Developing my Creative Practice : Stop Motion Animation as a Puppeteer
I'm not so much into cartoons, I don't not like them, but I have always loved stop motion animation. There's something deeply satisfying about seeing actual "stuff" move on its own. I'm a Performer & Puppeteer and like almost everyone else in theatre-world, in 2020 found myself with time on my hands and was itching to get tactile again. I have been fortunate enough to be awarded a Tech Play Learn grant from Theatre in the Mill Bradford & a Develop Your Creative Practice grant from the Arts Council England to learn stop motion animation and explore overlap between this and puppetry .
I am really hoping there is some overlap so I'm not completely starting from scratch.
However, I am not a puppet maker. I'm frankly quite shit at making things, I only want to get my hands on them and play! So don't be expecting the next Wallace & Gromit from me. I am also not a film maker and totally unfamiliar with film editing and all the technical knowledge that involves.
Helping me along the way over the next few months with technical know how and artistic inspiration will be award winning Animation Director Kate Jessop. You can see my head on one of her animated bodies in the Queer sketch series Tales from Pussy Willow. The bulk of the learning however will be self directed through online resources, watching endless tutorials and just getting stuck in and having a go.
I've just finished watching this excellent series on the foundations of animation by Dermot O'Connor on LinkedIn Learning: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/21-foundations-of-animation
The chapters are all really short and the points are clear and digestible. Although the focus is on 2D animation , the principles are still the same. It's about movement and allowing the viewer to believe an inanimate object (or in 2d a series of individual images) is moving, and is maybe even alive. As a Puppeteer, whether or not you are visible to the audience, the puppets life literally comes from you. It is an extension of you, and as you operate it you are transferring your kinetic energy into them, bringing them to life! Hippy dippy but I'm standing by it. When I came to puppetry as a Performer, I learned about my own movement through learning the foundations of puppetry and technical points such as giving weight, sitting, standing, all that sort of stuff. However, I'd say I still approach puppetry largely through instinct and exploration. I meet a puppet and just have a go and we find ways to work together. Watching these videos has meant I've considered movement in even more detail. Of course in animation you're moving frame by frame and so I'm already realising the intensity in detail and in planning and plotting. And I'll definitely be bringing animation terms into my puppetry like 'Squash and Stretch' when thinking about giving movement a sense of physical reality.
As part of my process I will be documenting my progress and failures (of which there will be many, that's all part of learning right?!) via this blog and social media. I would love for this dialogue between puppetry and stop motion to not exist only in my mind. Puppeteers talk to me please!