24/11/2016

What she said...

in case you were confused, cows are female
Other people looking at the tiresome sameness of female characters (visually) versus the startling variation in male characters' faces
http://every-flavored-bean.tumblr.com/post/112569173199/every-woman-in-every-disneypixar-movie-in-the
https://www.behance.net/gallery/28461793/Infographic-Pixar-Animated-Faces
Animated characters should have a visual representation of their characters, they are designed, not cast and so every curve, angle and idiosyncrasy is deliberately added - or left out. Which sort of suggests that the female characters are themselves less well developed and differentiated in terms of attitude, characteristics, behaviour.
Have we really not progressed since the days of 3fold women virgin/warrior, mother and crone?Babe, Carer, and Wicked Witch. I wonder how many animators (heterosexual male) are happily married - you know, to an actual real woman with attitudes, ambitions and mis-matched underwear?

12/11/2016

Black & White

Finally, after years and miles and forgetting what I'd even written, and losing heart and pretending not to care (draw breath) and hoping they hadn't changed their minds...THE BOOK is out. A text book, a theory, some big words, Colin the Dog immortalised in black and white (and no green). Available here http://www.brownsbfs.co.uk/Product/Dobson-Julia/Mapping-Cinematic-Norths--International-Interpretations-i/9783034318952. First brainiac thing Ive written since the PhD (and covering a totally different area). If anyone ever reads it, do search Youtube for the accompanying video...
Now I've an idea to serialise Colin's trip in the form of a blog...not a piece of academic writing obviously, but an account of his travels as a serialised...um...surrealist novelette? Since I have actually been to Norway ( though not via North Utsire sadly), and seen the northern lights (Iceland, and again, sadly not from a hottub but a very cold hilltop cowering in the windshadow of a coach), I might be able to pull this off. Now, if I can just learn to speak Dog...

07/11/2016

Animation Pig-out!

still from Mr Madila. Rory Waudby-Tolley 2016
...at the ASFF festival. It runs over the weekend so I can actually go, although I still wish schedulers would consider the possibility that someone might want to watch (eg) ALL 6 of the animation sessions - rather than a random selection or a broad overview - and not schedule them back-to-back on opposite sides of York!! However, manged to do all 6, one family friendly (but the not the one I really wanted to see) and a couple of randomly selected experimental/ artists selections. ... 60 films over the weekend. Plus, caught a samba band, some art galleries and a couple of specialist shops, with time left over to walk the walls. Hoorah!
This year again a major theme seems to be autobiographical and "illustratory" - adaptations of existing stories which have a narrator reading the story. Some of these have no "events" , more an exploration of feelings or relationships, which makes the animation a challenge but also renders the images incomprehensible without the sound. Is this a good thing? The sound and vision should be integrated and complimentary...or a bad thing? I remember being taught back in artschool days that if a (static image) cartoon wasn't funny without the caption, then it wasn't funny...which I suppose should also work for sad/ mysterious/ challenging/ mindbogglingly thought-provoking...etc
For myself I like the challenge of working without dialogue or narrators, (as opposed to the hideous technical challenge of lipsynching).
So I saw some great imagery, some interesting stories, (and some horrors)... but my favourite in the festival was Mr Madila...or the Colour of Nothing. It had great pace, propelled along by a well-considered dialogue which ranged from the profound to the ridiculous with a natural rhythm. The drawings were energetic and expressive; the humour made it popular with the audience but it was more than jokey - after I stopped laughing I went away thinking about it...about why it was so affecting and about what the colour, and the importance, of nothing might be.
check out the trailer...
https://vimeo.com/131544900

11/10/2016

Goin' Posh

 Hastings Tall Sheds. Not, as family legend had it,
tall inside for mending fishnets (or fishing nets),
but a 3 storey shed, to exploit limited beach space.
Well last year a kind reviewer  (Eugenie Johnson) described one of my films as a breath of fresh air...but also as Crude line drawings... http://narcmagazine.com/review-sunderland-shorts-opening-night-sunderland-minster-2-7-15/ . Now I'm going to up my game crudewise - specifically to make the original drawings on a larger scale that wont get crudified so much by being enlarged on a big screen. Having resisted this for a long time because of the limits of the size of the monitor I'm working on, clearly its time to invest in some bigger better techno. Meanwhile an experimental pilot project (with a storyline around gender and specifically gender in cartoons) should help sort out what else needs to change with size - the scale of marks? the type of marks? - and how much longer will it take to complete?
Also, I realise it is some time since I attempted to animate an inanimate object...like a shed. This raises interesting ideas about the nature of the word animat/e/ion and why anyone would think a shed was not already animated by the dense layers of history and human intervention...and fish.

03/10/2016

Having a plan...

wasps don't actually have teeth like this...OR DO THEY?
Finally, latest 4 minute animation (about gardening, magic realism and - er -  wasps) is completed and sound mixed, ..Actually, I spent today so far redoing the soundtrack, because it just didn't quite have the pace; but I still made my deadline of  the start of the new teaching year. Last week was induction but my bottom line was to be done by my first (PT) day of the teaching year - tomorrow. I don't usually have a strict deadline for films, except for a few ludicrously quick submission dates for themed shows... it's usually more like...just do it! and when it's done, do another one... But it is motivating to have a timescale, a plan, a deadline. It also means you can actually get ahead of it and give yourself time off, which is hard to do for an artist/ animator when that isn't your (every)day job.
And some of those things that annoyingly motivational business people say are useful... If work expands to fit the available time, it can also be made to contract to fit it...but only if you have a clear sense of how much time you're giving yourself. I'm always telling the students the importance of planning and managing their time... so you'll all be pleased to know that my house looks like Mr Trebus lives here (google it) and the garden looks like an amazonian rainforest...but the film is done...TaDa!

23/09/2016

life isn't all animation...

13 maniacs and a bunch of drums at the taiko workshop
photo: by David (Mugenkyo), rehearsal at the Dojo
...apparently. I took some time out to do Taiko drumming with Mugen Dojo this summer.  (a week's workshop and performance at the Edinburgh Festival) Unlike animation which takes for ever, drumming is instant gratification and while both are seriously good fun, drumming is something you do with other people (and unicorns...that was the German taiko connection), learning together, laughing together. Contributing - maybe in small ways, within what is essentially someone else's creation - but live, organic, and physical. Every animator should also be a drummer! I planned to make an animation about the workshop/ performance /process...but, you know, in my tea break.

12/09/2016

rejection letters

heyho...more rejections from more film festivals.
I once met a woman (artist) who, having sent a proposal to a major art gallery, was really angry that it hadn't been accepted ..."but it was good!" she cried, passionately convinced there was some kind of conspiracy theory or at least rampant nepotism going on.
Alas...good isn't enough. Lots of people are good and film festivals like gallery exhibition spaces are hugely competitive. We-e-ell, that's what I'm telling me. But I think it's also time to admit that those particular two festivals are just not looking for the kind of work I do and its time to move on ("But I love her!" "forget it, girl, she's in a different world"). Not out of my league so much as playing a different sport.
So - be true to your own style, format, vision and just keep on. If just doing it - making the movies, drawing the vampire blackbirds, dreaming the storylines -isn't fun, isn't passionately, wretchedly, magically, hysterically good fun...then stop, because you'll never be better than hohum at it.
Meanwhile, back at the dayjob, the University has elected to give me some research remission so I can make even more animations. whoop!
...and also, possibly "argh!".

14/08/2016

What did we learn today?

Normally, I work from beginning to end, perhaps more like writing a novel than making a film. I make a first draft - seldom a pencil test unless it's really hard to draw - and then go back over it, to re-edit, also in order beginning to end. BUT - Just because it's a cartoon, doesn't mean you can't shoot it out of sequence. So, what did we learn today... stop banging your head against the sketchbook going "wah! it's too hard to draw a little fat man doing 360 degree rolls in mid air" and - duh - move on to to the part where he's admiring his wings in the mirror. Go back to the hard part when you are feeling more energetic, have better references...or maybe rethink the sequence based on what it is supposed to show/generate/ suggest. Of course this does imply you have to have a reasonable idea where the story is going...

A proper storyboard is not in fact essential unless you want to ...maybe, work to a pre-planned deadline.
Lately I have  started annotating the cartoon-in-progress with days so I can see how many frames I actually managed in that period. This will be an invaluable aid to planning and resource budgetting  - or possibly invoke despair.

05/08/2016

Character, Gender, Comics...and the triumph of hope over expectation.

The debate about sexism in comics/ animation is ongoing but makes fairly depressing reading.
superhero-sexism-is-alive-and-kicking
(Im wearing sparkly hot pants because I like them, not so men will look at my arse.. Excellent, good for you. But how do we stop the men in question from assuming you are wearing them so they will look at your arse. Aye, there's the rub. They believe they have a god-given right and a hormonal imperative to look at your arse) Meanwhile, back in what passes for real life, trying to develop believable and empathic characters of unknown or ambiguous gender/ whose key identification is as Gardener, Fantasist or Self-sufficient rather than Man or Woman/ is proving challenging.

01/08/2016

Virtual gardening

Soundtrack for The Slow Lane is done, and the finished movie has gone off to some festivals for rejection. Updates completed to the website, to create pages for the most recent movies and , oh yes, re-link every single page to the blog via the OTHER menu. (which I forgot about) Yes, this is why style sheets are a good idea. (ask your Mum)

It's beginning to feel very much like the website is redundant, and that the blog is as much information as anyone would be bothered to read... But for me it's important to close the projects, to reflect, to tidy my virtual desk and get ready for the next idea. Digital projects that are infinitely copiable, tweakable and clone-able can sometimes feel like they are always in flux, that it isn't necessary to commit to a single, finite version and move on. But I believe it is. Let the narrative find its natural ending, its most expressive face and then frame it.

Then, move on to the next project which right now is some "virtual gardening" with added magic realism. It's an idea from the thinking stone, and a tiny bit metanarrative-y, investigating the nature of the animated world, where things can become other things quite easily, seamlessly and without the need for stunt-shrubs.

15/07/2016

FINALLY!

...finished the last movie. Soundtrack still to come but it feels like a big achievement. The big deal with this one was finding the right ending - needing to show passage of time without resorting to cliches or making it take too long...finally realised the point was that the story was - kind of - cyclic, so the obvious way to end it was by echoing the scenes at the beginning. In fact the narrative changed a lot in the attempt to balance "the story" with the right visuals, images I wanted to show, (just because I liked them) and trying to encapsulate a thought in an image in the most effective way. So it isn't literally cyclic any more; but doesn't need to be. The sense of future and the desirability of repeated events is there...well, I hope so. This particular story presented quite a challenge - but that's why they call it research.

12/07/2016

Thinking space


Holiday season...and the power of walking miles staring at mountains, lakes, fields, islands to generate new ideas for films. Emptying your head, disconnecting from the internet, the TV, the press for two whole weeks and listening to the stories floating quietly on the wind. Then coming "home" - to a temporary cottage and drawing them out; making visual notes. Is this a cliche?...It's not about "unwinding" but about creating a space for creative inspiration to happen. Sometimes, your head is full - of anxiety about referendums and governments - of is-that-damp-in-the-living-room-spreading, of friends and family in need of support, of timetables and workloads and oh yeah, of TV. News news news news crap crap distraction .
There are lots of ways that we get "inspiration" - drawing, reading stories, watching other people's animations, outrage and determination to tell the world something, experimenting,(which is just a posh word for playing with ideas)... but my favourite is this, sitting on the thinking stone halfway up the mountain and letting all those things mix and mature until an idea evolves from them.

16/06/2016

BlueSky

...has been accepted for the Amy Johnson festival,  http://amyjohnsonfestival.co.uk/ hoorah and whew and oh how pleased my Uni will be that I have something concrete (listable) to show for all the drawings Ive done. So, sometimes, it does pay off making a thing especially for a single festival/output. While colleagues discuss rewriting (dissertations. PhD papers, articles) for specific journals, it hadn't occurred to me that I could re-edit a film for a specific festival or screening...or that this would be a legitimate activity. Meanwhile I have to decide whether I can cope with time-travelling back to my old home in Hull to attend the festival! (of course I can. Too bad everyone I knew there has now moved to either Brighton or Hebden Bridge.)

Meanwhile, the strange tale of "The Slow Lane" continues, appropriately slowly.

14/06/2016

in other news

don't get mad...get animating
...people are trying to kill us and other people are writing racist nonsense all over my facebook feed. Hard to concentrate on gentle human comedy when you kind of want to jump around and scream. I could make scathing animations about the EU (Im in by the way) or defiant, solidarity-in-the-face-of-fascist-bigotry cartoons about Colorado...but Im trying to stay sane and, in the words of one of the speakers at the Newcastle vigil, "be the best queer you can be"...which in my case means finish the damn movie.
But now I have typed this, I'm immediately thinking, doesn't it also mean making the animation be mightier than the sword (or the machine gun). It does. Yes, it does.

25/05/2016

Just Do It


Thistle Pot Print by Angie Lewin -
shamelessly reproduced from instagram
So, I was looking for inspiration among lino prints, via online communities, instagram, local art galleries and all, looking for ideas about texture and about how to divide an image into just black and white in the most interesting way. Looking at how to adapt this to in - computer drawing. And thinking about some illustrations (still images) I had just agreed to undertake as an experiment, and how I could use the same style.. Then I had a Jean-Paul Sartre moment, and realised that instead of remembering the work I used to make in lino/ collograph, what I needed to be doing was -duh - making new lino prints. Onto actual paper. Cue online shopping for lino and - hopefully - some serious mess. Computers are so clean.

15/05/2016

Let Joy be Unconfined...

unlikely fish-person-hero: protagonists don't have to be heroes?
...
... Finally finished the latest animated short! An attempt to use only black and white  and to use texture without getting horribly visually confused. I made this for a particular film festival, with a theme, and have duly sent it off. & will be sending it further afield...But really of course I made it to see what would happen, to wrestle with the temptation to cut corners or suddenly use red and teal blue, and - as with most narrative work - to find out what would happen to the protagonist in the end.

02/05/2016

Characters

a protagonist. child who doesn't have a name, or a gender...
but does have a motivation. and a fishtail.
What did we learn this week? Mostly, that no matter how interesting the story is, and how experimental you are trying to be, you still need a "main character"...someone who will mediate between the world of the narrative and the "real world" or what passes for it in the life of the animator. And even when you are trying to avoid anything that smells like a narrator. So I have just remade quite a chunk of movie to unbalance it in favour of a protagonist instead of two-sides-to-a-story.
Which makes the idea I have just started working on, of a one-minute animated Shakespeare play REALLY challenging - the complexity of the plot and the different scenes with different parallel stories and therefore parallel protagonists; do I leave out the subplot? The funny bit with the dog? Even the marvellous Reduced Shakespeare company needed two minutes for Hamlet.
On the plus side, the Viola/Cesario/Sebastian situation will be an interesting place to examine some of those issues of depicting gender in cartoons...

22/04/2016

Bechdel test for animation



from the "Dykes to Watch Out For" series, Alison Bechdel
It may have been invented as a joke, as well as a comment on contemporary cinema, but the Bechdel test is now a respectable metric of film industry's consistent tendency to default to the male. Briefly, the test - if you don't know it - asks Does the film have at least two women, do they communicate with each other, about something other than a man. It's a small test, and there are other things we could compare female vs male characters - number of speaking (or main) characters, % of screen time, % of dialogue, how well developed and visually differentiated are the characters. Big mainstream animations seem to be following the live action pattern - with some exceptions - of creating characters which are only female if their gender is a key issue. Ho Hum.

People are beginning to notice, to research it, and to publish their analyses, which is good... e.g. www.washingtonpost.com/. But meanwhile, I'm going to do an inventory of male and female roles in my own animations, and apply some of these tests



so, a quick survey of past animations: for comparison
Films with male protagonists 13
Films with female protagonists16
Protagonists with no (apparent) gender3
Films with NO women in8
Films with NO men in10
Total main characters (female)29
Total main characters (male)29
Films that wouldn't pass the bechdel test? if you discount those which have only one character or only characters without identifiable gender15
Films that would pass the bechdel test5
seems there is still work to be done then!

18/04/2016

art...love...obsession

plus they have cracking sheds in Swaledale
(field barns actually, in Gunnerside)
so Henry Miller said that to paint is to love. and  I have just spent two days walking in Swaledale, loving the scenery, the wind, the sound of the sheep calling to the lambs, the extraordinary variation between the desolate, charred moors and the intimacy of tiny becks, with wood anemones under ancient moss-shaggy trees...

but I wouldn't want to paint it (too hard to attempt any improvement on nature? Lots of painters do, and some manage to put the love, the passion, the pride and a sense of enormity into it. I do take photographs...)

and I definitely wouldn't want to animate it (no story?). But this scenery is full of stories! The story of stones, of sheep, of communities...the timelapse story of the life of the land, mountains shrugging human endeavour off their backs and flower meadows washing over the greenfields and away again like waves on the sea...but unfortunately, as much as I love these places,I am doomed to make ludicrous animations of talking sheds and flying grannies. I love them even more.

09/04/2016

animation will save the world

The infamous Dr Calamari  - a known squid - is unmasked
And if anyone else had suggested drawing a squid  trying
 to get out of a giant spider suit I would snort in derision
OH! yes, of course life would be easier if I made live action movies. I wouldn't have to knit every frame...
which is why I feel animation has to have something live action doesn't - mermaids, old ladies who can fly, spherical people... (hm. Splash/ Mary Poppins/ Monty Python)
It's not just that doing those things in live action would be expensive, tricky, involve expensive post-production and or stunt players.... Its not just that I like drawing, and prefer both the process and the end product of gesture, painting, splodgyness to those of photography...and not just that I prefer to work alone in what colleagues refer to as my splendid fortress of solitude, author - auteur if you must - of my own stories and characters...
It's more to do with the difference between a recording of reality (however artificially constructed) and the depiction of a dream (however lifelike). Building a dam to stop our imaginations running away down the valley of GrownUp...and eventually running dry.