Takagi Masakatsu-Continuous Moving Paintings

Last week, while commuting to work, a colleague critiqued some of  my practice which were a few rotoscopes and my current project. Alienation & Conformity (2015)  involved a large amount of individual film frame texturing, he noticed that my practice was not too dissimilar from the Japanese film maker/musician, Takagi Masakatsu. Masakatsu is an artist who works in several mediums such as music, animation and video art. However, until last week, I’d only heard of him as a musician. Having done a bit of research, I learned that our art backgrounds and current practices have a few things in common. For instance, at university he studied film making as an extension to photography whereas I studied photography as an extension to film making/animation. Also, his work involves the old animation process, rotoscoping. A process which I first touched on 20 years ago but has been de facto in my practice over the past five years.

I was referenced Masakatsu’s live action film, Girls (2010). The artist is a frequent traveller, a great deal of his inspiration comes from memos and sketches while travelling around rural landscapes. Here, you can see the natural environment influences in his work. Like a lot of his projects, animated brushstrokes are carefully arranged during the process. The images swirl in a particular rhythm, creating a dreamlike narrative. I see his work as continuous moving paintings, an impressionist in the digital age. It’s a powerful and moving piece of work but for this film, it’s the haunting soundtrack the makes the work even more memorable. From this work, I feel that I need to pull my finger out and begin to experiment with other film software.


Jeff Scher

Recently I have been looking at the work of Jeff Scher. He is an animator, underground film-maker and painter based in New York. As a rotoscope film-maker, he has a very individual approach. Since 1980 Scher has made 33 films. Most of his films are abstract experiments lasting approximately two and half minutes long. His last film to date, For All The Wrong Reasons, was made in 2008. For the past seven years he has been an instructor at NYU Tisch School of Arts Kanbar Institute of Film & Television’s Animation program.

His films are mainly non-narrative, experimental and combined with music. His intentions are for the viewer to create their own stories from his visuals. His methodology is quite unusual and has been described as animated still life. He often uses paintings and collages by overlapping the colours and textures. When film making, he employs the rotoscope technique though not in a traditional manner. Rather than using up-to-date software to speed up the frame drawing process, Scher still uses vintage machinery to enrich each image as to affect the mind senses. Just in the same way a film maker might use Super 8 film as opposed to digital film. The traced images are then separately shot as a single frame. As Steve Fore noted in his essay Romancing the Rotoscope: Self-Reflexivity and the Reality Effect in the Animations of Jeff Scher (2007), when critically analyzing Reasons to be Glad (1980), Milk of Amnesia (1992) and Garden of Regrets (1994). Scher renders each individual scene initially as a series of small gouache paintings, sometimes layered over cut-out text and advertising images from magazines, newspapers, and consumer product packaging. His colour palette is varied, but it skews toward vivid, intense colours. Similarly, while most scenes, and individual drawings within scenes, are sufficiently detailed to provide a fairly detailed suggestion of facial features, background details, the movement of clothing, etc., some scenes (and individual frames within otherwise more detailed scenes) are little more than single-colour sketches of movement and figures against a white background.)

For material to rotoscope, Scher uses a variety of live action cinematic sources including Hitchcock films, experimental films, televised sporting events, educational and documentary footage and home movies. After analyzing a few of his films, I began to notice his individual technique in greater detail. For example, in Reasons to be Glad (1980), the entire three minutes, 15 seconds is a pulsating array of fragmented human action footage such as a women smoking, two lovers kissing, a man walking a dog, dancers etc mixed with cinematic footage from Film noir or gangster films. The imagery is frantic, morphing from one scene to another. Also, it was noted that through varying the colours and drawings,still images filmed in rapid succession appeared to move as though animated. I feel very inspired by his work and it has made me consider my approach when rotoscoping.

Reasons to be Glad, Jeff Scher (1980)

The Pub (Joseph Pierce, 2012)

The Pub (Joseph Pierce 2012)

Joseph Pierce’s ‘The Pub’ (2012) is a rotoscoped animation which focuses on a day in the life of a barmaid who works in a gloomy pub in North London. The animation was inspired by Pierce’s time living above a pub in Camden. The narrative flows from barmaid to the various assortment of characters that surround her. Pierce uses his distinctive figurative style (Family Portrait, Stand-up) by exaggerating their suppressed emotions and social awkwardness. He exposes their features by morphing from a physical representation into sinister and sometimes crude forms. The barmaid gives off that British stiff upper lip culture and seems unfazed in the face of adversity. Elements which are indicative of films by Mike Leigh and Ken Loach in their portrayals of British social realism.

I’m Inspired!




The Amygdala

As part of my contextual research, I’ve been researching what happens when our mind detects fear and the defence mechanisms we have to combat our fears. When we are faced with a situation where our emotions are provoked such as an immediate fear, an area of our brain called the amygdala reacts to our physical state and prepares our mind to control our emotion. However, according to many websites, the role of the amygdala is a contentious subject, as the amygdala functions in different ways, not only fear related. The amygdala is also responsible to controlling our anger and fascinatingly, it processes memory data when we have unpleasant experiences. So when we encounter the same experience, the amygdala recognizes that situation. And, depending on the situation, increases/decreases our fears.

When I was younger I suffered from  claustrophobia. I never took any medication for this; I just never felt comfortable in confined spaces such as elevators, narrow corridors, small rooms etc. When I came to work in Tokyo 15 years ago, the most fearful situation for me was taking the rush hour train (not 1 hour, continuous!). It was unbearable having to stand crushed for lengthy periods of time against bodies. Now, I’ve became so used to crowded trains that this fear is considerably weaker. So, my research has informed me that over time, the amygdala has recorded those situations and has prepared my mind to control and combat that fear. Below is footage of me (look closely and you’ll see my reflection on the train door with camera) on the way to work. The film is a portrayal of how I used to feel when experiencing the rush hour in Tokyo. Silent Hell!