What I learned during this production was that the water and ink are very hard to control, and that instead of trying to animate them in the normal sense, you have to set up the environment so that when the ink is dripped, it behaves as you intend, and then just take time lapse pictures as often as possible to capture the process before it’s over. This means, for example, painting an image in water first, so that when the ink is added it conforms to the water puddles, at least for a time, before either expanding or drying in place.
I had also used paint on glass for my short film Mario. For this film I used oil paint mixed with glycerin, which makes sure the paint doesn’t dry. It can also make the paint more viscous, depending on how much you add. I learned that paint on glass is also hard to control, if you are trying to animate it traditionally, because the texture of the paint creates shapes that are a bit blobby on the edges, and it’s hard to get a precise line. So for paint on glass, the less paint the better.
For the Dark Hip Falls video I decided to draw on these previous techniques, but add something new: gum arabic solution. I actually bought this by mistake in the art store, getting confused with what I was actually looking for, which was masking fluid, used in watercolor painting to keep areas white. But I realized when I started using it that it was fate. Gum arabic solution is also used in watercolor, to make sure the paint doesn’t flow past the brush stroke – it helps bind the paint better to the paper. It can also be used mixed with water to create pretty branch shapes, because the paint behaves differently when passing through gum arabic than through water – it spreads more slowly and in clumps, rather than quickly and evenly.
When ink is added to gum arabic solution, it behaves like a dream – it spreads slowly (compared with water) and separates into little expanding spears. These then clump together and separate even more. The process can keep going for quite a while, changing, morphing in unpredictable ways. Much more interesting than ink in plain water. But combining all three, adding, for example, a small bit of gum to a puddle of water, before dripping the ink – that produced really interesting results.
This eye sequence was fun to create. It was made by creating a round puddle of water with just a little bit of gum arabic mixed in. The yellow ink was then dripped, and right after I added some clear gum arabic into the center, and then dripped the black ink. The tiny bit of gum arabic mixed with in the water puddle caused the yellow ink to separate when it reached the edge of the puddle, and the gum arabic in the center made the ink clump and streak in a way that resembled a pupil. The contrast between the textures of the two inks – the flat, even yellow and the crumpled black really makes this sequence interesting, and eye-like.
This sequence below was actually the first scene where I tried out this alternation of water, ink, gum and more ink. It ended up becoming more complex than I expected, and I actually used this sequence for a major portion in the middle of the video. Here you can see I made a water puddle, added ink and ran it through with a brush to make it even. I added more black ink, then I created a clear spot in the center. To this I added gum, and then more black ink. All the different layers started spreading and interacting with each other in beautiful ways. It looks especially interesting when made negative – a lot of the movement of the ink was starker in negative.
I also created a few sequences that were figurative by animating ink and water more traditionally in a paint on glass manner.
This is a still from another figurative sequence – where I mixed water and gum arabic and then was able to tilt my animation table so that everything dripped down and made the face look like it was melting. I really liked this tension between the abstract and figurative. In this scene it was as if the figurative sequence was devolving into abstraction.
And here are more stills to whet your appetite for the full video. Stay tuned for release details!