How I got through quarantine: with Victorian notes on illness; old movies; a winter recipe. Plus: a mysterious quest begins in my animated short Chamoe.
“What actually brings [migraines] on, or triggers them, is always NOT working; it’s doing things like…going to the dentist, and having a lot of little confusing things that end up in days that don’t produce anything. The actual rhythm of working is for me very very soothing and makes me feel good…I have a simple one track mind, I can’t handle a whole a lot of things going on at the edges. So the simpler the day is, the better off I am.”
—Joan Didion in conversation with Terry Gross in 1987
Welcome to TLB’s first issue of 2022.
I return after what I’d eagerly anticipated would be a fertile holiday break, full of favourite restaurants, evenings at the movies, leisurely visits to end of year exhibits. Maybe a jaunt upstate to play in the snow. A possible visit from my infant nephew on his first vacation.
Then I came down with COVID—literally on Christmas eve.
To make matters worse (yes, it’s possible), I simultaneously caught a nasty cold, the effects of which I continue to suffer from, many weeks out. Basically my entire break was spent in illness, convalescence, and quarantine. It was a lackluster and deflating transition to the new year, and one in which I felt resentment (and guilt), possibly for the first time since the pandemic began.
Incidentally, my partner somehow tested negative throughout this entire period, which was in line with my observation that nearly every infected household in my 2 degree social circle had sub-100% contagion. This led me down a rabbit hole about blood types and possible associated variance in COVID resistance (O types potentially having lowest risk of infection, A having increased risk and more severe clinical outcomes. Guess which I am). This continues to be anecdotally confirmed, though some studies contradict it. O also happens to be the most common blood type, which could skew perceptions. While I found all this interesting, the data isn’t definitive either way + I’m not a medical pro: please continue taking all precautions.
For those of you currently in purgatory, may I suggest:
The Criterion Channel (the free 14 day trial should get you through quarantine)
Good tea: boil ginger (many thick slices) + lemon (one slice), turn heat off on boil, steep 20 min before drinking
Vicks Vaporub steam inhalation, to suppress cough (review safety info beforehand)
Sleeping with the upper body propped up, to counter congestion
Half-frozen hachiya persimmons, to soothe the throat (in Manhattan you can get 5 for $7 here in Chinatown)
Cauliflower soup (ditch the butter)
Vitamin D & C supplements (about to try these)
Lastly, after contracting COVID I finally came to understand that PCR tests indicate if you were PREVIOUSLY infected, while rapid antigen tests indicate CURRENT infectiousness. I got this clarification not from the government, but from my college roommate who happens to be an MD.
Man, the CDC.
I’m hard pressed to imagine how one could do a poorer job of communicating important public health information.
ANYWAY, I’m back.
I dragged my feet and kicked into gear a week later than I’d planned, but when I finally did I was surprised by how quickly I fit back into work, like a needle into a groove.
Maybe the spark I needed was always the work itself—maybe I needed the rhythm of work to draw energy from, rather than energy to create, work’s rhythm.
I realized that I’d greatly missed it.
Output: an update on my animated short Chamoe
Input: old movies, Victorian notes on illness, a comforting Korean soup recipe
Sneak peek: a secret Vimeo with the latest lines, subtitles, and sound.
I’ve finished 50% of lines for my 2 minute animated short Chamoe, and am currently in the process of adding color and texture to the latest sequence.
In which, an old woman leaves on a mysterious quest to appease her pregnant granddaughter’s out-of-season fruit cravings.
As I shared before, Chamoe (pronounced CHA-meh) is based on a true story, narrated by my mother.
To this day, no one knows where her grandmother went when she left to find, and somehow returned with, summer melon, which was many months out of season by then. I wanted this scene to embody the mystery and surrealness of that:
I’ll share today how I approached a particular problem during this process. Even if you’re not an animator or artist, I hope it’s satisfying to watch someone untangle a gnarl.
By the way, I was shocked at how I was able to plow through and resolve this + a few remaining issues, very methodically, in about one day. It’s the kind of thing that would have frustrated and stalled me a year and a half ago to the point of paralysis, a testament to how putting in the hours, day in and day out, eventually makes a difference. It’s not just theory—the gap really does start to close! The shift is an incredibly encouraging thing to experience, and I felt high on it the entire week.
Initially, the animatic (moving storyboard) looked like this:
I did some anatomy and run-cycle studies, then brainstormed transition ideas:
I started on the first, where the grandmother morphs into a bear, before holiday “break.” It’s a bit flat, and the transformation feels anti-climactic:
The shape-shifts are interesting but lack contrast. Here it is in slow motion:
The next iteration is an improvement, but the landing now feels leaden:
“Third” time’s the charm:
The grandmother draws back in anticipation like a stone in a sling, before launching and stretching into a hard landing where the energy gets released. The haunches overshoot upward from the force of the abrupt stop, then follow through down and back up to catch up with the rest of the body as it enters into a run.
(Note that bears don’t actually run this fast 😅)
In slow motion:
Here it is in the context of the full canvas, with camera movement:
These are, of course, just basic animation principles at play. In hindsight, it seems silly that I didn’t get this right sooner, but I got here much faster than I would have, say, a year and a half ago, and with a lot less ado! So I feel good about that.
Member support helps keep The Line Between going, and makes it possible for me to work on an animated short every year. As always, deepest gratitude to members for believing in my process and vision 🙏❤️
Get bonus content almost every issue + access to more benefits as they develop!
Next up: color. I wanted this sequence to be hyper-saturated and in your face—to express power but also a departure from reality, and the scenes that came before it. Here’s a preliminary color test:
A sneak peek at how things are looking in motion:
More on color and texture in the next issue!
I’ve honestly been jumping out of bed every morning, eager to make more progress on this sequence. I’m having a lot of fun, and reminded why the work is worth the labor.
Members can take a look at this sequence, with placeholder sound and subtitles, in the bonus issue:
If you’re up for more, you can also continue reading in the bonus issue about the old movies I’ve been watching, those Victorian notes on illness, and the quarantine soup recipe 🙏
It finally snowed here in NYC, and Harlem was a snow globe for a brief day. The temperature has hit some lows in the past few days too, which makes it feel at last like true, cozy winter. I’m hoping for more stormy weather before we have to deal with sunscreen and daylight savings again 🤞
Good health and swift recoveries, my friends—
Until next time.
Welcome back! That's so terrible to hear about your catching COVID. What a nightmare, especially over your break. Really sorry about all of that.
That said, though, your transformations are looking great -- tons of energy. Stepping away and getting sick obviously didn't make you rusty! Especially love the breakdown of how you made the polar bear section work. (And the layout for your two issues this week is particularly good, too!)