Short of the Week

One Nice Family Photo

This student work captures the fluidity and vibrancy of the artist’s own family in conversation through a unique sketch and watercolor animation style.

It could be nice and quiet ..”
“But we’re all here instead.”
and “This ‘ouse is just madness!”

Place the family round the dinner table, include the grown up kids and grandparents – nine guests in all plus dog – provide ample red wine, alcohol-free for the grandparents, place the digital voice recorder on the table and let things roll. Such is the technique of Tom Senior, final year student at the Farnham campus of the UK’s University of the Creative Arts (UCA), a fine institution boasting three Oscar winners amongst its illustrious alumni in Daniel Greaves, Michael Dudok de Wit and Suzie Templeton.

Before discussing the animation technique used let me say that the sheer naturalness of the dialogue is a delight. Meals in my home are not unlike this and, whereas accents the world over fluctuate, I recognise something of me in at least one of the characters. The tiny conflicts and moments of alcohol -(or is it just happiness) fuelled daftness strike a chord, the dialogue being full of the myriad irrelevances of real speech, occasional tensions, the peaks and troughs of real life. As the food goes down a treat, not to mention the red liquid, dad licks his spoon, then gets tired and, the central event of the piece other than simply eating, the taking of the family photograph cannot be put off any longer. So dad pulls himself together, sets the remote control and, hey presto, the family is preserved for posterity, all smiling for (or is it because of ) the camera.

Now to the technique. At first sight I thought Tom had rotoscoped the action. In fact the drawings are all digitally hand drawn, 2D computer images, the animator’s quick hands and eyes for detail tracing the essential action and character. Thus the food glides from plate to mouth, the youth stretches, the dishes accumulate by the sink, the table cloth devours the serving plate, the faces are satisfied and full. The backdrop is a sketchily dabbed stroke or two of predominantly yellow watercolour and sometimes the artist focuses on the mouth as a barest disembodied confusion of lines, gyrating busily as the food is devoured. It is all very sketchily done, lovely semblance of watercolour throughout, with that minimalist attention to form you just know is beautifully done. It matches the meandering quality of the dialogue to perfection.

UK resident, Ian is presently Vice Principal of a large specialist performing arts college in the north of England. He also runs the Animation Blog in which he reviews animations from around the world. He can as well enjoy Ted Avery as Michael Dudoc de Wit.