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Jennifer Ruiz’s Handmade Energy

Stop-motion animation, inspired by nature

Scenes from Ruiz’s stop-motion animation for Lemonade.

Can you walk us through the brainstorming process for your #ConnectedByLemonade commission?

My initial idea was an eye crying and the teardrop being the ‘drip,’ but it didn’t quite work when I drew it out. I knew I wanted to work with paper elements so it evolved to having a top layer rip off to reveal the eye underneath. So in the end a tear(drop) became a paper tear! I also really love nature and water so I like to include those in anything personal I make.

You might be using a computer to edit and produce the finished product, but you make it clear that things start with simple materials, like cut paper. What’s important to you about retaining that handmade feel?

I love doing things practically and with my hands. I get tired of being in front of screens so I avoid it when I can (which is so hard this year!). For this I made everything out of paper, and then animated each item individually. Usually I would animate everything all at once, but I injured my leg recently so I needed to break it up into tiny, doable sections before combining the layers in post — which was nice because it gave me more flexibility!

For the fish [in my Lemonade commission], I had to first animate the movement in a computer to get the swimming motion right…then cut it all out of paper…then add detail…then animate the fish by hand! I fully realize how ridiculous that is. There are 15 fish in total!

Who are some of your creative heroes ?

I don’t have a select few, mostly I love watching Vimeo staff picks to get inspired. I always feel hyped up to create after watching those! And then just nature. Is that a cheesy answer? I get a lot of my inspiration just driving around or sitting in the park.

What advice would you offer a young artist who’s just starting out?

When it comes to stop motion, you really don’t need fancy equipment to animate. I do all my animations in my apartment with just two lights, an old camera, and a table. Sometimes I even use tracing paper to get my motion drawn out, and [using] paper and glue or objects around my home.

Computers of course make it easier, but they aren’t necessary. I also recommend just diving in and learning along the way. That’s really how I learned everything, by making mistakes and learning how to fix them (and with the help of dozens of YouTube tutorials, of course).

What’s one important lesson that has really stuck with you?

I actually am self-taught for animation, but in the beginning of my stop-motion career I used to get really hung up on everything needing to be perfect. No pencil marks or slight tears in the paper. Then one time I was collaborating with the artist Dave Kloc and he said what he loved most were those little details that show it’s handmade because that’s what separates it from computer animation — the imperfections. That really stuck with me. Now anytime the paper rips or a bit or glue gets somewhere it shouldn’t, instead of getting frustrated and starting over, I embrace it!

What’s challenging (and rewarding) about working with live action — while also incorporating illustrative or animated effects, as you do in the video for “Weird Girl Stuff’?

As much as I like to work with inanimate objects (where i can control everything!), I also love to work with people.

The challenging part about that music video was that we had no budget and we had to kind of switch things up and figure things out along the way. It was a big, collaborative effort. A lot of the animated portions evolved in post, from just playing around with ideas (unlike stop motion, where every single thing is planned out before you can even shoot). It was a welcome change and challenge.

Check out more of Jennifer Ruiz’s work here, and don’t forget to follow #ConnectedByLemonade!




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