11. Still

How we keep moving when we don’t feel like it. A murder, visual puzzles in triptych, summer tomatoes, film festivals, progress on my animated short Chamoe.

“I lay like a lizard, spoke no words…read two books supine in the sun.”
—Journal, January 2015

Friends, hi.

In this issue, I share the highlights of what I consumed and produced during the past 14 days, and I how I kept going while oddly fatigued and less motivated than usual.

Maybe it’s the changing of the seasons, but my work day has been starting later and later. Erstwhile an early riser, I dream vividly and get up late.

One morning I’m startled awake by the call of crows. Crows! In all my years of living in NYC I can’t ever recall seeing a single one. The sound they produce is explosive, grating. There must be two or three of them; one starts and the others catch up as if after a missed cue. Their calls overlap before abruptly fading, starting again after a breath. They rally four or five times, then go silent. I look outside, but see nothing in the trees.

When I’m feeling sluggish, I lean toward consumption versus production. I still exercise: walk, draft in perspective, freehand copy action sequences, make triptychs of line drawings.

Today I’ll share a bit more about these triptychs, because I think the exercise can be helpful to anyone in a listless funk—work- or mood-wise. Plus it’s fun.

Drawing triptychs is a simple, low-friction activity and a sneaky way to get the mind going before it can resist. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen (no erasing):

  1. Draw three boxes.

  2. Draw a simple image in the first box.

  3. Draw a variant in the second box.

  4. Draw another in the third box.

That’s it!

Keep it simple and loose. Just a circle with a line through it, maybe. One with the line below, instead of through. And so on. You can quickly reorder the boxes by numbering them as above.

Each permutation becomes a story (the beautiful thing is that that doesn’t even have to be a goal; it’s just what happens). Caption each story with one to three words.

Below is an example from one of these drawing sessions, “Doors.” It ended up settling some surprisingly deep-seated thoughts about the work I want to do, what it means for me to prioritize curiosity, and the concept of the zero-sum game.

As a supplemental to this issue, I’m sending paying subscribers (members) exclusive content for the first time:

  • Original captions to the above “Doors” triptychs

  • A bonus set of triptychs + a printable asset + thoughts on doing this exercise with a child

  • A secret Vimeo link to the updated Chamoe WIP video. It will include all animated sequences to date, complete with subtitles and sound.

If you’re a paying subscriber, look for this member-only issue in your inbox shortly after this one ❤️ As always, deep gratitude for your early support.

Become a member ✨

I consumed

…over 40 animated shorts these past two weeks from Pictoplasma, Encounters, and Ottawa International Animation film festivals.

I enjoyed the Pictoplasma experience in particular, though I missed quite a few films because of an issue with video on demand. The organizers of the small team are very hands-on, engaging directly and thoughtfully with festival attendees to a surprising degree. (Thank you Peter!)

I’m still making my way through the rest of the films in the Encounters’ (which btw isn’t animation specific) and OIAFF’s programs.

A lot of notables but here are my top six so far across the board in no particular order. Most of these short films aren’t available outside of the festival circuit right now, but the Encounters festival pass is under $15 USD and I think you can still see many of these films there for a few more days:

  1. Precious. Stop motion, about an autistic boy and a little girl who wants to belong.

  2. Self-scratch. Hand-drawn, about a woman’s post-breakup breakdown.

  3. Pandora. Stop motion, a doll frees herself from predestination. Reminds me of work by the Brothers Quay. Macabre and moody.

  4. Peregrine. Hand-drawn by Daniela Sherer, an “experimental animated film about obsession, instinct, and innate darkness.” Gorgeous sound by Phil Brookes.

  5. The Clearing. Stop motion by Daniel Robert Hope about the manifestation of guilt in a dying marriage. (OIAFF)

  6. Polka-dot Boy. Hand-drawn by Sarina Nihei, one of my favourite animators. The film is mysterious, weird, and laugh-out-loud funny. (Pictoplasma)

Lastly, to finish off summer, I ate loads of local tomatoes with browned Irish butter and sweet, firm stone fruit (I love white nectarines).

I also finished

Paris is a Party, Paris is a Ghost by David Hoon Kim, which I mentioned in the last TLB issue and also in a recent interview with the folks at Books Read By.

I found Paris strange, haunting—and I can tell it will turn some people off. Very on point review: “for most readers, the book will feel haphazard, as if cobbled together from bits of inspiration that struck the author years apart.”

The title seems like a nod to Hemingway’s Paris est une Fête, the French title to A Moveable Feast; and to Anne Carson’s poem “Ghost Q&A.” You can read the latter in full in issue 13 of A Public Space (“an award-winning literary, arts, and culture magazine”) either by subscribing or by buying individual copies in digital ($9), print, or both. A segment of the poem, quoted in the novel:

Q: are there ghosts in this room
A: most of the objects here are ghosts
Q: really
A: have you been to Paris
Q: no
A: Paris is a ghost


I made.

After a long break, I finished the exit sequence of the second scene in my animated short Chamoe. If you’re new here (welcome!), you can read about how the project began in Issue 01. It felt great to see the work with more clarity after some weeks away; decisions came faster and with more conviction. Here’s where I started:

Here’s where I landed (no pun intended):

The main transition in the sequence proved challenging for a variety of reasons. I go into details in the supplemental members-only issue. As I said earlier, I’ll also include a secret Vimeo link there to the up-to-date WIP video, complete with subtitles and sound.

I laughed.

I loved the interview with artist Renée French on Pictoplasma. She has an animated series on Instagram called Andre & Potato which I find adorable and delightfully absurd. It’s about a rabbit named André who conducts interviews with his silent sidekick Potato. Start with these two:

A post shared by @reneefrench
A post shared by @reneefrench

We don’t talk much about losing steam with our work (or life?!), but it’s a pretty regular affair for most of us plebs. Finding fuel and just showing up consistently is a big part of keeping up the momentum. I leverage exercises and draw inspiration from others to help keep me moving. I draft, read, watch, note. If necessary, I change direction.

As Eugene Kan and Charis Poon say in Episode 185 of Maekan It Up, it’s important to continually try to arrive at a conclusion rather than waiting for inspiration to strike, to keep working “even if you don’t feel like you’re moving forward.”

That, to me, is the line between.

Until next time.