14. Inward

How I thrive in winter. Update on my animated short, working out while I work, Wes Anderson in Greenwich Village, a latke recipe.

“I feel that something new is disclosing itself, something to do with time. We are free: no one is expecting us. We look out of the windows. We listen to the tranquil hum of the engine. We watch the valley in the mild morning light.”
—Rachel Cusk, The Last Supper

Friends,

These days I’ve been getting up early. The low morning light and lack of birdsong make me feel ahead of things, as if I’m up before everything else. Time seems abundant, and the apartment is warm from radiators which had come to life in the night. I pad into the kitchen to pull myself a double shot of espresso. I pour in 4 ounces of steamed milk and carry it back to bed, along with a canister of cold water with lemon.

This very moment I’m writing from under the covers, surrounded by pillows. The window behind me frames naked branches against a flinty sky. It’s cold out there; it will dip into the 30s today and I’ll be in here working, with something hot to sip on, and a crooner on the speakers. Later, I’ll bundle up and take the express train down to have dinner with my partner.

I love all seasons, but winter may be my favourite. The dark and cold make me happy to be inside, at my desk; I feel energized. Winter is when I feel most creative, productive, protected.

In this issue, updates on my work and everything that feeds it: 

  • Progress on my animated short Chamoe

  • How a slow machine helps me get more done

  • My run-in with Wes Anderson in Greenwich Village

  • A NYC bar/cafe for readers (and what I’m reading)

  • Oh, and a fantastic latke recipe


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Work in progress

I’m almost done painting the third sequence of my animated short Chamoe. The mom and grandma encounter the baby, and the mom’s cravings for chamoe (Korean melon) arise.

It’s been a huge learning experience to paint the same characters in multiple, extended sequences for the first time. Excerpts from days of work, squeezed into ~1.5 minutes at 8x speed:

I made some spontaneous decisions like adding a pixie dust trail for the rolling chamoe, and ended up liking it a lot. I had fun just going with it.

Before painting more of the mom, I wanted to iterate on some consistency issues (volume, shape) which had cropped up earlier. These two weeks have really driven home the importance of construction. Not my forte but practice makes better:

Breaking things down into simple shapes, drawing the same thing over and over from all angles, really seems the only way to preserve volume, shape, and relative position (like eyes, ears) while drawing freehand.

Here’s where I ended up:

I got a bit of a break with long periods of “stillness” in the rest of this sequence; I didn’t need to paint hundreds of layers for all of the ~12 seconds (thank god). I usually make about 5 variations of a drawing for “boils” (a cycle of paintings repeated to create a “trembling” effect).

Left: painted boil. Right: selected-and-filled boil. The difference may seem subtle in isolation, but the effect compounds in aggregate and in context.

I paint versus e.g., select-and-fill, because again, when animated, I believe variations in texture ultimately make a big difference in how alive and organic things feel. There are slightly faster ways to do this, but since it’s only about 5 frames for each boil, it’s worth it for me to give them some extra love.

Next, I’ll be layering more textures on top of the base colors. I’ll share a Vimeo soon on how it’s all shaping up, with sound and subtitles—perhaps along with the back story on Chamoe! Stay tuned.

By the way, my slow machine has been driving me nuts. 

I’m upgrading shortly to the M1 Max and cannot wait to reap the benefits of that investment. Often with over a thousand layers per sequence, and with only 16GB of RAM, it can take up to a minute for me to save in Photoshop or render a change in After Effects 😭

Rather than sit and stew, I’ve been exercising. I can get in about a minute of cardio during most renders. By the end of the work day, I’ve usually done 10 minutes of fast jump roping and 5 sets of strength training exercises. 

By dinner time, I’m done with both work and working out! It’s the best feeling. Two birds, one stone, people 🐦 🐦 🪨

Provisions

Take in good things, make good things. Local joys that’ve fueled me the past 2 weeks: a beautiful watering hole for readers; a serendipitous Sunday in NYC; what I’m reading now; a winter recipe.

I rediscovered Book Club,
a cozy bookstore/cafe/bar in the East Village. It’s a bit out of the way for me but the vibe is lovely. And every time I go in there, I feel so at home! There are shelves of books to read and buy, inviting arm chairs to sink into, and a quiet bar with candles and wine. I look forward to having a glass here with a novel during the next storm.

Wes Anderson in Greenwich Village
Living in Manhattan—even during covid times—means that I stumble upon enchanting goings-on during the most pedestrian of activities. En route to buying a book just two Sundays ago, I ran into a pop-up Cafe le Sans Blague, of The French Dispatch. The line was over 3 hours long but a bit of luck reduced this down to a mere 20 minutes. By then I had a limited edition bag of French roast in hand and was gifted an issue of the eponymous magazine for a film that is, in general, a typo/graphical delight.

Oh, the book.
I did finally pick up the book I’d come out for in the first place: Karl Ove Knausgaard's The Morning Star. I’m enjoying it a lot, as the book darts can attest. I’ll share thoughts on it (and book darts as a reading tool) after I finish, in the next issue. 


🎙 🖤 🎧 Speaking of taking in good things, a quick survey: what podcasts do you listen to? Leave a comment, or reply by email! I’d be grateful. 🎧 🖤 🎙

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Of potatoes and apples
I adore the latkes at Russ & Daughters here in NYC. They’re as big as fists, crispy on the outside, toothsome as all get-out. Now I have the recipe and so do you. Make and eat ‘em piping hot with freshly grated apple sauce and sour cream. Silky gaspe nova and salmon roe round out a decadent Sunday table.

Thus changes the guard, saluting the onset of another winter season. I’m turning inward as I do when the temperature drops, imagining all of us settling down to cocoon and scheme for abundance—lone but together. Stay warm, friends!

Until next time.