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The Shockingly Realistic Sculptures of Kazuhiro Tsuji

We’ve featured a lot of hyper-realistic paintings on OC in the past, but here’s something we haven’t seen very often – unbelievably realistic human busts. These 3D sculptures are so life-like that they could give Madam Tussauds a run for their money. They’re the work of Japanese artist Kazuhiro Tsuji, who employs a variety of mold making and sculpting techniques to create his wonderful art.

Born in Kyoto, Japan, Tsuji began to display an affinity towards art, painting, photography, nature, science and technology since childhood. Growing up, he experimented with various media, and finally discovered that ‘portraiture’ was his real passion. But with no money to attend college, Tsuji began to educate himself in the art of special effects makeup.

It all started when he came across a magazine that detailed the makeup techniques used in the 1976 TV mini series Lincoln. Inspired by the intricate craftsmanship, Tsuji gathered his meagre savings and used it to buy makeup supplies. “I took a life cast of myself and attempted to transform myself into Lincoln, which was all the more difficult considering I’m Japanese” he recalled.

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Tsuji kept working on his makeup skills until his efforts finally paid off – he landed his first job in the movies with the Japanese film Sweet Home. Later, he started his own company, and worked on several Japanese movies such as Rapsody in August. For a while, he taught special effects makeup at the Yoyogi Animation Institute. Eventually, his talents took him to Hollywood, to work on films like Men in Black, Planet of the Apes, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Tsuji has received Oscar nominations for his work in the movies Click and Norbit.

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Tsuji’s film career helped him gain experience in working with the various materials and techniques needed for his real passion – portrait painting and sculpture. As a portrait artist, he has created ultra-realistic busts of famous figures like Abraham Lincoln, Dali and Andy Warhol.

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Photographs of the Lincoln bust, in particular, have received a lot of attention – it’s almost as if Tsuji was able to somehow travel back in time and bring America’s 16th president back with him. Last year, the sculpture was displayed at the Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library.

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What’s noteworthy about Tsuji’s 3D portraits is that they aren’t just inanimate replicas of living people. Instead, they are so life-like that they emit a sense of soulfulness. It’s amazing that Tsuji is able to convey such complex emotions with the use of lifeless materials such as resins, silicones and pigments.

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“Basically, our job is recreating nature and our art is realism,” he explained. “What nature can do is simply amazing. It is impossible to create something better than nature can. So we are more like interpreters or translators. A good artist knows the subtlety and language of nature.”

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via Ufunk, Spoon & Tamago