Coronavirus-enforced lockdowns saw many of us pick up new hobbies, from knitting or rug making to taking up a new sport or learning a new language. British retailer John Lewis for instance reported a jump in haberdashery sales from its stores, and Hobbycraft saw searches for sewing machines, fabric and thread increase by “155 per cent, 60 per cent and 310 per cent, respectively,” reports The Guardian. Digital creativity also saw an upturn and is the personal experience for Rosa Sawyers, a communication design graduate who turned to animation.
After graduating in the summer of 2020, Rosa began to teach herself animation initially for comfort. “After studying design, animation initially felt indulgent, making purely visual work with no explicit ‘context’ or ‘meaning’,” she tells It’s Nice That. “However, I also found it to be a more natural and authentic expression of my creativity.” It wasn’t that Rosa didn’t enjoy aspects of her design-focused course, but at times she “felt out of place, not always able to articulate my ideas.” In turn, she cherrypicked elements of her design practice, such as process-led image experimentation and printing techniques, and these became the starting points for a new animation practice, now the focus of her creativity and commissions.
Given that animation was an area of creative release for Rosa, each of her pieces also evokes a sense of calm for the audiences drawn in. One of our favourite shorts is simply the sun rising and setting over an idyllic house, panning down to its reflection in a nearby lake. Although less than a minute long, the calming effect is immediate, evoking comments like “Oof I needed this one today” to “Holy moly. This is absolutely mind-melting in the best way possible”, over one Rosa’s Instagram. While discussing this practice, the animator succinctly describes her work as: “Playful yet meditative moments that are both satisfying to make and watch.”
Much of Rosa’s inspiration is found in nature, another knock-on effect of the pandemic. “Lockdown brought many of us so much closer to nature and I really wanted to highlight the magical ways things grow and change,” she explains. “This has developed into an exploration of how nature, and the everyday existence, can be surreal and even ethereal. I’ve always liked how surreal techniques and iconography have the power to say so much through symbolism and chance.”
The animator channels this influence through an organic animation style that leaves room for textural details. Again taking influence from her design education, where much of Rosa’s work was created with photocopiers, she creates her own textures via scanning found objects and ephemera. Once a simple composition is decided, Rosa will then let the narrative develop naturally, noting how “I usually get my best and weirdest ideas in the midst of making.” She’ll then begin feeding visuals through various programmes, “looking at how each digital changes the quality and tone of the image, and how each iteration can communicate something different,” Rosa explains. In the background of her influences is also a love for early computer graphics from nostalgic films or video games. “I’ve always felt that classic digital textures like glitches, pixels and bitmap have the capacity to appear so organic and fluid.”
As animation is also a relatively new practice for Rosa, she’s refreshingly relaxed in what she shares with her audience. A beginner after all, “I try to put as little pressure as possible on what I make, and I post almost everything,” she tells us. Offering a lovely opportunity for viewers or possible collaborators to see her pretty much daily growth, such regular uploads also provides a sense of escape for those who come into contact with Rosa’s work. “Whilst learning to animate and developing my own visual language, I was also escaping from the day-to-day unpredictability of the pandemic,” she elaborates. “The comforting nature of looping video art acted as an endless safe place that I could immerse myself in, and the process itself became a way for me to relax.”
This safe space is now what Rosa’s hopes her animations offer audiences who find them. “I love the idea that someone could come across a piece of mine and watch it over and over, wondering what it’s about, pulling them out of reality for a second,” she adds. Ultimately, “all I can hope is that viewers can find the same tranquillity in my work that I find in making it!”
Rosa Sawyers: Entrance (Copyright © Rosa Sawyers, 2021)
About the Author
Lucy joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In October 2016 she became a staff writer on the editorial team and in January 2019 was made It’s Nice That’s deputy editor. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about new and upcoming creative projects or editorial ideas for the site.