Before becoming an animator, Max Litvinov initially trained as an engineer. After working as a video game programmer soon after studying, he started to crave more. “The job didn’t satisfy me at all; crappy games, crappy coding, no motivation to grow as a professional,” explains Max. “I spent a lot of time daydreaming while at work, imagining out-of-this-world scenery, vivid patterns, things that don’t exist – always transforming and in constant motion. I wanted to capture them and began sketching, but it wasn’t enough – it had to move. So I quit my job, spent years self-studying and became a freelance artist.”
Animation gave Max the ability to “embody any dream” and “create worlds where [he] sets the rules” with total control over every element. To further his animation skills, Max decided to study at renowned animation school La Poudrière, where he’s just graduated from. “Studying animation in France was a wonderful experience, my views and knowledge have been expanded in a big way,” he says.
When we last featured Max there were only a few short animations from his time at school. Now, back in Russia, the animator is freelancing again and his portfolio continues to grow with commissions from MIT Technology Review among others. One of his latest projects is an animated pizza commercial for Yula Pizza. “Some fellows from my hometown decided to open a pizzeria and commissioned me to do a promotional video,” says Max. “It’s the first time I’ve done something food-related and it was quite a challenge to make the pizza look appealing.” Created in Max’s signature style, the animator hand-drawn style is humorous with a bizarre edge.
“While I admit my work has always the same distinct tone, recognisable graphics and recurring themes, I prefer not to determine it with a specific style, being open to any influences,” explains Max. “For sure, my animation is more formalistic than narrative, quite mechanical and if it was done 30-40 years ago, it would be put into an avant-garde/experimental box.” Max is influenced by old school European and Soviet animation, Japanese independent animation, 1970s design and 1990s Nickelodeon.
For Max, his creative process though enjoyable, is labour intensive. “The making of animation is extremely time consuming. While learning more options and acquiring new tricks, it takes longer for me to make decisions,” he says. “I spend hours and hours adjusting geometry of each frame to make the movement look as interesting and alluring as possible. While actually enjoying this process, now I have to set the time limits for finishing each step. Otherwise nothing is ever finished!”
The beauty of Max’s illustrations and animations is his ability to see the world in a way no one has done before. “I try to capture a childish feeling that means everything around us is ambiguous and can become an element of a game,” he says. “I try to take simple action and transform it into a rollercoaster.”
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