Finally  - actually quite quickly - finished the illustration for the book, although covers/ endpapers are still to be discussed tomorrow. Now that (see last post) was a good challenge and a good deal has been learned. It's useful to work in a different way sometimes, to have different constraints. They can be arbitrary (a film exactly 60 seconds long, a story without words or dialogue, a limited palette) but again, some artbitrary rules are more useful than others. When I was at artschool, systems painting was still going on - and paintings made to a decision process governed by chance (e.g. throw of a die). But I think agency is important. I make art, films, illustrations for trees, because I have something to communicate - a message, a sense, a celebration maybe even an inspiration. Without agency we cannot communicate.
The tree (in the book) is female. The other main characters are also female - which can make for a confusion of pronouns - but is an important element of the story. We (the author and I) did not discuss gender stereotypes or why and in what possible sense could an artificial christmas tree be regarded as female...because we are old friends and it felt like we didn't have to. So the story can become one about empowering girls - not to do anything in particular, but just to be free of the pink-disney princess-or-maybe-its-OK-to-be-sporty stereotype. And to say not "a girl can do anything a boy can do" but yes, a girl can do anything a child can do, including dream. I tried not to give the girlchild a pink anorak, I did. But that was what she wanted to wear. Cerise pink, to clash with her red and purple hat. A character you can believe in has to have the space to make her own decisions in your narrative...which is why you need to push those arbitrary limitations - in your animation as in your life!
UPDATE: New improved girlchild, with more hair and generally looking less like Elmer Fudd. Avoiding gender stereotypes is quite tricky when you have so little detail to play with AND when faced with the audiences default assumption that people are male...

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