassin’s Creed 2 which I’d just replayed in the weeks leading up to it and re-discovered a love for the character. At the time, I’d never used a sewing machine, never hammered, cut, or finished leather, never made foam armour; none of the things I needed to do in order to construct the outfit, so it was a major learning curve and threw me right in at the deep end.
Q: How proud were you of your Ezio costume, have you modified it since and would you do anything more on it?
A: Initially, not proud at all. When I finished the build, I stood back and looked at it, then looked at the skills I’d picked up along the way, and decided that I could definitely make it better, so I started the whole thing again. By the time I got to the end of version two, I was proud with what I’d done. The first time I put it all on and looked in a mirror I thought “Damn, I can’t believe this was a pile of fabric a few weeks ago”. I still love that feeling.
Since the con, I’ve sold that outfit, so there won’t be anything more done to it. Not by me anyway. Version one I still wear out sometimes though. I installed EL wire around the trim of the outer tunic so that it glows at night and wore it to BrisFest last year. That thing got a lot of love amongst the drunks.
Q: Your Facebook page shows just how professionally and seriously you take cosplaying and it’s a real delight to read through. We recently did an article on the upcoming calendar: Men vs Cosplay. When did you decide you wanted to take that next step in your costume work? Was the step from hobbyist to a more professional level tricky?
A: To be honest, I still entirely consider myself a hobbyist, albeit a hobbyist that is getting some amazing opportunities. Being ‘successful’ within the community isn’t all that difficult I find. Obviously, being able to construct quality cosplays is a must, but also it’s an attitude thing. If you’re a decent human being and other people like you, they’ll share your stuff and you’ll get more exposure. If the professional photographers like you, they’ll want to photograph you in your outfits, meaning the quality of the photos taken of you increases, and thus the cycle of increased sharing begins again. This wheel keeps turning and eventually the right person will see your stuff and want to work with you. This is how I got asked to be in the Men vs Cosplay calendar. The organiser saw a photo of mine taken by the very reputable photographer Lucas from Super Cosplay Guys / Girls and invited me to be a part of it, so obviously I jumped at the chance. That’s the other tip: make yourself available.
Q: We ask this question of all of the cosplayers who do interviews with us here on GeekOut South-West: What costumes have you done; which were your proudest and least favourites?
A: Ok… so, in chronological order:
Ezio – Assassin’s Creed 2
Commander Shepard – Mass Effect 2
NCR Veteran – Fallout New Vegas
Vaas – Far Cry 3
Prince of Persia – Warrior Within
The Lone Wanderer – Fallout 3
Kurt Cobain – Nirvana
Tom Raider (Rule 63 Lara Croft) – Tomb Raider
“Dick in a Box” – Lonely Island Music Video
Fortunately I can still remember them all considering it’s only been a year. What a fun year it’s been though!
My favourite one to date was the Fallout Lone Wanderer. I tried to take that outfit to as “other level” as I could and had tonnes of little details in it, including a glowing Nuka Cola Quantum, my business cards were in a Mentats tin, full leather armour, screen accurate 10mm Pistol, and a massive AER-9 Laser Rifle. I had a bunch of photoshoots with some amazing photographers in that attire and was so overwhelmed by the results. The attention it got on convention floors was unbelievable too. Definitely a franchise I intend to revisit, costume wise.
Worst moment was probably Prince of Persia. The armour and whatnot was fine, but I made some bad fabric choices for the trousers and wrap, as well as using a poor quality wig, and now looking back at it I can’t help but see the issues. We all learn from out mistakes though, so onwards and upwards from there.
Q: I’ve noticed you are extremely engaged with all of your fans, how often do you get approached by newer cosplayers who are looking for advice and inspiration to move to that next level?
A: Roughly three or four times a day. I get a lot of messages on my page from people wanting advice or tips, or just wanting me to plug their new page (not something I do, but that’s a side point). I think engagement with your followers is key. Heck, I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the love and support I get from those guys, so I owe them everything. That’s why I like to give back whenever I can, and I’m always happy to help someone out if I can.
Q: In this interview so far, we’ve discussed your costumes and your geekdoms. We know about the costumes you’ve made but the next question we have revolves around the convention scene. Which have you attended? Do you think the convention scene is important for cosplayers and why?
A: As far as conventions go, I go to pretty much as many as I can afford, though that’s getting easier now that I’m being approached to go as a guest more often. I’ve been to loads all up and down the UK: too many to list really. I’ve haven’t really got any preference of the kind of event, so like to try and explore as many different ones as I can.
Not only is it important for a cosplayer to get “out there” and have your work seen, but they’re a hell of a lot of fun. I get to spend a weekend surrounded by awesome people who like the same stuff that I do, chilling out, having a few drinks and laughs, meeting my followers, and admiring everyone else’s cosplays. If nothing else, you can pick up loads of inspiration from what other people have made too.
Q: When the costume is off, what are you like as a person? Do you feel any different when you are wearing a costume?
A: I’m wouldn’t say I’m a different person really. Maybe a tad milder when I’m at home, but not a lot. If I’m not strutting around in cosplay, I’m typically making it, or planning it, or exploring one of the geekdoms that lead me to it. Also, I flutter between feelings of finding it weird how often I get recognised as a con with strangers coming up to me who know me, through to finding it odd that people don’t recognise me in my regular life (and why would they, really?). It’s like I’m living two lives sometimes, but I quite like that.
Q: We love to celebrate Geekdoms of all kinds and we like to get together and discuss. Stepping away from cosplay for a moment then: What other geeky hobbies do you have? Would you say it’s fairly common amongst fellow cosplayers?
A: 100%. At the end of the day, something lead us all down this path, and I don’t think it matters what it was, just that we all got here. Personally, outside of cosplay, I also LARP, although I’m super new to that and still finding my place in the world there, but it’s super fun and certainly something I’m looking forward to exploring more. I’m a big gaming fan too – hence so many of my cosplays being based on computer game characters. I play a lot of PlayStation and Xbox online with my friends and love collaborative gameplay. Other than that, I’m a bit of a sci-fi nerd. I’m actually working on a full sleeve tattoo of all the Star Wars bounty hunters at the moment. That tells you quite a lot about me really. If it’s got Boba Fett on it, I want it.
Q: Thank you for your time with us so far. This is the last question but please: Humour us here. This week, you are our “Super Sensei Guru” and a cosplayer wants to take the next step in making costumes and props, they also want to start working with more complex materials. They’re unsure how to get started and they don’t have much space. How important is it to have your own space and tools to work with more complex materials?
A: Unfortunately, it can often be pretty vital. Wood especially. Take it from someone who set up his first workshop in his spare room: sawdust gets everywhere. If you have a small amount of outdoor space it’s ideal. I tend to do my woodwork in the garden now that the weather is better, and it means the house stays in a much better shape. As for tools, you can get off the ground with pretty inexpensive equipment. I always recommend starting with any old jigsaw and mouse hand sander (about £20 a time) but then the best dremel (official Dremel tools) that you can afford, as that is the most used item in my toolbox by a mile. I use a Dremel 3000 (which are still only about £45) with an extension shaft and it’s amazing for creating smooth curves in wood, finishing foam, trimming clay, cutting metal; just everything that any budding cosplayer and prop maker might need. The good ones come with long warrantees too, which trust me, you’ll be thankful for.
Once you have your tools, get on YouTube. There is such a wealth of information on that site that it’s really easy to find out how to do things. That’s pretty much how I learnt most of what I know now. That plus trial and error. Don’t be afraid to mess something up nine times, as the tenth time you may well nail it. Practice, practice, practice and you’ll get there eventually.
I’d like to extend my thanks to Andy Valentine for taking his time to have this interview with us today.
Getting to that “next stage” is something that not every cosplayer would want to do. For me, I’d like to get to the point where all of my costumes look relatively professional – But not necessarily to the stage where I’d be taken from place to place. I love the interaction between fans – Even the interaction between the people and the costumes. Ultimately, it’s down to what you want to get out of cosplay; be it a chance to mingle or a chance to be seen. It’s always amazing to think that with a costume on, you’re not just a face in the crowd, but instead a distinguishable character.
An interesting point Andy raised in the above interview was the power of YouTube for information. Everything I’ve done has been from watching YouTube, including knowing what kind of materials to get. Then there’s the case of using the correct tools for the job. Thanks to this interview I went out and got myself a “wannabe Dremel” after having looked it all up. Money gets tight, so you never know – Perhaps having a wannabe Dremel (which cost me a mere £20) will then lead to me getting an actual Dremel. I also finally got myself something a bit more than a single surgical knife because it got quite tiresome cutting foam and fabrics with that tiny little thing!