3: Lines Talking: Animation Principles

In ‘Lines Talking’ I look at the ways in which women and men in communities ‘make lines talk’ and possible approaches and styles for translated these into globally accessible short animations using iPad software.


In this part I focus on general animation approaches and styles:

How do women and men in communities communicate concepts and experiences in their drawings? Are there common features within and between cultures? What are the challenges of interpretation?

What simple drawing and/or animation techniques can be used to clarify visual communication without text? How have illustrators and animators used line, shape and colour to communicate different messages? How have they simplified and abstracted of facial expressions and figures? What different styles have been used in different cultures?

What is the best workflow for me to produce short 60 second animations of selected farmer stories? What type of animation is feasible for me? When should I draw with pen and paper? What iPad software is most useful and at what stages? When and for what do I need to use professional software like Adobe Animate and/or After Effects? Bearing in mind time constraints to develop skills and my need to manage RSI as well as the types of messages and audiences.

3.1 Lines Talking:
Data Gathering

My main focus was gathering data on three levels in order to:

a) focus my questions around ‘creative translations’

Based on analysis of community drawings and visuals and identify specific stories that I could develop into translations in my visual portfolio.

b) expand my visual repertoire

of possible animation ‘translation styles and techniques’ based on inspiration from other illustrators and animators and identify those that I could feasibly aim to adapt in my own work.

c) identify practical possibilities

for my visual exploration in terms of iPad software to use, and start to develop the required technical skills.


Assignment 3.2 Visual Exploration: drawing and animation experiments

My visual portfolio for this Assignment focused on exploring potential approaches and styles that can be produced on an iPad, and establishing some ways of reducing the amount of drawing required while simplifying and increasing the impact of the messages. This was essentially experimental to develop skills and follow up ‘happy accidents’, differences in drawing styles, frame rates and ways of focusing attention without attempting to produce finished pieces. I was also interested in how working on an iPad could free up my style and approach from the rather stiff work I could achieve on my pc, and how this could reduce RSI. Animation approaches and styles will then be refined and polished in relation to particular story-lines as I focus on story-telling and narrative strategies in Assignment 4.

Animation drawing techniques

I started:

Sketchlog 2: Community Voices an A3 ringbound sketchbook where I pasted and annotated the community drawings and started to copy them freehand in marker/pencil/biro to feel how the drawings were made and the important details that might be missed at a casual glance.

Sketchlog 3: Lines Walking an old A4 lined notebook from my sons Chemistry notes where I gouached some of the pages for ‘free doodling’. I use this to start to practise cartoon drawing styles using books and videos on cartoon drawing and animation. I will use this to do rough storyboards for my translations.

iPad animation experiments

I did a review of different iPad software that I could use to produce a variety of styles of digital animation on my iPad to avoid RSI from spending too much work on my pc, and also take advantage of the ease of drawing on an iPad. After looking briefly at a range of Aps and reviews for frame by frame animation, stick animation and stop motion, I experimented with potential of:

MotionBook is a simple (limited) Ap that can quickly produce Flipbook animation. I used it in my initial experimentation with facial expressions and frame rates.
Procreate 5 was explored for its potential to create atmospheric and expressive drawings. Although complex animation is somewhat cumbersome, it is useful for producing graphics for animation in other software, intros etc.
is a stop motion puppet lego-style Ap with audio useful for simplification of narrative and character. To free up thinking and introduce humour before getting down to more serious animation.

My main focus was on Rough Animator, an Ap that can produce quite complex animations, though limited in the range of drawing styles and allowing only one audio track. But it is a very good intermediate work/time/RSI-saving software with easy multi-layered timeline manipulations and looping that can import graphics from other software (eg Procreate) and animations that can be imported into Adobe Animate and/or After Effects for more professional treatment. I focused on four short vignettes:

Goats: based on livestock drawings from India. I experimented with very simple animation, using different framerates, layers, flipping and colouring.
Crying head: experimenting with colouring and animating still photographs.

Co-wives: based on some very expressive single-image narratives of women’s position from Uganda. This one contrasts the position of an older wife who is neglected in favour of a younger favourite wife. I experimented with different ways of focusing attention on the different characters.
Pig woman: experimenting with colouring and animating still photographs.

Plans to take forward

As a result of the data-gathering I now have concrete proposals for three With feasible ideas on animation style, technique and appropriate iPad software. Working on an iPad can – with more practice and experience – enable me to produce some interesting animations through combining Procreate and Rough Animator, and quick experimentation where appropriate with humour and music moods in Toontastic.

In Assignment 4 I plan to apply different approaches to produce a number of alternative short 60 second translations of two story-lines:

4.1 ‘Tupa Tupa’ or what happened to the coffee money from women and men’s role plays from DRC Congo where the narrative is already decided by farmers themselves.

4.2 ‘What happened to my airplane’ women’s voices from Pakistan where I have multiple drawings from women and men from different parts of Pakistan and quite detailed documentation from which to piece together a number of narratives.

These will be based on detailed analysis of textless narrative strategies of contemporary animators – particularly from the FilmBilder consortium and Manga/anime. I will continue to work on the iPad. But I will also look at refinement and addition of audio for the most successful translations in Adobe Animate and/or After Effects.

In Assignment 5 I will then revisit some of the drawings from India and Uganda to polish a number of short narrative vignettes from India and Uganda further.