Thosh Collins
Catching up with Steven Paul Judd at the Santa Fe Indian Market, August 2015

The Methodical Madness of Steven Paul Judd, Filmmaker, Graphic Designer and Toast Artist?

Chelsey Luger

Steven Paul Judd is a Kiowa-Choctaw artist, who fancies pop art, has a knack for comedy, maintains a devoted fan base, and does everything from graphic design to filmmaking to graffiti to writing ... to toast art (yes. bread. that kind of toast). And, the list goes on.

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“I love pop art and I’ve always liked pop culture stuff. Movies and TV," says Judd. "I love to see Native people having fun and I just want to make stuff that I like.”  

Judd's Work includes Toast of Indian Country (Pinterest) and A mixed media piece from Judd's recent Action Figure collection, displayed at Pop Art Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. Photo courtesy Steven Paul Judd.

Steven Paul Judd is all over the place. You ask him a question, he gives you a story. He begins a story; he goes off on a tangent. The next thing you know, he takes out his phone to play a stop-motion film he just created or starts sifting through his sticker collection. And the original question? It goes mostly unanswered. But, you learn things you didn’t even know you wanted to learn along the way.

Amidst all the chaos, how does this guy get anything done? Well, that’s the thing actually. He’s literally bursting with ideas and is palpably excited to share them. So, he does get things done. A lot of things. An unbelievable volume of things!

“I’m countin’ coups here sister!” he says in that distinctly Oklahoman voice as he demonstrates "Invaders" - an Atari-like mobile app game - based on art he designed for a line of t-shirts he created with the NTVS clothing company - is one of his most recent projects. (now available on Android, soon on iPhone) to which he says, “it’s the only acceptable way to play Indian!”

Based off Invaders, the mobile app video game he just developed, Judd created 10 of these custom retro Atari cartridges to be given away during the upcoming imagiNative film festival, where they will be part of a new media video game arcade exhibit. Photo courtesy: Steven Paul Judd

Judd studied communications at Haskell and Oklahoma University, but most of what he does he's learned on his own. His process is unglamorous and admittedly real. He Googles things, watches YouTube tutorials and messes up as often as he succeeds. He admits being afraid to fail, and says he gets nervous that people won’t like his stuff, but he’s saved by his inability to quit trying.

According to him, "It's a lot of trial and error."

His favorite art form, filmmaking - for example, is something that he is openly insecure about. While discussing his most recent film, Ronnie BoDean (starring Wes Studi), he talks about questioning himself during the editing process.

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"There was a day when I asked myself, 'Why are you even trying to make this? You should've gone to film school because you don't know what you're doing.' I think about the films my friends make and I wonder how they do it so well!"

"But,” he says, “I eventually come up with something that I'm really proud of every time, If I could dream in the future, I would just be directing films.  That’s what I want to be doing. Just making movies, eventually.”

Judd assisting young filmmakers at a workshop with Puyallup youth in Tacoma, Washington. Photo courtesy Steven Paul

He’s off to a good start. In the past year he’s directed two horror films, Death Factory which received international distribution, and Headgame, which just wrapped.  Ronnie BoDean has already been selected to a slew of film festivals and showcases, most recently the 2015 Santa Fe Independent Film Festival.

So how has he stayed so consistent with releasing all of his graphic design stuff during a year jam-packed with the notoriously long hours of filmmaking?

“I heard people say they work on cars for relaxation… well, I can equate that with Photoshop. I constantly stay up late after work and do the Photoshop stuff every day. For me, one hour feels like five minutes,” he explains.

Some of his ‘Photoshop stuff’ is just for fun and you can find it on his social media accounts like Instagram. Other stuff he sells on his Etsy shop. Some has been used as the official artwork for film festivals. A Tribe Called Red recently hired Judd to design the artwork for their new EP.

The late nights with Photoshop are intermingled with late nights of writing. Judd started out his career as a writer for a Disney show, and hasn't stopped that craft either. He just finished writing a book he’s been working on for two years, and we can expect to see that released in the next year or so.

"I want to release it as kind of a big party or festival, you know how white folks do Burning Man and Coachella and stuff? I want to do something like that with Natives. .. a big event that doesn’t have anything to do with a tragedy.”

Again, he just wants to see people having fun.

If you learn nothing else from Steven Paul Judd, learn this: its start somewhere, try anything, and don’t be afraid to follow your creative intuition. Remember that if something doesn’t work out, no harm done. That he has garnered so much acclaim yet remained totally humble and unjaded might just be the key to his success. 

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