Monday, 4 November 2013

William Kentridge and Charcoal Animation

William Kentridge is an animator from Johannesburg, South Africa. I studied him and his stop motion charcoal animations for my A Level Art two years ago. I chose him at first, knowing very little about him, because I wanted to start to experiment with animation whilst still keeping my roots in Fine Art and then because I found how inspiring his work was to me.

The particular works I was studying by Kendtridge were his 'Drawings for Projection'. These animations were created by making a drawing in charcoal, taking two pictures of the drawing (2 frames of film) then rubbing out the parts that moved before drawing those in different positions and taking another two photos etc etc. I can't find a legitimate link to any of his films online (you have to see them in a gallery) but below are a few stills to give you a taste of the style.



In each of Kentridge's films, there is always a character that is a self portrait. While Kentridge himself believes that other artists and art critics read too much into his work (as the films were made in 1990s South Africa, nearly everything is taken as a metaphor for Apartheid), I gladly used the 'self portrait' theme to help me link up my study of Kentridge to my study of the human skeleton and human nature.


Studies drawn with the help of my constant A Level companion, George the Skeleton.

Through my studies of skeletons I became very confident with the medium of charcoal and found myself ready to begin some animation tests using Kentridge's method.


My first ever animation test using Kentridge's method. Clearly I needed a better tripod!

Learning my lessons from the mistakes in my first test, I began to get more ambitious, with a life-size drawing of a skeleton. Not making it move yet though - that's the next step!


I'm not one to sit still when something needs to be done so next I was straight on to my first ever proper animation! I drew a 6ft tall skeleton with charcoal attached to the end of a metre-long piece of bamboo (a-la Matisse) and made it do a walk cycle! Each drawing took approximately 4-6 hours, so whenever I feel frustrated at the slow pace of the animations I do nowadays, I just remind myself of this little project and thank heavens it's over!

Please enjoy my first ever walk cycle. It may not be perfect but I shall always be proud of it! The ghostly effect is created by rubbing out each pose after it has been shot and drawing the new pose on top.


All of these skeleton drawings have really helped me with anatomy, which is of course of paramount importance to animation, and I'm happy to say that I have also improved a lot in the last two years!

Skeleton studies from April 2013

Finally before I end this post, here are some close-ups of the drawings seen above with their skeleton model.





Until next time!