|Steve Casino in his home workshop studio.|
Let me introduce Steve Casino. He’s not a famous athlete, musician, or writer. He’s an artist. Well, toymaker. No, artist. No, toymaker. This is where things get blurry. This is his story in a nutshell.
|Located at 14 N. Fort Thomas Ave.|
|Another quirky creation.|
Steve and his wife Nicole are originally from Mercer, Pennsylvania but due to Steve’s work commitments to designing toys, they moved to Fort Thomas a handful of years ago, a place that they describe as being much like their home town in Pennsylvania - charming older homes, walkable, safe, accessible. When he wears his hat, Nicole describes her husband as looking like a saxophone player in a band. She giggles. I kind of see it. They make a sweet couple. By the way, he doesn't play sax.
|Steve and Nicole Casino|
|The original peanut portrait.|
|The Ramones by Steve Casino.|
Of his career, Casino says, “I’ve had so many jobs, that all of those skills have merged into this. My first job out of college, I made fake food for TV commercials. Back then they didn’t have computers so everything had to be done by hand. They were double the size for the camera. I went to college for industrial design in Rochester, New York. It taught me a lot of different things. So I moved to New York after graduation and got a job the first day because they just needed someone to sand wood.“ And he has been working and creating ever since.
|Barre3 Ft. Thomas. Located in Fort Thomas Plaza.|
|Peanut people in various stages of development.|
Casino has appeared on a handful of national TV shows. I watched a clip of the hosts of Good Morning America mob him with questions. They were just about falling over each other as they peppered hm with questions. “I got a little tongue tied because those people talk so fast. They’re natural talkers and I’m not,” he says. And that’s true. He’s soft spoken and thoughtful about his responses. But his imagination is working overtime all of the time. He is always thinking of something to create - and it’s not always peanut people.
Then there’s Ripley’s Believe It or Not. “They put me in one of their books so they sent me one of those.” He points to a framed certificate on the wall. “They interviewed me for the their radio network. Then they called and were goofing on me a little bit. A couple of years later they called and wanted my peanuts for their museums but they didn’t want to pay anything. They wanted me to donate them. I tried to work out a deal where I would do an Elvis for each museum it fell through. But then they called and put me in the book.”
I asked him to define creativity and he said, “It’s weird because it’s like an antenna in your brain that’s receiving alien signals because it’s a lot of the ideas just come to you when you’re doing something else. Maybe it’s like all of those things you’ve digested over the years and your brain just mies it up and comes up with something else.”
Casino wanted to see how small he could paint. So he painted Tic Tacs. You know, the candy breath mint. He taps a Tic Tac container and coaxes a particular one out. “There’s Van Gogh and there’s Starry Night on the back. This is an attempt to see how small I can go.” I examined it under the magnifying glass and all of the details are there. Amazingly small.
He directs my attention to a piece on a table. “This is something I call Splinter Punk” a term he coined. It’s a 3D wood piece, bright colors, sharp angles, fun. They are wooden caricatures like what he use to draw for magazines several jobs ago. I was like a kid in a candy shop. I was overwhelmed by all of the curious and interesting pieces casually laying about. These simple tools produce such wonderful creations.
He says, “I make these because it’s kind of hard to get people to pay a lot of money for a peanut. I mean, people do pay for them but with these, they understand what size they are because they have function. There’s a gallery in Los Angeles called Gallery 1988 and I do a lot of their shows. I include a video player to show that they do something. They sell pretty well out there.” Pull toys are a couple of thousand dollars while copies go for $300 - $400.”
|The Shining pull toy.|
Casino reflects. “Before this, I did try many, many things and failed at every single one of them. I tried to do cartooning. I failed at that. I didn’t really fail; it just didn’t go anywhere. Maybe I gave up too early. I tried to write children’s books. I just didn’t have the knack for it. But it took me this long in life to find I had a knack for something.”
Well, nobody else is doing this. “Well, that’s another thing. So I got to make up my own job. I’m going to be the best peanut artist in the world because no one else is a peanut artist.”
In a few years his work has grown in sophistication and detail as an artist. “Basically, I have a lot of tenacity. A lot of people give up too early. It’s all about perseverance. I’m the tortoise, not the hare.” That should be on a t-shirt - Be the tortoise, not the hare.
Yes, Steve Casino can rightfully claim to be the Number One peanut artist in the world. Who can dispute it? And that’s his story in a nutshell.
Check these out.
Here's the link to Casino's webpage - http://stevecasino.com. Spend a little time exploring his work.
Here is the link to Bang Zoom. http://www.bangzoomdesign.com
Here's the link to watch Casino create the images for the royal wedding. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEzRklmj5Jw