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Mixed Media, Animation and Music
By Rodgers Dameron ’01 | Back to Table of Contents
I am an independent visual artist, animator and musician. My overall habit as an artist is to have several projects from different disciplines going at any given moment. It’s an approach I picked up studying oil painting at art school: After a long work session, the oil painting needed to set for several days before the next coat could be applied, so I would use that time to progress on one of the multiple paintings or projects happening at the same time in order to remain productive. It’s a practice that I continue and have even expanded further.
Due to that overarching artistic approach, I’d like to describe three current ongoing projects: one that draws upon my painting and illustrating, one that fuses traditional animation with modern compositing techniques, and, finally, my upcoming musical album. Going back and forth between visual art forms and music creates a balance that I appreciate, because none ever become dull. They often inform each other, and I find renewed energy for the next artistic project.
Album Cover Design | “Adam” for Traveller CS
This video captures Dameron’s artistic process as he creates a mixed-media drawing for the cover of Traveler CS’s newest album, “Adam.”
I am currently in the finishing stages of a mixed-media drawing for the cover of post-classical artist Traveler CS’s newest album, “Adam.” For all my drawings, I employ both classical drawing and modern visual-effects methods over the course of the process. My opening step is to sculpt the subject using digital software called ZBrush, a program commonly used by film, animation and video-game companies for character creation. (Smeagol from “The Lord of the Rings” was created using this software.) After my sculpture of the subject is completed, I carefully light and position it for the illustration. From there, I make a high-resolution printout of the sculpture. That printout serves as my visual aid and reference throughout the process of creating the drawing, which I create by combining traditional pencil with watercolor methods. Though the process of first sculpting the subject and then fully drawing it is laborious, it allows me to bring about things that may not exist in the natural world and still convey light, shadow and form accurately. As I prefer to draw and paint subjects that take cues from fantasy, science fiction and mythology, this practice of creating reference by sculpting becomes instrumental in fully visualizing the subject.
For this commissioned drawing, developing the concept and imagery for the artwork was done in collaboration with the musician behind Traveler CS, Cameron Fitzpatrick. The album centers largely on the cycle of life from an almost naturalist perspective, so we designed something that incorporates both human and plant forms for the cover.
Music Video (Live Action + Animation) | “You Knew Me” for Leah Shaw
This still (top), from a video Dameron directed for wife Leah Shaw’s song “You Knew Me,” incorporates animated footage inspired by pioneering 1920s German animator Lotte Reiniger (bottom).
The second project is a music video I’m directing for a song, “You Knew Me,” written by my wife, Leah Shaw, for an album that commemorates her mother, Rebecca Easterly Shaw, who passed away of early onset Alzheimers in 2016 at the age of 62. It is performed with eclectic instrumentation including full string sections, choirs, piano, guitar and even synthesizers.
The music video includes both live-action and animated footage. The inspiration for the animation comes largely from the work of the pioneering German animator Lotte Reiniger, who created feature-length color animations by herself in the 1920s — an incredible feat given the technological limitations of the time. Her technique involves intricate cut-out paper puppets that are backlit to create a silhouetted effect and animated using the stop-motion technique. Her silhouette puppets, as detailed as they are, give a suggestion of scenes, characters and emotions rather than fully illustrating them. My animation draws inspiration from Reiniger’s ability to create visuals that encourage the viewer to fill in details of a story with their imagination as well as the striking aesthetic of silhouettes.
I will also incorporate modern compositing to add textures and environments in an effort to further convey the dream-like tone of the song. The textures come from footage taken of seashells, gemstones and chorals, inspired largely by Max Ernst’s “Napoleon in the Wilderness.” These elements give the viewer’s imagination a small nudge.
Musical Album | “Landfall” [Working Title] by Rodgers Dameron
To balance out visual work, I have discovered a love for creating, mixing and performing music. I recently collaborated with Leah to create the soundtrack to “Headspace Guide to Meditation,” a miniseries on Netflix that documents the popular meditation app. Aaron Keane coordinated the overall music production, while Leah and I composed several songs using analog synthesizers. The album draws on the science fiction and mythological references that often inform my visual art. The songs combine my passion for classic analog synthesizer sounds, dedication to ’80s aesthetics and love of funk and dance songs of the ’70s. I used analog synthesizers, Eurorack-designed percussion, Leah’s ethereal vocals and Universal Audio’s console and plug-ins to record and then mix my own music.
Dameron and Shaw collaborated on the score for Netflix’s miniseries “Headspace Guide to Meditation.”
Above, an in-progress still from Dameron’s process video for the cover of Traveler CS’s newest album, “Adam.”
Rodgers Dameron ’01