“The nexus of community, creativity, industry, commerce, and collaboration is a vital part of my practice.”— Leo Crane
About Leo Crane
Leo Crane is a highly-regarded animator and artist known for his work in both animation and fine art. He is a co-founder of the creative studio Figuration.
Leo Crane studied at Bournemouth University, where he earned a Master of Arts with Distinction in 3D Computer Animation. His early success came with his first film, “The Library,” which was commissioned by The London Library. The film made rounds in the festival circuit, winning the best film at the Miami International Animation Festival in 2012 and earning the title “Best of 2013” at Be There! Corfu.
Crane continued to build his career by creating animations for various cultural institutions in the UK, including The Hepworth Wakefield, Dulwich Picture Gallery, and Forward Arts Foundation. In 2015, he was selected for an Open Residency at The Animation Workshop in Denmark and participated in their ANI:DOX Lab program in collaboration with the Danish Film Institute.
Since 2016, Leo Crane has been studying painting and drawing under the mentorship of Maggi Hambling CBE, a renowned artist. This training has helped him develop a professional fine art practice, and he is now represented by Future Icons.
Leo’s work combines his digital training with fine art techniques to create sensitive animations that often highlight underrepresented perspectives. One of his notable works is “The Foundling,” a micro-short charcoal animation that he created after winning an open call by Animate Projects/Anim18. He recently finished a longer watercolor animation titled “Nude Triumphant,” which, like “The Foundling,” employs a hybrid documentary-fiction process to create narratives based on interviews with real subjects.
In addition to his animation work, Leo Crane recently had an exhibition titled “Life in Charcoal” launched on April 14, 2023, at the West Norwood Library and Picturehouse in London. This exhibition featured a series of original works, and the sales proceeds went towards supporting artists and funding public programs in visual storytelling.
Leo Crane is currently underway on the production of the 40-minute handpainted animated feature The Masterpiece of Tamagata, an adaptation of a controversial and unpublished short story by renowned South African children’s author Betty Misheiker. As part of the project, Crane is releasing still and animated NFTs to coincide with and contribute funding to the project. Those NFTs can be found here.
Watch the Interview
In this engaging dialogue, Leo Crane unravels his artistic journey, highlighting a shift to animation at 33 and serious drawing at 39 as well as his remarkable blend of digital and traditional art. He reflects on his dual-studio setup, his encounter with South African author Betty Misheiker, and his decision to animate her unpublished story, “The Masterpiece of Tamagata,” an allegorical piece influenced by apartheid South Africa, emphasizing its profound resonance with marginalized communities.
Crane delves into his innovative process of merging traditional and digital art in his film, his study of Sumi-e painting, and the fortuitous involvement of a Hollywood cinematographer. A significant part of the conversation explores “L’amoure rebelle,” a piece born in the NFT space that intertwines traditional opera with digital art, culminating in the world’s first live opera NFT performance. He shares his inspirations from Pina Bausch and Samuel Beckett’s play for robots that influence his use of repetition in animation.
The dialogue also covers his short film “The Library,” his collaborative dynamics with his husband Roy Joseph Butler, and the concept of co-creation in web3. The conversation delves into the nuances of collaboration, the challenges of earning a living as an artist, and the role of alternative income streams in sustaining an artist’s career. Brady Walker and Leo Crane emphasize the importance of a conducive creative environment, strategies to overcome creative blocks, and the art of balancing multiple roles in complex projects. They round up their conversation discussing the release of new NFTs linked to Leo’s work-in-progress “The Masterpiece of Tamagata,” symbolizing different stages of production.
The transcript of this episode can be found here. Watch the interview on YouTube.
People, Places, & Things Mentioned
- Crystal Palace (place)
- Roy Joseph Butler (Leo’s husband and creative partner)
- V&A Museum (Victoria and Albert Museum)
- Maggi Hambling (artist)
- “Portrait Artist of the Year” (TV show)
- Betty Misheiker (South African author)
- Ilona Misheiker/Suschitzky (Betty Misheiker’s daughter)
- “The Masterpiece of Tamagata” by Leo Crane
- “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka
- Sumi-e Painting (Art Technique)
- Akemi Lucas/Koshu
- “L’amour rebelle” by Leo Crane
- Immersive “The Masterpiece of Tamagata” at NFC Lisbon
- William Kentridge
- Pina Bausch
- “The Library” by Leo Crane
- “Café Müller” by Pina Bausch
- “QUAD” by Samuel Beckett
- Pina by Wim Wenders
- About the sucking stones from “Molloy” by Samuel Beckett
- Figuration, Leo Crane and Roy Joseph Butler’s production company
- Session (app)