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A one-to-one interview with the much acclaimed maverick of sand animation, Caroline Leaf. She talks to Eliane Gordeeff.

During this year's Monstra Festival, Eliane Gordeeff spoke with Caroline Leaf, who hosted the "Direct Animation: Paint-On-Glass" workshop in partnership with Universidade Lusófona (Lusophone University).

At that event, 10x2 participants from various ages and countries, for 12 hours animated inks on glass (scroll below for the video) . For some, it was his first experience with the technique.

ZF - Ηow important are these animation workshops nowadays (like the  Monstra workshop you're conducting) when people really can really put the hands on work?

CL - Animation workshops open to the public, like the one we did at Monstra, are important for letting people have the experience of doing direct animation in the best possible conditions. The equipment that is necessary, camera, computer, lights and stand are supplied. I have many years’ experience working directly, and have crafted several guided exercises which leave space for individual creativity. The workshops last several days so are not an arduous time commitment. The workshops are tasters of a different way of animating.

Caroline Leaf Monstra Workshop 2019 (c) Eliane Gordeeff

The group energy is lively, fun, helpful, serious. Participants react warmly and enthusiastically. I know the workshop meets a curiosity they feel to engage with animation in a very direct hands on way. Afterwards they can decide to do more or let it be an experiment to satisfy curiosity about this way of working.

ZF - Over the years, do you notice any change of public's interest in animated technique, sand or paint on glass, if this interest has increased or decreased?

CL -The interest in sand or paint-on-glass seems steady to me. For many years I have given 2 or 3 paint-on-glass or sand workshops each year. Direct under the camera animating is a small part of the world of animation and is of continuing interest. In a world where computer animation is by far the most widespread way to animate, some people continue to appreciate hands on work.

ZF - Is there anything in common with the audience that participates in any of tthese workshops?

Caroline Leaf on Work (c) Eliane Gordeeff

CL - Folks who engage with sand or wet paint are not usually the ones whose needs are met 100% by computer animation. Perhaps they want more personal expression, to put more of themselves into their work, to eschew the many pleasures that computers offer, such as limitless graphics and endless possibilities to tweak both the look and the movement. Working direct requires clear thinking and is risky because not all mistakes can be corrected. This process appeals to some people.

ZF - What do you think of the overvaluation of CG animation, in 3D animation teaching?

CL -. I would say that young folks are like fish in water with the digital software they need for animating. I don’t think digital animators are taught the basics of animating differently. At the National Film and Television School near London, where I teach, the students are in an MA program and they come to us knowing the software programs. They can choose to do their exercises and films in whatever technology they want. I only regret that they like to do storyboards in Flash, because I think the hand-drawn line made with pencil on paper introduces individual quirkiness and thought that gets lost with the digital line. They might discover their own style more easily if they did conventional drawing.

ZF - What do you think of the hybridization of image in cinema today,  being both live-action and animated?

CL - I love the idea of mixing live action and animation to create a magic real world. However, the way I see it is happening today, animation strives to become more like live-action and the hybridization is seamless. I would like to see the joke being played out in front of my eyes.

ZF - In terms of the animated image, where do you think we're moving ahead with the "all technology" tendency?

CL -Animated movement is becoming more like real life movement. The animated image still has a stylization separate from the real world, but 3D computer graphics can do such complicated textures, lighting effects and movement that it looks like live action filming. Sometimes I cannot tell the difference between 3D animation and stop motion puppets.

ZF - When can we see a new animation of Caroline Leaf?

CL - I can only do one thing well at a time. I’m painting now and find there’s lots to explore in the world of images that don’t move.

Well, I think it ia a pity for us :) ...

by Eliane Gordeeff

Here's the workshop video made during the 2019 Monstra Festival by Caroline Leaf and participants

The interview was taken during the 18th Monstra Festival - Lisbon, 20-31 March 2019.

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