Meet CHRIS CULPEPPER, owner and operator of CulpepperPlus Creative a boutique design firm centered in Raleigh-Durham, NC. CHRIS utilizes his unique ability to blend his love of animation with Graphic Design and programming.
The name of his brand, CulpepperPlus Creative, is more than just his family name. “I wanted to use my family name in my business. First, I thought it was just easier than coming up with something snazzy that would lose its luster over the years. Second, I wanted to ensure that I always treat my clients with the utmost care, because my family name is attached to everything I do. The “Plus” means that it’s more than just me. I’m representing my family and I’m representing my God as a believer.”
As a kid CHRIS was into art and was always coloring, drawing and watching cartoons, especially Looney Tunes and programs on The Disney Channel. “I really loved Disney’s animated movies like “Robin Hood” and “The Jungle Book“. When “Toy Story” came out, it really blew my mind! I knew I wanted to be a part of that somehow. I have always loved animation. I took my art classes in high school super seriously and I majored in Graphic Design at Hampton University.”
When CHRIS graduated from college he got a job at an internet firm as a production assistant. “I was basically creating HTML pages and scanning images for various clients. One day I stumbled upon a copy of a 3D program called RayDream3D that was laying around the office. I spent off hours digging into that program, learning how to use it and even created a few projects with it. One project I remember in particular was a dodgeball game with primitive shapes. It had music, voiceovers and everything!”
That initial experience with animation sparked CHRIS’ passion! “From then on, I’ve been dipping my toes into the industry wherever I could, learning on my own for the most part. It wasn’t until 20 years later that I had the opportunity to pursue a Master’s degree in Animation. Now that I’ve graduated, I’m ready to continue the journey towards the 3D Animation industry.”
CHRIS’ wildly imaginative illustrations trademark his style. “I’m really big on facial expressions. I love slapstick comedy as well, so anything that is really expressive. I try to exaggerate actions to really drive the message to the audience about what the character is doing and feeling. I enjoy creating immersive stories, using certain camera angles, sound effects or facial expressions to help the audience understand the story that much better. As much as I love 3D animation & film making, I still really enjoy sketching. It’s quite relaxing and a great way to stay up on fundamentals. I’m trying to make sure I carve time out everyday to do it since it’s a perishable skill.”
As a Black man in this industry it is very important to CHRIS that he convey certain messages through his work. “Everyone has a little something unique they can add to their stories because all of our stories are different. I hope I can represent my culture with stories that feature people that look like me. As an African American believer in Christ I believe that representation matters and people need to see that their culture, their experiences and their lives matter. I try to incorporate my faith into my stories, not to smack people in the face with it, but to demonstrate what God has done in my life.”
When asked who influenced him to be an animator, CHRIS quoted the late great Christopher Wallace…”Ain’t nobody really influence me, know what I’m sayin’, just tired of being on the streets.’ There are so many talented folks out there, but some of my favorites are Tom & Tony Bancroft, Aaron Blaise, Jamaal Bradley, Frank Abney, Milt Kahl, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston.”
CHRIS and Culpepper Plus aim to please. “When our clients see their artwork I want them to feel joy, satisfaction and awe. The whole point of what we do is to bring their vision to reality. We offer our very best for every client no matter the size of the project. It’s our name on the line every time.”
As creative as he is, it’s hard for CHRIS to imagine what he’d be doing if he weren’t a 3D Animator. “When I think back there are certain crossroads in my life I can identify that helped me get where I am today. The most notable would be when I decided not to pursue football going into college. I was a pretty good athlete and from time to time I wonder how far I could have gone, but ultimately I am quite happy with my decision.”
CHRIS CULPEPPER’S favorite project to date is his most recent work, a short film called “PECULIAR PEOPLE”, which tells the story of a young child who has difficulty playing and fitting in with classmates and how he eventually finds his purpose. “I genuinely love what I do, bringing stories to life. I am striving to animate for feature films. I would like to join a large studio like Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, Dreamworks or Blue Sky. Ultimately I would love for my company to create it’s own feature film that would be shown in theatres.”
PECULIAR PEOPLE is currently available for viewing on the link below, enjoy the show!