by Collin Leix
hree years ago I found a cello at a thrift store.
It had a prominent crack down the middle, and the yellowed label inside said it was made by a famous luthier in 1800. Around the same time, my husband and I had just begun trying to conceive our first child. Having grown up as a violinist, I remembered learning how the cello resonates in the same tone and range as the human voice.
Could this cello be my telephone line?
Could I talk to my body and the baby with the resonance of this instrument against my (hopefully soon) growing belly? I bought the cello and set out to learn how to repair it.
With this story I propose a one year project to create a short animated film (less than four minutes) inspired by this cello and the interconnected parallel threads in the years that followed:
the discovery that the cello was a forgery,
learning about my own infertility,
and coming to terms with my ideas of value and acceptance.
This animation will be unique in its combination of an experimental painterly style and deeply personal voice. I will use surreal and abstract imagery to capture feeling, and representation to show memorable characters.
My film will combine the warmth of painted frames in Photoshop and the ease and power in After Effects and Cinema4D.
I love animation for its ability to take viewers deep into inner worlds, create shared cathartic experiences, and break down cultural stigmas. This story is both about the painful experience of infertility, and about the more universal experience of shame and disappointment, and ultimately using creativity as a catalyst to move forward.
I would hope to encourage others to find themselves in their own creativity, especially in the face of hardship.
In tandem to the film production,
I will create a generous Vlog & Tutorial series
I want to share the making of the film with the community, from developing the initial ideas, to look development, to putting the story in order, to explorations and execution of the technical approaches all together in a YouTube Vlog series. Some of them may be personal reflections, some may be time-lapses of drawing out concept maps, some may be quick ‘aha!’ moments I have within the software. (Like the new mixing brush in Photoshop! It’s magical.)
I taught a class in concept development for animation for 3 years at a wonderful community college, and I'm very comfortable and enthusiastic speaking about these topics.
As the year progresses, I see the videos being fine-grained tutorials about the process of my animations. I would also include the process of composing music and doing the final sound design for the piece.
Style Explorations & previous projects
The following are a few relevant projects & style studies and a few color studies I've done for Hansel. I'm excited about the direction of these, but if I'm awarded, I would continue to work on developing the style.
A visual study pulling from my IVF medications.
Recently I got the chance to collaborate with one of my favorite animation studios, Gunner. They asked me to come up with the idea for our collaboration, so I used Hansel as a prompt. This animation includes cel animation in Photoshop, some elements in 3D (cello, bow, phone), all composited together in After Effects. This is the process I'd like to use for the Adobe Creative Residency.
I used this opportunity knowing that I was going to be showing it to you. I wanted to experiment with a potential style for 'Hansel', and also to play with moving between abstraction and representation. One creative aim in Hansel will be to visually show abstract experiences. For example, the first part of the animation below shows the experience of playing music.
Design: Collin Leix, Ian Sigmon
Animation: Collin Leix, John Hughes
Cello Music: Collin Leix
Sound Design: Bryan Pope
Also, we created this piece to show on Instagram, where it would automatically loop. I've included it here twice so you can see the transition back to the beginning.
A surreal moment in the transition.
This is a previous project showing my interest in animation to communicate experience.
My father is a very practical, left-brained person. He didn't quite understand when I told him that making creative work can feel scary. I created this loop to show him how it felt. He still doesn't totally understand, but he liked it.
Here's another style exploration.
I'm guessing most dog owners have cozied up with their pet and gotten an eyeful of that adorably wrinkly underjowl. When I was grieving, I oddly continued to end up here: curled up in the dog bed.
For this gif, I painted separate layers in Photoshop, and animated them using the puppet tool in After Effects. It was a quick project (just a few hours), but I was happy with the study.
The forest where Hansel's tree grew
A cello maker told me that the front piece of wood of the cello needs to come from a tree with at least 200 years of growth in order to be wide enough. I pictured the German forest where Hansel's tree would have grown. I pictured something out of Hansel & Gretel, which is how the cello got its name. This style/color study is of this forest.
Color Studies for 'Hansel'
I'd like to keep a limited color palette for this piece. Here are a few explorations, leaning toward shades of turquoise and warm pinks.
These are a few other artists’ work to paint a fuller picture of my visual goals.
Below, I’ve included what attracts and inspires me about each as a direction for Hansel.
1. ‘Spring’ by Michal Bednarski. Restricted color palette, simple forms, experimental shape of image.
2. By Frederic Forest. Experimenting with how much (how little!) visual data you need to convey a feeling.
3. ‘Heureux les Callioux’ by Evelyne Mary. Limited color palette, and playing with blending modes between color.
4. ‘Erykah Badu’ by John Vogl. Experimenting with placing an image in a matte of another.
5. Manaus - City of the Forest’ by Paula McGloin Clear, graphic, midcentury-inspired imagery, limited color palette, symmetrical layout, nature imagery.
6. ‘What It Feels Like To Be A Building’ by Forrest Wilson.
This is a wonderful children’s book by designer, professor, and architect Forrest Wilson. He explains the forces at play within architecture by using intuitive, body-based metaphors, like standing on shoulders, butting heads, pressure, holding, etc. He uses the language of the human body to understand construction of objects, like ‘Squash’.
I thought about this book often when I was learning about the body of my cello: the crack down the front, the pegs, the bridge, the soundboard, etc.
Like I included above, I imagine the visual narrative of Hansel departing from realism at times. The first moment I connected my own body to my cello’s was the day I learned about my infertility. I felt shattered down the core, like the crack in the instrument. In the story, I'd like to show this shattered feeling visually, possibly showing my body fracturing into abstract forms.
Plan of Action
As a stretch goal, I propose to paint and animate scenes from Hansel in Virtual Reality. I have a Vive at home, and have used Google Tilt Brush and AnimVR and would love to jump back in with this project. I just learned that the program Quill works within a Vive, and that would be my ideal software to use.
Here's a drawing I made in Tilt Brush to celebrate last spring.
ith a whole year to create this piece, protected from the demands of client work, I can give this animation the time it deserves.
Thanks so much for spending this time with me!