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Shynola: The Beast

Posted by Bryony Quinn,

When the new Laura Marling album, A Creature I Don’t Know, was released, we were struck by the hasty and allusively poetic art work. When we learnt that Shynola were responsible we were intrigued – as familiar as we are with their moving image and music videos for the likes of Radiohead, we had no clue as to their illustration work. Now, as a rather special website has emerged from a collaboration between Marling, Shynola and Studio Juice – the latter being the creative agency who employed the html5 witchcraft on the site – we caught up with Shynola to find out a little more…

How did the project come about in terms of the process from album art to website?

The project started off in a very normal way for us, but became a unique thing as it progressed. Initially we were approached to make a music video for The Beast, a track from Laura Marling’s new album. She wanted a specific style of animation – a request that usually sets our prima-donna teeth on edge. But in this case she wanted something that we loved, and didn’t look a whole lot different from our own drawing (or what we hoped our drawing was like). To cut a long story short, the track was great and we had a really nice idea for the video, but it turned out that the job was going to be too labour intensive for the budget and deadline. So, embarrassed, and with our tail between our legs, we had to back off from the project. However, Laura loved the video idea and didn’t want to let it die, so she wrote a poem loosely based on the script and asked us to illustrate the poem.

Talk to us about the artwork itself – drawing isn’t necessarily something we’ve come to associate with Shynola so is this something you’re hoping to move forward with in future projects?

I [Jason Groves] did the drawing and Kenny [Richard Kenworthy] did the text and design. Chris [Harding], the third leg of the Shynola stool (hehe) mostly had to sit back and put up with all our pretentious talk about Drawing (with a capital D). Drawing certainly isn’t what Shynola is known for, but Kenny and I started out as illustration students who turned into animators, so drawing is our first love. It’s also the basis of Shynola’s work. There are piles of drawings that go into each video we do, animated and live action. When you draw a lot, you have to make conscious decisions about what you like and what you don’t like. You end up with a bunch of arcane “rules” to live your creative life by. I think it’s those “rules” that keep a distinctive Shynola thread woven through all of the visually diverse work that we’ve done. We have to change our “style” from job to job, or else the work becomes more about us and less about the client. It’s our great joy (we get to do something different for every job) and our great curse (we are unpredictable to creatives). We would LOVE to do more illustration. We ache to be asked to do this sort of thing, but there are a lot of people out there who can draw well, so you have to be very single minded to make a living at it.

How did you find working in such a classical illustrative mode? Working with a set text, poetry especially, can be tricky in its subjectivity…

Doing one drawing well is a whole lot easier than doing 2000 drawings. It was pure pleasure. We didn’t really work directly with Laura’s poem. We had the poem for reference, but as with our videos, we tend to shy away from direct illustration. We like to think that bringing two separate things together (the song and the video) to make a third thing that is greater than the sum of its parts, is a better route than illustrating everything that comes out of the singers mouth. So I illustrated the original video script instead. In this way we weren’t going to stray too far from Laura’s poem, but there would be a slight disconnect that might bring something unexpected for the viewer.

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Posted by Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.