The art of Coraline

Today we went to the “Art of Coraline” exhibit at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum. It’s a fantastic show, full of gorgeous drawings, maquettes, armatures and full puppets from the making of the movie (which comes out next weekend by the way… we’re gonna try to catch one of the stereo 3D screenings, don’t wanna miss that!)

My personal favorite thing to see was a little black journal, chained to the wall, labeled “Secrets”. It’s a reproduction of the working diary of Jeremy Spake, one of the armature builders. Not only is it a beautiful object, but it shows just how experimental the process really is. Stop motion is still very much an evolving art form, and it’s the thought process of guys like this that keeps it evolving. Rock on!

Here are a few more photos from the show:

Inside the book of Secrets... Jeremy Spake's book of Secrets Coraline mouth replacements Coraline's "other father" The Art of Coraline

But it’s really worth seeing this stuff in person. The armatures and puppets are so detailed that no photo can do them justice. And strangely, a lot of the artwork in the show doesn’t appear in the only available “visual companion” book about the movie. So this may really be your only chance to see it. The exhibit is only up until February 15th, so try to get there while you still can! (And if Coraline ain’t enough for ya, there are two other exhibits at the Museum right now: the Totoro Forest Project, and a retrospective of the work of Gene Colan. Between the three of them it’s well worth the price of admission!)

How to Make a Baby

How to Make a Baby from Cassidy Curtis on Vimeo.

Having a kid is such a memorable experience, but it’s kind of hard to convey to folks who haven’t been through it. So we made this little educational film to show you how it’s done. (Don’t worry, it’s totally worksafe!)

For a bigger version, and some behind the scenes details, see How to Make a “How to Make a Baby”.

Animation Mentor rocks on!

I just finished shooting a video lecture for Animation Mentor‘s revised curriculum. The topic is “personality”. It was an incredible challenge trying to tackle such a meaty subject in a one-hour video (not to mention doing all the preparation and research while raising a newborn! Man, what was I thinking?) But the team at AM did an amazing job reining in my rambling ways. My old cubicle-mate Luci Napier directed the shoot, and I was blown away by her ability to focus and keep everything on track, as well as adding great ideas of her own, from her experience as an animator, improv performer and student of psychology. (That’s her in the photo, with founder Bobby Beck, who suckered me into doing this in the first place. ;-) Now I know how it must feel for a writer to have a really smart editor. What a fun collaboration! Can’t wait to see what AM’s crack editorial department does with the footage…

Neither Graffiti Nor Animation

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Tonight I learned that one of my favorite graffiti spots, London’s “Undercroft” skatepark, has temporarily been taken over–or rather been given over by the authorities–to an artist named Robin Rhode. If you search Google or YouTube you can see some of the guy’s work… some of it is actually kinda interesting, but nowhere near cool enough to justify shutting down the Undercroft for a whole week, in my opinion.

His schtick seems to be taking a series of photos where he draws some stuff in chalk on the wall or floor, and then photographs himself a bunch of times miming some kind of simple action, like waving a flag made of bricks, or slam-dunking a basketball into an imaginary basket. He shows the work as a series of photos in a gallery, or a videotaped slide show of same.

The London-based graffiti writers in my Flickr circles have been putting him down because he’s an “artist” (as opposed to a writer), and in this case, they have a point: everyone else who paints at the Undercroft does so on their own time and resources, and at their own risk. Then, here comes this guy with a team of contractors to do the heavy work of priming the walls for him, so he can stroll in and do his drawings. And Southbank Centre actually shuts down the skatepark for a whole week just to give him room to do his thing. That’s got to bother a lot of people, given the strong anti-authority thread in the subculture: “real” graffiti writers don’t ask permission, and they certainly don’t hire assistants to do their dirty work. Graffiti writers, in a way, created the Undercroft. It’s hard not to feel like this action is taking their baby away from them.

For my part, I get irritated when art critics credit Rhode as doing “stop-frame animation“, when all he’s ever produced is a mere storyboard of an action. What he’s doing is almost animation, but it’s not really, because he never seems to shoot enough photos (nor have a strong enough grasp of the principles of motion) to make it work–it certainly wouldn’t play well at 24 frames per second–so instead he shows it as a series of stills. Pretty weak sauce, especially when there are artists like Blu out there doing full-on hand-painted animation on the street. And so I find myself wanting to hate on the guy, even though we’ve never met.

What’s interesting to me is that what these two responses have in common: both animation and graffiti require a lot of skill, effort, dedication and time. So when someone steps into either territory who doesn’t seem to be willing to put in that effort, it’s going to bother the people who live there.

Anyway, Rhode’s intervention is scheduled to end on October 4th, so it’ll all be over shortly. I look forward to seeing the writers and skaters take back their Undercroft with extreme prejudice.

I want a triple-twist Klein bottle!

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Here’s a great thing: a trio of Klein bottles nested one inside the other by mathematical glass-blower Alan Bennett (found via BoingBoing, of course.) You can tell it’s three separate bottles by looking at how the layers are interconnected: the long skinny tubes at the bottom each connect a pair of layers, and the folded-over edges at the top connect the same pairs (1+6, 2+5, 3+4). Figuring that out was fun, but then I saw this tantalizing quote from the museum’s website:

“In the series Alan Bennett made Klein bottles analogous to Mobius strips with odd numbers of twists greater than one.”

Darn, I was really hoping to see one of those! Suddenly the math geek in me is sorely disappointed. Given how much labor it must have taken to build this object, he could have made it a lot more interesting just by switching which tubes connect to which bottles! If the tubes linked 2+6, 3+5, and 1+4, this object would be transformed from three separate surfaces into a single surface that turns inside-out three times, the equivalent of a triply-twisted Moebius strip.

Continue reading I want a triple-twist Klein bottle!

Cassidy Curtis's splendid display of colorful things.