Frames, Pencils & Tablets
Ross is an award-winning animation filmmaker from Scotland. His work focuses on creating dexterous, hand-crafted animation using a variety of materials, celebrating the vibrancy and physicality of the medium. We had a chat with Ross to find out how he juggles professional work, personal work and being a Dad.
Fabrik: Thanks so much for chatting with us Ross, we’re huge fans of your portfolio! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started out.
Ross: "Thanks a lot! I’m really pleased you like my work! I didn’t start out with a real plan to become an animation filmmaker. I sort of gravitated towards it when studying illustration at The Glasgow School of Art. I suppose I always knew I wanted to focus on building a career that involved drawing somehow, but I had no fixed idea of how that would look (or if it would be possible). I began teaching myself animation towards the end of my degree and then graduated with two short films, which luckily for me got screened at international short film festivals. That experience introduced me to a whole world of independent animation and short film (and the people who make it), and it’s a world I still try to be a part of as much as I possibly can."
Fabrik: How would you describe your style?
Ross: "I don’t think I have a set style as such. My approach tends to change and respond to each individual project I’m working on. My work is often quite handmade, using traditional animation techniques and, as each project can be quite process led, the work tends to take on different visual languages or aesthetics.
I am really drawn to animation that embraces a sense of physicality or tactility so my work usually tries to celebrate that side of filmmaking whenever possible."
Fabrik: You’ve created work for Scottish music royalty such as Frightened Rabbit & Biffy Clyro, how did that come about?
Ross: "Yeah - they were really fun projects to work on. For the Biffy Clyro video, I worked with a director called Oscar Sansom (Forest of Black). We’d done some work together in the past and had fun, so when this project surfaced during lockdown I knew it would be a fun one to be involved with.
For the Frightened Rabbit video, that came about just via email (I had long admired their work so was pretty taken aback when they got in touch asking to meet about a possible project). We met and discussed possible concepts and ideas for the track - I ended up pitching a vague idea surrounding working with found 16mm home movies and using that as a base to create a loose animated narrative, the obvious issue being that I wouldn’t know what would be on the film rolls until after buying them which was a risk. It was so refreshing to hear Scott, Grant, Andy, Simon and Billy just getting behind it and saying that’s what made the project more exciting. A really unusual sense of freedom when making a music video for such a prominent band."
Fabrik: How do you balance illustration & animation as both a hobby and a profession?
Ross: "That’s a tricky one. I think I tend to get really obsessive about certain things and find them all consuming, and then when they’re finished I try and take breaks to reset. Maybe not the most healthy way of doing things but it feels to me like it might be the only way when the work is as labour intensive. A sort of all or nothing approach. It’s even more tricky at the moment as I work 3 days a week as a lecturer at The Glasgow School of Art and I have a 2 and a half year old daughter who keeps me busy. So finding time to draw/animate for pleasure is extremely challenging. It’s something I’m definitely working on though!"
Fabrik: When it comes to professional work, would you say that you adjust your style to meet client’s needs, or do clients come to you for your style?
Ross: "It’s probably a bit of both. Clients normally contact me in the first instance because they like something I’ve done before, and then I’ll try and adjust and find ways to get the most out of what the idea is. I always like trying new things to keep the process as fresh as I can so it feels worthwhile or valuable."
Fabrik: Do you have a favourite project or series that you’ve worked on?
Ross: "Ohh that’s tough. I think all of the jobs/projects I have on my website are things I really enjoyed working on. I think any project that has been largely self-funded or def-initiated are always really gratifying looking back, purely because of the effort that had to go in to just get it made. The projects that have been collaborations are definitely some of my favourite as you can share that feeling of accomplishment with someone, which is always much more enjoyable and less isolating."
Fabrik: Are you a pencil and paper or a stylus and tablet sort of person?
Ross: "I try to do a bit of both. I used to pretty much solely work on paper and make everything as physically as I could, but after getting a cintiq pro a few years ago I began really enjoying drawing digitally. The whole feeling of drawing digitally became much more immediate and echoed how it feels to draw on paper more closely, which definitely wasn’t the case before as it all felt really detached to me."
Fabrik: What are your plans for the future? Can you give us an insight into any projects that you’re working on or have coming up?
Ross: "I have a new personal short animated film I’ve been working on for a while which I’m keen to get over the line, but getting time to do it between working and running about after my 2 year old daughter (an agent of chaos) is proving extremely difficult! Here’s hoping I can finish it in the not too distant future…"
Fabrik: Final question - What do you like the most about Fabrik? Why did you choose us?
Ross: "It was just so simple to make my content presentable and aesthetically pleasing. Everywhere made me jump through hoops whereas Fabrik seemed like it was all about content first. It's user friendly without making it necessary to have any sort of background when it comes to website building."
Ross uses Poplin, an incredibly versatile and straightforward theme with lots of layout options to help you to find a unique style for your website. With a focus on simple thumbnail grid layouts, creatives with lots of projects will find this theme useful.