Childhood surgeries inspired Caplan's lifelong interest in the human form, which features heavily in his art. He began sculpting at age fourteen at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, where he was a student of noted sculptor and woodcarver Joe Greenberg. Caplan also sculpted with Drs. Abe Zusserman and Abraham Rakoff, who aided in his study of human anatomy.
Caplan was mentored by Italian-born American artist Harry Bertoia. He was a frequent visitor to the nearby Auguste Rodin Museum, where he would sculpt the French sculptor’s figures in clay. Caplan was most impressed by Rodin's intentional and slight distortion of form to suggest movement. Greenberg’s teachings and Rodin’s enduring influence are driving forces behind Caplan’s work.
Caplan enjoys harvesting scrap wood from barns and buildings, and scrap metal from recycling yards for his sculptures, giving new life to materials otherwise forgotten.