Video Artist Creates Dreamy Worlds Using Vine

We talked to artist Tom Shea about the term "Vine Art," and if the social media tool has room to be a true arts platform.

Jun 2 2014, 10:00pm

Vine: the six second looping medium primarily used for amusing selfie song covers, prank videos, and memes. There's also, however, a variety of incredible and often overlooked art projects hidden within the platform. Although these artistic and sometimes amazing Vines may be difficult to dig up, there are a myriad of creative gems in the archives, as well as a budding community that surrounds them—such as the Vine-makers strutting their stuff in institution-type scenarios, including the Vine Arts Symposium in Brooklyn last month.

Tom Shea is one such creator. A graphic designer and photographer, the Utah-based visual artist posted his first Vine just a week after the app was officially released for iOS in January 2013. 335 posts and 26,000 followers later, he now touts the app as his favorite creative outlet.

His first 100-or-so posts focused on personal interests, including trail-running with his dogs, like this panoramic video portrait of Utah's Antelope Island. Soon, Shea started gaining traction as he broached more obscure and imaginative themes. Then, his hauntingly beautiful, narrative-style Vine of the Great Salt Lake was featured in Vine’s “Editors Picks."

Since then, his Vines have shifted ever more towards the surreal. Shea has a striking dual penchant for brightness and color, on one hand, and darkness and unease, on the other. Some look like animated landscape paintings, while others attempt to capture what could be possibly described as a six second window into the sublime: a utopian or heavenly atmosphere that regenerates itself on loop for infinity. It makes sense that one of his Vine hacks of another artist is called "Purgatory." 

Below include a few of his Vines, followed by a Q&A with Shea about the evolution of the social media device growing into a creative space, musings on the term "Vine Art," and why the program may be lacking on the artistic side to begin with.

The Creators Project: Most of your earlier Vines are just you and your dog in nature, but now it seems you are taking a more creative approach. How and why has your style changed?

Tom Shea: At first I thought it was just another social media app that allowed you to display your life much in the way that Facebook does. I did see creative Vines, but nothing like you do today. Back then it was new to everyone and people were mostly doing what they still do now...trying to make people laugh. It wasn't until I started following the Viners John Bergin, J_e_s_s, and some others that I began to see it as a way to create more artistic Vines. So, with that Vines have slowly become what they are today, which is the best and most addicting way for me right now to be creative.

Would you consider your videos "Vine art?" What is attractive to you about Vine, as an artistic medium?

If there is such a thing as "Vine art,” I would hope that I fall into that category on some level. I've heard many differing opinions referring to Vine as a possible art form, for and against this idea. Some seem to think that, because it's an app on your phone, it can't be taken too seriously. I'd like to think they just haven't seen the effort some Viners put into creating their work and making something beautiful, magical or thought provoking. Also, the fact that it's just a six second looping video to me is genius, with the looping feature being the most important of many features for it to work the way it does. The ideas and possibilities are endless.

Is the Vine community lacking a more artistic side? What are your thoughts on the progress this app/medium is making?

I wouldn't say "lacking," but I do wish it had a much stronger presence. The unfortunate side of Vine, I think, is the default notion (by mostly young kids who make up a large portion or the Vine community) that humor is Vine's purpose. Too often I get comments like "I don't get this, it's stupid" and "This isn't funny at all!" which all began when my work started becoming more creatively oriented.

I do however think that the app is making good strides as far as being a medium for art. I recently had two Vines featured in a Vine Art Symposium with other highly talented Viners in Brooklyn, NY. I was also recently contacted to create an iBook of my work to be accessed on iTunes, so I definitely think people are taking the Art Vine more seriously...which is amazing and creates so much potential for future Vine artists.

What do you use to produce/edit/post your videos? It seems like your production value has gone up over time.

Usually, I don't use editing software. I like to keep my Vines all-natural. The only Vine that has been altered outside of Vine is the endorsement Vine I created for Unpopular Now. I've learned better how to create the atmosphere I want using the in-app features such as focus lock and the assistive touch feature on the iPhone. With Vine, I think you get out of it what you put in.

Can you recommend some other Viners with an eye for the sublime?

Reno Shaw, R E MedlinJ_e_s_sLe Seb Ettingerand namestoocommon. There are SO MANY though that I wish I could name them all; I feel bad for leaving them out. You just have to take some time to hunt around the app or look at who other creative Viners follow.

For more of Tom Shea's non-Vine work, visit his website here:

See some of Tom Shea's non-Vine work on his website here:


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