Erbzine.com Homepage
Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 10,000 Webpages and Webzines in Archive
Volume 1148
presents
ERB Artist Profile

JAMES KILLIAN SPRATT

Master Sculptor 

James Spratt has sculpted a wide range of subjects during his rewarding career: wild animals, nudes, science fiction heroes and creatures, portraits, African wildlife, historical and prehistorical figures and many more. Through the years, however, he has been consistently drawn to the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs for inspiration. Perhaps his most memorable ERB subjects are concentrated on his depiction of Jetan pieces -- the game invented by ERB in the book, The Chessmen of Mars (Online PD eText version in ERBzine).

 
Jane Ralston Burroughs ~ A Princess of Mars

Jane Ralston Burroughs as Dejah ThorisJane Ralston Burroughs with the Dejah Thoris statue
Jane Ralston Burroughs had posed as Dejah Thoris and Jane Porter for her artist husband, John Coleman Burroughs and was an artist in her own right. James Spratt presented her with his  rendition of her as Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars. He had  used pictures of her from the 1930s. Her first words upon seeing the sculpture was "Why, that's me!"

Dejah Thoris art by John Coleman Burroughs
.

 
JETAN

George McWhorter
with the Spratt Jetan set on display at the
McWhorter Memorial ERB Collection
at the University of Louisville ~ Rare Books Library

James Spratt shares the following biographical sketch. 
A version of this bio first appeared in the Burroughs Bulletin No. 30, Spring 1977.

James Killian Spratt, sculptor, was born in Frankfurt, Germany on April 4, 1950 to former Army Lieutenant Frank K. Spratt and Florence Spratt, British civilian assistant to SHEAF, and one of the first two women to enter burning Germany at the end of WWII. In 1952, the family moved to Hendersonville, North Carolina, where he now resides. For Spratt's third birthday he received a box of kleen-klay plastalene, and immediately put all the creatures pictured on the box into full form, learning to sculpt while learning to talk. This began the makings of a truly weird kid, and naturally intuitive artist.

Al through childhood, Spratt kept and added to his collection of plastalene, stashing it in paper bags under his bed at night and, during the days, making armies, warriors and horses, cars, animals, you name it, exploring his world via clay . . .  those colored wads which could be anything he wanted and, lager, became the keys to many doors. 

Sometime around 1958 Frank Spratt's used furniture business turned into Spratt's Book Exchange, one of the first paperback swap-shops, which topped out at approximately 150,000 volumes.  So Spratt had plenty to read, all for free. In the early 1960s, Ace came out with the ERB paperbacks, with Krenkel and Frazetta covers. Well . . . monkey see, monkey do, and out came the modeling clay. Wow! Hot stuff! Artistic challenge! Spratt managed to pull off a few pretty good Sci-Fi pieces, but a few other things intruded. 

In 1970, lackadaisical college boy Spratt lost his student deferment and was cordially invited into the armed forces of Uncle Sam. Four years later he was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, having barely made E-5, and having barely avoided being killed in Vietnam. He had learned Korean, while working for the U.N. for two and a half years, during which he married. He came back with his new wife to North Carolina where son Aaron was born in 1974, and went back to school at the University of North Carolina, having learned that one gets better pay with an education. 

Despite being extremely difficult to teach, Spratt graduated from UNC in 1978 with a B.A. in art, Summa How Come, and began full-time in his open-to-the-public sculpture studio, usually just getting by, and teaching himself the finer points of merchandising, subject selection and treatment, molding and casting.

In 1982 the studio burned, destroying about 400 finished wax models, some of which had taken months to sculpt. The fire prompted a move to Atlanta, 200 miles away. . .  a boom town, major metropolis, which almost immediately led to the development of a series of bronze wildlife figures, numerous portrait heads, several large monuments, including from-life portraits of actor Charlton Heston, Senator Herman Talmadge (for the capital in Atlanta), two large eagles for ROCK-TENN Corporation, and others too numerous to mention. Major successes, making money, getting known. 

In 1992, Spratt left Atlanta in a fit of disgust at the crassness of commercialism, and . . . having accomplished all his artistic missions, he returned to his home in North Carolina to rethink his directions. 

Not much thought was required to reawaken the interest of this now seasoned artist to the greatest arena of thought now known . . . science fiction. For an artist of almost any kind, this is the biggest and most fruitful avenue, as man stands on the launch-pad. After Rodin ("Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going? ") Edgar Rice Burroughs is an archetype of almost all the Sci-Fi written, and his layers of meaning have not begun to have been revealed in totality. (Have you ever played Jetan?)

By now, Spratt was technically a master of his craft, tried and proven. The greater challenge of what to sculpt remained. An answer lay in the father of American science fiction, Edgar Rice Burroughs. What has he given us? Who are the characters he has created? Where is nobility and honor among us today? ERB needs to be brought back to light, analyzed, argued, explored, promulgated. . .  not just Tarzan, but John Carter, Dejah Thoris, Carson Napier, Duare, every last character in every last story. Commercialism aside, this is important!

CLICK for full-sized Jetan RulesAt this point in his life, Spratt is again devoting almost full time to ERB. His typical day consists of waking early, working until he drops, and sleeping until he wakes again. . .  often with new ideas dreamed up while asleep. He began in 1995 with an  18-inch version of Dejah Thoris, which he says is just a warm-up. . . she can be obtained in cast marble for about $150, subject to some small modifications. After a hiatus during which he lost his right eye, he's now back at it, hard, and has created a Jetan set consisting of six-inch, detailed figures depicting two opposing teams with different skin color, but identical trappings. The first sets he has hand-made so far have been carefully and colorfully painted and, depending on demand, he'll see if he can't offer the pieces as raw castings for others to paint. . .  to keep the price down. After all, there are forty separate figures and a number of different princesses (to keep things interesting) for serious play or just for love. 
 


 
 
Spratt's Martian Jetan Gallery
Thuvia and Banth


The Jetan Board

James Spratt Presents ERB's Africa
LionSabor the LionessNuma the LionNuma, the Lion
Tantor the ElephantGimla the CrocodileButo the Rhino
T-RexRaptorTiger (Sabor)
WarthogImpalaJaguarBedouin on Camel
Gladiator


ERBzine Presents:
James Killian Spratt
Master Sculptor and ERB Artist

ERBzine 1148: Jetan Artist 
Master Sculptor I
ERBzine 1149: Jetan Artist 
Master Sculptor II
ERBzine 1147: Jetan-Sarang
Photos ~ Sketches ~ Moves
 
ERBzine 1301: Contents
ERB's A Princess of Mars Illustrated
 



BILL HILLMAN
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
All Spratt images and sculptures © 2004 by James Killian Spratt - All Rights Reserved
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2004/2014 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.