Marcus Armitage

This British animator uses extremes of colour and gesture to explore themes of national identity and personal transformation. 

What are the best and worst aspects of being an animator in 2014?

I wish I knew the answer to this. For me, there aren’t many negatives at the moment, I have been filled with an enthusiasm for creating new work after graduating from the RCA. Everything I do at the moment is a step into the unknown as I have been studying my whole life. It is all I know how to do, so the fact that I can earn money doing what I love is absolutely brilliant, I don’t want to do anything else other than draw, paint, tell stories and animate. The only negative so far is people wanting you to do mad amounts of animation for free, and seeming to think that it is a normal thing to expect.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

At the risk of sounding cheesy, I get it from everything around me. I am very interested in how places change from day to night, or the differences in culture from place to place. Me splitting my time between Yorkshire and London to study provided a lot of the inspiration for my graduating project, My Dad, as I was suddenly exposed to so many different cultures in such a small space.

Visually, I like painters such as Cezanne and the German Expressionists. The brush marks and bizarre colours mixed with the very angular faces and poses.

What are you working on right now?

At the moment I am working on some cut-out animation with my friend Ignatz… All will be revealed soon. It’s a big change from the hand-drawn work but I am really enjoying it and learning lots of new skills along the way. I enjoy trying new ways of working and bringing them back to my storytelling to see what I can do next. I think it’s working really well and we may be doing more cut-out work in the future.

How long does a typical animation take to complete?

I’ll use my latest piece of work, My Dad, as an example, which from concept to final piece took six months. However that was six months of staying up really late, often not going to sleep, and an intense number of workshops and tutorials. A lot of time is usually spent in pre-production, storyboarding and writing scripts. What was different in the way I spent my time on this film was that I skipped a few pre-production stages. I would usually produce an animatic and storyboards, however they weren’t working for me so I went straight into the animation and let that lead the way.

Large oil pastel man

Much of your work so far seems interested in engaging with various aspects of British identity? Is that fair to say and if so, why? 

I am very interested in British culture; it is who I am. As a filmmaker, I want to be able to take observations from around me and bring a new perspective to them. I am particularly interested in change, whether on a personal or on societal scale, such as the issue of inherited racism in Britain. I hope that people will watch my latest film and then see the world around them slightly differently, see the effects of judgments being passed down from generation to generation.  

As Britain is being transformed and the public are becoming increasingly polarised on key issues, the idea of being able to adopt differing perspectives is incredibly important. The film My Dad is based around my experiences of different cultures and how this clash can be positive force as well as a source of conflict.

Your use of colour is very particular – the palette often vibrant, at times even violent. Can you discuss this aspect of your work?  

Having only ever done colour theory at the latter stages of my RCA degree, colour has come to me in a very natural way. I have never been concerned with choosing a colour palette or keeping to rules on three colours that work nicely together. That is not the way the world works. I reflect reality in my colour, especially in My Dad. The clash of bold vibrant colours represents the melting pot of London, big bold signposts all trying to out-do each other, crowds of people with garish England flag prints on their clothing and the police sirens flashing like beacons. I wanted to recreate that feeling of being swamped by every colour imaginable.

I use colour as an extra element to my story telling. Much can be inferred from the decisions you make as to when to use colour and when to use black and white. I use it primarily as an emotional tool. The very violent colours in the protest scene of My Dad evoke the feeling of over-stimulation: at first a sense of wonder but then panic as the crowd begins to change. The world that I see is garish, but I also see a beauty in that. I want colours to create their own tensions.

Though your animations all have a very strong narrative drive, the way you draw or paint attracts attention to the act of mark making itself.. Is there a conscious tension between these two things, the story and the spectacle? 

I enjoy creating the images as much as telling the story, for me they go hand-in-hand. The best stories not only speak narratively but also in terms of their spectacle, the colour and movement. Animation is a place where all the elements of art can fuse together. I love to play with rhythm… I edited my latest film continuously until I felt I had the right tempo, one that evoked a sense of crescendo which can be enjoyed on it’s own terms. 

If you could spend one minute with one person that has had an influence on your work, who would they be and what would you ask them?  

I would like to meet the new owners of Leeds United, a team who have often had a negative effect on my work, especially when we lose. I would like to ask them for a free season ticket.

Where would you like to be in a year’s time?

I want to be in the process of making a new film, and working in the animation industry creating some interesting and engaging work – ideally either music videos or commercials with an aim towards becoming a director. I‘ve got a few ideas for a new short so want that to be well under way. I’m really enjoying creating work at the moment so I want to keep that momentum going.

Large sceneofcrime concept art