Marker Animations

Posted by Dash Shaw on September 5
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This is the first cartoon I made, from 2008, for my Bottomless comic. I drew a lot of the frames at my friend Dave Kiersh’s house. 

I always liked animation, from watching a lot of anime, collected animation art books and coloring/making layers for comics using acetate sheets. The Bottomless book has a lot of animation-inspired sequences, movements broken down over multiple panels like animation frames. This is closer to manga, which favors the cumulative effect of drawings vs. drawings existing on their own as single images, which makes sense since the anime and manga industries are more closely tied in Japan than in the States and many Japanese artists work in both animation and comics. 

Anyway, I wanted to make cartoons but I thought I’d have to learn how to use a camera, build a stand, and spend thousands of dollars on acetate sheets (which are getting more expensive every day.) I didn’t think I could do it on the computer because all of the cartoons I associated with computers I didn’t like- like Flash and rotoscope and CG. Those forms take the drawing out of animation and drawing is what I like most about cartoons. 

But then I started making Gif cartoons in Photoshop by scanning drawings and numbering them as, essentially, very fast slide shows. So I looked up the frame rates online, 12 frames per second, and got 720 sheets of computer paper to make a 1 minute cartoon. If you use a dark enough pen you won’t need to use a light box.  That’s good because staring at the fluorescent light box glow while you draw makes your eyes think you’re at a shopping mall and eventually you will go insane. 

Also, if you use a sharpie marker it will bleed through the paper into the previous frame and will maybe make your animation look smoother since there will be little ghost dots of forthcoming frames on each frame. 

I took all of the frames and scanned them at the same size. If you scan everything in a row, all at once, they’ll automatically be saved as Untitled_1 to Untitled_720. I changed the black ink to brown to match the Bottomless book. 

Then I gave the files to Jane and she put them into After Effects and played frames 1 to 720 at 12 fps. This is essentially how all of the animations we do now are done. The dream sequence at the end of the second episode of Unclothed Man was done exactly like this, except I worked with colored sharpies and inverted it on the computer.

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This is a shared production blog for the forthcoming animated feature, "The Ruined Cast," written and directed by Dash Shaw. Produced by John Cameron Mitchell, Howard Gertler, and Biljana Labovic. Contributing artists are Jane Samborski, Frank Santoro, Lily Benson and Ray Sohn. Music by James Lucido.