In 2016 I had the honor of collaborating on an animated music video called Blue Night. It was released on Valentine's Day, and I am so happy it's out in the world!
Elissa Margolin is a lovely and talented singer-songwriter from Portsmouth, NH and as you can see by the video above, she creates enchanting folk music. Her most recent album, Pivot, is her fourth album, and the song Blue Night is the single from it. Elissa approached me at the very end of 2015, saying that she wanted to make an animated music video - her first music video - and would I be able to help? What an opportunity - I couldn't say no! I reached out to the art community and A.J. Smith came on board to do the animation.
Elissa wrote the song Blue Night after reading the book Blue Nights by Joan Didion. The book is fairly dark, as it recounts the grieving process of Didion after the death of her daughter. What Elissa was inspired by, she told me, was the idea that there is beauty in everything. We need to appreciate life, what we have, and the people around us, and her song - more positive in tone - explores this theme with an ethereal and haunting feel.
So to begin the process, I needed a story. I read the book that inspired Elissa, and I'm glad she warned me of its tone, because oh my it was a downer. But it helped me see what Elissa saw, and I loved the descriptions of what Didion named "Blue Nights" - the late summer nights in July and August where everything is cast in blue. I talked to Elissa about her song, and what it meant to her, and she gave me free-reign on the story. I created moodboards on Pinterest, gathering inspirational images - with a lot of blue color - and then I sat down to plan, and sketch, and write.
I came up with the story of a Girl, who at the beginning of the video is separated from her Spirit (sort of like her soul). She goes on a fantastical journey through sky, water, and land, and at the very end (after pushing herself to live life and appreciate what a gift it is) is reunited with her Spirit. Elissa had feedback on the different environments I had the Girl travel though, and Andy (our animator) suggested using a device - which ended up being flowers - that caused the separation to happen and give the journey a bit more sense and meaning. Elissa, in her music, likes when the audience makes their own interpretation of her work, and I took the same attitude in this music video.
The Girl is based on Elissa herself.
I sketched and played and doodled, trying to find the right look for the Girl and Spirit. The Spirit looks just like the Girl, but with the exception of color, and does not wear glasses.
I also played around with location - where exactly did the Girl travel to? It was so much fun to come up with the different scenarios and hoops that I made her jump through along her journey.
I created a storyboard of the video, first starting out with loose thumbnails, and once the details were worked out, moved on to tighter sketches.
At the same time, I thought about color, and came up with our color palette, and did some watercolor character-and-color-studies.
In my next blog post, I'll talk about painting, creating final art, and the animation.
In the meantime, I highly recommend following Elissa Margolin on Facebook to catch her latest news and find out about shows.