Further Adventures in Self-Taught Animation

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been playing with teaching myself some really basic animation stuff lately!

I love how measurable the progress in this medium is—each piece, by bit, frame by frame, it inches closer to becoming itself, and when each one is done, I can put it down, see what I’ve learned, and move onto something new. Pleasantly self-contained little assignments for myself—I’d meant to do Inktober but digitally, but this process is flowing okay on its own right now, so I’m just running with it. 😅🤷🏻‍♀️🤞🏻

I started with an app called FlipaClip, which was solid to learn on, but a little clunky once I had a rudimentary grasp of things, so I traded up to Callipeg. It’s a little choppy, too, with what I consider to be an excess of fiddly, motion-based signaling (iPad nonsense, bah,) but which has more advanced controls and is nicer to work with as I get used to it.

like walking on the surface of the sun

I initially wanted to jump into playing with human figures, because I like to tell our stories, but trying to animate legs walking allowed me to learn that I do not enjoy animating legs walking right now! So, in the interest of being kind to myself and not just chucking this away in frustration, I’m going to do what I did when I was first learning to draw people and struggling with depicting hands and feet! I’m gonna put the fiddly stuff down until I’m more comfortable with the medium, and just focus on the process in general more than the precision of walking rhythms right off the bat.

CMY Crumpalump

The next piece—a little CMY doodle of my one-eyed cat, Crumpet, when she was a kitten—was much more fun. (I really enjoy the thing where cats are basically a liquid.) After that, I decided to try and create an image loop of an idea I reference a lot, something I call my “terrarium brain.”

Ever since I had a series of small strokes a few years ago, my thoughts aren’t as linear or as easy to reach out and get ahold of when I’d like; they feel nebulous and indistinct until and unless I give them time and peace to coalesce. I picture them forming like clouds on my brain’s ceiling, collecting, eventually raining down (when they’re ready) into some form of more coherent expression. When I’m struggling to get the thoughts to gather, or am dealing with a very rapid cycle of feeling/thinking/expressing that overwhelms me, I refer to it as “storms in the terrarium brain.”

Storms in the Brain Terrarium

This was the first lil animation thing I’ve done that actually came out the way I intended; I’m surprised with how happy I am with it!

incomplete cityscape and train animation line work

Clearly, I keep returning to this train and cityscape idea. It’s taken up living rent-free in my head, and there’s definitely a story I want to tell forming there. Wanting to quickly get to telling that story, I started by snagging cityscape outlines from other images and altering them significantly, but I kept getting frustrated and feeling like a hack.

The next piece really frustrated me, just on a technical level. I borrowed most of the building blocking and outlines from another picture, and then built my own little world on top of it. Just a simple little loop of a person sitting on a rooftop, swinging their legs, bobbing their head to music, and scrolling through their phone. I was pretty pleased with it, and got about 3/4 of the way through coloring it, to the point where I just needed to color and animate all the billboards and other screens across the city.

blocking lines for cyber cityscape

In the middle of coloring, I accidentally tapped on a line with the Fill tool, which, if you’ve ever colored anything digitally, you probably already know this happens a lot, and while it does grossly thicken any lines attached to the one you just tapped on in the color you’re using, it’s not a big deal, because that’s what the Undo button is for. I didn’t notice right away, which wouldn’t normally be a big deal, either.

Except my iPad was in my lap, where my darling cat, Crumpet, decided she needed to be. So she stepped all over the screen and it closed the Callipeg app. And when I reopened it, I found that I had lost the ability to Undo more than the last couple of actions…which meant there was no going back to the version without the weird, chunky lines and awkward double-filled color spots.

By that point, I was frustrated, my hand hurt, and I felt like the motion in the animation was too choppy and awkward to be worth going through all the effort of completely redoing the color layer through the whole thing. While I’m annoyed to leave any of these little projects unfinished—I really like being able to have little slices of my progress as I go, so I don’t spend ages working on a project started at a lower skill level than I’m at by the time I’m halfway through it—I also legitimately don’t want to spend the hours of work and pain in my hand required to finish this one when I’m this frustrated with it.

I may go back later and steal the blocking lines from it to make a new one later, but right now, even just looking at it kinda irritates me. Weird, right? Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria feels in response to my own failures is not very Badass Artist Who Loves To Learn New Things of me, but I’m doing my best. 😬🙃