“A mix of hope and fear”: Katy Wang and Gabriel Greenough animate Gen Z’s feelings toward climate change

Using a repetitive, mixed-media method of printing, painting and scanning, the animation celebrates recurring cycles in the natural world.

26 February 2024

The spark of lightning and the steady growth of roots, a stampeding herd of wildebeest and glistening shoals of fish. These are instances in the natural world that seem distinct, but when broken down to their visual attributes have striking resemblances. The downwards, forked shooting of a bolt replicates the spreading form of a root, the wildebeest, when seen speeding from above mimic the weightless motion of sea creatures. This likeness is laid bare in Katy Wang and Gabriel Greenough’s animation for Epson; in the short, the duo highlight the deep interconnectedness of nature, its recurring cycles – and the importance of protecting them.

Commissioned by Epson, the animation is part of the company’s wider bid to become carbon negative and underground resource free by 2050, and was based on their Climate Reality Barometer: a survey of thousands of Gen Z representatives who were asked about their feelings on the climate crisis. “The results showed that Gen Z's feelings towards climate change were a mix of hope and fear, which happens to match up perfectly with our own fluctuating feelings about the climate as well,” says Gabriel. Katy and Gabriel were tasked with making an animation that represented these findings, and “it got us thinking about the beauty and interconnectedness of the natural world, and recurring cycles of life, death; creation, destruction, that happen in nature,” says Katy.

Gabriel Greenough & Katy Wang: Epson (Copyright © Epson, 2023)

To create the animation Katy and Gabriel made use of their distinct skill sets. A couple as well as a creative partnership, the pair have been collaborating on more projects together in recent years. While Katy traditionally practised as a 2D illustrator, animator and designer, Gabriel comes from a live action background, with skills in 3D/CG and shooting stop motion. Together, the pair decided to try something new and proposed the idea of making a supercut of live action and animated shots. They printed stills from the film and coloured aspects in, with pencils, pastels, and paints before scanning it back in.

The animated elements are a mixture of their own 3D animation, while some was library footage, and some was a mix. At first Katy and Gabriel were stumped by how they may best integrate transitions, but “in the end we just freestyle for the most part – we came up with a rough idea of what the transition should look like, and then just went straight ahead with animating it into the film”, says Gabriel.

As both Katy and Gabriel more commonly work digitally, the project was a welcome change. “I love how different it felt, the satisfaction was a very different kind of feeling compared to the satisfaction of completing work on a computer,” says Katy. “I love both ways of working, but I’m grateful that we got the opportunity and creative freedom to try something different.” The analogue approach also matched the animation’s loose storyline. Mimicking the cycle of life, it starts with the primordial division of a cell, interspersed with the elements – like fire and water – to remind the audience that “life is something of a resilient guest amongst the indifferent forces of nature”, says Katy.

The organic strokes and lines that emerge through the animation resonate with the natural flow of organic matter, the unpredictable crackling of flames, and the iridescent flow of water. Moreover, Katy recognises, in a creative climate increasingly wary of AI art, people are welcoming handcrafted work with open arms. “I think people are craving seeing something that feels very physical, with a bit of messiness, flaws, imperfections… It feels more human,” she says.

Working on the animation was grounding for Katy and Gabriel – it reminded them of the wonders of the natural world. “It’s kind of a miraculous coincidence that life even exists in the first place,” ends Gabriel. “I would hope people come away from this film with appreciation for that, as well as respect for the natural world which fostered that coincidence.”

GalleryGabriel Greenough and Katy Wang: Epson (Copyright © Epson, 2023)

Hero Header

Gabriel Greenough & Katy Wang: Epson (Copyright © Epson, 2023)

Share Article

About the Author

Olivia Hingley

Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.