How a little can say a lot. Experimental vignette; strangers' stories; films, and friends.
“So many writers have an aversion to just sitting down and waiting,” I said. Campion nodded and then paused. “I think it makes them afraid.”
—Jordan Kisner, NYT magazine
With everything that’s been going on, and without—however deliberately—the anchor of a project, it’s not surprising that I’ve been feeling unsettled and unmoored. The news cycle is ceaselessly brutal. Obligations financial and familial inveigh heavily against personal choices and dreams. Thoughts ping-pong around my head at supreme speed, infringing on sleep and setting off vibrations which translate to my jaw, lungs, extremities.
Realizing that auditory stimulus has been adding to, versus quieting, noise, I’ve been making an effort to turn to paper instead of keyboard. I take the train without books or podcasts, sit still with my espresso in the mornings. Summer has yet to become sweltering in NYC, so I’ve two windows open on each end of my railroad flat; they frame bird-filled trees and cross-the-way brownstone. A long breeze is free to flow through, a tender circular feed with irregular density and velocity, forever.
Take a breath.
WIP: The economy of a line
Provisions: Striking animated short Among the Black Waves
NYC gem: The Stranger’s Project at the Oculus
For Members: Sketches, day-in-the-life photos, an extra NYC gem
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The economy of a line
I wrapped my animated short Chamoe about a month ago, wrote a technical retro, and am waiting to hear back from a slew of festivals. Before diving into another project, I’m exploring hypotheses and opinions developed during the past year, engaging with smaller experiments, consuming books and films. I’m painting, traveling, collecting, out of which: sketches and animated studies.
As I investigate economies of style in particular, I’ve been returning to slow-moving lines—one of the hardest things to animate because there aren’t gaps for the eye to fill. Once it gets going though, a single animated line can convey a wealth of information around speed, direction, and emotion.
With sound, the effect is of course greatly amplified.
The following are three consecutive images from one animated sketch. Reviewed in sequence, the line seems to be making an exit out of frame, moving southwest:
Viewed in animated context, it’s clear that the line is moving in the opposite direction—northeast:
The following are frames 196 and frame 204—the former a loose preamble to the slackless latter. Just two frames in specific sequence can introduce tension and convey movement. Here, we note change—a string, perhaps, being pulled taut; something is happening. (Reversed, it’s yet another story.)
By frame 290 threads diverge, stretching steadily, consistently, toward a far off point of convergence. What seemed to initially be a birds eye view of a plane below us—a snake moving across dunes maybe—shifts to a point on a distant vertical plane.
Once pulled upright and singular, the line becomes something else again. A wall from the side, a ledge below, a zoomed-in part of something just under our nose.
Here’s the beginning of this animated study, with sound (Vivaldi’s “Nisi Dominus, Psalm 126, RV 608” performed by Rinaldo Alessandrini and Sara Mingardo):
Process at 8x:
The second part of the exercise, playing with manual camera zoom:
This exercise reminded me of how little I need to tell a story: a moving line and a frame.
Another thing I’m exploring are derivative animations using composites. Here’s a composite of the 891 frames from this vignette:
I find composites beautiful and surprising. One piece of work directly seeding another is also compelling. I’ll have to work through the technical challenges of animating with composites, but there’s time, for once, to investigate.
Creative fodder from the past few weeks:
Striking animated short Among the Black Waves reminds me of an old Korean fable; I didn’t realize there were cultural variants. I wonder how it originated.
I read and enjoyed Cold enough for Snow a while back but somehow never recommended. It’s been described as “spectral,” and “mysterious.”
I inhaled Apple TV’s Severance and can’t stop thinking about it.
On a slightly more personal note: pages from the sketchbook and snapshots from life about town. Plus, more provisions to nourish the body, feed the work: a delicious newsletter for book lovers and a new happy hour haunt in Tribeca. Take a look in the member only issue.
Thanks for reading. If you’re not yet a member, please consider becoming one to support my work and get more of it out into the world.
Right now I’m submitting my animated short Chamoe to a bunch of festivals and would be grateful for help with fees, which can be as high as $60 per submission. One-off contributions can be made via Kofi.
Likes, comments, and shares of my content go a long way, too 🙏
I first met Brandon in Washington Square Park many years before the pandemic—where he tirelessly collected and shared anonymous strangers’ stories—and was hooked. The stories are intimate, often funny, but I always end up getting choked up. It’s wonderful. You can contribute your own, too. Go check out the Stranger’s Project special exhibit in the Oculus until the end of July.
Until next time.
Wow! So cool and so stoked to be here! Thanks for this awesome newsletter. I hear ya on the feeling like your floating because there is no major project to anchor too. That's happened so many times in my life when I'm between projects.
The economy of lines is interesting, sometimes I think our jobs as storytellers is not to be producers, but reducers. Only leave what is absolutely necessary. Anyway, hope the NYC summer treats ya well! We've just started to get our first round of southern hemisphere swells and the water is warming up! Best - Dar