Back in 2012, F&E met Mateusz Napieralski when he joined us for an internship while still studying for his Degree at Ravensbourne. Since then he's become part of F&E's extended family, having worked with us on a variety of projects, including being one of the "helping hands" for our live action spots for 4Seven and Oxfam and most notably, F&E's recent rebrand. Four years is a long time in the animation world, so we thought it was high time we caught up with Mateusz and find out what he's been up to since we last spoke.
The next in our installments of interviews comes from a long-standing Fred & Eric friend and collaborator, Lee Cooper. Lee specialises in character illustration and animation, and loves to inject his work with quirky humour.
Last night saw the launch of London’s Hero, Cut & Paste’s latest collaborative project where each team was given a 5 hour live session to create their animated segment. The film was premiered at a packed HP HPZ space in Soho and featured work from some of London’s (and Paris’) top animation studios, Animade, Blackmeal, Fred & Eric, Golden Wolf, Mummu and Territory.
The making of....
The challenge tested F&E's super-human animation abilities, giving each team just 5 hours to create a 10 second exquisite-corpse style animation. Our narrative steer was to take the viewer through the entire life of London’s very own new Superhero, with each team being allocated a separate life stage in a style of our choosing.
Fred & Eric turned to their trademark crafty side to create a handcrafted felt puppet (affectionately named Captain Inspecto…. for reasons that we still haven’t worked out) depicting the superhero’s teenage years. Well, we say we brought him to life, the lazy puppet spent his entire time sleeping…
We’re confident his power of turning back time would soon undo the world destruction that occurred during his teenage years though!
The final 1 minute animation was unveiled at Cut&Paste’s closing event on 16th October 2013. Click HERE to read more about this unique collaboration and see the action behind the scenes in the video and images below.
Our latest summer interview comes from illustrator and animator, Ben Cady. Sharing our love of the handmade, Ben specialises in hand-drawn animations using traditional pencil-on-paper techniques. F&E became a fan of Ben’s work after spotting his Goat and The Well animation on the animation festival circuit. His construction site ampersand illustration has also featured on our blog.
When did you first decide to explore the possibilities of animation?
I discovered animation on a taster day at the beginning of my foundation year at the London College of Communication. I had intended to do photography for the year, but a day scratching and painting on 16mm film, and then running it through a projector, convinced me otherwise. I spent that year experimenting with different media, and, after discovering my love for pencil-on-paper animation, I ended up doing a degree and an MA in it.
What was the first animation you made and how did you create it? What do you think of it now?
The first proper film I made was called ‘alive and chicken’. It was a silly film suggesting the possible fates of a chicken that went missing from my flock for a week, and then reappeared again. (Yes, I keep chickens.) It was fun to make, all done straight ahead (no key frames), and all in pen, with no rough animation (no mistakes allowed!) It took about two weeks. I played it to some children at an animation workshop I was helping to run recently, and it went down quite well! You can watch it here: https://vimeo.com/51077191
Why do you opt for a hand-drawn process, over digital animation?
I work using pencil and paper because I enjoy it more. We live in a world where most people spend a worryingly large proportion of their time staring into screens (computers, kindles, iphones, tablets) and I find it nice to look at a bit of paper for a change! I also enjoy the control and feel for detail that working on paper gives you, and the fact that the work you create is physical, tangible and actually there. I recently bought a graphics tablet to try, and it’s horrible! Almost as bad as using MS Paint with a mouse. Anyone want a cheap Wacom?!
Besides hand-drawn, pencil on paper animation, do you work in any other mediums?
My newest film Anomalies uses cut-out animation and a bit of photomontage, to create slightly surreal apparitions to accompany my drawn animation. I’ve also messed around with stop motion and rotoscoping a fair bit, both of which I’ve enjoyed immensely. My main passion is hand-drawn animation though, I just really like the look and feel of it, as well as the slow pace of work, which allows me to get through a LOT of audiobooks!
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Recently I’ve had a bit of a break from animation, since finishing Anomalies, which was a pretty epic project. I’ve concentrated on illustration a bit more, making greetings cards and other bits and bobs. I’ve got two animation projects in the pipeline now though. One is a project that I started during my MA, which is about a little boy being taken trophy hunting. The other is just taking shape in my brain. It will be absurd, ridiculous and silly, and will probably feature brightly coloured aliens speaking in nonsense languages.
If you could have made any animation that you have seen, which one would it be?
There are two: The Hill Farm by Mark Baker, and L’Ondee (The Rains) by David Coquard-Dassault. Both films are incredibly touching, thought provoking and simple, and both are subtly funny. They also both have a wonderful sense of timing, and neither relies on dialogue.
Where do you tend to get your inspiration?
I’m not sure. Often my film ideas stem from one drawing on a scrap of paper, drawn while I’m out and about. I don’t know where that drawing comes from. I think I just build up different experiences I have in my head, and sometimes they combine to make an
idea. I do a lot of long-distance cycling and walking, and I love the countryside. I’m sure the things I see when I’m pootling around doing these things influence my work, directly or indirectly. Obviously, other films, and also theatre, help with how I actually execute my ideas. Recently I’ve become obsessed with Monty Python…
How do you get so much expression into such simple characters?
That’s a compliment and a question at the same time, so thank you. I’m not sure. The eyes? The eyes. The eyes are really important! The eyes make them think. I actually think the simplicity of the characters is what allows them to be very expressive. The lines and shapes are so simple and easy to read that the slightest change in them has an enormous effect on the emotion they project. Also, if you use a very simple character, you are more likely to keep re-drawing, correcting and perfecting, to get the expression just right. Not using Dialogue is good too. Someone can say “I’m sad”, and you think “they are sad” but you feel much more empathy for them it they just look sad but say nothing, and you work out yourself how they are feeling.
Are you characters ever influenced by people you know?
I don’t think so. Maybe they are, unconsciously. I also expect they expose certain sensibilities I have. In terms of basing characters on people, I’m more likely to think of a character by looking at someone who walks past me on the pavement than I am by looking at someone I actually know. I can make up loads of stuff about the person on the pavement, even though it’s probably not true.
What would be your dream job or production to work on as an animator?
I’d love be able to get some funding for one of my own films. However, they are pretty cheap to make, so if nothing comes up I’m happy to keep on doing them on my own. I’d enjoy working on a project for a client who was keen to use my style of animation – hand-drawn, minimalist character stuff. I’d also love to work as an animator on a larger hand-drawn project, directed by someone else. I enjoy the keying and in-betweening process, and I’d like to think that hand-drawn animation is an actual useable craft, that I can use as part of a team, rather than just on my own films. It would have to be the right film of course. I did hear that Don Hertzfeldt might be making a feature…
July’s interview comes from recent Ravensbourne Motion Graphics Graduate, Mateusz Napieralski. F&E first met Mateusz in March 2012 when he came in for an internship. He helped out on various projects, including creating this cracking (sorry) chick Ampersand pictured below for our Easter promotion. Through the rest of his university degree we’ve stayed in contact, inspired by his enthusiasm, creativity and unwavering motivation (as well as his ermm…. interesting Polish baking achievements). He’s been back to help us on various projects, notably as one of the human controllers for our Channel 4 Christmas Competition Spot, where the ever-professional Mateusz was an invaluable part of the team who helped create the live-action sequence. All shot in one take.
Having just graduated, we catch up with Mateusz on his chosen career path and ask his advice for new graduates hoping to get into the wonderful world of animation.
When and how did you decide that you wanted to be an illustrator and motion designer?
I never actually thought about motion design and I kind of fell into it by accident. I was doing a 2 year diploma in Graphics and Digital Arts in college, and I was always 100% confident that I wanted to be a graphic designer. It was not until I started applying for universities, I then discovered that there are illustration courses available. At the time I did not even realize how big the world of illustration is.
I applied for the graphic design course in the end, but when I went to my Ravensbourne interview, the lecturer referred me to the motion graphics course, as he felt my work was more suitable for that. I kind of “went with the flow” and started the motion graphics course without over thinking it.
When it comes to illustration, I never really thought about it, I was always just doing the work that was natural for me and what I enjoyed the most, and it turns out that illustration is a big part of it.
You have a very distinctive illustration style. What has shaped and influenced this?
I’m not entirely sure to be honest. I can only guess what triggers my subconscious mind, as I never feel that I’m inspired by a particular person or style. My grandma was head of the nursery back in Poland where I come from, and I would often wait for her to finish work in the nursery. She would not be done until very late afternoon, and I remember that she would always give me a pile of illustrated books
which I was flicking through for hours while waiting for her. Since then I’ve been in love with illustration and it kind of carried on throughout my life.
As a 90s kid, I grew up with Photoshop and all the Adobe tools. That definitely influenced my style and the way I work. I love to mix hand-made and digital and that definitely directly affects my visual style.
You also animate, what was the first animation you made and what do you think of it now?
Haha, I had not animated anything until my first year of university. This is my first ever moving image piece vimeo.com/20239911. Looking back at it now, it’s more of a “what can After Effects do” piece rather than an animation. It’s funny to see how limited and not illustrative at all that piece was. Obviously there are many things wrong with it, such as the pace of the whole thing, typographically, there’s a lot to improve, but I guess looking at this 3 years later it’s just nice to see how my work has evolved and how different it is now.
What are the challenges of creating designs and illustrations for animation as opposed to print?
I guess it’s the most obvious one, so how will this particular piece move, what dynamics should I give these shapes, how fast or how slow can they travel across the screen. I see illustration for print as one frame from an animation and you can just work on it for as long as you want, because you know that this is the only “frame” the viewer will be looking at. So you can really get “wild”. Whereas when it comes to illustrating for animation, I have to give myself time limits and make sure that I don’t overspend time on illustrating, because there is much more to consider than just one frame. It’s a whole load of frames where each of them has to be thought through.
How do you think the animation industry will evolve in the coming years?
It’s quite exciting to look at the amount of great work being produced right now. People are really brave with the digital tools, which are only getting better and better. We are now very comfortable with moving image, our attention span is dropping all the time, which means animators have to work harder and make the piece even more exciting to keep the viewer interested. Which is not a bad thing I don’t think, as it only pushes us even more and we get to be more creative, as this is what also attracts people. Things they haven’t seen before.
I think that animators will have to constantly learn more, it seems that today the border between 2 and 3D is getting smaller and smaller, which means that animators will be expected to be all-rounded, not even animators. I would call them artists. Artists that need to be ready to work with any given medium.
What tends to inspire you?
I really enjoy meeting and talking to other designers and creatives. I love attending all the design festivals, such as OFFF or OFFSET
they might seem quite “full on” and I’m actually quite exhausted towards end of a weekend filled with some of the best design on this planet, but in the long term, I can see how that affects me in a positive way and gives me a strong kick for a few months to keep making work and try to get better at it.
I also love nature and forests. Forests are usually good for inspiration. You can just smell it as soon as you walk into one.
Are there some areas of animation you would like to try out? What are they?
I would love to explore more of 3D which I haven’t really touched on. I’m interested in mixing 2 and 3D. I’d love to do something with live action. I want to see how my work would work with a human figure. I would also love to play with some props and see how I could fit animation somewhere between sets and props.
As a recent graduate, how are you and your peers finding the transition into the working world?
I think coming from Ravensbourne, graduates are equipped with industry ready skills and mindsets. Obviously we learn all the time, but the types of briefs we’re getting at uni are usually very industry focused, so when we leave we know what to expect from an employer.
What are your best resources for finding jobs?
Freelance jobs are usually coming in through word of mouth. I know that behance is a good place to be spotted, but I never actually used it. It might seem weird, but twitter is actually a great place to start too. The online world is filled with job opportunities. Websites such as ycn.org, designjobsboard.com or itsnicethatjobsboard.com are great, but I think that going to networking events, meeting real people will always be the way to goo to.
What would you like to achieve career-wise, in the next five years?
Woah! That’s a long time, no? For now, I’m working in a small animation studio, which is great, because I learn a lot of technical skills and how the industry works. It’s such a valuable experience. I’d like to carry on doing that for some time. I’m sure I’ll always be working on my self initiated projects on the side, developing my own style and trying out new things. Once I will feel confident enough about what I can offer, I’d love to enter the freelance world. The ultimate goal is to have my own practice which will be known for a specific style and approach. What will it be, I’m not sure, it seems like I need to visit some forests and stroke some foxes to find the answer…
Once I achieve it all, I will become a Polish superhero and give everyone lollipops with a Polish flag on it to make this world a better place…
Kicking off interview season is designer, director and animator Laura Hulme. A long-time friend and collaborator of Fred & Eric, her leafy ampersand (pictured) has already gone down a storm on our blog. Laura also worked on the animation and live-action elements for our GAVI campaign film for Save the Children.
Was there a defining moment in your life which made you choose animation as a career?
It was whilst at University where we had a visiting professional give a talk about VFX and motion graphics. He played a showreel and I was totally hooked - it was like a switch had just been turned on in my head. I then had the difficult task of working out how to become a designer and animator having just completed a 3 year television and film production course! In the end, I charmed my way into a few graduate design jobs and then learned everything on the job.
How do you come up with new and original ideas when working to a client brief?
I try to take influences from sources away from our industry including film, fashion, photography and literature. I am also a huge fan of brainstorming and discussing ideas in groups. Something I have noticed in many studios is that no time is given over to the discussion of ideas, and many people are expected to generate ideas in an isolated way. I enjoy collaborating with others, and I feel that this often results in stronger, more considered solutions.
What inspires your personal work?
Both the natural world and my love of music provide huge inspiration to me.
What design and animation programs do you work in and is there a particular one you’d like to learn?
I use all the Adobe Creative Cloud programs, and Cinema 4D. As much as I would love to cram another piece of software into my brain, I prefer to try and develop less software-centric skills, encouraging creative thinking and idea generation. You can’t beat a good doodling session!
You recently returned to the world of freelancing after a full-time stint. What would you say are the pros and cons of freelance vs full-time?
Full time jobs give you a chance to become a trusted and established member of a team, and often you are able to experiment with ideas in a supportive environment. Downsides include having no control of the types of jobs you are asked to do and not fully being in control of your career path. This is why I left my full time job to set up my company - it is a riskier option, but I really enjoy the level of personal responsibility that comes with working for yourself.
When self-employed, at worst you are just another hired pair of hands without much regard for your creative input. At best, it can be the most fantastic collaboration of minds and ideas which is very rewarding!
You are capable of producing many different styles, has there been a natural progression or do you like to pick and choose as you go?
I started my career in a live television environment where content differed on every job and this is how I developed a skill for versatility. I unashamedly like using bright colours and strong graphical compositions. I think these traits are present in a lot of my work, but of course I have to adapt it on a per-job basis and be sympathetic to the clients needs.
What’s it like operating as a female animator in a predominantly male-dominated industry?
Generally, it is not a problem and I have found that my male colleagues welcome the presence of female designers and animators
in the studio. However, I think there is a major lack of women in senior creative roles. Is it important that there is more of a balance in gender? I passionately believe that it is - and that female designers and animators can often look at a communication problem in a different way to men. The best way to solve this is for women to be more enterprising, create our own opportunities, and support other female designers and animators coming through the ranks.
What would be your dream project?
I would love to design the opening titles to a feature film or a heavyweight TV-drama.
Do you have any advice for new, aspiring animators?
Of course it goes without saying that you should strive to excel in your chosen craft. However, being nice, well-mannered, and honest are some of the most commercially viable qualities you can have as an animator. Leave your ego at the door, embrace criticism, and be a team player.
How do you think the animation industry will change and progress in the coming years?
Currently I am seeing a move away from traditional delivery formats (like television) and the opportunities to create content for a wide range of surfaces are increasing rapidly. I have just finished a project creating content for a stadium tour delivering content forhuge (and irregular sized) LED screens. Projects such as live events, theatre productions, and digital delivery formats are all presenting new and exciting challenges for animators. With such saturation and demand for content, budgets will be stretched to breaking point- our challenge is to continue producing high-end quality content in the most efficient way possible to make those budgets still count!
Laura’s website: www.laurahulme.com
Collaboration has always been at the heart of Fred & Eric’s world. Working with our trusted network of animators, model-makers, photographers, printers, sound designers (to name a tiny handful), so much of the work we lovingly craft has been created with the help of some extraordinarily talented people.
With this in mind, F&E have been quizzing some of our collaborators. Selecting folks from a range of skill-sets and walks of life to provide an insight into the lives of some of the amazing people who help to make Fred & Eric’s world turn. Keep an eye on our blog for the interviews!