Scott Kraynak’s book Animal Crackers is not for kids. In fact, it poses a pretty deep question:
What if nature had the power to do to us what we are doing to it?
Through Kraynak’s colorful Maurice Sendak-esque pencil work (and his brother Jeffrey’s Dr. Seuss-esque poetry), Animal Crackers shows the reader what it would be like if animals hunted humans. Clubbed our babies the way we club baby seals. Ate sushi with raw human heads and limbs poking out through the rice instead of raw tuna.
But don’t assume this is all from the perspective of an armchair nature buff. Kraynak walks his talk in his day job as a Park Ranger. And genuinely wants us to lay down our guns and stop butchering wildlife and natural spaces just because we can.
“Animal Crackers is inspired by a lot of rage that I have inside. Not everyone has to be a tree-hugging environmentalist, but I feel that every human being should be aware of the importance of a healthy planet for our survival. Sometimes we forget that we are animals too, just another species on Earth. That’s partly why I chose to do these images as a role reversal where wildlife is doing horrible acts to humans because it gives nature that human identity and graphically shows humans suffering like an animal.
“I grew up camping and canoeing in Ohio, and my passion for the environment has just grown with me as I’ve gotten older, and as I continue to witness world societies take our planet for granted. My work as a Park Ranger has greatly influenced it as well.
“As much as being a Park Ranger is a rewarding profession, it also makes you lose any and all belief in human intelligence. Watching people engrave their names in the walls of the Grand Canyon, on million-year-old fossil beds, feeding wildlife, trying to put their kids on wildlife. It’s a non-stop parade of human stupidity that you witness working with the public. Just look at the news today, the perilously endangered Gorilla that was killed in the Cincinnati Zoo to save some kid who fell into the Gorilla enclosure because their Mom wasn’t looking. Not too long ago another group of idiots picked up a baby dolphin out of the water to take ‘selfies’ with it, and the dolphin ended up dying.”
Describe your style and inspirations as an artist.
“By far my biggest influence and inspiration is Vincent Van Gogh. A friend of mine termed my style as ‘lineal-ism’. I kind of like to look at it as how Vincent would have used colored pencils if he chose that medium. I’ve always been greatly inspired by artists who created a social stir, introduced the world to something entirely new, and forced people to think.”
Any other inspirations?
“Edward Abbey, Elvis, Iggy Pop, Hieronymus Bosch, Picasso, Hunter S. Thompson, Stanley Kubrick...anyone who caused a stir and made society nervous I find inspiring.
“My biggest inspiration as an artist is to use my work as a means of activism for causes that I believe in. The book Animal Crackers is a strong statement on what humans are carelessly doing to wildlife and the Earth. My upcoming photography collection Unconquerable Desires is an anti-war, pro-feminist statement. My brother Jeff and I are also currently working on a new project that will be a very satirical look at guns and being ‘a true American’.”
Tell me more about that.
“It probably will be done in the same vein as Animal Crackers, where the book will look like a children’s book, but the interior will be filled with images and words that hit you like a ton of bricks. We are going to tackle the issue of gun violence, how the NRA stops any reforms from happening, the ridiculous, ignorant, backwards ‘gun culture’ as a whole, racism, bullying...we are going to touch on a lot of important topics.
“All of these projects come about from simply fighting for something that I believe in and trying to make some sort of positive change to our world.”
Any other examples of that?
“I have recently been combining spray paint and colored pencils in what is going to be a series of bird pieces, hopefully to be shown in a gallery setting with proceeds benefiting the Audubon Society or something. I’m also working on some pieces to donate to Taiwan’s National Parks.”
How does being a Park Ranger inform your work?
“Being outside, working in some of the most beautiful places on Earth, teaching people about nature and the environment...these are all passions of mine. Being a Park Ranger gives me plenty of fuel for my creative fire being that you deal with people who trash and destroy nature, illegally killing wildlife, and generally treating our planet like their own personal garbage can.
“Much of my art is so violent, controversial, and angry because creating art is my outlet for the rage that I feel with what is going on today in politics, in the world, and in my daily life.”
What’s the most shocking reaction you’ve received from someone who saw your work for the first time?
“There have been kids who started crying when they’ve seen some of my work. I’ve noticed a lot of head shaking and grimaces when people first see my art. There have been numerous political discussions/arguments I’ve gotten into started by people who look at my work. I haven’t been punched or threatened or anything like that...yet. Just wait for this gun book!”
Do you want to create a new style or art movement?
“I think so far, Animal Crackers and the art in it gave people a whole different viewpoint on what is happening to wildlife and nature. It’s not a brand new idea, but the ‘children’s book for adults’ concept I think is really different and even further drives home the points we are trying to make.
“Lately I’ve been thinking a lot of trying to find some abandoned property in Iceland, and live there and use the buildings on that property as a canvas and create all sorts of different artistic creations using the walls, floors, ceilings, etc. Like Goya’s Black Paintings.
“And also somehow utilize the land on the property as some outdoor gallery space. It’s all still very abstract in my mind, but I also visualize this as a modern day Walden. We’ll see. It would be cool to then have other environmentally minded artists come to live there and create as well. I don’t think that is a movement, maybe just a big project.
“The more that money and big business control everything about our world, the more I feel that we need artists and all creative people to open people’s eyes and give them something else besides the watered down edited bullshit and lies that you see everywhere around you. The more people that I can piss off with my art, the better. I mean, Donald Trump could possibly be our next president! That right there is a perfect example of the urgency and necessity for a shift in thinking and consciousness. It’s our job as artists to create that spark.”
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