Engagement:  Process Blog

Elizabeth Davis is a senior at the Kansas City Art Institute. As a part of her BFA thesis, she is making an experimental animation that explores her personal history. This blog is a documentation of that project.

You can follow her most up to date sketching here

Synopsis: Engagement is an experimental animated short that goes through a series of fluid transitions between abstract, hand-drawn animation and photographic self-portraiture as a way to explore personal history and growth, with a recording of an original poem to accompany the images. The poem and animation work together as a way to create motifs that describe my relationship with my past and how it develops my present.

 

Screenshot of my film uploading to Vimeo!!!

Screenshot of my film uploading to Vimeo!!!

There is still time to snag a cool commission from me before I set off to Paris (and support me in the process)!

Posted by Elizabeth Davis on Thursday, April 21, 2016
 
 
walk3_test3.gif
 
 

I've updated the work on my website - take a minute to check it out!

Posted by Elizabeth Davis on Tuesday, February 9, 2016
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
My brother and I learned how to breathe together, but we soon became a set of tools. He was a plow and I was the rake. I collected the stones he threw. I became the ladder when he picked orchards. He reaches his hand to lift me into his tree, but I sit at the base. He cannot understand this craving for stability. My desire to stretch out like roots and sleep with the Earth while he reaches for the sun.

Even if he doesn’t understand my wish, he sees the cycle. We sit in silence, trading water and fruit until it’s time to leave. We learned how to grow together.

At the same time, I was pushing boulders over cliffs and watching them fall. Their destruction became the rock for my foundation.

I want to have a constant beginning. A place to build.
I realized I had hands and fell in love with creation.

My mother told me there is a photo where I had the courage to take one-million steps. Those little feet have become so big and heavy. I’ve been dragging them behind me. Quiet anger keeps me walking now.


Often, I feel transparent, but not invisible. My thoughts are naked and trembling. My voice is weak and the pen is heavy, and I feel shame.

I want engagement. I want a satisfaction and simultaneous frustration.

My father taught me how to name things. I learned the plants, animals, colors. When I got older, I started naming my insides. Slowly, my body became a community of hands and heart.

I take up a lot of space. My spirit bumps elbows with the walls and leaves its feet hanging out the front door.


I want to have a constant beginning.

I’m waiting for time to breathe with me. Rest from this slow decay.
 
Often, I feel transparent, but not invisible. My thoughts are naked and trembling. My voice is weak and the pen is heavy. And I feel shame.

I want engagement. I want a satisfaction and simultaneous frustration.

I want to have a constant beginning.

I want to have a constant beginning. A place to build.
I realized I had hands and fell in love with creation.

At the same time, I was pushing boulders over cliffs and watching them fall. Their destruction became the rock for my foundation.


I take up a lot of space. My spirit bumps elbows with the walls and leaves its feet hanging out the front door.

I want time to breathe with me. Rest from this slow decay.


My mother told me there is a photo where I had the courage to take one-million steps. Those little feet have become so big and heavy. I’ve been dragging them behind me

My mother told me there is a photo where I had the courage to take one-million steps. Today, frustration gnaws at my feet. I shake violently against my own futility. Why did I leave my courage behind in the photo? I know what I must walk towards. Quiet anger keeps me walking now.

My brother and I learned how to breathe together, but we soon became a set of tools. He was a plow and I was the rake. I collected the stones he threw. I became the ladder when he picked orchards. He reaches his hand to lift me into his tree, but I sit at the base. He cannot understand this craving for stability. My desire to stretch out like roots and sleep with the Earth while he reaches for the sun.


Even if he doesn’t understand my wish, he sees the cycle. We sit in silence, trading water and fruit until it’s time to leave. We learned how to grow together.

My father taught me how to name things. I learned the plants, animals, colors. When I got older, I started naming my insides. Slowly, my body became a community of hands and heart.
 
 
 
Exploring Media

Film is Complete!          May 2, 2016

The film Engagement is now complete! There are so many people I have to thank - Doug Hudson, Fraser Farmer, Karl Gottschalk, Haley Chaffin, and the rest of my studio mates in 117, as well as my supportive family. This project has been such a huge part of my life and I feel like I have grown so much through this process. If you are interested in getting a peak at the film while it makes its way through festivals or want to include it in a film festival you're involved in, please email me!                                             Looking back, this is a culmination of influences and finally reaching a place where I feel comfortable (or at least confident) in creating work that is so directly about me and my experience. Incorporating written word, self portraiture, and the more abstract hand drawn animation that I have been pursuing for several years. Finding a space to combine these elements of my studio practice that have seemed disparate for so long into a single set of moments has been challenging and deeply rewarding.                            

The other news is that there are a number of ways you can see me or my work in the coming two weeks:                                                               I will be screening this film at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art at 7:00 pm on May 13th. I will also at the closing reception for my work that is at the BFA Exhibition at the H&R Block Artspace. You can also find my work Rut as a part of the film portion of the Middle of the Map Festival. Next week, on May 11th, I will be on KKFI's "Art Speak" to talk about my upcoming plans as an artist and recent graduate. In June, I will be staying as a part of a residency/research phase in Paris, France, sketching, taking photographs, and viewing art work. You can still support me through my GoFundMe page and get a piece from my time there!

 

Wrapping Up Production      April 22, 2016

Thankfully, my project has remained (mostly) on track, with plans to have completed animation on Sunday, April 24. I've been collaborating with composer Karl Gottschalk, who has been helping me work through what kind of musical soundscape we can create. We've decided to limit the instrumentation to piano and woodwind instruments. I am hoping that with the animation complete, we can have an almost finalized score on the 28th, with time to meet for revisions the following few days while I do cleanup on the film to make sure there are no obvious mistakes. 

You can see my film be screened at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art on May 13th at 7:00 pm. 

 

Walk Cycles and Sound      March  24, 2016

During the last month, I have moved forward with my animation, and started putting together some of the motifs that work be used in the third scene. This is one animation of my figure walking up stairs. The figure will be masked out in the stairwell, so the whole body won't be visible during the entire sequence. With the deadline approaching, I want to resolve the final aesthetic soon so I can move on to the final scene. My plan is to finish the walk cycle roughs by next week to move onto the final scene. 

 

Preparing for Mid-Point      Feb. 24, 2016

I have created a reel that compiles work I've made from 2013 to present. While not related specifically to my project, I feel good to have this done and I feel proud that I'm able to put a small grouping of my work together in a digestible format.                                                                                                                                                                                   I've also started working with a young student composer to put together some background sounds for my film, and I've put together photographs for my third motif that will happen. The transition from the first and second motifs are almost done, which will complete the first minute or so of the film. It is an exciting time to be working, but I also want to make sure I don't fall behind in a way that makes me compromise the methods I want to use to composite my hand drawn elements with the photographs.

 

 

Getting on Track      Feb. 9, 2016

A lot has happened since December - I have secured my position for a residency opportunity in Paris, France, I updated my entire website and Tumblr blog, reworked the poem, and I have made progress on my film.Throughout December and January, I took time to update and completely revamp my website and other online presence locations to create a space that works better for my films as a whole. Now I'm staring back on the project with full force - I need 1:30 done by March 7th to be "on track" (although I would like it to be more). I have also started working more intimately with photographs, and am working on a new project simultaneously that is invested in photogram and photo as a composite of time that serves less like a moment and more like a number of frames in one image, similar to the themes and techniques I am working on for this animation.     

 Currently, I am assisting with the curation of the NCECA conference in Kansas City, which will happen in March, working with the artist Carla Steck to help curate and organize the exhibition.                   

 

Further Development  Nov. 17, 2015

This is an extension of what I had previously done. I presented "Test 1" to my studio class, where my primary feedback was to continue with variation and create a more gradual beginning. I hope to create a more complete example of a photo-animation composite before mid-December.

 

Starting the Introduction, More Photo Work         Nov. 4, 2015

I started working on the the introduction to this project. After trying to do a more formal storyboard, I decided that starting on what felt the best was a better approach to continue my progress. These lines are inspired by the lines of light and shadow that are created by shallow water in a pool.

I have also taken photos as a way to combine photographic self portraiture and the theme of photography that I see running through my poem. Taking the photos has been good for me personally and is doubling as its own exploration of my image and self perception. You can look at some of the photos on a larger scale in my photo gallery. 

I've also been trying to record the poem, but I am having trouble speaking with good inflection and tone. Right now I'm trying to "map" the tone of the poem and try rehearsing it before doing a more final take. I hope to have a recording I am happy with before December.

 

 

New GIF Composition Oct. 22, 2015

I created a new photo animation composition to try out the idea of combining portraits with my hand drawn animation.

 

Entering Production!   Oct. 12, 2015

Today I am officially entering into production on my BFA thesis film! It's a very exciting day - I will formally present my project up to this point to my studio classmates, and then try to push myself until the very end of the semester! 

 

Incorporating Photography?                                          Oct. 11, 2015

Through my writing, I noticed that there were two themes that lead me to think about photography as a medium that reflected the content of the poem and what I am trying to say. The first was the direct mention of the photograph and the constant use of past tense language, reflecting on the growth of the past into the present. The second theme is that the poem is written in the first person, and through that perspective there are flaws and forced perspective. I think photography compliments that theme because even photography as a tool for documentation is inherently flawed and forced, skewing our perspectives. I am playing with compositing animations on top of photographs to see how (or if) I can use photography effectively in my thesis project.

 

Starting Revisions       Oct. 5, 2015

This is the second pass of revisions I have done to the structure of the poem. I have started to think about how I want the animation to flow in conjunction with the writing and the images that should correlate with each phrase. At the end of this week, I will take a recording of the poem spoken out loud to understand the timing and flow better. Afterwards I want to create a small, informal animatic to understand the flow of the animation, and then begin production.

 

 

Writing Poems           Sept. 30, 2015

I am interested in combining writing into my project. I think this will result in a selection of these poems turning into a voiceover on top of the animation that is happening. Originally, I had intended this project to be about motivation from a universal perspective. As I started writing, I realized that I had my own story to tell, and I want to follow what happens naturally as a part of my process. These poems aren't in any particular order but the order that the thoughts came to my head.

I am thinking about the relationship I have with the people who shaped me, and my relationship with myself. I keep coming back to photography since my experience with the photography department at the Nelson-Atkins last spring. The idea of the photograph as a permanent record and  a way to rely on the way things were and it simultaneously containing a flawed and biased perspective was part of the inspiration for these poems.

 

Continued Experimentation                                           Sept. 26, 2015

A short gif I made considering the same kind of techniques, playing with slower frame rate.

 

Motion Test                  Sept. 24, 2015

Trying to put my ideas in motion. I have started to play with motifs that I think I want included. One of the major themes in my ideas come from when I was swimming this summer. Every night I would swim for an hour or longer, and I would often be all alone in the pool. This is inspired by that experience. 

 

Exploring Media           Sept. 2, 2015

I am playing around with different media to see what I want this film to look like. Right now, I am playing with water soluble graphite. I really like the grainy texture, wet or dry. The versatility might open new and interesting opportunities for transformations to happen in my film.