As we prepare for Living Lines: An Animated Big Draw we wanted to talk to artists, animators and creators who have devoted their lives to the craft of animation. The thought of creating an animation themed event may seem daunting but we hope that this series of interviews will inspire show just how simple (and fun it can be).
Animation is a enormously diverse art form which is constantly evolving and redefining itself. From the simplest cartoon strips and flip books to the biggest budget CGI features there is something for everybody to explore within animation.
Here we have part three of our interview with the wonderful Jim Le Fevre where we had a chat about his amazing creation The Phonotrope™.
In truth I discovered the process that is at the heart of the Phonotrope™ by trying to create some kind of 'in-camera' animation for a Super 8 competition called Straight 8 back in 2005 but I never got it working for the competition. The itch of the idea kept bouncing around in my head until eventually I realised I had been talking about it but not doing anything about it so I picked up a record player, crudely worked out the maths of it all and had a go. Almost the first time I pressed play on the turntable it worked and I realised that something fairly profound might have just happened.
I have always been excited by 'process' – that is, how something works – and I have always been excited by the feeling of 'magic' and animation in its most simplest form is exactly that.
I would say that pushing the technique to create animation using a turntable and promoting the Phonotrope™ as a brand for as long as I have (encouraging people to experiment with it) is what I am most proud of, especially that moment when you are showing a room full of people who have never seen it work, drawing on a very simple Phonotrope™ guide and then pressing play – that really lovely gasp from everyone is what I am most proud of.
Going back to what I find so important about drawing, the best thing I find about the Phonotrope™ discs I have made is that they come with an enormous amount of restrictions with them – each frame that you draw on is relatively small, you can only do about a second-and-a-bit of animation, the drawings have to keep clear of the previous and subsequent ones etc… This encourages making very simple and small experiments because, as with a kaleidoscope, every mark you make will be repeated 33 times. They are a delightful mix of sketchbook and zoetrope where you can quickly experiment and discover some really interesting things.
Equally you are restricted by size – each frame is about 2 and a bit centimeters – which means everything has to be small! This means that you don't have to worry about making it looking interesting and the simplest quietest tests by their very nature look incredibly detailed. You start using different material (paper, paint, charcoal) and simply adding the value of 'time' (i.e. animation) at that scale the simplest experiments become wonderful.
For instance a demonstration sculptural disc I made for a talk in Los Angeles that has a simple orange card circle is almost one of my favourite through it's pure simplicity and satisfaction even though I have made two meter tall towers! I also used to do the discs on the train with a pencil and a small watercolour set which was lovely, not really knowing what it would look like until I got into the studio and tested it. A lot of those worked really beautifully although sometimes you can go too far and what looks like a really exciting disc ends up as a totally mess!
Having said that, in 2013 I got together with some pottery friends of mine, Rupert and Al Johnstone of RAMP Ceramics, and we made a Phonotrope™ style pot and that was pretty special.
You can find out more about Jim and his amazing work at https://www.jimlefevre.com/ or follow him on twitter @jimlefevre and on vimeo https://vimeo.com/jimlefevre.
In addition you can find out more about all things Phonotrope™ related at https://www.jimlefevre.com/phonotrope.
If you have been inspired by Jim's ramblings why not organise and event of your own for The Big Draw Festival 2017. You can register right here
Our interview with Jim will continue tomorrow when he will be giving you ideas for your Big Draw 2017 event!
About our blog writer: Oscar Moore
Oscar has been working at The Big Draw since August 2016. He graduated from the University of Bristol in 2015 with a degree in History of Art. He has a particular interest in Modern South American Art especially the Arpillera movement in Chile as well as the work of Oscar Munoz. As a lapsed drawer himself he has loved working towards getting as many people involved with drawing in all its’ forms, as well as rediscovering drawing himself. Outside of the The Big Draw Oscar loves playing basketball (badly) and writing about it (quite well), cooking and traveling whenever time and funds allow!