Strut is fun. Strut is colorful. Strut is not your average Rooster Painting Improvisational Jazz Dance short. Not at all. It’s even better!
“Strut is the outcome of a workshop I led on July 8, 2023 for the Casa da Animação, in Porto, Portugal,” animator Lynn Tomlinson told us. “The workshop followed a master class and screening of my films that I presented at the Casa das Artes two days earlier…I am best known for clay on glass animation, a very time-consuming stop-motion process that usually only one person can do at a time. I wanted to share a process that everyone could try, so I decided to share a technique I had used in the choruses for The Elephant’s Song, and also in a segment I created for a recent feature horror film, The Haunting of the Queen Mary: printing out sequential images, coloring and altering them with oil pastels, then re-recording the images.
“I thought that looping gifs of people dancing would be a lively subject, so before I traveled to Porto, I selected the sequences, formatted them with about 6 images per page, sent the files to the Casa da Animação organizers, and they printed out enough sequences for all the participants.”
We can only imagine that the students’ work was, in fact, lively given how much we liked the resulting work of their teacher. But we had to wonder, where did the rooster come in? Tomlinson explained: “I still wanted people to be able to try out the clay on glass process, to get a feel for the medium. And for that part, I decided to use video reference of a rooster because a rooster is a common symbol of Portugal and there were roosters I could film in the nearby Jardins do Palácio de Cristal. So, we set up one stand, aiming down at a piece of plexiglass spread with a thin layer of plasticine, and used Dragonframe to load my rooster reference video as a layer we could use as a guide for the movement.
“Participants could try out the stop-motion process of the clay painting, working in pairs, and just animating two or three frames. I knew this would be slow going, because it normally takes me about three hours to create one second. So, we also created a nine-frame looping animation of a rooster strutting, using 9 small (about 3” x 4”) clay-painted frames of a strut cycle, all on one sheet of plexiglass. We traced a rooster strut loop frame by frame onto cream-colored clay backgrounds, then painted it in using the modeling clay like thick finger paint. Being a loop, it could last longer on screen. Still, that process also took time, and towards the end of the workshop, three or four people were working on those images simultaneously. Once we had them all done, we used toggle on Dragonframe to make sure the rooster was properly registered on each frame.”
It seemed to us that the workshop, as well as Tomlinson’s resulting piece, was a triumph. She would agree, adding that, “With about a dozen workshop participants, including several artists and animators and others who were completely new to animation, the workshop was a great success and lasted about four hours– an hour longer than we’d planned.” Isn’t that always the way with stop motion?
She went on to say, “Everyone had a great time, and I’m grateful to Mariana Oliveira and Regina Machado at Casa da Animação for running the workshop run so well. After the workshop, I gathered the animation sequences and edited them to a bouncy tune by the Baltimore-based band, Bedlam Brass…I know that the workshop has had an impact: one of the animators, Milly Yencken, took home some clay and kept going with it. She recently posted what she created on her Instagram.”
Finally, Tomlinson came full circle to answer our question. “What did the rooster and the dancers have in common? The answer became the title: Strut.”
For more on Strut and Tomlinson’s workshop, please see these behind the scenes images: