Studio shot of Izzy Thomson painting

My Stop-Motion Animation journey – by Isabelle Thomson

Posted on September 13, 2021

As part of Creative Access’ ongoing partnership with Aardman Animations, Izzy Thomson, was offered a complimentary place on this coveted world-class stop motion course. Here she tells us what she learned and her plans for the future…

I am a painter from the Highlands of Scotland. I grew up in a place called Cromarty, an old fishing town nestled between the hills and sea. I went to Aberdeen, where I gained my BA (Hons) in Painting from Gray’s School of Art. After graduating with a first-class degree, I then went on to complete the Graduate Residency in Leith School of Art, in Edinburgh. After spending time in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, I have since returned to the Highlands and I am currently based in Wasps Studios, Inverness.

My work derives from a love of wild landscapes and storytelling. I have always been captivated by animation and I have had a growing desire to explore the use of one-stop animation within my painting practice since my degree. I am drawn to animation, as a way to make my paintings move and to see how the characters within them might journey through their worlds.

“This opportunity has been challenging, fun and a huge learning curve.”

With funding from Creative Access, I was given the chance to undergo the Aardman Academy’s Stop Motion 1 course and finally explore this curiosity. The course took place online, over a 12-week period and was about one-stop, performance-based animation. It guided us through the principles of animation, each week giving us a progressively harder task to complete, to cleverly build up our skill-base and confidence. These ranged from penny slides to animated idles. This prepared us for making a final film for the graduation screening.

Peppered with fantastic tutorials, talks and workshops, the course was bursting with a generous amount of knowledge and information that I think I will be digesting for a long time to come

The overall ethos was welcoming and relaxed, yet it encouraged a passion for dedication and hard work. This provided the perfect environment to learn from. There was also an online community, which formed a platform for the students and tutors to chat, get to know each other and share ideas. It is a great feeling when you find likeminded people!

The course allowed me to deepen my practice as a visual narrator by further developing my use of one-stop animation within my work and my final project was derived from a painting I had made a couple of years ago.

The access to the use of Dragonframe (the animating software) and the armature by Animation Toolkit (the skeleton that you build up the puppet on) that came with the course, allowed me to immediately put into practice the principles of animation I was taught each week, without having to find the tools to do so.

This opportunity has been challenging, fun and a huge learning curve. I will certainly apply the skills and knowledge I have gained to future projects and continue to develop my use of animation as an extension to my painting practice. I have an upcoming exhibition, for which I am planning to make animations that coexist alongside my paintings – to help me tell stories and bring my world to life.

In the future, I would love to use my animations and storytelling to educate people about ecology, biodiversity loss and the importance of the natural world. Using animation and painting to visually engage and inspire, it is a dream of mine to make work for nature-based charities, to help them promote and rekindle a love for the living world and help to protect it.

For any of you out there at the beginning of your animation journey, I would advise you get a lump of plasticine and a cheap/free app on your mobile (such as Stop Motion Studio) and have a good old play around and make the plasticine move! I would also highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of “The Animator’s Survival Kit” by Richard Williams.

I wouldn’t have been able to complete this course without the help from Creative Access. So, I thank you very much for this marvellous opportunity to grow my creative practice.

You can view Izzy’s animation work here including her final short film The Constant Gardener, created for Aardman on the course.