The growth from our test models over the summer has only really become overt to us now we have seen the final pieces. Layering animation on animation has replicated our puppet work from the earlier taster sessions this summer, and could only be achieved by having more time with the groups over a period of a few weeks.
Animating with under 5’s has been interesting, as we have, technically, been running two activities a day which are devised for different ages. This usually manifests itself in an activity for participants around 3 and under, and an activity for 3 and over - timelapse drawing of backgrounds for the younger group and animation of the overlayed bugs and animals for the older ones. What has been interesting is to see the younger group wanting to, and pushing themselves, to do the activities that were not for them. This shows that the development of skills comes at different times for different people, which seems obvious but also seems to be sidetracked in current thinking when dealing with this age group. It has also been interesting working for 30 mins with a child of 2 years and seeing their motor control and understanding get better as you work with them. The repetitive and precise movements of animation help them to slowly build that skill. This is part of them watching others and learning physically (both valuable skills), and the informal nature of the education going on in these sessions.
At the Boniface Centre in Crediton, we worked for three weeks to create a collaborative animated journey across the sea. The activities for this were split into two sections. One was a rolling background (using eisel paper) which allowed participants to dip in and out of drawing rolling hills, beach, sea etc. As each participant drew on the paper, we would move it along and take pictures to create the illusion that the camera was tracking across a landscape. Due to the collaborative nature of this activity, the background varied in detail. Parents would often spend 10-20 minutes drawing something detailed like a shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean or a sand castle, while their children would colour in the sand, sea or sky. It was great to see the families working together in this way. The second activity was light box animation. This was aimed at the slightly older participants between the ages of 3-5. Here they would make an animal of their choice on black card and animated it over the light, creating and interesting shadow that we could later composite over the top of the rolling background. The way that the young people engaged with this more advanced form of animation was surprising. We had some very young children (one aged 2 1/2) understanding the process and actively engaging with the computer.
At St. Mary Magdalene’s Church in Stoke Canon, we had a slightly different activity planned. Over the course of the next few months, the local community and pre-school will see a wildlife garden grow at the back of the church. As a response to this, we decided to consult with the children, families and teachers about what they might see in their garden. Here we made an layered animation where we mixed lightbox (with coloured tissue paper), freeform drawing and blue screen animation (with felt) create a growing garden full of flowers, grass and bugs. In particular we are very pleased with the visual quality of this animation, however, what impresses us even more is the understanding of advanced animation techniques that the young pre-school children exhibited. In one instance, a young boy around the age of 3 1/2 or 4 saw how we were creating an accordion like movement with one of the longer bugs (an earth worm I think) and was able to repeat it without any prompting when it was his turn to animated his caterpillar. In an other instance, as a pupil was working with one of his teachers, he looked at the animation program he was taking pictures on and observed how the pictures were like “layers of skin”, this of course referring to the process of onion skinning, which shows you the picture that you have taken, layered underneath the picture that you are about to take. This is used in animation to keep track of movement.
Collaboration with another artist is something we love to do, and it has been great growing the Carousel based sessions with Tamsin Pender at Silverton. This input has enabled the sessions to be a more performative and process based set of workshops, with the emphasis being on slowly developing and nurturing the participants understanding of what they are doing and making. Each session ended with something physical moving for them - with actual ‘carousels’ for them to see. This has made their work special, as well as enabling them to experience a growth from 2D to 3D and then to something more dramatic. Watching the under 5’s take this all in was amazing and something that is hard to quantify when not being there and seeing it. These process was full of those moments of learning, excitement and amazement that will live with these children for a while - possibly years.
Here is a video of the work that we made at Silverton with Tamsin. It shows some of the making and how the young people and families engaged with the different processes.