One of my favorite parts of watching movies is looking at the long list of credits and taking in the number of people it takes to pull off a high-caliber film. It’s no different for animated films and interactive projects at Moonbot Studios, where the average crew size on a short film can range anywhere from 25 to 40 people, depending on the length and scale of a project. Often, the concept and production art created on a project is never seen by the public. Sometimes, just the incredible feat of simply pulling off a project overshadows the wide range of incredible and varied work created along the way by the crew.
This summer, artspace will host an exhibit, “Phases: A Moonbot Retrospective,” shining light on some of the never-before-seen work from Moonbot Studios’ projects. The exhibit will include work from Academy Award®-winning The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, The Numberlys and the studio’s latest short film project, Taking Flight. Coolspace, located on the upper floor of artspace, will host a rare glimpse into the personal work of more than 20 Moonbot animation artists in a showcase entitled “The Artside of the Moon.” This peek into the personal work of illustrators, animators and 3D artists will highlight paintings (traditional and digital), animation and sculpture.
Non-traditional formats are the norm for Moonbot crewmembers. JD Gardner, a lighting technical director, created a 3D self-portrait for the show, which required a slightly different approach. Gardner closely crafted the garments in his self-portrait. “I took nice photos of all the clothes in neutral light. I got really close in and got pictures of the textures and then made them seamlessly repeating,” said Gardner. Those photos became the textures for the 3D model he created using software such as Maya, ZBrush (for details like stitching and fine hair), XGen, Nuke and Photoshop.
For exhibiting Moonbot artists Renee Bates and James Cassettari, the push and pull of creating paintings with traditional paints or as digital images is a theme in their work. The vast majority of their output at Moonbot is digitally painted, however, both love the aesthetics of paint on paper. “If I had the choice and time, every piece I created would be traditionally painted. Digital work loses that one-of-a-kind charm of imperfection that accompanies traditional work,” said Bates, who will exhibit two digitally painted pieces. For his personal work in the exhibition, Cassettari created four pieces using copic markers on watercolor paper, which sometimes creates unexpected but appealing results. “If you mess up, you mess up the whole piece. It’s great for sketching but for final pieces it can be a little impractical,” said Cassettari of the process. “I’m really bad at settling on something. That’s why digital is good. It’s really easy to make changes.”
As creative professionals collaborating on projects for a majority of the day, many of the Moonbots find it difficult to summon the energy to work on personal projects. “Animation takes so long and we do it all day. It’s hard to want to do it outside of here,” said Animation Supervisor John Durbin, who somehow isn’t short on ideas for the pieces of animation he will exhibit in “The Artside of the Moon.” Durbin recently explained to a young friend how playing vinyl records on a turntable worked and it inspired him to illuminate the interfaces involved in creating animation. “I like to show the stuff that people don’t normally get to see. Sometimes my computer will freak out and there’s some weird technical stuff – that makes great artwork. When you’re creating a 3D model, if you go into the mode where you can see the verts, they’re generally yellow or dark pink. If you soft select them, they turn into this spectrum thing, it’s instant artwork but you are just working. It’s not meant to be that way but it is,” Durbin observed.
For many artists and creative professionals, finding inspiration outside of the 9-5 day job is difficult. “The Artside of the Moon” is a refreshing reminder that creating any work of art is a small victory when you have a day job. For the Moonbot team, the exhibition is a small way to push one another to explore new methods, get feedback and become better artists. As Cassettari puts it: “I don’t show my work that often, except for what I’m doing at Moonbot. It’s a little stressful but in a good way. The perfectionism really comes out. It’s representing the studio and me. I just want to make the studio proud and put something up that will do that.”
A Few Artists
When You Go
PHASES: A MOONBOT RETROSPECTIVE
May 20 – August 12
mainspace @ artspace
Featuring Moonbot Studios body of work featuring concept art, a reading room and screenings of films
THE ARTSIDE OF THE MOON
May 20 – July 9
coolspace @ artspace
Group show featuring the personal work of Moonbot crew members
THE ROCKSTARS OF ANIMATION
May 20 – August 12
Gallery of works by animation artists Joy Ang, Ralph Eggleston and Bruce Smith