How we get to the other side. An update on my animated short: color, texture, arcs. A secret tea house in Manhattan. Meditative cheese steak.
Crossing the streets here in Saigon must be a metaphor for something. Everything, maybe. During the heaviest traffic, the way seems impassible. Then I commit, and commence. Vision narrows to the most immediate danger, the scooter or car closest to me, and I focus on dancing with just that, then the next. Having looked at the other side before crossing, I don’t think of it again until I have crossed. There’s not even a breath to do so. Then somehow I’m on the other side. A little like magic, but if you think about it, actually quite straightforward.
—Journal entry, September 2015.
Upon arriving in Saigon, I recall my shock at being expected to walk into the path of roiling, full-speed traffic to get to the other side. After every crossing, the experience would seem to have been at once interminable and instant.
Right now I’m in the middle of such a fray, trying to finish my animated short Chamoe (CHA-meh) before Mother’s Day. I've allotted 2 weeks per 10 second sequence, of which there are 4 finished and 6 remaining. The first weeks are largely spent on lines, the second on color and texture.
This leaves me no wiggle room but I’m running fast to create some, if at all possible. If I’m to be square with myself I won’t be out of the studio much until mid-May. My biggest sorrow is that I probably won’t be traveling to see my baby nephew, whose tender first months are just flying by. It breaks my heart a little. But this film is another baby, and it happens to be my own.
In times like these I do think a lot about why I do what I do, and why I want what I want. I write a thing that goes out every two weeks, paint crazy pictures, drum into what can often feel like an echoless void. A nice, well-paying job with 401K, PTO, and healthcare, that begins on Mondays and ends on Fridays, for which I likely wouldn’t even need to move or to commute, sounds quite nice, quite often.
The oddest dissonance? To have doubt and FOMO reside (un)comfortably alongside certainty: that I prefer this exchange of freedoms to any other. Right now, anyway.
A friend once marveled: “wow, that must feel like a warm blanket.”
I’m not ungrateful—though perhaps I don’t have as much agency as I think I do—maybe I just can’t help myself. I’m not ungrateful about that, either.
Anyway things are moving, my other foot has already left the ground.
Today’s update is about color, texture, arcs. Members can see the latest sequence of my animated short with sound and subtitles in the accompanying bonus issue. Plus, what I took in for meditative inspiration over the past two weeks: vicarious cooking and snow camping in Oregon; oolong in a new, unlisted Manhattan tea house; Jasper Johns at the Whitney; Robert Mitchum in a glorious thriller.
Color, texture, arcs
In the last issue, you saw mostly lines for the latest sequence of Chamoe. Today, as promised, every frame has been colorized. Here’s an early sketch followed by a finished still:
Some parts of Chamoe have been more of a struggle, but the latest sequence has seemed a breeze because the vision for it has been very clear from the beginning. The frames basically painted themselves—the work was impatient to surface.
Some more highlights from the process—
I love the satisfying continuity of arcs in organic forms, even in still frame:
I paint all my frames in Photoshop because I love the brushes (and also because I’m a little crazy).
I've been painting animations in Photoshop for a few years but only just realized that clipping masks (where the shape of certain layers are used to contain others) can be leveraged in video timelines:
Each frame is a composite of composites. On top of a group of layers for the background, we have groups of layers for the foreground: underlay, textures, and overlays.
This sequence is 12.25 seconds long at 24 frames per second, or 294 frames. There is anywhere from 1 to 15 active main style layers per frame (the frames with the whale’s flipper took the most layers to paint).
Finally, here’s the lined and filled versions of this latest sequence for comparison (if the GIFs are out of sync you can view on web and reload to try to line ‘em up):
Members! Take a peek at the sequence with sound and subtitles in the bonus issue ❤️:
Member support helps keep The Line Between going, and makes it possible for me to work on an animated short every year.
TLB is also my way of documenting, and visibly prioritizing, process over ends. However indirectly, I aspire to support you in your own day to day through what I share. I hope these 10-minute chapters read like fun and interesting letters from a friend, perfect for quiet moments with a cup of coffee or tea.
Bonus content for members almost every issue + access to more benefits as they develop ❤️
Take in good things, make good things.
A saving grace of pandemic winter in New York are gorgeous snow days. (We just had a bomb cyclone! So dramatic!)
As you may have surmised, I’m a sucker for “inclement” weather because rain and snow have always felt cocoonish and restorative for me. So of course I loved watching this Oregonian trek through snowy wilderness for quality solo time. He sets up camp with a tiny makeshift wood stove and blithely makes himself a cheese steak sandwich, all in blistering 23 F (-5 C) weather.
This cozy wordless video lifted me up and settled my mind at the end of a long work day.
If you’re still up for more, read on in the bonus issue for the rest of what’s been feeding my heart and brain: my first post-covid outing to a museum, a new teahouse in Manhattan, a haunting standoff in a 1955 classic.
Thanks for reading, and until next time.