Daily Mini Interview: Steve Casino, Painter Of Nuts

Steve Casino, Painter Of Nuts

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How did you first get started making portraits out of peanuts?
My first peanut portrait was of myself. It was originally a joke. As a cartoonist, I made quick sketches of myself and coworkers on peanuts.

bb4Why peanuts? Why miniature portraits?
Peanuts are my favorite snack. But it’s also fun because it uses all of the skills I’ve acquired through life and work experience. Nothing wasted.

I have always been fascinated by caricature artists as well as miniatures. This is the perfect combo. The peanut is a gimmick that got me started but I don’t need it at this point. It just gives people a point of reference for size. It’s a fun challenge to make all of that tiny stuff. A lot of problem solving.

How many years have you been making art?
Not including the formative years (kindergarten through college), probably about 25 years. My first job out of college was making fake food and miniatures for TV commercials. This was before computers did everything. The skills I learned there really apply to what I’m doing now.

Do you create peanut portraits on a full-time basis?elton-new
No. I am a toy inventor for a living. But I often put in 8-12 hours a day extra on peanut art for various clients.

How many hours does it take to make a peanut sculpture?
It used to be about 15 hours, but I’ve cut that in half through repetition.

Where can people purchase your work?
You can contact me directly for commissions.

What has been the most difficult peanut portrait to create?
The early ones like Elton John were really hard because I hadn’t figured out how to paint on a small scale yet. I had to repaint him about 10 times to get it right. Took a superhuman effort to do it. But it also turned out to be one of the most successful in the press.

nirvana_afterWhat’s been the most fulfilling portrait you’ve made?
Nirvana was the most satisfying to do. Brought back a lot of good memories of young adulthood and I really liked the way it came out. It was extra-thrilling because Nirvana’s bassist Krist Novoselić shared it on Twitter.

What do you use to make your miniature sculptures?
Aside from peanuts, I use polymer clay and wire armature a lot now for limbs and detail. My early peanuts had bamboo limbs.

Advice for beginner artists?
Really learn how to draw. It’s the basis for everything. Take a class. Sketch from life. Learn lighting and perspective. Don’t just copy Olaf from Frozen. Also, don’t ruin good art with bad photography. People don’t really see your art on the web, they only see the photograph. So the photograph is essentially your art. Make your presentation count.

Tool you can’t live without?hendrix
A rubber-tipped sculpting tool that replaced my fat fingers for the fine smoothing detail. I lost it once for 3 days and was going out of my mind.

Favorite miniature you own by another artist?
I have a hummingbird by the great micro-wood carver Steve Tomashek. He wrote a good book about miniature woodcarving.

Favorite peanut portrait you’ve ever made?
Jimi Hendrix. I never listened to him much before that. Somebody hired me to make him, and I initially wasn’t excited. But it was revelatory to play his albums while making art of him. By the time it was over, he was my favorite musician of all time and the peanut turned out to be really cute.

EDWARD_DOMEArtists you look to for inspiration?
I love the work of cartoonist Charles Addams who created the Addams Family. Also love Edward Gorey and Tim Burton. My tastes run towards the macabre. I love Wayne White and Red Grooms for 3-D creations. And there are many, many more.

What is the most memorable miniature you’ve seen?
Willard Wigan‘s recognizable characters sculpted inside the eye of a needle really blew my mind. Plus, I love much of the miniature food out of clay by many artists. Some of it is insanely realistic.

Other activities you enjoy?
Hanging out with my wife and two daughters. We’re currently plowing through every episode of Doctor Who.einstein_pic1

What do you want mini art fans to know about you?
I’m as much of a fan as a practitioner of miniatures. There’s nothing I like better than seeing a well-crafted miniature that’s been photographed well.

Steve currently lives in Cincinnati. If you’ve just been blown away by his amazing peanut portraiture, head to his website to view more works, or follow along on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.