How we trust ambiguity. Technical retro; sketchbook; oysters and other sustenance
There were always small changes: an orange that had gone soft in the fruit bowl, lists of things on scrap paper. We once brought back a huge leathery brown pod from the bush and put it in the kitchen, near the oven, the warmest place. One morning, we woke to find that it had opened, revealing a seed as big and dark as the pit of an avocado.
—Jessica Au, Cold enough for Snow
There are hundreds!? more of you here since last time 🙀
I am truly humbled by being featured on.Substack last week, and energized by evidence of interest in process over product. Welcome, and thanks for hopping on this train—you’re coming aboard just after the premiere of my animated short Chamoe, a journey I’ve chronicled for the past 27 issues of The Line Between (TLB).
After well over a year on one thing, we’re now entering a length of obscurity—that weird and fragile phase between projects that we pass through to be clear for the next. Slowing down and finding closure on a project takes just as much fuel as anything, and in the coming months you’ll witness what it’s like for one artist to embrace ambiguity before she begins to focus on something again.
Oh, by the way, the first two batches of gifts for subscribers who financially supported Chamoe are on their way to France, UK, Germany, Canada, as well as the continental U.S. The next batch will go out in a few days. If you’ve already gotten your giclée bookmark, I’d love to get a photo of it in action!
Closure: technical retrospective
WIP: into the sketchbook
Provisions: exhibits, books, bivalves
Technical retro on painting a film in Photoshop
In one of the final gestures of wrapping Chamoe, I wrote a technical retrospective about painting an animated short film in Photoshop. As I said in the article, “it’s an unconventional way to paint an entire short film, and I wanted to summarize highlights from the process. The article is [geared toward both designers and animators curious about] the techniques, challenges, and problems involved.”
As some of you may know, I’m also a designer and bring skills from that world into the art studio. In the article, I focus on why I broke up the work into standalone chunks, or sequences, and the value of tools like “style primers”— paintings I used as references for those sequences:
Painting a film in Photoshop like I did is labor-intensive (as is animation in general) and one misstep could affect every painstakingly painted frame that follows. Deciding to, say, change a brush type midway through a 5000 layer sequence, could be very costly. To mitigate risk, I engaged in incremental versus “waterfall” production. Instead of doing all of the lines across the entire 2.5 minute film, then all of the base color on top of that, then all of the textures on top of that, I fully painted the film one sequence at a time, color to texture.
This meant that if I made a mistake or changed my mind about something, it was largely sandboxed to a 10 second segment, not a 2.5 minute film. Cutting up production in this way, however, introduced its own risks around coherence.
“Style primers” were one way I countered the danger of disjointedness between sequences. These were visual guides I created before painting the sequences themselves; before I could get distracted by details, or lost in the tedium of long hours.”
The retro has since been recommended by Medium across the platform, and it’s been a nice capstone to the project. You can read it in full.
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Into the Sketchbook
In parallel with writing the retro the past two weeks, I’ve been consuming a ton—I read a novel, began another, dove into some critical essays, went to a big exhibit, ate oysters in the sun (thrice!), watched a blockbuster and two classics. (Details below.)
I’ve also been in a note-taking and sketching frenzy. I expect this will be how I spend the majority of my time in and out of the studio in the coming months as I disengage from the boundaries of Chamoe. Drawing/painting/animating however and whatever I want. Case in point, I breezily drew some lines the other day and looped it to a random song. To get back into things, and to be goofy. I am officially playing, NO RULEZ.
Here’s the beginning of my sketchbook deluge:
Things are going to get chaotic wonderful as I throw myself into hunches, let ideas coalesce, break them apart again, sidestep logic, consume, kick loose. This is an incredibly fun and scary part of the process, and I’m excited to have you in the thick of it with me—strap in.
Take in good things to make good things. What I’ve been consuming the last 2 weeks:
Katie Kitamura’s Intimacies
It started out with nuance and mystery, devolved into something obvious and less interesting by the end. I still enjoyed it; went down easy.
The Biennial is going on right now at the Whitney; your visit is probably best split into two trips. Hit Floor 5 first, where the most of the artists are featured. The work of Korean American artist Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, which I’ve been getting back into, is on that floor too.
Writing Self, Writing Nation…on Dictée by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha
Painfully academic, but worth reading as part of a larger study of Cha’s work if you’re interested in her stuff. She explored themes of cultural oppression and displacement, and has been labeled an avant-garde artist.
Top Gun, Maverick; good fun.
Obsession; 1949. A man intent on revenge for his wife’s infidelity. Darkly funny.
Suddenly, Last Summer; 1969. Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift in a bizarre and lurid film about death, sex, lobotomies. Not boring.
Jeffrey’s Grocery, as usual. The white is La Louvetrie Muscadet.
Until next time.
Another great issue. If seeing behind the scenes of a film's creation in real time is rare, seeing what an animator does after finishing a big film might be even rarer. And congratulations again on the jump in subscribers!