Andrea Evans and Clarissa Gregory: Drawing into Animation

Expanded interviews artists Andrea Evans and Clarissa Gregory about their drawing workshop, Drawing into Animation, held at MICA's Draw it Out! 2018 program.

EDP: Can you describe your workshop concept?

Clarissa Gregory: Temporality, collaboration, drawing as a physical, spatial image-making application that can be recorded over time – these are some of the key concepts we delivered and students ran with.

Taking inspiration from artists BLU, William Kentridge, Haiyang Wang, and early 1900 drawing animation, we aimed to breathe life into a series of drawings and live action stop-motion and an active camera person. Opening the workshop with a body warm-up – a theatre exercise called “machine,” which evolved into audible sound and drawing through repeat gestural mark-making as a group – we invited students to not just see or hear, but actively feel out the relationship from hand to arm, arm to torso, torso to head and back down to legs of yourself and others around you, and most directly from hand to charcoal to paper…  And to feel out the interconnected nature of motion and drawing with a physical body, (an)other body in space, and through a moving camera lens.

EDP: How did the concept evolve or change during or after it?

Andrea Evans: Due to the nature of the workshop, there was a lot of room for the participants to take the process and explore it in different ways.  In our planning, I worried that we might need to provide a little jump start to the idea generation process, and we discussed having the group develop a singular theme to help provide direction.  But in actual workshop, everyone was pretty much ready to go: they settled on their own themes and quickly got to work.

While two of the groups took quickly to the large-scale charcoal drawing process, one group went in the direction of working with 3D forms and cut-out drawn elements in a more traditional stop-motion style.  One group developed a clear narrative, while the others took a more abstract approach.  The nice thing about having proximity between the working spaces was that each group could witness the discoveries of the others, and then further build and expand upon them.

EDP: What surprises occurred during the workshop?  How did different participants shift your original ideas around?

CG: Lovely surprises included the enthusiasm, focus, and wildly unique approach each pair took to our prompts.

AE: Yes!  Because we were working with a small group (7 participants), it everyone seemed to bond pretty quickly. All the participants had quite varied experiences--we had MICA students ranging from first year to grad students, MICA alumni, a MICA faculty member, and members from the larger Baltimore community.  Each person brought a unique point of view to the workshop.  Some were very comfortable drawing big and expressively, and they provided impetus to help the others jump right into it.  Other people were more experienced with the camera and animation processes, and they helped provide direction for their partners. This made for such a rich dialogue and expanse of perspectives.  And then, of course, there was the magical moment when all the still images were rendered into a moving image, and each group was able to see what they had created.  It was really a beautiful thing to see everyone come together, and make something together, in just a few hours.

CG: I’ve taught a more focused, long-term version of this exercise to drawing students (minus the body movement introduction and live action stop-motion), inviting students to develop a story-board narrative and pre-meditated “base” key frame drawings, which results in a more linear progression of art-making and imagery. Having taught the workshop as we did in DrawitOUT, in a more free-form manner: inviting participants to incorporate their body or try maneuvering the camera to track shots and zoom in/out… I learned how more freedom in a compressed amount of time forces students to work efficiently, improvise, and follow their instinct to create not just representational imagery, but abstract and whimsical animations. I plan to implement our workshop version into my regular drawing class and see how the projects take off!

EPD: How did your workshop align with your own goals as a drawing artist?

CG: I usually carry a concept in my mind for months before initiating an artwork – Concept drives the material, technique, and method. And no matter how much I’d like to repeat a method, I am always, always stepping into the deep end of learning a new approach to image-making. Whether that’s a goal or a result of being an interdisciplinary artist who thrives on changing the rules of the game, it happens every time. This same scenario I experience in the classroom and if I lead a workshop: I learn from my students, I learn about the delivery, I learn how to approach the art-making from a new standpoint, no matter if I’ve taught an exercise once or numerous times. And that’s because each class contains new students and with that new backgrounds and insight to art-making. And there you have it – my goal as an artist and a teacher is to learn something new, to see and create art through a fresh lens, as if I were the student. I will always be a student to the art.

AE: The relationship between the drawn mark and the body is something that plays a large role in my work, and has long informed my thinking about making and teaching drawing.  Teaching is something that greatly informs my own goals as an artist and my approach to my art practice as a whole—it pushes me to expand my consideration of what art is, and what it can be.  I never know how students will run with a prompt or process—they often have such different approaches—but it is always exciting to see how others think and solve problems in unique ways.  Ultimately, teaching is a collaborative process, and the wonderful thing about collaboration is that it helps you see possibilities that you originally didn’t even know were there.

I’ve also been thinking about the animation process, and how, while you can anticipate what you are making and what it will look like in the end, you never truly know until you are there.  In this workshop, we were asking our participants to work blindly, in a sense; they knew they were documenting changes in the drawing, but they didn’t know what it would become—they had to be open to experimentation and be willing to work into the unknown.  So much of art-making is like this—there are some things you know, but many more that you don’t know.  And you don’t quite know how all the work will come together, but you have to be comfortable with working blindly, in the hope that it will all come together in the end.

EDP: How did the tangents different participants take synthesize in the end?  Or did they even have to be?

CG: Formally, all works were screened as one continuous (albeit separately titled) series of animations. On site, partners took their own journey and where they began and where they ended up was not the same as any other pairing – which is exactly what I had hoped for.

AE: In the gallery space, we were also able to show the resulting drawings alongside the animations, which provided a nice window into the working process.  So often, you are only able to see the final work—this opened up a dynamic space for dialogue between the physical works and animations.

CG: When describing to students how they might begin and what to expect, I likened their creation process to a road trip. On a road trip you have a general idea of where you’re going, you have a map as a reference, but you don’t know when you’ll need to pull over and stretch your legs, or grab some gas or an ice cream cone, or go on a little detour. Students were given permission, invited to see where those smaller gravel roads led them, to respond to the drawing, and listen and continually edit the pathway with their partner.