Digital Drawing • An Exploratory Process

An exploratory sketch by Laurel MacDonald, 2017. Made using Procreate.
Over the past few years I have been searching for ways to integrate handmade imagery into my video work, in a transition away from working with mostly lens-based imagery to using hand-drawn images as source material for animated video.

Why drawing?

Perhaps it is an overdue coming-of-age in my lifelong love affair with illustration, a seed planted with the beloved illustrated storybooks of my childhood. When I was a bit older, I discovered illustrated songbooks (a hugely rich mid-century tradition that appears to have now disappeared) and artists whose work dwelt at a crossover place between painting and illustration: especially my most dearly loved artist, the American painter Ben Shahn (1898-1969).

Why digital drawing?

There are technical and practical reasons both. On the technical side, I work in the digital realm in my video process – I love its ease and accessibility. And digital drawing offers me the ability to edit and ‘layer’ my images: keeping the various elements inside of a single drawing independently accessible throughout the animation process. On the practical side, I use computers extensively in my musical work as well, and during my frequent travels I can carry my music and video studios in a briefcase that fits under the seat in front of me. Digital doesn’t work for everyone, but I love it!

Why not Photoshop?

The hardware and software of choice for my new explorations into the medium of drawing are an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil, and the Procreate app. Many video artists create their source imagery on a computer using Photoshop or Illustrator – I love these tools too and have used them extensively. But the interface of keyboard and trackpad, mouse, or Wacom tablet don’t have the intuitive connection with the drawn line that I feel with an iPad. Certainly there is a trade-off and a period of adjustment required when working with the iPad and stylus (critics of the interface most often cite the lack of ‘tooth’ with the glass screen, unlike the way that good paper bites onto graphite or charcoal or the bristles of an artist’s brush). But the downsides are offset by the advantages, at least for me, at least for now…



Munro Ferguson • June

I recently had the good fortune to attend several seminars at the first Toronto International Stereoscopic 3D Conference held at the Bell TIFF Lightbox, the gorgeous new home of the Toronto International Film Festival. Every screening was fascinating, but the piece that resonated most deeply for me was Munro Ferguson’s 2003 hand-drawn 3D animated short June, created using SANDDE, the “world’s first freehand stereoscopic 3D animation software”.

Still image from June, directed by Munro Ferguson, produced by Marcy Page ©National Film Board of Canada

Made in memory of Canadian artist and filmmaker Joyce June Wieland, June is like a three-dimensional abstract painting that moves. June is Munro’s attempt to capture what it was like for him to know Wieland. In two sections, part 1, Alzheimer’s, is about the end of her life. Part 2, Memory, is about what she was like during the height of her creative powers.

The visuals are completely stunning, and the score, by Philip Glass, performed by Kronos Quartet, integrates brilliantly with the animation.