I am inspired by my friend Lizzy Hogenson and her film Dani, a claymation documentary short about a daughter delivering the news of her breast cancer prognosis to her mother. The intricacies of their relationship are painstakingly handcrafted, one subtle movement at a time, from yarn, beads, cardboard & felt. These fragile elements are bound together by the hard work of producer Kyle McClary, editor Robert Panico and original music & sound editing by Ricky Berger. An official selection to this year's Oscar-qualifying Palm Springs International ShortFest, I'm eagerly awaiting to see it on the big screen next week!
For my sister’s birthday last month, I wasn’t able to afford tickets to Phloston Paradise for her and her husband David - but I was able to grease the palms of a few intergalactic customs agents to secure a MULTIPASS. It’s good for the next five years.
When you’re lucky enough to find yourself riding waves of laughter with a cinema audience, it’s a sublime experience. This was animator Bryan Lee’s gift to those who gathered for a screening of the USC Cinematic Arts - John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts’ fourth-year final projects on May 11th, 2019, his film capping the evening and his cohort’s four-year program with raucous laughter. Cage Match, a devilishly clever ode to the resilient spirit of innocence, was one of my favorite films. Animated with BIC Round Stic ballpoint pens with a childlike fury, its deceptively mischievous surface (complete with hulking, chicken wrestlers and a frenzied Japanese language-speaking game show host) masked Lee’s tender exploration of what it means to preserve one’s sense of wonder and belonging in this world. Hilarious and heartfelt, Lee executes his distinct style with handcrafted innovation and heart.
Bryan Lee is an animator, story artist and designer in Los Angeles, CA.
As I’ve stated before, birthdays are excellent motivators for artists to establish deadlines for themselves. Let’s say a friend’s birthday is coming up. Do you have a calendar? Do you want to make that day special? Plan ahead! This year, I’ve made a commitment to hand-make as many gifts as I can for those I love, rather than contribute to an avalanche of products, “stuff” and other retail ephemera. Boo! There’s a magic that happens when you transform raw materials with your own hands, knowing that whatever you’re breathing life into is going to find a home with just one special person. I see it as a communication, a special message that repeats each time they look at it or pick it up. Emotional/Memory replay, like a video?
Engineering this piece solely by eyeballing photos on Google Image Search was a unique challenge, as I didn’t have a VHS tape handy for physical reference. (Next time, I will!) The process began on paper, as I sketched out its rough dimensions and visualized it hanging from someone’s chest, once the chain would be added. I approached it as a three-dimensional cartoon, as I hand drew the sprockets and wrapped the inner gears with construction paper (VHS tape). This project has definitely awoken more ideas within me to create colorful representations of household items, as well as setting a high bar for Maggie’s next birthday. *wink* Love you and Vidiots Foundation!
My goal is peak-Sailor Moon.
Cola @ Coachella
It was an honor to illustrate for the LA Phil as 2018 came to a symphonic close. Seeing my work animated (by Daniel Anderson) was a real treat, as my drawings transformed in imaginative ways along with Olivier Messiaen’s vibrant Turangalîla Symphony. I’ve gathered additional illustrations for this piece, as seen below, to give you a more complete appreciation for the evolution of the video:
December 21st, 2018: Arizona was especially cold this winter. As my family & I admired the illuminated cacti at the Phoenix Zoo, fond memories of this Christmas tradition added an extra glow to the similarly decorated mesquite trees that lined its walkways. Mountain lions, gila monsters, roadrunners, snakes and all manner of desert creature scurried to the surface in decorative form, amidst the chatter of sneakers and other slow moving families trying to keep warm. As I cradled my paper cup of hot chocolate in my hands, grateful for each sip, I saw a saguaro cactus strung with brightly colored bulbs next to a howling coyote. “I still need to glue on those needles,” I thought, picturing the half-finished art project which would become this year’s Christmas gift for my mother: a paper cactus.
Firmly believing that birthdays make the best deadlines for artists, holidays are an equally powerful motivator. Fueled by the giving spirit of the season, I began crafting this cactus (seen below) in LA, finishing it back home in Arizona after an inspirational trip to the Phoenix Zoo. Just as the resilient desert plant stores water for the dry seasons ahead, I treasure these trips back home to charge my emotional batteries for the droughts in my life, giving back to those who mean the most to me. This year, I chose to leave my mom with a cactus, a model of perseverance and stubbornness…two of her finest qualities. By making something from the heart, why not choose to leave a part of your spirit with someone you love, instead of something factory-assembled? A new tradition, perhaps?
Working as a graphic artist for the USC Thornton School of Music has given me the opportunity to help visualize some incredible stories about its students & faculty. One of my favorites from last year was “The Magnificent Seven,” about a group of seven legendary drummers brought together to honor the legacy of professor Leon "Ndugu" Chancler. Faced with the challenge of completing her friend and colleague’s remaining weeks of instruction after his untimely passing last February, Patrice Rushen, Chair of the Popular Music Program, “…called seven legendary drummers, asking each to fill in for one week. They all said yes.” Having grown up listening to Chancler’s work with artists such as Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Lionel Richie, it was a honor to express how much his impact on the music communities, both at USC and around the world, will be cherished and missed.
Story by Julie Riggott / Illustrated and Animated by Sean David Christensen / Music by Ricky Berger
Photographed on the balcony of his apartment in France, a birthday gift for my friend David Luraschi, director of “Penny Girl” by Cola Boyy. Previously featured in my blog as an art project with a great built-in deadline to inspire you (a friend’s birthday), this collage on a cradled birch panel is a nice format I’ve been returning to, which lends itself to mixed media application and weightier craft.
For a handful of mornings in late-October, I’d rise before work and whittle away at this gift, chattering crows on the other side of my kitchenette window. After awhile, a second skin of super glue dried on my right thumb and index finger, smudged with the wax residue of colored pencil illustrations I pressed onto the panel’s surface. Before wrapping it up, I could see that I’d left a fingerprint along the panel's edge, a faint “hello” to the friend I was making it for. I wondered if he’d notice. If you’re an artist, and wanting to strengthen your skills of accountability when it comes to delivering an original piece by a specific deadline, I can’t recommend other friends’ birthdays any higher. The wreckage of my latest collage (see above) was strewn with love for one of my dearest friends, a opportunity to test out some new approaches for an audience of one. Everyone has the ability to create things with their hands & heart, and for my money, nothing beats receiving a gift in the mail that only you know could've come from someone you love. After all, it has your fingerprints all over it.
Design for USC Thornton School of Music, showcasing their tuba faculty’s October recital. Accidentally deleting its black outline was a happy accident, giving it a sense of weightlessness and breezy fun I was more than happy to keep!
Serving as both a fun project and a locomotion behind building stronger habits for practicing faces, I’ve decided to create multiple series of trading cards (4 inches x 3 inches) based on the Instagram selfies/photos of my friends. I find that, whenever confined to a smaller space than usual, my senses of what feels right when portraying the character of a face, sharpen. On a card, for example. Here’s to hoping I can finish enough of these to line the molding that runs along my apartment’s walls, just beneath the ceiling. How’s that for a benchmark?
I'd like to develop the habit of drawing or creating something quick immediately after waking up and having my morning tea. Today (Tuesday) was my first attempt at this: a tiny paper taco. I crafted this tasty snack, all the while completely forgetting about my cup of Earl Gray, which was cold to the touch when I went to pick it up soon after. A small price to pay for getting lost in one's work.