Monday, 4 May 2009

Practitioner Comparison

I am looking here at two animators with quite different outcomes for their work but who also have a few things in common. (1352 words)

Vera Neubauer is very respected for her fine art type animation 4. This comes from her website;
“Vera Neubauer has made more than 30 films, written numerous scripts, had photo exhibitions and curated festival screenings. Her films have been widely shown internationally in cinemas, galleries and on television. They have been awarded 2 BAFTA’s, as well as major prizes at international film festivals. She has had retrospectives around the world including the UK, Germany, Italy, Brazil and India.
Vera began teaching filmmaking at Central Saint Marten School of Art and Goldsmiths College and is now a guest lecturer at film schools in Belgium, Germany, Turkey and Norway. She is a director of Spectre Films and works as an independent artist and filmmaker.”

An example of Vera NeuBauer's work .

I was lucky enough to catch her late last year lecturing at the cornerhouse in Manchester and here I will be running some comparisons of her alongside Damian Gasgoigne.

Damian Gasgoigne, is perhaps best known for the commercial work he produces for television advertisements but also for his teaching in London, on the animation course at the Royal College.

Damian Gasgoignes work from the film entitled 'Careful'

I will talk about the fact that, in conjunction with his students at the Royal College, he is aslo involved in some very fine art oriented projects. In fact I believe he sees his commercial work more as a means to an end when considering his more thought provoking projects.

Vera Neubauer’s films contain a mix of cell animation, using pen and ink drawings that come across in a tribal, rootsy way. She will also employ anything else that is at hand to give her films the right feel, including stick drawings in beach sand that can then be seen to be swept away by the tide, as in her film depicting the bible story. She will draw in the condensation on windows, using strikingly different means to convey the message or feeling she has in the most sensitive manner.
Left; A still from Vera's film; 'Wheel of Life' , taken from the Old Testament.

Damian can of course also be seen to employ these forms of communicative ‘message through media’ type tools. Although his tends to be of a less is more approach. His pen style remains pretty well consistent, with the characters all coming from his hand and the Chinese pen work remaining a constant.

The intimacy Damian’s style affords is perhaps its biggest selling point. The characters’ poses and appearance are both something Damian is proud of and wants to continue to convey as he moves on to working now with computerised 3d animation, something that he has tried to avoid but sees as just ‘the way the industry has moved’.

I believe that this sort of consistency with his own artwork being such a signature of his work is a major point for Damian.
His work sells because it looks like his work.
He does not need to be adaptable or to change his style to fit the market. He must therefore value the communicative value in what he does. His methods for transcribing his thoughts into the animations we see are capable only by him and the characters themselves are more alive because of it. This is something he is working hard to maintain as he endeavours with his current generation of students to make the transition.
I suppose he has a slightly different approach to Vera’s whereby these are all strings to his bow and in order to exist certain concessions are inevitable.

Vera’s work on the main, appears very fine art oriented, it is no wonder that we see that she is writing scripts and making fine art. Though we still see evidence or her own style and her own characters through the work she produces, she is not so contained by the notion of a particular style I think as Damian. This is perhaps due to his roots in illustration, whereas Vera has a different background, what with her roots in filmmaking meaning that, as I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog, as a student she; ‘was merely given a camera and told to go and film things’.
She is very brave when choosing what will go into her films, perhaps because of this approach towards her education. Not conceiving boundaries in the same way as others and being more willing to give things a try. It is difficult to picture her working with 3D animation with its stuffy offices and long nights of coffee and cola.
She has a much more immediate approach to the way her elements are placed together, even featuring live action at times. It seems she is very willing to take whatever conveys the message best without feeling constrained to having to sit down and draw everything in a certain way, something she feels would kill the train of thought. It has to be said that her films convey this sense of immediacy extremely effectively.

I suppose that as a student of illustration though, I do tend to appreciate the style of something coming across through a piece. That elements are tied together with a singular style is something I have craved when working on my pieces throughout the last year or so and things don’t feel finished to me unless they appear so.
Vera’s work does however offer unity through the very fact that it is (obviously) a single piece of film. She has the last laugh in the fact that all things taken into consideration , we are looking at her talents as a film maker, her skills in composition and timing and ultimately her communication of thoughts and feelings, the emotional impact of the things she chooses as her subject matter. She is not trying to sell something with a few laughs or a little sense of symapthetic selfishness, more she is engaging with the viewer on a very personal level and pushing the boundaries of film.
So we have two people and two different goals here but Damian should not be discounted from the goals of Vera’s that I have just mentioned, far from it. For Damian’s work with his students also pushes the boundaries of what is ‘accepted animation’, something that should not be forgotten.

I can sypathise with Damian having to make the move to 3D and have considered it myself in the past, even going so far as to learn to use a little of the software to give myself some kind of working knowledge. I suppose that everything comes with a catch and we have to decide whether the pros outwiegh the cons in this case.
I think the possibilities that Damian is approaching with his students are amazingly interesting, after all once the art is working and the puppets ready to manipulate there is (Literally!) a whole other dimension to encounter with this method.
I do appreciate the consistency of style and the feel when somebodies vision is realised in such a way. It is a beautiful thing, it's easy to feed off the enthusiasm of both of these people.
Perhaps some of the goals of Vera's films with their high emotional content can be approached in this way after all. After all, isn't it just visual story telling being honed and refined?

It is interesting to note that in both their lectures they each referred to seeing being so creative as a type of ‘mental-illness’. Each of them stating that it takes a certain type of person to be able to go and do some of the things necessary to gain their results and overcome the challenges they encounter with their creativity.
This is something I find easy to admire as too many people are happy to say; ‘sit down!’, ‘you can’t do that!’ or; ‘What will people think?’. I find it much too good for the spirit to get out and draw people and things that even whilst writing this, I am desperate to get out and do just that. I think this sort of practice is refreshing, feels good and well, if the weather stays nice...

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