Most of us have put together a model or two, whether it be out of Lego or a traditional plastic figure. However, few can say that they have done the same on the scale of which designer, aka Visual Spicer, Taras Lesko works in to create his masterpieces. There is no doubt that you have seen Taras 3D creations as they have spread like wildfire across the web, but the one aspect that is often hard to believe is that fact that they are all constructed out of paper! Having worked with campaigns for companies such as Audi and Sprint, to name a few, Axiom was lucky enough to get a few moments with the designer between his busy schedules.
Before we get into your amazing range of work, could you give the readers at Axiom a quick summary of the man behind the paper?
Taras Lesko, born in 1982, originally from Ukraine, currently living in Seattle with my wife and our cat. I’m a Graphic Designer by day and Visual Artist by night, with a formal education in Visual Communications, however I’m mostly self taught due to my persistence and lifelong passion for creativity. I’ve been doing design work professionally since 2002, first in web design, then in video game design, and now my papercrafting hobby is beginning to take a turn for yet another possible career path. I started playing around with papercrafting in 2007 by browsing the internet and randomly coming across several papercrafts from other designers. After downloading the templates and building my first papercraft I was instantly hooked. I love computer aided design and building things my hands, probably from playing with Legos when I was younger. Papercrafting seemed like the perfect way to merge the two together. At that point I set on a mission to figure out how to design and build my own papercrafts. It was tough at first, but with proper tools and techniques it’s developed into something very special for me.
Is there a background story to the title of “Visual Spicer”?
In 2005 I briefly worked as a part-time web designer at Eben Design (www.ebendesign.com). The owner of this creative studio, Eben, was always very clever with his use of words and phrases. At some point, after seeing the work I was producing, he started calling me Visual Spicer. After I left Eben Design to continue freelancing the name really stuck with me. It really fit my creative work and when I found out the domain name was available it was officially a keeper.
It seems as though you approach your personal and client-based work with the same level of professionalism and attention to detail. Is there a different mindset you have between the two? Which do you enjoy more?
I put the same amount of passion and care into all my work. I strive to continue getting better at what I do. I never want to become the type of designer who turns off the creativity when he’s not getting paid for it. When I do good personal work clients notice and I get paid jobs. When my clients are happy my bills are paid and I get to do more personal work. I definitely enjoy doing my personal work more because it doesn’t restrict me with budgets, deadlines, branding guidelines, revisions, contracts, invoices, etc. However, client work has its own privileges. I get to build relationships with new people, sometimes travel to new places, and work under heavy loads of stress which turbo-charges my creative and personal growth.
The “7FT Gundam Papercraft” may be the among the largest in scale of your projects, but it is far from the only awe-inspiring piece. Is there any one project that you are particularly attached to? How do you go about choosing your next project?
The 7ft Gundam Papercraft is definitely my biggest personal accomplishment to date, but I tend not to get very attached to my work because I know that I can always do better. Generally I get inspired by my surroundings and the things, people or places which I’m particularly interested in. Other times, when I’m creatively blocked, I’ll pray about it and God points me to my next source of inspiration. I go through different seasons in my life and I see my creative work as being a visual timeline of my journey.
Before the “7FT Gundam Papercraft”, you finished (and quite uniquely disposed of [ link ]) the “4FT Freedom Gundam” papercraft. What is it about the Gundam series that draws your attention as a designer?
You might find this to be a bit of a surprise, but I don’t know anything about the Gundam series. I’ve never watched the shows or any other Gundam related media. I really like the miniature Gundam die-cast models. I can walk into my local hobby store, immediately set my course to the Gundam display and endlessly admire every little detail of every model. Someone really put a lot of creativity into these things, which I really appreciate.
From Gundam to Viewtiful Joe, your work touches on a lot of icons in Japanese animation and video game culture. Have you ever been to Japan yourself? What is it about the culture that you find interesting enough to pursue through your own projects?
I’m a gamer and Viewtiful Joe on the Playstation 2 was one of my all time favorite games. I wanted to make a papercraft of Joe to remember the good times I had playing that game. I guess there’s something about the Japanese culture which really intrigues me, the technology, the robotics, the imagination… I drive a Japanese car and couldn’t be happier with it. I’ve never been to Japan, but would love to experience it someday.
The process of creating your work seems to be as important as the final result. While a lot of artists tend to keep their methods a secret, you go out of your way to give fans a behind the scenes look. It must double the workload, so why do it?
You must be referring to my time-lapse videos which are another creative passion of mine. I make these videos to enhance the viewing experience for my audience. A person can look at an artwork, be amazed for two seconds, then walk away and completely forget about it. However, when a person sees an artwork along with a video which tells a story of how it was created by the artist suddenly the level of appreciation goes way up and the artwork becomes more memorable. It’s also a great way for me to communicate a message which I do with a lot of these videos. I actually don’t feel that my videos give away my secrets. I don’t show the planning and design phases of the projects which to me seem far more valuable than the construction phase. I encourage learning and I always make sure to answer every question which comes to my in-box from any person who’s curious about my work.
Your faith seems to be an underlying theme you use throughout your personal work. What part does it play as you approach a new project?
My faith plays a big part in my personal work, especially since the age of 23 when I found a sense of purpose, meaning, and worth through a series of events and experiences orchestrated by God; my mind was opened and my life was transformed. Knowing God and having a relationship with him filled up the personal and spiritual emptiness I had inside of me. It’s completely transformed me as a person and my work as an artist. I use my work as a way of expressing my life change to the world for people who are struggling with the same inner brokenness, but can experience fulfillment just as I did through Jesus Christ.
Are there any other new projects stacked up on your desk we can be looking forward to?
I recently completed my work on Forza Motorsport 4 for Xbox 360, along with a couple downloadable papercrafts for two other big clients. I’ll be posting these to my website soon. Otherwise, I’d like to continue growing as an artist, use my creative gifts for charitable causes and continue to inspire people around the world. For personal work, perhaps a 14ft Gundam Papercraft? We’ll have to wait and see…