The Stroke is a back-to-front music video where the visuals came first and the improvised music second
Created by Vincent de Boer, the animation took two years and over 4,000 frames to make while the improvised music was composed by Ill Considered in just one take.
- 8 January 2021
- Jyni Ong
- Reading Time
- 4 minutes
Vincent de Boer’s The Stroke is a six-and-a-half-minute animation honouring the humble brush stroke. Two years in the making, the hand-drawn animated film reverses the roles of audio and visuals normally seen in a music video. The music was improvised on its very first viewing, an immediate response expressed by the band Ill Considered, who riffed directly off the artistry of the moving image. Though it took up a huge amount of work, practically a drawing marathon, the extensive project marks the most ambitious collaboration between Vincent and Ill Considered yet.
Previously, Vincent has worked on all 11 album covers and the rest of the band’s visual output. Speaking about the collaboration, he says, “It’s very dear to me because it represents something in art that I find important: the blurred line between genres and practices.” Originally from a small town near Amsterdam, his creative path began with graphic design and calligraphy. He recalls a childhood infused with creativity, growing up around music, graffiti and painting outdoors. He made posters for the local youth centre and drew the album covers for homemade mixtapes.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that Vincent worked on his first animation with High on Type. The experience left him “hungry for more” so when the opportunity to create another for Ill Considered came about, he leapt at the opportunity. “It gradually became clear that making a film really had to be done frame by frame,” he says. Conducting a series of tests in his studio, he discovered that a frame-by-frame film would best complement a rhythm, in turn making “the most beautiful result”. At the same time as he realised this, however, he also realised it would require a lot of work. He set out to do all the drawings for the animation in an ambitious four months, which eventually became a more realistic nine.
The brushstroke has always been an essential aspect of Vincent’s practice. He particularly likes when it is applied dry as “all the hairs of the brush leave a separate trace”. As a left-handed person with a background in calligraphy, from early on it was imperative that Vincent found a solution to smudging ink while writing, and applying less ink seemed a logical one. “Being a lefty urged new working methods that allowed me to create freely, without materialistic limitations,” he says. And once he’d overcome this, he felt as if he’d entered a field of “infinite possibilities”.
This attitude helped when it came to the mammoth task of making The Stroke. With the help of friend Hans Schuttenbeld, who came to work with Vincent for almost nine months, the two became “super-focused” to the extent “you easily forget all other things because we were busy with only one thing from breakfast til night.” Both fans of Ill Considered’s music, when it came to the animation, they were both on the same page with regard to understanding what the visuals should look and feel like.
The idea for the film came about long before this, however. It started with a phone call with the band’s former bass player and co-founder Leon Brichard. Together, they formed the idea of a film made for improvisation music. “After all,” explains Vincent, “improv played an important part in the band.” Eventually, after two years and the 4,056 hand-drawn frames, Ill Considered’s band members still had not seen a single visual of the film. When the moment came for the band to pick up their instruments and react to what they saw before them while remaining in tune with the rest of the ensemble, it marked a special “almost nerve-wrecking” moment for the two animators, Vincent and Hans.
“To me there is so much life in a single brushstroke,” says Vincent on the relationship between calligraphy and animation. “It’s as if a brushstroke is already moving when I look at it.” He has always been fascinated with its movement, constantly surprised by the endless possibilities that can arise from the tool. “One brushstroke already tells me what the next one could be.” And for Vincent, the animation process ultimately came down to that. “Just sit down in front of a black piece of paper and ‘listen’ to what the brush is asking for.” Similarly, there was no time to doubt the composition of the track to accompany the film, completed practically in the blink of an eye, not a single bar repeated.
As for the future, Vincent is looking forward to furthering a certain way of working he developed last year while living in Japan. It involves a level of repetition, working on a roll of paper where you can only see a fragment of the finished piece while making it. With the lengthy animation project finally over, Vincent is looking forward to focusing more on this discipline, collaborating with two other artists, Jonas Wijtenburg and Frank Koolen, to make a large installation utilising this process.
GalleryVincent de Boer: The Stroke (Copyright © Vincent de Boer, The Netherlands 2020)
Vincent de Boer: The Stroke (Copyright © Vincent de Boer, The Netherlands 2020)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.