We celebrate all things animated with our latest Artist of the Month …
What we love about artist Jason Wood is his dedication to getting the details just right. When we asked him to be our Artist of the Month, he thought nothing of spending three weeks creating a narrative and characters from scratch, weaving them into a one minute, epic tale of pure Victorian Gothic. An elaborate steam train ride through death, love, decay, lace, bustle skirts, black cats, keys, and heaving bosoms – all in crystal clear detail that could sit comfortably in a Pixar showreel.
As we see the artwork for the first time and he talks us through it, he describes scribbling the initial idea on the back of an old envelope on a train journey. He also admits that he spent a lot of that three week period digitally ‘brushing’ the characters’ hair. Jason’s work is always character driven, supported by a significant and considered backstory, or character universe. Look at creative projects Russian Dolls (pictured) or Patrick the lonely bachelor; the latter took years to complete, building a world out of scraps of cardboard in his spare time and storing sets in his wardrobe. “I like seeing what happens if you throw something at the characters … or cut their hair off!”
Graduating in 2006 from LJMU Multimedia Arts (now merged with Graphics), Jason was at his happiest building models and adding digital details. “It was good, I loved it … one of my favourite tutors was Ian Mitchell. He’d done a bit of 3D modelling himself, and I was the only one on my course doing that, everyone else was doing 2D, so he was really helpful. He even gave me tips – like lighting models is a nightmare!”
Post-uni, Jason hit the ground running: his first client as a graduate was MTV, through digital design agency Mocha TV. Headhunted by design agency Smiling Wolf at his degree show, Jason ended up there full time a year later, working on animations for a huge variety of clients from architects to musicians (Kate Nash). One was a fairytale makeover, or rebranding, for a village in West Lancashire – The Fairytale of Burscough Bridge. Honing in on local histories, folklore and storytelling, the animation encapsulated the way the residents thought about where they lived. “Basically I could do whatever I wanted, so I drew up a little story for it, and they loved it. The animation ended up winning silver in the Roses Design Awards (2009)”
We wonder, what’s it like changing your style from project to project when you work for a design agency as an artist? “I find it quite easy. I like to dive right into the story, rather than the look and feel of it, which is also really important. For clients, you’re most often working from someone else’s vision, putting your twist on it. My mate can always tell which animation is mine … it’s in the movement, the tiny little details I always put in. A wobble of the head, or breathing – I always show the character’s breath in some way.”
You can’t help but notice something different every time you watch his work; intricate brass cogs that emerge in the opening seconds of our headline story can be seen on the Cat Man’s boots, echoing in buttons and belt buckles too. Despite using digital tools (Cinema 4 for the main body of the animation, Photoshop for extra textures, and After Effects for final editing), handmade elements are important. The black drips were made by pouring real syrup onto paper and filming the process.
Aside from regularly working for Lime Pictures and Nickelodeon (on children’s show House of Anubis), completing a flight simulator game for a fun fair in Virginia, and working on creative side projects (including looking into vinyl toys), his aim for this year is to enter more film festivals. The dream is to intern at Pixar. “The best thing about my job is it doesn’t feel like a job … my heroes have to be Pixar – they can’t do any wrong in my eyes. I do love Monsters Inc – it was the first time I’d ever seen fur in that detail.”
And there’s that word again. Detail. With a bunch of experience racked up already, and commissions seemingly coming left, right and centre for Jason Wood, we wouldn’t bet against him one day ending up with Pixar, or another of the big animation powerhouses. After all, should he continue producing the standard of beautifully detailed work that appears to come naturally, Wood’s star will continue to rise.
Jason’s next music video is for Jupiter by Pocket House, out in February
Check out more of Jason’s work on his website luckyfingers.co.uk