How we come back to a new normal. The cagey side of beginnings. A peg bar, a Keynote, a vignette. Gearing up for Next.
“I love seeing people come out of darkness.” —David Lynch
This letter is going to be higher-altitude than usual. 2022 ended on an unbelievable note, and the following is, in its own way, a belated retrospective as well as a kickoff.
It’s been a few weeks since I returned to NYC.
TBH, I’m only just beginning to process whatever the past two months have been. I don’t remember much of my first week home, but I’ve been slowly coming back to my mind, my health, and my work.
It’s clear that everything has changed. Including me.
My mother still fills my days and thoughts—we speak first thing in the morning, a few times during the day, last thing at night. She’s taking her meds, and every day, she’s more recognizable. I continue to manage administrative, household, and financial affairs from afar. I plan on being there in person every few months.
I miss her.
In the context of this new normal, I sat down and reassessed the course I’d charted for myself and my work in 2021. I reviewed the targets I had, what I ended up accomplishing, where I fell short.
Two years ago when I first did this exercise, it took many weeks and iterations to complete. That labor turned out to be a good investment: this time, it only took a day or two.
My destination hasn’t changed. But the ideas, goals, and planned deliverables are new.
One of them is my next animated short film.
As much as it might seem a departure as you peek over my shoulder, the current direction is an evolution of the concept I explored over the summer.
The usual caveat, blah blah:
The gestational phase of a project is always a tricky one to navigate in terms of verbalization and sharing (both can be toxic for delicate things). So while the germ of the idea comes into its own, I’m gonna try to ruminate and observe, versus describe or define.
There will be a lot of studies:
and animated experiments, or vignettes: rough, short stories, often looped to sound.
For the first one since my return, and for the first time ever, I drew every frame on paper using a makeshift peg bar. It was mainly straight-ahead, and really hard.
I think I decided to ease back in with unfamiliar processes, because they can alleviate a lot of pressure. They make it easier to play; it feels ok to be clumsy.
In an upcoming issue, I’ll talk more about integrating traditional animation techniques into what’s primarily been a digital practice for me.
Here’s what came out of the exercise. (If the GIF below takes a bit to load, or drops frames as it settles, I’m sorry. If it fails to load at all in email, please let me know.)
Thanks for reading, and for your support.
Many of you contributed to the GoFundMe—even neighbors, and my landlady. Friends who happen to be attorneys, lawmakers, doctors, and caregivers themselves—generously donated services, gave advice. Others offered to fly to LA to be with me. Wrote letters, sent flowers, fed me. Called, texted. My plants were watered, mail was picked up, packages quietly carried upstairs and left at my door.
You have my heart.
Returning to NYC has felt like being folded into a warm blanket (maybe too warm?). I’m lucky to have the communities that I have, from the small, intimate one of confidants, to the larger one of international animators, artists, and writers who’ve all shown up for me.
You kept me going. Thank you.
I’m still getting my bearings,
but there’s a lot I want to ruminate on given the past few months of grief, caregiving, and education. I want to talk consumption, repletion, navigation, and inspiration, too—the creative cycle and what makes me feel alive again.
For now, I leave you with 15 Oscar Short Film nominees of 2023, whittled down from the shortlist of 45. And a shoutout to the incredibly talented Amanda Bonaiuto: animator, mentor, and fellow New Yorker, who worked on My Year of Dicks. Awed and inspired as always.
Until next time.
Stoked to see your next project come to life!
Welcome back! It's great to hear that your mom is stabilizing and things seem to be getting under control, even if (as you wrote) nothing is the same. Fingers crossed that the nightmare is finally over and you get the space you need to recover. And it's a lot of fun to see a peg bar used in modern times -- with pretty mesmerizing results. Looking forward to a new year of TLB and your art and insights.