Artist Interview: Evan Anthony on the Teaching and the Power of GIFs in Renaissance-ing the Internet

It's been an exciting few weeks here at NeonMob! Last week, we released our very first animated set, Tik Tok & Time. We were lucky enough to catch a few minutes with the artist behind the series, Evan Anthony, a freelance designer and animator and part-time faculty member at The New School in NYC. Evan shared with us the process for creating the collection, the Renaissance of art on the internet and what's under the hood at Google. 

Evan, you've been designing professionally for just over four years. Tell us about your journey as an artist!

Throughout elementary school I was one of the class drawers, though by middle school I had fallen out of it. I thought I'd become an engineer or economist and never actually took any art classes during high school. My buddy had shown me how to create animations on my TI-83+ graphing calculator, however, and I found myself rediscovering the creative side. I'd make little 10 frame animations of babies getting crushed by boulders and other things teenage boys are interested in. Math class was never the same! My friend showed me Macromedia Flash next, and I dove into animation. After building a little portfolio of dumb cartoons, I decided to attend RIT's New Media Design program to study design, animation, and programming.

 

What's interesting about your career as an artist is that you struck out pretty early on the freelance route. Why was that, and what as that like?

For the first few years after graduating, I worked as a staff designer at a couple studios. The plan was always to try and experience as many creative environments as possible, however, so I was really excited to go freelance. I'd been very fortunate to work with some really talented people who helped me get my name out there and pretty quickly work started coming to me. I really love meeting new people, trying new types of projects, and being a bit of a creative nomad.

One of your longer-term freelance projects has been with Google. What can you share with us about that?

I've been freelancing with Google's Creative Lab, a group responsible for creating external facing marketing that communicates Google's personality, internal vision videos that take an early stage concept and imagine it's full realization, and also creating new products themselves. I was brought in to help create animation and design for a vision video exploring the future of productivity and collaboration and since then have been working on some cool little apps!

So, you're teaching an Intro to Photoshop class at The New School. What's that like? Do you find it hard to teach your craft?

Teaching is definitely a fun challenge! It's a continuing education course so the students range from high school student to professor, and it can be tricky to structure the class to accommodate everyone. I also have to really make an effort to step back and remember what it was like to first use Photoshop. My day-to-day work is all hotkeys and muscle memory, so it can be tough not to slip into those habits. Teaching is definitely a lot harder than simply doing since, as another level of difficulty, I have to convey things in an understandable way to a group of human beings. I'm now much more appreciative of the excellent teachers I've had

 

"Tik Tok" from Tik Tok & Time. 

"Tik Tok" from Tik Tok & Time. 

On to Tik Tok & Time... how did you come up with the concept, and what was the process like?

When Neon Mob approached me about creating an animated cards, I dove into my Tumblr, Vimeo, and RSS feeds to find some good inspiration. After sharing some ideas, we both found ourselves attracted to Cinemagraphs and gifs that simulate a 3D effect. Not only were they really appealing loops, but I imagined they could be reasonable to produce in scale. With this in mind, I began exploring the idea of frozen moments and how I might build a story out of 'em. Once I had an idea for the general storyline, I began sketching and brainstorming card ideas. Upon finding a few concepts I really liked, I opened up Cinema 4D and played around with creating some geometric characters and texturing them with brush strokes I scanned in. This was a real learning opportunity because it was actually the first time I had done 3D character animation or created such a quantity of gifs. It was a super fun project to tackle and a personal challenge

 

Which gif from the collection is your favorite?

My favorite is scene with the wizard reading every book in a legendary library. I find myself wishing I could freeze time and devour a whole collection of books at once or maybe make some cool project. But, like that infamous post-apocalyptic Twilight Zone story with the man who breaks his glasses as soon as he has time to read, I'd probably come to regret having such power

 

"Library" from Tik Tok & Time. 

"Library" from Tik Tok & Time. 

Most people don't consider gifs to be art. How do you think gifs have impacted art on the internet?

I don't imagine gifs will last for forever as a technical file format, but the idea small looping moments seems like a really valuable concept. There's quickly developing a language of cultural reference and meme based on little looping images which seems to be a lot more powerful than a solely literary discourse. I definitely see this trend developing and becoming more common, even beyond internet culture and breaking into more traditional mediums and forms of communication.

Is art becoming more technical?

I don't believe art is becoming more technical, but there are certainly more tools to use. Using a pencil can be just as technical as using a keyboard and mouse, we just have more opportunity to dabble with new tools which adds to the perception of increasing technicality. Ultimately I think that the techniques of art are actually becoming easier. To have created this collection when I was first starting out would have been next to impossible simply because the tools were not as good. Not only is making digital art easier than ever, but this also means that analog techniques are easier as we have the opportunity to quickly iterate with bits before putting touching atoms. I am betting that this will increase demand for analog art and traditional crafts in the long run with Etsy being a first step towards a craft Renaissance. 

Cheers to that! Collect Tik Tok & Time on NeonMob here