January 10, 2019
An introduction to our new Creative Director.
From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the power that images and sound can exert on emotion.
We are thrilled to announce the addition of John Leamy to the BigStar team. A talented and accomplished artist, musician, and overall human, John has stretched his skill-set across multiple mediums and brought it here to the studio where he's taken on the role of Creative Director. With a hands-on approach and a distinguished style, John has already become an exciting part of our growth in the new year.
While his work can speak for itself, he boasts impressive experience working for major NYC motion graphics houses, collaborating with the band U2, illustrating and designing for album covers, ad campaigns and more.
Please enjoy his thoughts and insights below - we can't wait to see what 2019 has in store.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a creative lead?
It was a natural evolution for me. From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the power that images and sound can exert on emotion. I went to school to be a painter, but my path took me into motion and graphic design. Eventually my work opened a door to leading, and I ran through.
How has your time making music informed your work in motion graphics or vice versa?
I’ve always valued the balance that making music provides to my creative thinking. Music at its most immediate is about living in the moment. Catharsis. You react and contribute in real time without consideration beyond what your experience, intuition and emotion provides. Music is a fantastic way to learn about dynamics, tension and release and drama. To me, all of these concepts are essential to design and animation.
How did you get involved with working for U2?
I first met U2 through Catherine Owens. She’s a fantastic artist who was their director of content for live shows, and I began by making animations for concert tours. They were taken by one of my animations and asked me to create a music video based on that work. From there, and working with Catherine, I went on to create the titles and branding for the U23D concert film and the packaging for the No Line On The Horizon album. It was a great run of work for me, and U2 themselves could not have been nicer and more supportive people. Real class.
What makes you love what you do?
I love what I do because I know that I’m extremely lucky to be engaged in doing something that I would be doing anyway. Its as simple as that. To be happy, I need to be making things and problem solving. When your work is fun, it’s not work at all. I love that.
What is your process when approaching a new project?
My process is largely the same at the outset of any new project, and the first step for me is to learn as much as possible about the subject, client and landscape or competition surrounding the job. I think you owe it to the client and yourself to know as much as you can know, to start with a deep dive into the material. Once that is accomplished, I like to cast the net very wide during initial RnD and conceptual/design thinking. Sometimes the solution presents itself almost immediately, but at other times can take time to surface. That knowledge of the subject allows the marination of ideas to form.
Is there a formula you follow in such process or is it dependent on the type of work?
I follow the process above for everything, time permitting, but sometimes there are jobs for which a lack of information can be an asset, if that makes sense. Haha. So, I like the ideal of proper prep, but there are times when you have to go with your gut and intuition. It’s satisfying when those situations work well...like music.
To me, the best creative directors have always embraced exploration and risk, and have fostered that spirit within their teams, and I try my best to do that.
What do you feel is the most important quality in a Creative Director?
Being open to the unknown. There is still so much to learn for me. From anyone, anywhere. To me, the best creative directors have always embraced exploration and risk, and have fostered that spirit within their teams, and I try my best to do that.
What perspective do you bring to the industry / what makes you different?
Everyone is an accumulation of experiences, both as a creative and as a person, and we all bring unique perspective born of that accumulation. My path as a creative has touched on a somewhat wide range of creative work, and all of those experiences have shaped my perspective as a creative.
What is your ultimate goal as an artist?
To make people feel something, to make them think, to influence their emotions.
In this industry, deadlines and pressure can act as an enemy of true creative joy. It’s important to not lose the fascinated and curious child in the maelstrom.
How long have you been designing / animating?
I started designing in 1989 after training as a fine artist. I moved to NYC with my band, and I found myself needing to make a living. Fast. After working as a silkscreen artist in the garment district for a year, I got some work through a friend at Radical Media. I literally walked in with a portfolio of drawings from school. They asked me if I knew photoshop, and I lied and told them “sure”. It was on then. I taught myself photoshop and illustrator, and then after effects and 3D. I think I started animating about a year later.
What brought you to BigStar?
I have known Josh since the two of us worked alongside one another at Imaginary Forces years ago. Over the years, I have admired the work BigStar has done and the company he has built. It is no mean feat in this business to chart steady growth over that long a span, and the range of work - particularly in long format documentary films was very attractive to my sensibilities.
Are there any inspirations that you pull from on a regular basis?
Yes and No. There are influences and artists that have always refreshed my point of view and to whom I return for inspiration, but I usually refer to them to reset my thinking. I love Gerhard Richter and Philip Glass. I also love AC/DC and Rockwell Kent.
What are you most passionate about professionally?
Working hard, and creating an esprit de corps leavened with humor. In this industry, deadlines and pressure can act as an enemy of true creative joy. It’s important to not lose the fascinated and curious child in the maelstrom.
Do you have any side-projects you continue to work on?
I’m making a lot of music and have started a small boutique record label (Yeggs Records) with some friends to promote music we believe in supporting. I’m also working on the development of a feature doc about the legendary producer Glyn Johns and the creative process.
How do you determine the success of a piece?
A piece is successful if you have managed to surprise and surpass hopes and expectations while bringing beauty to the work. The best work should leave the client, and you, touched.