Paper Trail is an impressively detailed animated short by American artist Jake Fried. Having started his artistic career as a painter, Jake realised what truly interested him was the “way an image evolved in the course of making a painting,” and so he changed track to become an animator.
Each one of Jake’s experimental animations is made on one piece of paper which he adds ink, white-out, collage and other materials to, scanning the image after every application. These images become the frames for his films which, on average, have 1500 per piece. This is a technique he developed when he first started experimenting with animation and, although a slow process as he has to let every surface dry before scanning them, creates intricate and fast-moving films from simple materials.
“Every frame I make is just a small part of a much bigger picture – through slow and steady work I can create something deeper and more complex than any single image could ever achieve. The process I developed allows room for constant discovery and lets the work reveal itself over a matter of months, instead of hours, days or weeks. For me it feels like a more honest or authentic way to create,” Jake says of Paper Trail, a film that took 6 months to make from first frame to final sound edit.
Paper Trail is an extension of Jake’s previous work that explores archetypes, timeless themes, ancient knowledge and a message from the future all at once. “I’m as influenced and inspired by the art of ancient Egypt as I am by contemporary painting,” he told us. Although Paper Trail doesn’t feature a specific narrative, Jake always tries to represent multiple cultures and time periods in order to give a holistic view of the human experience.
The music in each film he creates is composed by Jake, except for his commissions. Once the animation is complete, he carefully composes the audio, writing the music to suit the visual structure of the film he is working on. They don’t tend to be pre-planned instead working in a spontaneous way that allows the piece to naturally reveal what’s next. This mirrors Jake’s philosophy that work should always be evolving and changing and that the journey is more important and any destination or final image. “Everything that comes before informs what comes after as the work builds on itself. If there is an underlying narrative in my work, it is more of an archetypal journey, some sort of awakening or transformation,” he says.
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.