Lessons (Project I Reflection)

Project / Phase I: First Iteration (What Was Completed)

Over the course of the past couple for weeks (both before and after presenting the in-process storyboards to my professors and classmates) I have been at work developing the concept art, initial script and storyboard for an animated short film, to be completed throughout this semester of interdisciplinary directed study.  The completion of Project 1 included the following pre-production work:

Concept Drawings
Colour Play & Character Design
Storyboard – Writing, Sketching
Ink Research & Making
Inking of Boards

Reflection on Work to Date


I am happy with the way the boards are looking – though I can’t shake the feeling that perhaps some of the images I am looking to animate are too literally illustrating the text.  This is something I will have to be aware of as I move into scanning the images and creating an animatic, as I find that the process of establishing timing of shots can sometimes reveal things that seem to work in a more graphic (storyboard/comic) form.

I do wonder if perhaps the plan I have for animation is not enough of a departure from my previous work – but on the other hand, I have only made one hand drawn film in a similar style – and never using materials I created myself.  I think I should keep in mind that I want this film to look fresh, and I should continue asking myself how am I challenging myself with technique (rather than just materials)?

Thematically there is that same old self-doubt – Is my story too personal, too cliché of a coming of age?  I wonder if the intended environmental commentary is visible through the nostalgic narrative – and where the line between subtlety and hitting an audience over the head falls.  Maybe this depends on the intended audience.


I very much enjoyed the (somewhat backwards) research of first drawing lake plants from memory, and then trying to figure out what sort of plants they likely were based on description and location.  I thought the visual dives/sketches were an enjoyable way to get to know what my characters might look like through this project, and to give me an idea of what an aesthetic might be.  Finally the process of making ink was a joy to research, and to finally undertake after years of interest in the process.

I was delighted by the magical reactions that happened between the inks colours when they dried or were mixed with water – such as the grape ink turning from the purple to blueish, and the tea ink going from basely a water stain to a deep brown when dry.  The unpredictability when laying colours done will be fun to experiment with, and of course to learn how to predict.  I am excited about continuing to explore ink making from a variety of natural sources.

I think that from pitching the project to having some semblance of a storyboard to present in the course of one week was a challenge, just in that I was committing ideas to paper before I really had an idea of what I hoped to communicate in terms of style and movement.  It will be good to do additional research before committing the final narrative arc to paper, and to do some reflection on what I feel needs to be communicated through this piece.

What did I want to do that I didn’t get around to

I had intended to have a better idea of final aesthetic by the end of the first phase of this project’s development, and did not get around to putting together design frames of additional visual research.  These tasks, which will solidify the style and look of this short film, will be competed at the start of the next stage in development.

Next Steps / Moving Forward

The next steps will be to develop the Animatic, Rough Sound & Animation, and a Proof of Concept Sample – that is a finished short sequence to establish what the final film will look like in presentation.

Fodder for Dreaming (Motifs)

I am inspired by the folk stylings of Joni Mitchell, and in this project hope to emanate something of the feeling of her song, The Circle Game.

“Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star
And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game”

Things to Explore

I need to continue my visual research into relevant works by contemporary illustrators and animators to establish a final style.  My previous film drew on the mixed media rotoscopy pf Jeff Scher, and I hope to continue to build on this style where the inked line on paper has the freedom to transform as the image moves.  I am interested in looking back into the NFB archives at artists who are working in animation on paper with wet media, and also at artists who have effectively communicated an environmental message through allegory stories (i.e. Frederick Back’s The Man Who Planted Trees.

Theory & Practice


Animation Style Choices – straight ahead vs. pose to pose? (Do I plan my work or do I work through each frame chronologically?

Hand drawn or rotoscopy mixed with hand drawn? (Do I use archival footage to speed up the process?)

Should I capture the final images using digital photography (how I have worked historically) or do I venture into capturing on 16mm (one of my practice goals and research interests)?


Reflections on process as product.  The sketchbook as work of art.  Showing animations alongside the materiality of the pages.  Maybe I should consider displaying the frames of the animation or concept work alongside the final film?

Film in gallery space

The film has no real home in the gallery.  Light spill can be an issue, as is an audience that walks in or out at any point in the “performance.”  Plus, often videos are played on a loop with other, unrelated work.  How does film live in the gallery?  Should I be designing my narrative for this space rather than a festival run?  What kind of stories work without the viewer watching the work in its entirely or in start to finish order?

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