“I got into animation by accident,” explains Venezuelan animator, Angela Stempel. Born in San Francisco to Venezuelan parents, she was raised in Caracas until moving to Boston for college and has been living in the US ever since. Although initially studying at a liberal arts college, Angela transferred to art school and chose to study animation simply because it fit her schedule.
After completing her first class, Angela fell in love with the medium. “I became fascinated by the possibilities of working with time and reinventing my own sense of gravity and physics,” she recalls. Currently based in Los Angeles, Angela has developed a hand-made style, drawing frame by frame, that explores the “potentials that animation has to be narrative and experimental, figurative and abstract.”
Although often working digitally, in a recent project for singer Renata Zeiguer, Angela explored a more organic form of animation. Although hand-drawing in TVPaint, she painted and coloured the scenes on paper. Angela was approached by Renata, a friend from New York, who sent her full album and asked if Angela wanted to make a video for one of the tracks. “I was really drawn to Wayside because of the energy of the song, which I felt had this sort of ritualistic beginning that breaks loose in the chorus,” she explains. The hand-drawn style was appropriated to reflect the song’s “texture and grit” and, upon receiving funding, Angela enlisted the help of Annapurna Kumar and Isabelle Aspin to paint the frames and Nick Petley, Kevin Eskew and Alexandra Cadena to help scan and assist with the production.
Wayside opens with a timid looking character entering a room full of muscular and nearly identical characters taking part in a yoga class in perfect unison. The protagonist is quickly shown where to set her matt by a commanding blue hand and so begins an experience she hadn’t bargained on getting. The strange characters proceed to partake in a series of uncomfortable exercises to the beat on Renata’s song, leaving the main character more and more confused.
“The concept came to me after listening to the track and experiencing a particularly chant-heavy yoga class,” Angela explains. Although having no idea what the chanting was actually saying, Angela remembers everyone blindly joined in pretending to say the words to the tune of the yoga instructor. “I just thought, this is a harmless form of mind control. A kind of spell we all signed up for.” Throughout Wayside Angela references this feeling, illustrating the awkwardness of being a part of something you might not be fully convinced by.
The characters depicted in the video are typical of Angela’s distinctive but varying style. Although switching between abstract, drippy, psychedelic drawings and more figurative cartoons, her characters are always humorous, even slightly absurd. “They can’t decide if they’re flat on the paper or rounded in space,” she describes, “I’d have them stretch, smear, bounce and snap back with every interaction if I didn’t think it took away a bit of their humanity.”
Despite its simplicity, Wayside perfectly encapsulates an emotion and engrosses you fully in its narrative. With its funny characters set to Renata’s enchanting vocals, it’s an animation you want to watch again and again.
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