Jonathan Rosen is an artist and animator whose short films have screened internationally. After graduating from Bard College, he moved to NYC to work as a colorist for independent animator Bill Plympton, completing the feature “Cheatin'” and working on some Simpsons couch gags. He has since relocated to Los Angeles, where he works as a musician and animator. Most recently he has completed music videos for musician Eleanor Friedberger, Toro Y Moi, and his own band Cones.
(Right-click videos to show controls for audio)
Tell us about the work that we’re featuring…
The film ANIMEDITATION, which I made my senior year at Bard College, is my first attempt at animating. I was learning as I went along, and I think it’s clear watching it that I get a little more confident as the film progresses. The film for me is fun to watch because it’s an account of my process of falling in love with the medium. The rest of the pieces featured are these little loops I’ve been making. I’ve recently been trying to create as much content as possible and have been relentlessly creating these loops.
How Does technology affect your photography?
As of this summer, all of my work was drawn on paper with pencil. To capture the images I would either use a camera and an old animation stand, or I would scan the images into photoshop and composite in after effects. A few months ago I invested in a Wacom Cintiq. It’s completely changed my work / life. Projects that would have taken me weeks can now be done in days. I have total control over color choices and line qualities, and I can view the animations as I’m drawing them. I highly recommend this tool for animators. Though I do miss the tactile nature of paper on a lightbox, I don’t miss having to deal with skyscrapers of paper and piles of pencil shavings.
How Does social media affect you and your art?
Personally, I’ve used instagram for a long time, mostly to post dumb stuff that I find funny. A few months ago I made an IG account specifically for my animations (@forbiddencereal). Mostly it is a home for my bizarre loops. It’s helpful for me to see all of them compiled into one place, and something about the immediacy / lack of commitment that short loops provide is perfect for instagram and the community of eyeballs that use it.
I have few short films that I’m developing at the moment. One of them is called Goomax and it’s about a weird abstract life form that lives in a neon sign and takes over a one hour photo every night. I’m making it with Harry Israelson and I believe Chaz from Toro y Moi is going to score it. Currently I am drawing a music video for a song by my new band, which doesn’t have a name yet.
More often than not, what inspires me is not other animation. It’s usually some strange fact that I read, or a song lyric, or a distant memory that creeps up and gets my nostalgia going. When I first moved to LA everything I saw mesmerized me. The soft pastels, the strange stuff people leave on the street, the weird stucco textures on homes, the confusing chemical sunset. The walls of my apartment (which I in fact inherited from a Bosco dude) are painted horribly; the brushstrokes are choppy and clump together to form little accidental faces everywhere. That kind of stuff inspires me.
Through the encouragement of friends, as well as the strong guidance of the late genius Peter Hutton, I decided to try animation. I’d always loved drawing, so it only made sense to try and make the drawings move. The work I completed that year led to my moving to NYC to work for one of my heroes, Bill Plympton. My experience working for Bill, which I consider to be akin to animation school, was very essential to my growth as an artist and a young dude.
The future: I want to keep developing my visual style, sharpening it into something very uniquely my own. I want to make installations wherein these infinitely moving paintings are projected massively, interacting sonically with the images and viewers. I want to keep making music so I can keep animating videos for my songs. Also, if we’re being perfectly honest, I want to win an oscar for best animated short. And best costume design (na, jk).