Caught by the River

Keith Water

20th June 2020

St Jude’s publishing imprint Random Spectacular recently put out a CD box set revolving around the guitar compositions of printmaker/illustrator Jonathan Gibbs – inspired by time spent travelling through, exploring and living in various parts of the eastern counties of England and Scotland.

During lockdown, Jonathan’s daughter Isabella has been living back with her family, and has used this time to make a stop-frame animation to the track ‘Keith Water’ from the CD. In her own words:

“Making a film for this piece of my father’s music is something that I have been thinking about for a while. I am a self-taught animator, having experimented with making two short stop motion films previously, and was looking for a starting point to make another. So after some discussion, I received an envelope whilst working in Prague containing the music and some of his artwork, to cut up and use to my heart’s content. At this time, I was very busy with my job, and it was difficult for me to focus on the project. A few months later, of course, my job came to an abrupt halt when the virus hit, and so I suddenly found myself back in Scotland with a lot of time on my hands. 

Out of this period of uncertainty, there also came an opportunity. On a tabletop in my room, I created a fantasy world and immersed myself in it for nine weeks. I saw it grow each day, and the characters come to life. The structure of the set comprised of a 2m x 1m stage surrounded by a 1.5m high backdrop which I could remove and film from all sides, making the world appear bigger on camera. While out walking along the banks of Keith Water, I discovered a giant mass of sticks that had been pushed together by the river. This became the main inspiration for the film, and both the models and set are constructed from wood that I collected there. Having made a few characters out of driftwood with my father as a child, this seemed like a fitting direction to go in. I really enjoyed playing around with carving and how the properties of the wood informed the shapes that I could make. The other few materials that I used were those that I already had, including some of the original wood engravings that I was given for the project, which I cut up and collaged into the river bed. 

I borrowed a DSLR camera from my friend, and lit the set with table lamps, blacking out my bedroom window with a sheet. The structure of the film developed throughout the process, as I got to know the characters and the way they moved. Following the mood of the music and the goings on in the world outside, the film became about the passing of time, change and growth. I shot a lot of footage, at 24 frames per second, trying out different things and experimenting, with much of it not being used in the end. The overall process was a journey and became an outlet for many different emotions during this troubling time. The past few months, more than ever, have been full of both confusion and reflection and I suppose the river has been a symbol of reassurance, continuing to flow as life goes on, in one way or another.” 

Watch the animation in full below:

Random Spectacular are busy making up another batch of the East Coast Line boxed set, for which you can express interest here.

You can follow Izzy on Instagram here.