Work / Animation

Sarina Nihei creates hand-drawn animated music video for Tom Rosenthal

An obsession with Estonian animation made Tokyo-based Sarina Nihei switch from graphic design to animation while she was studying graphic design at Tama Art University. Since that fortuitous decision, Sarina has graduated from the Royal College of Art in London, and now boasts a string of short animations in her portfolio, all conceived in her charming hand-drawn style.

Most recently, the animator has created a music video for London-based musician Tom Rosenthal and his track Fenn. The video roughly follows the lyrics, visualising them through deadpan characters in minimal backgrounds. “My style is surreal and a bit dark. But for this project, I tried not to put dark elements in it so it can be more accessible to people,” explains Sarina. “But when I make my own work, I’d like it dark, satirical, and entertaining with a bit of violence.”

In the video, neat line drawings come to life though Sarina’s use of colour and leaving her brush strokes and other markings visible to the viewer. This texture gives the animation a wiggly aesthetic that suits both the song and the transitions she creates throughout. In the video, wavy red hair turns into curtains that give way to the next scene, pointy mountains emerge out of dark blue oceans and purple pavement slabs turn into black manholes.

With the action shifting to the next scene so fluidly, it was important for Sarina to create a storyboard to make sure timings and sequences would work. “Then I started animating on paper with a pencil, drawing it again with black pen and then painting with acrylics,” explains the animator. “After that, I scanned tons of frames, compositing in Photoshop and Premiere and find editing. I know it takes ages, but I can’t help it.”


Sarina Nihei: Fenn, Tom Rosenthal (still)


Sarina Nihei: Fenn, Tom Rosenthal (still)


Sarina Nihei: Fenn, Tom Rosenthal (still)


Sarina Nihei: Fenn, Tom Rosenthal (still)