500 Sheets


By Deepti Menon, Art Prof Teaching Assistant

During my junior year as a Film/Animation/Video student, I took a year-long animation course. Prior to this, I had taken the required introductory animation class, but this intermediate course was when I really discovered a new way to think.

Coming into this major, I had no prior experience animating, but knew it was a magical thing that I wanted to do. My prior artistic experiences and processes always involved a lot of meticulous planning and reworking of a single image until I saw it done. Additionally, my exposure to animation was pretty basic – character-based work with clean lines and seamlessly fluid movement. Therefore, this is how I approached my animations. I placed a lot of thought into creating the characters and story line and spent a ton of time on the details of each frame.


However, this all changed during one day of this intermediate animation course. My professor gave us each 500 sheets of printer paper and set a timer for an hour. We weren’t given any light boxes or ways to see our progress, just the paper and our pens. Our only instruction was to finish animating the 500 pages before the timer was up. To me, this was absurd. I would usually complete five frames in an hour, maybe six. Realizing my usual methods were not going to cut it, I was forced to rethink what it meant to animate. By the end of the hour, I had create a frenzy of shapes and scribbles dancing across the white page. Watching the animation, I could see the points where panic set in and the decision-making unfold.

The animation wasn’t anything like I had made before. I was amazed. Primarily, I was amazed that I completed the task. However, I was also so drawn to how the animation embodied the pace and panic of the task itself. I found that watching my classmates also taught me a lot. One student penetrated the whole ream of paper with a sharp object, creating a hole in each piece of paper that varied slightly with each page. The variety in rips created a subtle yet stunning animation that reminded me a lot of an organism breathing. Another student allowed a marker to bleed through the entire ream of paper, creating a stunning transition of ink blots transitioning and fading. I was drawn to the simplicity of these ideas and how they can create connotations with such minimal imagery.


Although my final product wasn’t something I was going to submit to film festivals, it changed the way I approached my ideas and the process of animation, paying more attention to how an artistic process can inform the content behind it. I also began to see how beneficial it was to challenge yourself with something like a time restraint. This led me to create another animation, “Shell”, where I had a time restraint and had to create movement from a static object.


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Portfolio Video Critiques for Art Students & Artists
Prof Clara Lieu offers 30 minute video critiques on 8-20 artworks for students working on a portfolio for art school admission, and for artists of any age working on their artwork. Watch a sample below, and get more info here.

Every month, we assign a topic for you to respond to with an artwork. We give out prizes in several categories, and post select submissions on our Instagram  and other sites throughout the month. Use #artprofwip and Prof Clara Lieu might just stop by and give you some feedback! We have a special prize for art teachers who assign the Art Dare to one of their classes. More info is here.

Ask the Art Prof Live was a weekly live video broadcast on our Facebook page where Prof Clara Lieu provided professional advice for art students and professional artists. Ask the Art Prof began as a written column in 2013 and was featured in the Huffington Post from 2013-2015.  See the full archive of columns here. Prof Lieu discussed being an artist today, art technique & materials, work strategies for artists, career advice, teaching art, and more.


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