Interview with animator Michael Kohlweg

Michael Kohlweg is a talented animator from Calgary. After a couple years working as an art director he decided to go independent with a focus on animation. Michael will showcase his work Friday Jan 17th, 2020 at the Palace Theatre in Calgary, AB. From 7pm – 12am. Showcase information can be found here – https://rawartists.com/calgary/premiere.

You started your career as an art director at an ad firm, what led you to branch out on your own and pursue a career in animation?
During my time at the advertising agency, I noticed a growing demand for animation in ad campaigns. Clients especially wanted some form of visually striking movement incorporated for use on their websites and social media channels. As these projects kept coming in, my exposure to them increased, and my love for animation as a visual media was born.

The world has moved towards motion. If content is king, video content reigns supreme. Whether you are a creative company or a corporate one, you need to be able to capture the viewer’s attention quickly to hold their attention long enough to get your message across. Anything with motion does that far more effectively than a still image. Recognizing what animation could offer potential clients, I decided to go out on my own to pursue a career in animation full-time. Now I get to work with a wide diversity of individuals, companies and brands, which is really fun.

How did you discover stop motion animation?
I grew up watching stop motion films like Chicken Run, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and James and the Giant Peach. As a kid, I didn’t realize the amount of work that goes into stop motion films, but they always stood out as being magical.

Fast forward 20-ish years to 2018 and stop motion captured my attention again. It was my third year participating in #The100DayProject (a free art project that takes place online), and I was searching for something new to practice. Given my love of animation, stop motion seemed like a natural next step for me, so I selected it as my project for that year.

As part of my 100 Day Project, I animated a 1-inch paper box doing and being different things every day for 100 days. I wanted to focus on the narrative each day while also figuring out how to make a physical object move in a natural way. What I love about stop motion is that it is a bit of an escape from the desk and the computer screen. It is hands-on creativity.

It was a fun challenge creating a scene for that little box every day, and #The100DayProject allowed me to practice and learn a new medium that I have now incorporated into my work. For this reason, I would challenge anyone who wants to learn a new skill to create something every day and send it out on your social accounts. Sharing your learning process and putting your work out there publicly forces you to let go of the worry and fear that comes with sharing your work with the world. 

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Do you prefer to animate stop motion with paper craft or more traditional techniques like clay modeling? Why?
I really like to animate with paper because it comes across as graphic and flat.  With my training in graphic design and 2D animation, I think that transition was bound to happen. However, I do like to incorporate different materials and techniques throughout my stop motion work.

In my second year at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD), most of the design projects involved cut paper of some kind. Whether it was cutting out letters and creating layouts with them or designing an animal, paper was the requirement. While I questioned why we weren’t using our computers at the time, I now understand why we were doing it that way. So, I guess there’s some nostalgia for me in using paper as a medium.

I did incorporate some claymation into my 100 days of stop motion challenge but only in small doses. I find claymation to be its own beast and need some dedicated time to learn how it acts. In addition to claymation, I try to incorporate different techniques and a variety of materials and objects into my work as this adds depth and visual interest to any narrative. For example, it is a fun challenge to think of different ways to animate a scene using various found objects, such as showing one item, like a glass jar, pouring something out using another item, like yarn.

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What do you have planned for the RAW Artists Calgary showcase on Friday January 17th?
At the RAW Artists Calgary showcase, I will be doing a live demo of stop motion animation, likely using paper as the primary material. I think it is important to show your audience a glimpse of the magic by offering a sneak peek behind the curtains. Engaging them in the process helps them understand the medium and gets them thinking about how stop motion could be incorporated into the many facets of a brand and its content.

Artist profile: https://rawartists.com/michaelkohlweg

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