Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Todd Hemker "Seven Corners" (2001)

There is something very satisfying about an unabashed hand drawn animation where artifice is a touch of shading here or a change of perspective there. Todd Hemker has an enviable skill with his pencil together with an eye for those little foibles of personality or shape that make his sketched characters breathe. Seven Corners is an off-beat observation on Southport Railway station, its environs and transient inhabitants. There's a desultory charm about the piece, together with a heart that beats beneath the urban fatigue as commuters await the train. There's the chain smoking double bass player, slumped over his instrument at the close as the birds scour the sidewalk, or the elderly couple, intimidated by the busy cafe and road traffic, comforting each other. Of course one might view the seven minute film as a masterclass in animation, judging what to move, what to leave as a still image, when to flesh out a figure, when to indicate by strategic lines. Watch how Todd darkens the shading as the train enters the tunnel. And all at its own pace, never hurried, like public transport everywhere. Three acknowledgements: electric cello Lowell Pickett, saxophone Lenny Pickett and sound design from Jonathan Miller. Originally from Wisconsin, Todd studied Architecture at the University of Minnesota and, after a spell working on furniture and cabinet-making, moved on to drawing and animation at California Institute of the Arts, graduating in 2001. He now lives near Los Angeles with partner Soyeon Kim, an illustrator and  designer. They form the design and animation company Yellowshed. (Read Michelle Krasniak's thorough article in tsd tuts+ for rather more than I have time for.) A lovely mature film this, crafted beautifully, uplifting, downbeat. Stylish.

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