Quick recap: In Part I, I posted ten tips for those interested in creating short trailers (or other animated videos). In this post, we’ll focus on the art used in the Backwards trailer, and artist’s Kari Lennartson’s creative process.
If you’ve seen the book trailer for Backwards then you probably know that the art is amazing. What you might not know is that over 40 images were created to make this one short video.
Below is a brief interview with Kari Lennartson, the artist who did the drawings for the trailer. Kari is an incredibly talented painter and illustrator, who does both abstract and representative work. She teaches painting at Colorado State University, and she also teaches Art at Ridgeview Classical School.
Kari: I guess the challenge here is not dissimilar to what a filmmaker might face when adapting a popular book into visual form for the first time. Often the first thing you’ll hear people say is “It’s not what I imagined in my head.” I think we all do this when we read a book- we generate pictures in our brains based on the author’s verbal descriptions of places or people; and of course these versions will vary from one person to the next based on one’s own set of personal experiences and preferences. We OWN those images- no one sees what we see. As such, as an illustrator you have to both understand this, but at the same time maintain a certain degree of independence, knowing full well that your images will not please everyone nor adhere to the millions of possibilities out here. Your images need to be accurate to the precision of the text but outside of that they will inherently carry a piece of your own relationship to those words and stories.
Kari: I recently had the pleasure of seeing an exhibition of the South African artist and filmmaker, William Kentridge at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Kentridge develops these richly emotional short films by animating his black and white charcoal drawings. There is a real tactile quality about using hand drawings in this form- as opposed to computer generated imagery. Consider our sensory response to hand kneaded artisan bread versus Wonder Bread- they look different, smell different, taste different (obviously!), but I would argue that we respond to this difference in a visceral, physical way- there is something unconscious at work- we are literally connecting to another human being through the bread. As film Kentridge’s work functions like this, and I also saw this book trailor project as an opportunity to create something very accessible and tangible in this way.
Kari: For me art is work, but work I love. I always tell my students this as well- that’s why we call it our artwork. That said, as unromantic as it may sound to the non artist, I really just show up to work and start working. Can you imagine if your doctor needed to feel inspired to practice medicine? Or if the airline pilot needed to be inspired to fly the plane safely to your destination. As ludicrous as this might sound, we need to look at people doing creative work in the same way. The creative process begins simply with a dedication to earnestly begin, to take your work seriously, to put in your time, and to follow through.
Kari: Being flexible is key- not being too in love with your own ego to listen to the advice and criticism of others. Collaborative projects like this depend on parities communicating and working together, yet at the same time being open and supportive. Believe me I know- we artists are a hubris-driven lot- but keeping it in check is important. No one has the corner market on ideas.