Artist Interview: Vance Reeser on Inspiration and Animation

Photo by Ben Vickery

Photo by Ben Vickery

Portland, Oregon-based animator Vance Reeser is NeonMob’s latest featured artist. He created an animated collection called “Land Walkers” that was released earlier this week. We spoke with Vance to find out more about who and what inspires his work and what’s next for him on the horizon.  

How did you get into animation? Was it something you studied in school? Or was it something you always knew you wanted to do as a kid?

I went to school for illustration, thinking I’d maybe be a children’s book illustrator. Around this time (1999-2000), there were these incredible pockets of the Internet dedicated to experimenting in design and Flash animation – namely K10k, Presstube, Newstoday, etc., and there were a few “web toons” coming out around this time as well. It was a pretty exciting time, and had sort of a Wild West, anything goes feel to it. I suddenly realized that there was this dynamic place where you could make animated cartoons or experimental videos and other people could easily check them out. Since I was at college, I had access to software, namely Flash, that I could teach myself and start making animated stuff. Children's books started feeling pretty quaint and uninteresting to me. I finished the illustration degree, but my heart was more on the animation side by the end of school.

How would you describe your style?

Boy, I don’t know. I work in a lot of different styles. When it comes to client work I’m working with a different artist’s or designer’s stuff nearly each time. I guess when it comes to drawing things myself I end up landing on something that’s sort of a comic that’s come to life. My style is definitely not influenced as much by the major animation studios as it is by comic artists like Jordan Crane and Taiyō Matsumoto.

I’m trying to move more and more into hand drawn traditional animation, using less tweens  (transitional frames that fill in the in-between poses for you) and software shortcuts like the Puppet Tool. My last short “Lake Beast” is probably my best attempt at that goal so far, and my next short will hopefully push that a lot further.

Who are your influences (from all time)? Who are your favorite current artists?

Hayao Miyazaki, Taiyō Matsumoto, James Paterson (Presstube), Yuri Norshteyn,

and Bruce Bickford are the all-timers. Right now Michael DeForge, the guys at Late Night Work Club, Nelson Boles, Hugo Moreno, Nicolas Ménard… Many others, I’m sure.

How does your community affect your work?  

I’ve been in Portland about four years. There’s a pretty good animation community here, and I’m just starting to really meet people and make connections and such. For a long time I toiled away alone on this stuff, but now I really want to get better at working on small teams, as it’s so much more fun and the work is always better.

Looking at your website, it looks like you collaborate with illustrators to create animations. How do you decide who to work with? What are your favorite types of projects?

Who I work with is usually decided by the time I get looped into a project. I’m kind of the final step in a video project, as the script and voice-over and art is already chosen and approved, and they bring me in to put it all together and execute the thing.

I enjoy making my personal shorts more than anything else. Writing a story and crafting a small world for other people to experience is a huge thrill. I can’t believe I live in a time where that’s possible and I try really hard to never take it for granted.

Tell us about the Land Walkers collection. What made you want to personify land masses? The characters all seem a little morose. What are they thinking and where are they heading?

I saw the visual in my head and it really spoke to me and got the creative juices flowing. Yeah, the Land Walkers do seem kinda sad don’t they? I guess part of the idea behind the series is that it takes place during a post-human time on earth, some time in the near future, and these new mutated beings are all that’s left. I think if I’d only experienced one small spot on the planet for all of my life before waking up, I’d probably start walking to check out other places too! :)

Are there any future projects that you're work on that you're really excited about?

My aforementioned new sci-fi short, tentatively called TEMPER. I’ve got a production blog going over at http://temper-film.tumblr.com. I’m really trying to branch out on this one. My goals are to work with a small team of people, draw more dynamic and lively hand drawn animation, and develop a new art style (for me). Follow along and watch it come to life or go down in flames!

Image from TEMPER

Image from TEMPER

Interview by Sarah Han