Collaborating with artists is our favorite aspect of what we do at Shiny Object. And we want to give a huge shout out to Animator and Illustrator Craig Staggs. Today, Craig and his Minnow Mountain team celebrate the opening of "TOWER," their collaboration with Director Keith Maitland. Combining archival footage with rotoscopic animation, "TOWER" reveals the true stories of the witnesses, heroes and survivors of America's first mass school shooting at The University of Texas 30 years ago. Read what the New York Times has to say about this powerful film.
When we met Craig 10 years ago, he was partnering with Illustrators/Animators Kevin Peake and Jason Chalker under the moniker Aphid Animation. The trio was fresh off of Richard Linklater's animated film "Scanner Darkly" when we invited them into our first project together, a tradeshow video for Gemalto, an online security company based in France. Featuring a singing and dancing USB security dongle named NIM, this project was reminiscent of "Schoolhouse Rock." Have a look.
Staggs is a veteran Commercial Artist, working in animation, illustration, design, storytelling, directing, sound design and more. In his spare time, Craig has developed more web projects than you can imagine under his Big Ol' Tire Fire YouTube Channel. And we're excited about Craig's upcoming animated series "Earp," which promises to rival HBO's "Deadwood" in the number of swear words per second.
Sometimes Craig pitches in to our kids show, ARTtv. Have a look at this animated history lesson we made with Craig about African Artist El Anatsui.
Take us on your journey becoming a commercial artist and animator...
Like everything it started with impressing girls. I was never a good talker, or very good looking but I could draw well enough to get attention. When I was a teenager I met a caricature artist at my dad's company Christmas party. I drew a cartoon of him as he drew me and he offered me a job at Astroworld- the now abandoned amusement park in Houston. I was only 14 so I had to wait until I turned 15 and could legally work. I was honestly a very bad caricature artist at first. But, I stuck with it and eventually got pretty good. I've drawn over 10,000 human faces from life. Since then I've done portraits, set paintings, murals, illustration and animation. Right now, I am focused on filmmaking, but count that time of drawing caricatures as the education that taught me about drawing, art, salesmanship, personalities, humor and story telling.
What's your greatest challenge as a commercial artist?
Never having enough time. Commercial projects are chronically late. Almost every client I've ever had underestimates production time. It forces everyone to skimp on planning as they scramble to catch-up spending more time and effort on the recovery than they would have spent on good planning in the first place.
From your perspective, where is the commercial art and illustration world going?
Obviously, we've moved from big houses having a big art departments to lots of smaller studios. Not like It makes much difference to those of us that were always independent. It is interesting to see the market stretched between very fancy creative houses with a ton of money behind them bidding for the same jobs as small studios run out peoples' houses. And that's a market factor I've used to my advantage- for sure.
What do you wish the world knew about you and what you do?
I think of myself as a performer. Like an actor or dancer. It's a difficult process to create media that makes people feel a specific emotion. And the difficulty increases as the complication of emotion increases. The trick isn't that you can draw- they trick is that you know what to draw to tell that story. And to do that you have to feel it. You have to really care about these characters. I wish people could see that invisible, but most valuable, work that happens inside a good feeling artist before the first line is drawn.
Name one or two works of art or artists you know and love...
I know the film "Weird Science" by heart. That's the 80's movie where Anthony Michael Hall, playing a teenage nerd, builds a woman using his computer. It speaks to me because it calls into question the nature of existence and it's short.
I dig on Mike Judge and Bill Plympton because they seem to kinda do their own thing. I love television. And Robert Zemeckis movies.
We're grateful to work with Craig and look forward to many more collaborations. Do yourself a favor and catch TOWER this weekend.