12. Ruthlessly

How I bridge the gap between skill and vision to make what I want, now. Links to fav animated shorts from recent festivals, progress on my animated short Chamoe.

“I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.”
—Sylvia Plath

Hi friends.

Last week I had what I believe was my very first migraine. I had no fever but my forehead felt hot. There was a low buzz orbiting it like a swarm. It persisted all day, and I grit my teeth through three hours at the drawing display before giving in. The next morning, I woke up to a pale remnant of the pain, a sort of loosening at the head’s crown toward the eyes, with a cooling sensation as if in the aftermath of a long night’s fire.

I’m fairly healthy and still young, but I’ve begun to experience bouts of inexplicable fatigue and, after hours and years of staring unblinkingly at an intensely vibrant LED screen at half-arm’s length, my eyes now tend to give out.

I don’t take much for granted, and employ all manner of implements and tactics to coax things along—RSI timers, blue-light glasses, yoga, a drastic reduction of alcohol consumption. The body’s betrayals as I get older spin up not only irritation but a gnawing sense of urgency. I worry about running out of privileges, about not being able to take in, and get everything out of, my head in time. 

So when I manage to sneak behind the universe and maneuver back into the driver’s seat, I hit the gas and hold it down. 

In this issue I share how I jump at the first sign of corporal benevolence, cram in as many hours as I can before it changes its mind, bend and contort things to make them fit into my plan. The past two weeks, I watched a bunch of animated shorts as a big festival wound down, and finished lines for 20 (!) seconds of my animated short, Chamoe.

I’ve begun sending bonus issues to paying subscribers. This will happen regularly going forward and is a pivot from earlier plans to split up every issue between free and paid. Sharing supplemental content has felt more organic, and it’s nice to be able to share some of my work more privately.

As always, deepest gratitude to members for supporting my process and vision.

Ottawa and Encounters Film Festivals

Festivals are an important way for me to get exposure to the crazy gamut of what others are doing with this medium. I watch for inspiration as much as for pleasure, and wish I had time to watch everything twice since I take screenshots and notes. Alas, there are so many films that I usually can’t afford that luxury.

I usually split-screen the film (right) so I can take notes (left) as needed. I toggle to a separate a tab with a random dark image (also left) to minimize distractions between writing.

The Encounters and the Ottawa International Animation Film (OIAF) festivals have just wrapped. I watched an additional 19, and 47, animated shorts respectively, after the 40+ I reviewed before Issue 11. I would’ve liked to have watched more, but was on the road last weekend and it was tough to fit them in. I skipped repeat appearances like the excellent Bestia (trailer below, 0:53), to make room for films I hadn’t seen before.

I was able to take in at least one feature, Mount Fuji Seen from a Moving Train (info and trailer). It was a mix of live action and animation (quite a few folks are experimenting with this in interesting ways):

Lucky for you, many of the festival films are fully available online and only 4 to 6-ish minutes long. Here’s one I enjoyed, Mangia (5:21), where an American student meets her Italian hosts. Poor audio quality adds to a sweet, intimate vibe:

I ran out of room here but share the rest of my selections in the member-only supplemental ❤️

The films range from impressively nuanced to hyper-realistic; stop motion to collage; linear narrative to music video to experimental. The topics covered are similarly broad spectrum, with everything from border control to mental health:

A small selection of films I particularly enjoyed from recent festivals. More info on these and more, with direct links and descriptions, in the member only supplemental.

Sequence 03 of Chamoe

I finally finished drawing the lines for this long sequence (20 seconds!), which is titled “Cravings.” We last left off here for free subscribers. Members got the preview of the animated short so far in the last supplemental issue.

I thought this would be a breeze because it’s relatively sparse in terms of character movement, but of course I was wrong. First, there’s some camera panning (which I prefer to draw versus automate). Second, there’s slow, smaller-range movement, which is, ironically, harder to animate than fast, dramatic movement (the eye seems to fill larger gaps more elegantly).

This is where it gets glaringly obvious that I started animating just a few years ago. But I want to tell my stories now, and I want to tell them using this medium, so I guess I’m just brute forcing ahead.

My general philosophy is that, while I have a deep respect for foundational education and practice, I don’t feel I have to get it all in at once or be sequentially “complete” in knowledge before trying to make things.

I do of course hit walls. I got around the latest one like so:

Then I animated camera movement. Incidentally, the textured style that this will end up in is relatively forgiving of rougher lines and transitions—though nothing forgives poor timing or bad keys (keys are frames in animation marking inflection points).

As you can see from the end-to-end, the scene is kind of surreal! Stay tuned for context with subtitles and sound in the next issue, when I hope to have the color and texture well on their way.

Now, and Later

I stood on these quiet tracks in the River Arts District of Asheville last weekend. It was the first in a while that I’d spent consecutive days more in the body, less in the head. It felt strange, and lovely.

I remember reading Einstein’s Dreams as a kid, and being struck by this passage:

People in this world live forever, and they react to this fact in one of two ways. "The Laters" believe they have all the time in the world to accomplish things, so they take their time doing everything. They wander about in cafés, have easy conversations, and read whatever is around to read. "The Nows," however, believe that they can experience everything, and they rush about attempting to do just that, learning new trades, and rushing through conversations, always on to the next thing.

Earlier, I talked about my lead foot (figurative, but let’s be honest, literal too), how I worry about running out of time to learn everything I want to learn, make everything I want to make. I’ve a hard time being still. But there are moments of pause, whether I like it or not. It can be difficult for me to appreciate them, but I do—however reluctantly.

It’s true that time is short. Probably because the road itself is very long. Maybe that should make me feel more harried, but seeing it stretch ahead somehow, existing forward like a promise, has the effect of relaxing me.

But only a little.

Until next time.