Saturday, April 25, 2015

animation principles, spring 2015

spring semester's nearly over, and around this time of year, we all start to perk up with the promise of sunny days and a long summer without classes. nevertheless, there's work to be done before we're all unleashed. here's a link to the spring 2015 animation principles class, with students working on the their final, hand-drawn animation projects.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

uarts junior & sophomore spring 2015 screening

come check out the raw, unfiltered creativity of our uarts juniors & sophomores, unleashed at the end of the semester screening in connelly auditorium on may 5th, 7pm!

work will include individual personal shorts by the juniors (their first go at a self-directed short), as well as work from intro to computer, 2d computer, and other classes.

this is a chance to see the efforts of young, fresh artists, unfettered by experience, with all the energy and charm of a moment that only happens once.

and here's a link to the junior animation blogs.

a link to past flyers.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

an evening with paul fierlinger

wish I had photos, but didn't take any.

paul fierlinger gave a great lecture at school this past friday on making a career for oneself as an independent animator. his talk was frank, honest, engaging, and the result of a lifetime of taking risks, making mistakes, and enjoying great artistic success. he said things which may have surprised especially the students, but from the crowd surrounding him afterwards, it seems they took his words to heart - I hope so, in any case.

will write more about it if time permits, before the details fade from memory, but this was a very worthwhile event for a packed house of nearly forty people, and much respect to paul for sharing his story and his strategy with us all.

the short answer paul gave us with regards to monetizing independent animation was: the internet behemoth, because of its vast reach, is capable of turning niche audiences into a sizable clientele group. so, whether your particularity is dogs, sailing, loneliness, or something else, there are enough people searching for a story that speaks to them within amazon's vast network that the numbers, paul estimes, will add up. make a deal with Amazon and let critical mass do its thing. the longer answer to the question of being a successful independent animator starts off with another short answer: if you want to make animated films, make animated films. the road may be difficult, but persistence, talent, self-discipline, and integrity with respect to your own vision are the elements that will lead you to carving out a path for yourself as an artist.

on a technical level, do your 10,000 hours. this notion is often quoted, but paul's particular take on it was to set a daily hour quota, I think it was 12 hours or thereabouts, over the course of two years, in order to meet that goal. so, this is in contrast to the more amorphous sense of time that the number 10,000 normally provokes...this is a pragmatist's vision of the time it takes to acquire a skill.

on a conceptual level, get a liberal arts education, whether through college or by seeking knowledge on one's own via books, and now, I suppose, the internet. as an animator, you will find yourself leaps ahead of your peers if you broaden your intellectual and aesthetic horizons to include ideas and influences from outside the Magic Kingdom. animators are often accused of "ghetto-izing" themselves: work that relies heavily for inspiration on work from within its own discipline risks a kind of inbreeding and paucity of original thought. we become fans, rather than trailblazers.

do not seek approval, from teachers, family, experts, or other sages. do what you need to do, what you require of yourself, make mistakes, and learn from them. asking someone what worked for them will not necessarily result in finding a perspective that will work for you.

my mental reaction to paul's words was two-fold: first, I imagined there were some in the audience who felt frustrated, or disappointed. those were persons probably looking for a set of instructions, for tips and tricks, for insider secrets that would get them ahead.  a reasonable frustration, but not an interesting one. there were also those in the audience, again I imagine, who saw the stark and unadorned truth of paul's words for what they were, buttressed by a lifetime of strong-headed willfulness, and the courage to move forward under what were often very difficult circumstances. there's a bit of validity in both points of view, and paul's vision is certainly that of a single-minded individual judging the world from the point of view of very personal, individual experience, but wouldn't you rather err on the side of the recalcitrant artist than on the side of the perspective that believes that those who follow all the rules will be endowed with riches, success, and, somehow, magically, a creativity and an originality worth writing home about?

the strength of the message here lies in its authenticity; it is more a telling of a life story and its hard-won wisdom, than a methodology for success. once a person accepts that there are no guarantees, then the path begins to make itself visible, oddly enough.

no one said being an artist was going to be easy, and why should it?

the main feeling I had, listening to paul fierlinger talk about his perspective on not only animation, but life, really, was that, to be an artist, or even to truly be alive, one has to take risks, be original, insofar as your own story and experience are simultaneously unique to yourself and common to humanity. the problem in animation is that, while it is an art form, it is most often considered in the light of industry, a commercial endeavor, entertainment, even by many of its practitioners. the link between technology and animation goes back to its modern beginnings, with the invention of cameras and cinematic equipment. animation's evolution into a commercialized entertainment form can be largely, though not solely, attributed to one Walter Elias Disney, whose vision was focused squarely on the largest audience. he was, in his own words, a "seller of corn."

if you take risks based on your gut instinct, you will find a way to survive and thrive.

possibly more later...

here's a link to paul's bio.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

why do people watch cartoons?

Parkway Northwest High School, interview.
Trey and Genuine, students, Allison Serabo, instructor.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Philadelphia Independents II, reprise, Friday, April 3rd

A friendly reminder that Philadelphia Independents II will be screening a second time, on Friday, April 3rd, 6:30pm at the University of the Arts, Terra Building, 8th floor, Connelly Auditorium. So if you missed the Plastic Club screening last month, here's your second chance!

Come see much of Philadelphia's finest work in independent animation and meet a filmmaker or two. This screening is free and open to the public. See previous post for more information on the artists, including Ahmad Ajouz, Geoff Beatty, Ross Bollinger, Lowell Boston & Liz Goldberg, Paul and Sandra Fierlinger, Samantha Gurry, Hannah Holby, Juggling Wolf, Greg Lytle, Christopher Magee, Joshua Mosley, Karl Stave, and Lynn Tomlinson). Arrive in advance to secure a good seat.

hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

philadelphia independents ii recap

image by the Plastic Club

Philadelphia Independents II was a success, hosted once again by the Plastic Club, on Camac Street. Animators of all colors and stripes gathered together with students, Plastic Club members, and the public to view a strong body of work being created within the region.

Ahmad Ajouz's "Country Matters" was an examination of cultural differences using 3D character animation. Interviews with Lebanese immigrants to the U.S. and Americans who have traveled to the Middle East brought up topics that are perhaps even more relevant today than when the film first came out in 2006. "Beat Sphere," created for the Kimmel Center's outdoor display, was an abstract animation, also using 3D software, of visuals pulsating to music.

Geoff Beatty's work included 3D character animation from "Bullseyes Playground," an interactive game, and also some hand-made stop-motion with his "Valen-Vines 2015 Compilation.," again demonstrating the wide-ranging choice of aesthetic and medium from a single artist.

Ross Bollinger's finely-tuned comic work opened the show, provoking the audience into audible amusement. He gave us three selections: "Catson Pawlick," about an artist tormented by a cat who keeps ruining his paintings. This ends happily, as they team up together to impress the cat cognoscenti in an art gallery setting. "Do You Like My Decorations" is the tale of a perversely friendly Christmas tree, mocking the trappings of the holiday and demonstrating false good cheer, and "Uneasy Rider" is a classic example of animator abuse of a character.

Liz Goldberg and Lowell Boston presented an excerpt from the work-in-progress: "Cigar Queens of Havana: Devil's D'Opera," revealing the earthy culture of Cuban divas via Liz's trademark paintings and Lowell's compositing work. The film came about as the result of a first-time trip to Havana made by Liz, where she was able to observe the rich atmosphere of the city firsthand, especially the cigar-smoking women who exude strength, confidence, and character with unaffected aplomb.

Paul and Sandra Fierlinger presented several works, including excerpts from "Slocum At Sea with Himself," a two-hour-long work-in-progress depicting a man's nautical adventures. Paul's signature sketchy drawings and Sandra's subtle colors work together with storytelling to create a thoughtful, reflective atmosphere that demonstrates the capacity of animation to go well beyond the public's general perception of what an animated "cartoon" might be. "From Eliza," another work-in-progress, takes this even further, exploring one woman's experience of terminal cancer. Paul will also be giving a lecture at the University of the Arts on April 10th, discussing his approach to making a successful career as an independent animator. He certainly knows something about the topic, having done this for over 40 years. His focus now has shifted towards the internet as the means to make this happen.

Samantha Gurry's "Montag // There is a Voice" was an experimental music video making use of paper cutouts, mainly photographic, and objects, evoking in one audience member work from the 1960's. Samantha is a recent graduate of the University of the Arts' Animation program and is doggedly pursuing a career as an independent animator.

Plastic Club member Hannah Holby, an educator, filmmaker, actor and artist, presented short works by her students, including "Attack of the Plant Monsters," "Rain Cloud," and the more ambitious "Many, Many, Too Many Cats," which had a sound track narrated by its authors. The works were animated in paper cutout and demonstrated the refreshingly unfettered approach of children towards subject material and visual representation.

Local indie studio Juggling Wolf, represented at the screening by Jason Chen, offered several works, including ads for Anthropologie and Mizrahi Yarn, and two non-commercial efforts, "Cupcake" and "Night Moves." These shorts highlight UArts Animation alum Jason's and cohorts Ian Foster's and Marina Gvozdeva's talent for creating finely-crafted, visually inventive pieces that charm the viewer and bring them into meticulously imagined worlds. Jason is also co-director of the very successful Paradigm Gallery in South Philadelphia, and is earning a growing list of accolades and praise from city newspapers, art critics, and the public.

Greg Lytle's music video "I Wanna Play," based on a song by Bill Harley, also charmed the audience with its fluid animation, strong design, and kid-friendly atmosphere, spreading a message of tolerance. Greg is a Philadelphia native who recently moved back to the city after a long stint in New York. He specializes in both drawn and stop-motion animation.

UPenn Department of Fine Arts, Chair in the School of Design Joshua Mosley presented three works, "dread," "Jeu de Paume," and "Natura," all impressive examples of animation that has nothing to with the world of Walt Disney or Miyazaki cartoons, demonstrating the form's viability within a fine arts context. "dread" places two French philosophers, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Blaise Pascal, as 3D animated sculptures, within a Hawaiian forest setting, as they debate man's role in the context of nature. "Jeu de Paume" is a technical tour de force, combining stop-motion with computer-programmed, hand-held camera movement as two players engage in the sport of court tennis, predecessor to the modern game. "Natura" combines abstract graphics with a child's exploration of phonetics.

I (Christopher Magee) showed an excerpt from my studio Motion Heads' work-in-progress, "The Ogre & the Mermaid," a dystopic fairytale created using hand-drawn animation and digital coloring and compositing. The subject material deals with regret and the finite nature of our time as living individuals. I was happy to have my composer Daniel McGowan and background artist Ellen Marcus in the audience.

UArts Director of Animation Karl Staven presented three works, "Katerina and the Composer," "An Animator's Guide to Everglades National Park," and "An Animator's Guide to Weir Farm." The first two pieces are works-in-progress, and Karl stepped up to the microphone to provide live audio accompaniment. All three works showcase his love of stop-motion animation placed in outdoor contexts, often in nature, his highly kinetic sense of movement, penchant for quietly absurd humor, and visceral approach to sound.

Towson University professor Lynn Tomlinson's "The Ballad of Holland House" is currently making the rounds of the festival circuit, having already screened at the Cheasapeake Film Festival, Cinanima, The Athens Video Art Festival, and several others. Lynn's love of tactile media is convincingly demonstrated in this clay-on-glass work, which makes elegant use of the technique's capacity for morphing transitions and a painterly look. The audience of Plastic Club painters was appreciative of the look, feel, and musicality of her work.

The screening was followed by a lively Question and Answer session with the animators, each of whom was able to respond to a query posed by an interested and informed audience.

Thanks to all participants, and thanks to the Plastic Club, in particular Bob Lee, who co-organized this event with me, Anders Hansen, who assisted with the flyer and other elements, and Cynthia Arkin, Plastic Club president. Their warm and welcoming attitude make this event intimate, friendly, and convivial. Looking forward to more events in the future that bring animators and their audience together.



Sunday, February 22, 2015

village of kepuhi progress

updates from haley on our "village of kepuhi" sand animation project.