Friday, April 4, 2014

Slippery Business: Paint-on-Glass Animation

I wrote a blog a bit ago about pin-screen animation. And, even now, I consider it to be the most remarkable, time-consuming, obsessive animation style in existence. However, I believe that paint-on-glass animation takes a close second. Paint-on-glass animation is a technique for making animated films by manipulating some kind of wet media (usually oil paint due to it’s delayed drying period) on one or more glass sheets.  The animator manipulates the paint while recording it frame by frame on a camera located directly above the glass canvas. Like most straight-ahead animation, the paint-on-glass technique cannot be planned with the precision of other styles of animation. Still, straight-ahead animations have character that more forgiving techniques lack. For example, oil paint preserves the gestures and marks that the artist leaves behind. There’s something strangely nostalgic about noticing human error in art. Think about the romance of finding fingernail nicks in claymation!

That said, paint-on-glass animation doesn’t have to look messy. Russian animator Alexander Petrov created one of the most extraordinary examples of this technique in his short film, “The Old Man and the Sea.” Based on Ernest Hemingway’s famous novel, “The Old Man and the Sea,” Petrov created a fluid, moving piece. The 20 minute film is made entirely in pastel oil paintings on glass. Get this— instead of using paintbrushes or other precision tools, Petrov manipulated the paint using only his fingertips. Still, the artist did do a few things to up the quality of the piece. For example, instead of painting on one sheet of glass, the acclaimed animator stacked multiple painted glass sheets one on top of the other in order to create depth. For the shooting of the frames, a special adapted motion-control camera system was built, probably the most precise computerized animation stand ever made. Even with this technology, “The Old Man and the Sea” took over two years to complete— 29,000+ frames painted meticulously: frame by frame. If you asked Petrov if the work was worth it I’m sure he’d respond positively. “The Old Man and the Sea” did win both the Academy Award for Animated Short Film and Grand Prix at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival

"When I'm doing an animation film, just like painting a picture, I let out my energy and my feelings in the colors. With the animation, I'm searching to express ideas, but I also try to find the harmony of life. This harmony I can find during the filming process with mistakes and successes. Step by step, I try to project the beauty, the force and emotions within the animated image." - Alexander Petrov

Here is the award winning piece as presented by Youtube:

Beautiful right? And boring in content. Just like the book. Just kidding. (I’m not kidding.) Anyway, Petrov received lots and lots of money. Unfortunately, mostly because he’s a professional artist, Petrov ran out. Apparently, In a 2009 interview, Russian animator and animation director Petrov stated that he was jobless and using-up the last of his previously earned money. A 2010 article stated that Petrov wants to create an animated feature film with his technique, but cannot start because of lack of funds. 

Poor Petrov. 

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