"We need to learn to be observers of life, to be the antennae of society, the first ones out there, inquisitive, probing, observing, questioning, examining and interpreting life". -Joseph Gilland
Every now and then I stumble upon a book that is truly inspired, researched, and enlightened. "Elemental Magic" is one of these. I usually get mixed feelings when this happens, a combination of stupidity that I didn't know the book existed, and an overwhelming focus and study that comes with discovering something new.
Hand drawn effects animation, for the larger part, is not the blossoming field it once was. Maybe I feel a kinship to Joseph and all the artists he mentions, because of my own dedication to drawn animation, and the uncertainty of pushing further into a medium that not many even know happens much anymore.
Back to the book itself. It is filled with some of the most breathtaking examples of effects drawings I've ever seen. Every page either has a well written treatise of a particular subject, or a well rendered example of such, and typically both. It is truly a great guide, showing by example step by step processes of execution, but it's not just a "how to" manual, not even close. It's more of a hybrid between that and one of those all too heavy coffee table books filled with perfectly reproduced imagery, and the price tag to match. For lack of a better way to describe it, it feels like a college text book.. highly informative and scientific, but with a breathe of passion and life that only a dedicated artist can inject.
The forward is written by Michel Gagne, an animator that I've studied and used for teaching for a long time now. His film, "Prelude to Eden" is a brilliantly drawn and timed exercise in drawn effects animation.
There's something special that happens when you leave the realm of character animation and attempt to capture chemical interactions and the movement of elements and compounds. There's no rules to it, yet it's even more closely linked to the study of the natural world. There's no anatomy, only the flow and spark of particles or fluids. It's the perfect amount of freedom and academics. Thanks to fellow Tisch Professor Thomas Thessen for lending me his copy, prior to me ordering one of my own.
I was stoked to discover a bit more about the author Joseph Gilland, who I've met a few times in Annecy or Ottawa.. can't remember. Currently it seems that he's a full time tattoo artist, you can see his blog here. Some excellent ink work. And I love seeing that such a brilliant animator is not a typical animation geek, whom I feel have destroyed contemporary animation, Disney in particular.. but that's another post all together.