In one of Jessie Brugger’s most haunting, hand-drawn, painted and animated short films to date, the Virgin Mary slips the leaden bonds of a stained glass panel and goes a-roaming.
In numerous films since that early effort, the Auburn native, artist and animator has brought to life charcoal drawings, puppets, clay beasts and common items too numerous and wildly funky to describe, then sat back and delighted in the on-screen antics of the creatures she’d created.
Brugger has come to dig this one medium so fiercely her gray-blue eyes spark when she talks about it, as if ball lighting were rolling about behind them.
“It feels so magical, every time. It’s your own world, you’re master of the universe, and you can create anything; there’s so much freedom,” Brugger said.
This fall, Brugger will be talking a lot about animation when she teaches the first class Green River College has ever offered on the how-to of the art.
“The class is going to involve different techniques – some claymation, some hand-drawn animation and a lot of digital animation. They’ll learn about timing and spacing and basics like that,” Brugger said. “Everybody will be coming from a different place. Personally, I love doing hands-on animation like drawing and claymation, but I think lot of students may not want to do that, they will want to use the computer.”
For the digital doers, the course will provide programs like Photoshop, After Effects, Illustrator, and an editing system called Premier Pro to assemble the films.
Brugger was in graduate school at the New York Academy of Art in Tribeca when she began making small, clay sculptures, which she would place in boxes, then study from all angles, and under shifting lighting conditions to tighten her grasp on perspective. After graduation, Brugger decided to make use of the clay figures, bought herself a stop- motion animation program and began playing around with it.
Being self-taught in animation, Brugger has been a voracious student, well versed in the masters of the art, and has led animation workshops.
“I have been looking at a lot of Joseph Cornell lately, who did a lot of stuff with Greek mythology and the power of myth. He’s somebody a lot of filmmakers look to for telling the story. So, we’ll go through the hero’s journey and storytelling and story-boarding. I’ll show the students all the different techniques, but I’ll let them choose the direction they want to go,” Brugger said.
Brugger landed her dream job by being in the right place at the right time.
“I kind of got lucky with this. There was an art teacher at the college, and I was sitting there when she proposed an animation class. I thought, ‘Man, I would love to teach that class.’”
When the teacher landed a job at a local middle school, GRC faculty approached Brugger with a question: would she like to teach the class? Would she? Would she!?!
“My answer was, ‘Oh, my god, yes!’”
Recognizing that all people have different strengths, Brugger is excited to see what her students create. For their first assignment, Brugger said, her students will create a 30-second-or-so film, and then learn about after-effects, how to make titles and do other complicated things like that.
“I’m personally into making stuff, but I am not a great storyteller. That’s why I love listening to my dad (former Auburn Poet Laureate Dick Brugger). That’s my weakness,” she said. “One cool thing about animation is collaboration. Being a painter, I’ve spent a lot of time in my studio by myself, and this is an opportunity to collaborate. So, you’re really good with music, you over there, you’re good at voice, each person has different strengths. You can be an animator and not draw. If you can take this cup, give it personality and make me care about it, you can do this.”
The class will meet for two hours, three days a week, and for now will only be offered during the fall quarter.
Animation is a tough taskmaster, and it asks a lot of its burgeoning practitioners, Brugger said.
“Animation takes a long time. When you watch an animated clip, you may say, ‘that’s fun, that’s easy.’ But something like 10 seconds of animation can take a whole day or two days. For me, it takes total concentration,” Brugger said.
View her work at jessiebrugger.com.