Penlee House’s new Digital Apprentice, Ellie Warren has been experimenting with digital animation as a new way to engage audiences.
I decided to use animation technology to help engage with our online audience and inject a new dimension into paintings that are beautiful in their own right. However, when the artworks are animated I believe that they truly come alive.
People are used to seeing flat, two dimensional paintings and I wanted our online audience who may or may not have seen the paintings first hand, to experience them in a completely new way. Initially I wanted to start making GIFS but I found them incredibly hard to make from one still image, and I also found them unnatural to look at. I liked the idea of being able to create a slower style of animation to give a real-life effect. I then started to use software called ‘Motion Portrait’ which uses real-time rendered computer graphics to animate the paintings. However, it was sheer luck that this technology worked as it is only meant for photographs of humans, and not for paintings or objects.
‘Ruby’ by Thomas Cooper Gotch was the first image I chose, as the child model is front facing and I thought that the technology might pick up her facial features well. Ruby was an absolute hit with our online audience, but not all for the right reasons. Some people found her ‘creepy’ and ‘doll like’ but others found her ‘charming’ and ‘delightful’. I was approached at our recent private view for Entranced by a Special Place: the Art of SJ Lamorna Birch RA and was told in person, by several people that I’d never met before how much they liked or disliked her ‘coming to life’.
To prove a point, I trawled for hours through our stores to find the ‘creepiest’ painting in our collection. Everybody in the upstairs office agreed on ‘Old Kneebone of Helston’ by John Opie. Our Facebook audience commented “I think it’s eerie-but brilliant!” And “I think that’s really clever but might give a few visitors heart attacks if any of these animated faces were on the gallery walls!” After “Old Kneebone” I thought I would choose a beautiful image. I chose “Juanita” which is a simple etching by the celebrated Newlyn Artist Laura Knight. The reaction to ‘Juanita’ was much more positive, and one Facebook user commented saying that she looked ‘Stunning’. I personally felt that the animation made her look peaceful and at rest.