Katie Armstrong

I recently found Katie, through a website called Kickstarter. This website lets people put up projects they are working on and asks for community funding for it. It’s pretty awesome. Also the more you contribute, the more you get back. Katie gave her biggest ‘funder‘ some home made freshly baked cookies!

Katie is an animator, who works with music in her pieces, I am kind of the other way around. I am a musician who does animation. So I thought it would be fun to chat with her and see what makes her tick. We talk about, animated Gifs, Germany and Britney Spears. Check out the animation below, then have a read through the interview. Katie has also been so kind as to give us a free mp3 of a track from the animation she is working on to be released in January. Make sure to go get that and check out the other featured artists tracks!

Goodbye Sorrow from Katie Armstrong on Vimeo.

Which video of yours is your favorite?

I haven’t made it yet! I think if I had, I’d start doing something else. It’s the fact that I’m still unsatisfied with my own skill that keeps me motivated to continue making videos.

How long have you been animating?

A little over two years. I’m still very much a baby.

Have you had any interest from the original artists of the tracks you cover?

No, I think they probably have bigger fish to fry. I was hoping that perhaps Baby Spice would contact me and finally realize that we were meant to be best friends, but alas, no such luck.

How long do you take to make your animations?

For a two minute video, my average is about three months. For the most part, I am doing frame by frame, hand drawn animation, scanning each frame and composting everything in the computer. I’m still just learning though, every new project is an experiment, and I am getting faster.

Do you storyboard them out first or just free style them?

No, I don’t storyboard and I don’t really make any kind of concrete plan. I’m not making cartoons, and I’m not really aiming at any kind of narrative in the traditional sense. My work is very much about the process of doing something so tedious, about working to the point of exhaustion, and improvising from there. For the pop song series, I always start with the song itself. I will sit in my bed for a few days and sing, record, sing, record. I lay around and listen to the song on repeat until something inside me starts to vibrate a little, and I feel the itch to start drawing. From there, with the lyrics in mind, I just draw. I have a catalog of imagery in my mind that I come back to over and over again. I project my own memories, experiences, questions, and dreams into the work. The pop songs serve as empty containers, vapid in their original form. My hope is that I am able to fill them, to turn them into something rich, touching, and relatable. I suppose the result is just a small, one-sided expression of what’s it’s like to be a human. A little sad, a little sleepy, and a little funny.

Why do you make them?

Ah, for many reasons. Let’s see if I can conjure a few. First, the obvious one, which is the fact that I very much like to draw, and I very much like to sing. I was a dancer for most of my adolescence up until I graduated from high school, so I have always had an affinity for the pairing of movement and sound. Animation came to me as the natural progression of my work, the combination of all my interests. It is something that is still young in terms of the history of art, and the untapped potential of the medium is like this magical little puzzle that I hope to someday figure out. I am also very interested in the Internet as a platform for creating and sharing art, and video works are so easily displayed in cyberspace.

What is the reason you moved to Germany?

I came to Germany to live and make work at the Leipzig International Art Programme, a five month artist residency. In January I will show a brand new animation at the winter Spinnerei Rundgang.

How is your German?

Ich kann kein Deutsch. In other words, not so great.

Will you go back to your home country eventually you think?

Yes, this is only a temporary residency, although I am interested in returning to Europe on a more permanent basis in the future. For now, I have a kitty and a boyfriend waiting for me in New York.

Tell us a little about your Kickstarter experience.

I made the Kickstarter as a means to pay for my living expenses during my stay here in Leipzig. I received a grant to cover the costs of the residency program, but as a recent graduate from art school, living one of the most expensive cities in the world, my savings situation was not pretty. I made a video talking about my project, and offered varying incentives for different amounts of money that people could donate to the endeavor. I was absolutely startled by how much money was raised, half of which came from the generous pockets of total strangers. I quadrupled my original goal, and sent parcels all over the world to everyone that helped. It was truly moving, I would not have been able to come here without the help of so many people.

I make work that is intended to be distributed for free. I want as many people as possible to see my work, because it really doesn’t exist until someone presses that “Play” button. The Internet is such an important tool in this way, it is a level playing field that gives people from all walks of life the opportunity to experience art on a day to day basis. Because I am not making big paintings that can sell for thousands of dollars, I have to be creative in my means of generating income, and Kickstarter proved that people appreciate and are willing to support this kind of artwork. There is an exchange taking place that is much richer than a typical monetary transaction. It becomes personal.

Do you know other people that have personally used Kickstarter?

Yes, a have several friends who have successfully funded art projects with Kickstarter.

What kind of cookies did you make for your biggest contributor?

Good old chocolate chip.

What’s the story behind the rabbit with the diamonds?

Diamond Rabbit

This is part of ‘Goodbye Sorrow’. The diamonds appeared as the girl recognized herself in the animal. She identified with it, became it, wanted to run and hide, find a safe place, follow it down the rabbit hole. I think as children we often have these fantasies, and I use animal imagery in my work a lot. I think it is really up to the viewer to make meaning and interpret the imagery according to their own internal narrative.

Do you know Anna Vogelzang personally?

Yes, we actually met online through a blogging community many many years ago, but have also had the pleasure of meeting in person recently. She is just as charming as one might imagine her to be.

How did you end up collaborating with her on the video?

We had wanted to collaborate for a while, and the timing was just right.

Do you have any new big projects you’re working on?

Yes, I am currently working on an animation to accompany a cover I made of the classic Britney Spears song, “…Baby One More Time”. I think Britney is the quintessential tragic heroine of pop music, and I have such a strong personal connection to this ridiculous tune. The animation will premiere on January 15th at the Spinnerei’s winter Rundgang. For information on this event, check out: http://www.spinnerei.de or head to my website for updates: http://www.katiearmstrong.com

Would you say you live more online or offline?

Offline, for sure. Just because I have an affinity for my computer and my bed doesn’t mean that I spend all of my time on the interwebs! I’m quite keen on riding my bike, reading in sunny spots outside, cooking meals, seeing live music, watching films, and getting down on the dance floor.

Do you have a favorite site you need to go to all the time?

I obsessively refresh my inbox, and I subscribe to hundreds of blogs. I go through periods where I have to delete my Facebook because it just get’s to be too much. I also spend an unhealthy amount of time on this web installation by Rafael Rozendaal: http://www.jellotime.com

Do you have an all time favorite .gif animation?

The great thing about .gifs is that once they are uploaded to the Internet, they begin an infinite animation, they will continue moving forever. What I’m trying to say is, when something is eternal, it seems sort of silly to pick favorites, doesn’t it?

Really though, I have so many favorites. There is a folder on my desktop full of repetitive animated goodness. This one is pretty high up on my list right now: http://iwdrm.tumblr.com/post/1439925923
Check out katiearmstrong.com for more awesomness!

Come check out my other featured artists by clicking here.

One thought on “Katie Armstrong Interview by ADAMHOEK

  1. Pingback: Catching up with Katie Armstrong in Leipzig « The Visual and Critical Studies blog

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