Dylan Glynn: After Order, After Disorder, now on view at the Hawn Gallery through March 12th, features animated shorts, digital prints, paintings, and works on paper by Toronto-based artist, Dylan Glynn. In the following interview, Dylan discusses the melding of his animation and painting practices, his vision for this body of work and exhibition, and his diverse artistic influences.
This exhibition showcases a broad selection of works from your wide-ranging practice. The animated films are presented alongside works on paper and canvas in order to highlight the exceptionally unique, painterly quality of your animation work. Can you describe your process for creating animated films and the ways in which it incorporates traditional mediums and practices?
My process for creating animated films has evolved over the years, but I always begin with compositional thumbnail sketches and storyboards. I then create background paintings (often in watercolor) and then digitally drawn over the backgrounds. I then do compositing work, which includes adjusting colors, adding color overlays, and adding after effects. I also work with a sound designer or composer to incorporate any audio into the film.
As such, the aesthetic reconciliation of digital and traditional mediums is something I think extensively about. Over the past few years, I’ve experimented a lot with combining painting and digital mediums; yet I still don’t feel as if I’ve completely mastered a harmony between the two. Ultimately, I am not so interested in trying to bridge any gap by making digital work look like watercolor, or vice versa. Rather, I want each medium to do what it’s good at: for example, watercolor at creating intricate textures that are intrinsically beautiful and the digital at precisely controlling color and creating flat, clean shapes that provide a sense of polish. I have always preferred working with traditional media, particularly watercolor; yet, the practical benefits of the computer, especially for animated shorts, are incredible. After all, animated shorts all end up on the computer, so you ultimately save all of the time it takes to process the physical assets (scanning and color adjusting thousands of drawings and paintings) by drawing directly into the computer.
I strive to produce my work as fluidly and immediately as possible. I want drawing to be like speaking or writing: without hesitation and as a primary method of communication. I’m hoping that by creating my own visual language, my style will be inherently present, regardless of the medium. Therefore, for me, a change in medium would be equivalent to a change in font in a block of text.
The title of the exhibition – After Order, After Disorder – is inspired by Paul Éluard’s 1920 poem, Homme Utile. Both the poem and your body of recent work express a sense of nostalgic longing and cautious optimism for the future. Can you further discuss your vision for this series?
I love how you drew out those parallel themes; it’s a beautiful analysis of the exhibition’s vision. I think the fundamental issue facing humanity right now is our relationship (or lack thereof) with nature. People talk about “environmental issues” in the vein of “We have to save the earth! We are so mean to Mother Earth!” Yet, Mother Earth is so much bigger than us. She was here before us and will still be here after us. It is humanity that we must save, and a relationship with Mother Earth is integral to that. This disconnect with nature is collectively felt by all of humanity. This image of us returning to nature – of humankind, after thousands of years of strife, being welcomed with open arms by the same Mother Nature we have treated so badly – is a beautiful thing, and something I continue to explore.
Narrative is inherent to the practice of film. (After all, even its absence is conspicuous.) What role does narrative play in your animations versus in your paintings or drawings?
There is no definitive divide between my animation works and my paintings and drawings. My approach to storytelling in film is informed by my painting practice. The film, Tree of Life, directed by Terence Malik, has influenced me greatly. This film does not employ the traditional storytelling tools that we are used to. Imagery is the central driving force for the plot. The images are incredibly evocative, poetic, and powerful and they hit you straight in the heart! The paintings that I love and that I strive to create have the same profound effect. I do aim to create clear narratives in my own films. However, the real strength of my films, such as Lost Daughter is the power of the image. Each film can be thought of as a series of tableaux that are strung together to tell an overarching story.
Movement is very strongly addressed by you in this body of work. Can you discuss your early training in formal life drawing and the ways in which it has influenced your subsequent work?
Sheridan College, where I completed my undergraduate degree, focused heavily on figure drawing. This was a unique element of the school’s curriculum: in addition to compulsory figure drawing classes, you could spend all of your evenings in rigorous three-hour figure drawing classes. There is a mythos around figure drawing that suggests that if you can do it skilfully, you can do anything, be it storyboarding, character design, or animation. This, in my mind, is only half true. Yet, I do find figure drawing to be extremely rewarding and beneficial in learning to effectively and accurately capture gesture (i.e. movement, and energy) in the human form.
When I draw the human figure I am interested in strong dynamic gestures. In high school, I was a competitive gymnast. That experience still allows me a strong sense of physicality, which I strive to translate into my work. I feel the poses as I draw them: the way the body stretches and contracts, the muscles that are engaged and relaxed, and the shifting of bodily weight. There is something magical about conveying movement in a static image. Animators are quite literally trained to create drawings that move, and thus, ultimately we develop a mastery for conveying movement.
You completed a two-week artist residency at the Meadows School of the Arts, during which you produced three 4×4 foot paintings that are now on view in the exhibition. What was your experience working onsite and in such a large scale?
The residency was such a joy. Although it was also not without its challenges, in terms of the work I was producing! A fellow artist and illustrator, Emily Hughes had noted that my drawings possessed a strong command of the human figure and suggested that they would translate well into a larger scale. In light of this advice, I set out to create these new larger paintings with an emphasis on movement and gesture. My first painting, Pomelo represented the greatest learning curve, and as such, is the most closely related to my existing work. It is the most carefully drawn and rendered of the three large-scale paintings. But as I progressed, I loosened up. My final painting, In Meadows features loose, confident brushstrokes and is much more improvisational in its composition. I am happy with all three paintings, but I most enjoyed creating Dreaming of Flight and In Meadows, as they more closely reflect the kind of work I’m striving to create right now.
Dylan Glynn: After Order, After Disorder will be on view through March 12th and open during regular Hamon Arts Library hours: M-Th 8 a.m. – 12 a.m., F 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., Sat 12 – 5 p.m., Sun 2 p.m. – 12 a.m. For more information, please call 214-768-3813 or visit www.smu.edu/cul/hamon.
Featured image: Utopia, 18.5 x 24.5 inches, digital print
Video: Lost Daughter by Dylan Glynn on Vimeo
Blog post: Courtesy of Georgia Erger
Images and Video: Courtesy of Dylan Glynn