05. Seeing

in the absence of critique

“Cosmos for me, is black, first and foremost black, something like a black churning current full of whirls, stoppages, flood waters…and there is man gazing at it—gazing at it and swept up by it—trying to decipher, to understand and to bind it into some kind of a whole…”
—Witold Gombrowicz

Seeing

Friends! Welcome to issue 05. To my American brethren: I hope y’all had a sweet Independence.

As I intimated in Issue 04, I went through a bit of churn working on the first segment of my animation Chamoe. The short of it is that I was trying out a bunch of hypotheses, spending a lot of time and effort in doing so, ending up where I began…ultimately realizing that I needed less of pretty much everything.

At one point I thought it sure would go faster if I had another pair of eyes on these. It doesn’t even have to be someone else’s eyes, though that would be ideal—I just literally needed an extra pair, rested, for the distance that one needs from a thing to see what it really looks like.

Animators often “flip” back and forth repeatedly between consecutive frames in order to “see” and draw fluid interstitial movement. It’s kind of magical because when you do this, your eyes fill in the lines between; the paper plane wants to arc in such and such a way, the scarf to fall in such and such a curve. The flipping makes a sort of after-image in reverse.


When I dally, the magic fades. Up too close, things become deformed. It’s akin to thinking about a word too hard—it loses shape, feels foreign, inspires doubt and suspicion. Try it—say “chair” five times, contemplatively, focusing on the sounds munging together, thinking about what it’s supposed to mean. You see? It is no longer English! It is not even a word!

Still, I’d lie awake staring at the ceiling, unable to stop flipping through the sequence in my mind, desperate to see where the lines wanted to go. Music usually helps me with this, and as you know, I don’t have that to rely on in this project.

Patrick Smith, whose work on Blank on Blank was an early inspiration, once told me in an interview that he used to have these dinners every Thursday night with close friends, where they would give each other feedback on works in progress. I still envy this a lot.

I’ve always loved the idea of a salon. But I never went to school for, or had a job that involved, animation, so I don’t have a ready network of folks I can talk shop with. At least not regularly, and with a level of intimacy I’d like. Perhaps this will change, but as of now I’ve just my own eyes, and the only kind of distance I have access to, which is time.

Anyway, I made it through, just took me longer than I’d have enjoyed. Today:

  • WIP: Chamoe, in sketches and notes

  • The story so far, with subtitles and sound (unmastered)

  • Provisions

WIP: Chamoe, a walk through sketches and notes

This first sequence, which I was using to develop a style primer—a sort of aesthetic template to anchor on for the rest of the animation—turned out to be 320 frames, or over 13 seconds long. It’s really more of a proving ground than a primer, where I stress-tested things like colors, line work, and brushes, but also stylistic juxtaposition and economy. Big and familiar takeaways:

  • Timing and key frames really are everything.

  • Less is more.

  • Shit takes a long time.

I played with adding more emphasis before the transition. This is longer by 43 frames—almost 2 seconds. I don’t even know what to say about this one.

Finally, I liked something for more than a few hours. The pacing felt good, and there’s a sense of anticipation that addresses the emphasis and tension I was craving, but quietly. I ran with this.

Of course, looking back on the animatic where there’s no real transition—just a cut—I feel like there’s something clean and pure about that. I feel drawn to linger, and to dally. But I’m gonna move on to the next sequence for now.

Here’s what it looks like

with my mom’s voice, unmastered sound, and some subtitles.

Provisions

We are what we consume. Take in good things, make good things.


Until next time.