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October 30, 2013

Keith Haring and the art of creating vines

Until recently Ian Padgham was a video producer at Twitter. Now he’s a Vine artist. Inspired by Keith Haring, he pushes the medium harder than most. Conversations caught up with him following his talk at Nokia World.

If you’ve only seen one video on Vine, chances are it’s “Playing with my toy cars” by Ian Padgham (@origiful). Brilliantly simple, it garnered over 60,000 likes on Vine and for artist Padgham was an unexpected success.

Toy cars:

Padgham didn’t intend to create that video. Once a self confessed “paranoid perfectionist” a switch flicked in Padgham’s brain when he tuned into a Twitter Q&A with the people behind stop-motion comedy TV show, Robot Chicken.

Talking about getting success in Hollywood, they said “it’s about going out there, taking any job that comes your way doing all the work you can and continuing to try” he tells us, emphasizing that the last part is what inspired him to stop focusing on perfection and instead focus on producing. Vine was his ideal medium.

He set himself a challenge. Publish a Vine every day before work. Work starts at nine and as he doesn’t like getting up early, he had about 45 minutes to produce each Vine. In the case of “Playing with my toy cars” it was more like five minutes. What he’d been working on that morning took him 40 minutes to realise it wasn’t going to work. So he created the cars video instead.


It was only because he made the commitment to publishing something every day that Padgham released it at all – he worried that “it was too silly”. 60,000 likes later Robot Chicken’s prophecy came true.

Being creative isn’t something that just happened to Padgham. Turning up at the Museum of Modern Art to catch a Keith Haring exhibition changed the course of his life. Inspired by the vulgarity, passion and politics of what he saw, Padgham committed to becoming an artist, first studying Art History at Berkley before spending a year at Université Paris Sorbonne. Keen observers will spot the Haring reference in his “Happy Mother’s Day” Vine.

Happy Mother’s day:

Padgham’s first phone was a Nokia (which he still has and occasionally uses) and when he got his hands on the Nokia Lumia 1020 to test out the Vine Beta, he was “blown away”. He continues “even though I worked at Twitter and do all this technology stuff, some of what [Nokia] revealed today, the ability to refocus within the picture, I’m blown away with what can be done. It’s just another venue for people to be creative”.

His technical skills as an artist are clear – check out his “Thomas Hardy” sketch to see for yourself. It’s a talent first honed during a youth spent watching Bob Ross on The Joy of Painting, who Padgham describes as “someone who wasn’t pretentious about what he was doing, he was just the most positive encouraging person.”

Thomas Hardy:

His technical skill extends beyond pencils and paintbrushes. “How to get audio on Vine” pushes the app to the very limit, not to mention Padgham’s patience. Combining stop-motion audio with stop-motion video made for a painstaking and lengthy exercise.

How to get audio on Vine

Although a very modern phenomenon Vine is, according to Padgham, very much like the original stop motion animation movement. With limited tools and cumbersome techniques, early stop motion was challenging but the best results were incredible.


And so it is with Vine. Padgham highlights the constraints as being a real driver in creativity “often we excel when we have a problem to solve” he believes “when we have too many options and too many resources we get stage fright”. For him, Vine delivers the right balance of bare necessities and what would be too much.

Slightly embarrassed to admit he’s a “cat person” who’s never seen Breaking Bad (though could easily be mistaken for Aaron Paul), Padgham is humble and like his childhood hero Ross, utterly unpretentious despite his incredible talent.

Equally like his greatest inspiration, he’s inspired millions with his Vines. And, were it not for Haring’s wildness, passion and politics the rest of us might never have had the opportunity to see “Playing with toy cars”. Mr Haring, we salute you.

Vine is available soon on Windows Phone.

Don’t forget to share your best Vines with @nokia.