Lizzy Hobbs at London Animation Club, 6th January 2015

Lizzy with one of her artist's books
Lizzy with one of her artist’s books

Our first guest of 2015 was Lizzy Hobbs, whose work I first saw at Animafest Zagreb 2006 with The True Story Of Sawney Beane (2005), a beautiful folk story of a 16th century Scottish cannibal. I was lucky enough to see it on a 35mm print and the effect was devastating. The texture of each image is as arresting as the story it tells, with all the rubbings out and redrawings building up a trail that follows each character like a ghost as they walk across the screen. It was an ambitious film and produced in Montreal with the National Film Board of Canada.

A still from The True Story Of Sawney Beane.
A still from The True Story Of Sawney Beane.

Two years later I saw The Old, Old, Very Old Man (2007), again at Animafest Zagreb: a far more minimal film in which blobs of blue ink dance on a single ceramic style and tell another historical story, this time of the oldest man in England. It is a much more intimate film – so much is told with so little – yet it is easily the peer of its predecessor; and it seems apt that a film made on a single ceramic tile should have been made in Lizzy’s bathroom studio.

Lizzy with Matt Lais at Ottawa International Animation Festival last September
Lizzy with Mait Laas at OIAF 2014.

Last year at the Ottawa International Animation Festival, I saw Lizzy’s latest film Imperial Provisor Frombald (2013), in which she had actually carved her own rubber stamps to stamp the animation directly onto strips of 35mm film. Her filmmaking clearly comes from a love of working directly with materials (as well as her choice of eclectic historical mysteries), so it was no surprise to discover that her background was in printmaking and making artists’ books.

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Some frames from Imperial Provisor Frombald (2013) showing images stamped directly onto the film. The fingers – to show the scale – are mine.
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Some of Lizzy’s hand-carved rubber stamps.
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LAC regulars Stuart Pound and Rosemary Norman examine the minutiae of Lizzy’s craft.

Lizzy started by showing some of her artists’ books whose drawings seemed to anticipate her animations.

Then she showed some films:

1. Glenda

2. Overexcited

These two early films were made at Edinburgh Video Access Centre, when Lizzy had access to a rostrum camera and some Fuzzy Felt.

3. Last Regret Of The Grim Reaper (1999). This film was made while Lizzy was a student at Dundee and is the film in which her “trails’ style begins. She sent Reaper to Animate!, which led to her making her next film for this scheme.

4. The Emperor (2001). The story of Napoleon’s pickled private parts which uses a more advanced watercolour style. The Waltz scene in particular is exquisite. Lizzy told us that she had to do up to seven goes on each scene before she got it right. This is Lizzy’s favourite of her films.

The Waltz scene I liked so much.
The Waltz scene from The Emperor.

5. The True Story Of Sawney Beane (2005). Thus was funded by the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal and made in the Caroline Leaf studio. Apparently Lizzy was working on this film until the week before she gave birth. This film is unavailable online as the copyright shared between the NFB and Red Kite Productions.

6. Little Skipper (2010). This film marks a kind of return to artist’s books and was included in Volume 4 of Kerry Baldry’s touring programmes of One Minute artists’ films and videos.

7. The Old, Old, Very Old Man (2007). From here on Lizzy started making films on her own in her spare bathroom. All voices were provided by Edward Fox, whom Lizzy had for only twenty minutes in the studio: he did all the voices in two goes!

8. Imperial Provisor Frombald (2013). A commission for Random Acts on Channel 4 and Animate Projects. She made 800 hand-carved rubber stamps to stamp the images onto clear 35mm film, which she then scanned. It took six months of working every day to make it! Interestingly, although Lizzy’s recent films are all made using traditional craft skills with no digital compositing, they are all digital films apart from The True Story Of Sawney Beane.

BREAK

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After the break, Lizzy described how she runs animation workshops (she has done over two-hundred of them at schools) and teaches at Anglia Ruskin University to make a living. She showed some of her workshop films and some commissions for the singer KT Tunstall.

9. The Nature of Bow (2003). A collaboration with the Bow Art Group. The members made a series of drawings of birds from a walk along a canal and Lizzy made did the in-betweens.

10. Our House (2014). It is base upon interviews with young people about their experience of living in care homes and uses live-action footage printed onto paper then painted and refilmed.

11. Come On, Get In (2013). A film for the single by KT Tunstall, who asked Lizzy to work on the live-action material, which she did by making prints of all the frames, cutting them out and drawing over them on cel. It took a year to do.

And we finished with

12. The Filing Of The Fangs (2010). A rare hand-drawn film which tells how KT Tunstall was taken to the dentist as a child to have her canines filed down, after she bit another girl at school.

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Years ago I sat next to Lizzy at a screening at no.w.here lab. I was just about to become a parent for the first time and was very worried. Lizzy told me that having two children was even better than one, so I thought to myself, if she can produce an amazing body of work whilst having two children, then there is hope for me. I now have two children of my own and remember her advice in the dark days of no sleep – and it really helps.

Anyway, at this London Animation Club we had a very healthy audience of thirty people – very good for a weekday evening in early January.

Thank you again to Lizzy for a fascinating evening and lots of marvellous films.

London Animation Club returns on Tuesday 3rd February with a mystery guest…

See you there.

Love from Martin

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