A born-again illustrator’s manifesto

I’ve always been very good at drawing. I don’t even remember when I started. It’s something I’ve always done. This is why I always took this skill for granted, and so 10 years ago I chucked it all away.

Since the lead-up to Italy, I’ve been unraveling this mystery. Whether a quick sketch from a photo, 2 hours on a detailed pen and ink sketch, or a full day gawking at gargoyles, curlicues and rooflines, drawing now happens every day.

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Boo’s Field Guide to Nerds (part 1)

Hm. Once again I am surrounded by singular people. Am I drawn to nerdy professions or are they drawn to me? Ah! We may never know. This has gone on since I tenderly laid down the French Horn* and picked up the animation pencil. There is a clear pattern emerging, and I can only wonder at what comes next – who could be nerdier than birdwatchers? Who can say. But like all diligent Nerds I have collected these species together in a list. This series will include:

Animators; Environmentalists; IT Professionals; French Horn Players; Goths; Tinkerers; Cinema Theorists; and Nerd Habits and Preferences

Although this catalogue is by no means comprehensive, it is as full a list as I can make according to my life experience. So let us don the virtual anorak, pull up the highpants of humour and press play on the limited edition box set entitled Nerds I Have Known:

With the widespread availability of cheaper software and digital technology, this subspecies of Nerd has become an entirely new taxonomic order. While once animators were rather specialised (typified by their damp, clammy complexion, lack of eye contact and corn-chip aroma), they are now a broad-based family that can be found in almost any professional setting. Animators are now seen working for graphic designers, for medical supplies companies, aerospace engineers, games companies and even schools, where they tutor our young in their ways.

Although the rare female Animator can be found, Animators are predominantly male. They may specialise in stop motion, clay, sand or traditional 2D animation, but are brought together by their unusual brain activity and ability to talk about comics for hours on end (distinct from other broadly-drawn caricatures on the Simpsons, the patois of the Comic Book Guy is an honest, life-like portrayal of this species of Nerd, and should be recognised as such).

Tests on the brainwaves of Animators have shown that they are capable of sitting in fixed positions for up to 12 hours at a time while completing the most repetitive, monotonous tasks. It was once speculated that – rather like the migratory shorebird before a trans-continental journey – the Animator had to double their body weight in a short space of time, perhaps in preparation for the rigours of procreation. It has however, become apparent that the constant grazing on Skittles, doughnuts and Coke is merely an occupational quirk, like cowboys and chewing-tobacco, or French aristocrats and snuff.

Rather than feeling downtrodden by his lack of social contact or intellectual stimulation, the Animator considers himself indeed fortunate. The Animator will go so far as to consider himself in his ‘dream job’. And far from being pitied for his monk-like existence and meagre pay, the Animator is greatly admired by others, who consider his profession to sound rather cool and creative. Many male Animators have unusual, often problematic attitudes towards women, and it will be noted that while females are drawn and designed from all angles, the flesh and blood versions are rarely engaged in conversation. This topic is discussed in more detail in the ‘Habits and Preferences’ section.

In 2009, an Animator can don almost any apparel he chooses without shame or fear of censure from his colleagues. The odd traditionalist can still be seen lingering near arcades and suburban movie theatres, garbed in a floor-length black coat, with long hair and sparse goatee. Such sightings are now rare.

3D Animators
It is necessary to place this subform of Animation Nerds into their own distinct group. Closer genetically to the IT Professional, the 3D Animator prefers a darkened room and quiet, foetid environment, warmed by the tiny fans of expensive equipment. It is only in these surroundings that the 3D Animator thrives.

Rather than regarding animation as a way of telling a story, he has refined it down to its external elements: structure, lighting and camera movement. What he is not chasing is not an intellectual or emotional connection with his audience; he is working only to re-design reality in his own image. Indeed audience engagement is not much of a concern to the 3D Animator, and could be considered a fitting metaphor for his way of life.

As with many Nerds, the 3D Animator has trouble with humour-related situations, and is slow to catch onto jokes, innuendo and irony. There is however one thing guaranteed to make him guffaw suddenly and explosively; play him the video clip for Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing, and he will reward you with a spray of half-digested chicos, Chicken-In-A-Biscuit and caramel Big M.

Whereas Animators are capable of having boyfriends/girlfriends and even marrying, the 3D Animator is an evolutionary cul-de-sac; being physically and psychologically unable to attract a suitable mate, he is a dying breed. To continue on his life’s work he must engage a willing intern to pass on his Animation secrets. This young person must be able to work in dismal conditions for little or no pay, eat food with little nutritional value and for few words of praise. By happy coincidence these conditions usually attract impressionable young people still living with their elders, and 3D Animators find their interns are usually overjoyed at the opportunity to spend months designing the wireframe of a tree in the background of a 2-second shot.

*Sold at Camberwell Market for 50 bucks