“Predictive geometry and aesthetics. Combining form, content and time. Lucid dreaming. Becoming one with the moment, that kind of stuff, as well as cigarettes and eyeballs a plenty,” says American animator Dax Norman when asked to describe his work. Based in Austin, Texas where he’s spent most of his life, Dax’s looping animations feature melting faces in garish colours where body parts revolve and merge in never-ending cycles.
“I came up watching cartoons as a kid in the 1980s,” he tells It’s Nice That. Now, having worked on daily looping gifs since 2012, he still consciously seeks to emulate the style he first fell in love with in shows like Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes and Ghostbusters. Dax splits his creative practice between two-dimensional looping animations and interactive three-dimensional video game animation, as well as teaching 3D Digital Art at the University of Texas in the School of Design and Creative Technologies.
To make his animations, Dax first begins with an existing image or a painting of his – usually one where he can visualise a surprising way to bring the image to life – and begins drawing on top of it, in Photoshop. He then layers up informal and spontaneous digital lines in a technique he’s developed, individually animating each element of the picture. This process allows Dax to break down the image in order to find something new and slowly build up a rhythm of motion for the animation.
In each looping gif, Dax embeds more than one perceptual narrative. This means he can tell a story but also leaves room for interpretation on successive viewings. “The looping format is a great way to try and stop a stranger from anywhere in the world, and hopefully make some momentary connection,” he explains.
Dax’s work is made with “constant change as a catalyst,” aiming to continuously create a forward momentum. He focusses intently on the aspects of the animation process that he enjoys watching the most – the movement – and makes this the emphasis of his own work.
His sequences consist of wobbly, intriguing movements that appear as if they may fall apart at any moment. They are fascinating in their weird and sometimes slightly disturbing characters that pull connections from seemingly disparate concepts to create altogether unexpected movements.
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.