Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Last Days at Pratt

(Title Card for Breadheads)

The grey sludge was slick enough to declare the roads unsafe. We got the day off from classes. Sloshing through Ft. Green felt like crossing a basement flooded with frozen mop water. A bustling, wood stove charm inside the BBQ restaurant provided a few minutes calm before the nerves set in. My film was in its final stretch, and I used the free time for some feedback from a professional I’d once had a pleasant few beers with. The weather had also grounded the plane of my Professional’s old friend, an artist from California who I very much admired. I watched passersby from the cabin porch style interior and practiced casual segways in my head. They arrived, ordered food, and I transitioned the laptop onto the table less smoothly than I had planned. Two ear buds among four ears, one annoyingly attentive waiter, and the many passing dozens through warm space on a cold day all conspired to distract during the four minute space of my unfinished film. The viewing ambiance was less than ideal; they tore my film apart. The Californian even received a plane alert a few sentences into my lashing; he disappeared before we got to the constructive part. I walked home feeling like static, and the wind carried a rising current of sleet into my back.

(Sketchbook Page)

Weeks later it was still sleeting. The storm gained strength by robbing the collective student body of it’s enthusiasm. Ritual kept me sane, I can’t speak for anybody else. The paint stained floors creaked with the parade of student exit at 12:15 Fridays. Steve and I smelled of terpenoid and thick, aged oil paints when we stood outside Jared’s townhouse window throwing tiny rocks. Three flights up our insomniac would try to hide inside his slanted attic room from the harsh irregular clicks against his window. But we’d always win; we’d count the growing collection of 20oz red bull cans tacked his walls while he got dressed. I’ve talked on John’s dinner before. A divey corner spot, with a 2x4 of walking space between stuffed booths and a full counter. If you knew how to work the menu, Frankie could hook you up with the full works for under 5 bucks- an omelette, some coffee, grits, sausage and toast. You could leave with your insides warm enough to make up for your outsides. That was the spot. Every Friday we’d sink sleepy Jared low into the quicksand booths and own the privacy of a conversation hidden among so much ambient clatter. Each week Jared brought more of a zombie to lunch, and Steve collected stress. I kept my head down and barreled forward. This was not a fun semester for us; but at least there was something small to keep us reaching for Friday.

(Steve, Jared, and I pantomiming choking for a forgotten project.)

(Sketchbook page- a result of a semester long fascination with greasers.)

Most days started with a 9:20 alarm for 9:30 class. It took me 7 minutes at full trot to get from my bed to my studio and vice versa. My studio closed at 3, and my days ended at 3:09am. So went the semester, a geometric grid of tight schedules and unbudging numbers. I drifted home afloat the scent of sleep one night, tunnel vision cropping the embers of catastrophe to my right . At 9:20 the next day, I window checked the weather to see if it was miserably cold or bitterly cold. My campus view saluted Main Building, a Romanesque Revival tower arisen from the flat brick walkways below. I noticed a crater in that  9:30 class of mine. A scorched, smoking hole inlaid the facade of Main like a gunshot wound. My late night float was moments too soon for the picture party, but Facebook filled me in. We painted in a wooden lean-to along end of the basketball courts for the rest of the semester.

A sack of change has been swelling in my closet since high school. It lived in a tin canister until it outgrew its cage, and is currently occupying triple-baged shopping sacks. Even still, its a long way off from Cintiq money. A Cintiq is a professional piece of artistic equipment, a giant computer monitor with a pressure sensitive screen which one draws directly onto. I told myself that was the reward and object of my eventual savings. Hovering around two thousand for a new model, I thought I'd have to transfer the change to a bathtub before that day arrived. One frozen 9:30, a friend tipped me off to a craigslist seller advertising an undamaged, full size model for seven hundred dollars. The serendipitous fact that my non-emergency bank account had just passed that landmark sent me into serious consideration. Holidays, birthdays, the RA job, art sales, tutoring, and a miser's attention to my bank account had given me some wiggle room. It was too fortuitous not to investigate. This is where things got hairy. The online add stated:  

" Inquires: (temporary, untraceable email), 
Money on arrival"

After a furtive and borderline inhuman email exchange, my intrigue demanded investigation. What the heck, I'd even bring the cash on the off chance this unnamed, unlisted NYC craigslist electronics peddler ended up being a legitimate, non-murderous businessperson. A time was set, but despite the previously prompt exchange, the location was a lingering mystery. They seemed to be controlling the parameters of our meeting with a last minute location drop. I forwarded the email chain to a friend on the way out the door so the police would know where to look for my body. Against the clock I arrived early, not at the back alley promised by imagination, but at the heavy glass doors of a Manhattan sky scraper. Cross the marble lobby I incriminated myself with the vagaries of what I understood my business there to be. I talked my way into appearing a computer thief when unable to give a specific name or explain what a Cintiq was to the security staff. Outside I observed a fortunately timed change of shift for the watch-people. I then explained the purpose of my loitering with empty luggage to an entering office employee. After signing me in, the kindly, irresponsibly unquestioning businesswoman and myself parted ways in the elevator. On floor seventeen I found entry through frosted tap access glass doors on the backs of lunchtime returners. A stylish but generic office lobby offered panoramic views of lower Manhattan and incurious workers. Cautious probing revealed occupations so vague as to be instantly forgotten. The investigated where uncharacteristically friendly to the unexplained stranger in their guarded office building, even asking if I had a resume to put on file. After several minutes, it became clear that no one had any knowledge of a Cintiq sale. My appointment time had passed, and it seemed I had wandered into the wrong building. I stalled for information as long as I could, then stood up, prepared to leave. I thanked everyone for their time just before someone mentioned "Mike." "Mike might be selling something- he's the tech guy." Our attention shifted toward the back of that long office, where Mike was already facing us, shaving a carrot onto the carpet with a huge kitchen knife. He summoned me with a nod and disappeared around a corner. Mike was imposing, and high strung. Fast, aggressive cadences and a neatly ironed demeanor made Mike seem more a Wall Street hot shot than a computer technician. He grilled me on why I didn't call, and why in the world I came in through the front. To the man who had set up a temporary, unlisted email address, I explained that I was unable to get in contact with him. He was satisfied, even pleased with the answer as we entered a windowless computer storeroom. Perhaps the most unexpected turn was the perfect condition of the Cintiq. Money exchanged hands, and Mike offered to throw in a robotic arm for two hundred extra dollars. Turning down whatever a robotic arm entails, I began to wheel my suitcase out the way I'd come. Mike blocked my path laughing, and directed my to what appeared an unused freight elevator. Deposited onto the adjacent block through a stained, one way iron door, I shuffled home, baffled, one Cintiq richer.
(My Cintiq setup as it currently exits in Los Angeles)

All those general education classes you’d expect to skip in art school- your Sciences and Humanities and Histories and Phys Eds- I saved them all for dessert. The time not spent obsessively perfecting the final touches of my film was spent sketching through Environmental Science lectures. The illustrations decorating the space between these paragraphs were born from this daydreaming.

(Swirl Girl)

Monotony, bad weather, and sleep deprivation did little to damper that eventual downhill glee of getting ahead of schedule on my film. My buddy RT and company arrived over spring break. There was time even to enjoy my so called vacation for the first time in years. A long overdue visit to the famous Katz deli provided sandwiches taller than they were wide, and unique old New York ambiance. There were crowded pool halls full of smoke and jazz, and dark bar mazes leading to mountainous nachos. You will be missed, Brooklyn Public House. Checklists crossed for old favorites and new, I was ready to face the final sprint of my educational career.

We rounded up a puppet class. The professor said she’d teach that semester if we found 10 students. Fifteen or so buddy emails and one surprisingly easy sell later, 3 credits a week were dedicated to giving string puppets bad British accents. There was ever the lingering question of the final. We slid the final piece of newly furnished student union furniture into an ovular Colosseum arrangement surrounding the stage. Early arrivals began to dot the edges of the auditorium and linger near the outer orbit. Our chorus line of giant noses squared away last minute choreography behind the narrow backstage curtain as the auditorium began to buzz with a blooming student body.The department had sprung for a decent budget; the poster campaign combined with the promise of post-show pizza delivered an unexpected crowd. Now there was something to be nervous about.

It was quite the performance, climaxing in the knockout but un-photographed final number. Its 
memory lives on only through Pratt legend.

Lush, patterned carpet, thick and yielding like grass, gave way to floods of student footsteps. Geometric gold trimmings danced patterns sky high overhead. I waited sheepishly in Radio City Music Hall’s lobby costumed as a graduate. Other than the impressive setting there wasn't much to be said for graduation. Four years I wouldn't change were spread before me. Yet, they were nothing if not grueling and painful. My goodbyes to this city and Institution were long overdue, and my change of scene soon approaching.

The final cut of my senior film awaits below. Understand before watching that my intention was to craft a tone the furthest from the animation norm as possible. The polar opposite of the market cliche seemed to play in waters cerebral and macabre, which conveniently reflected my emotional experience at the time. It is a shaky tower built on countless thousands of my own drawings; it is a work composed entirely by me. Despite a title card prematurely painted, even the sound was painstakingly learned and applied by me in the final hours of the project. (I didn’t have the heart to throw out the already painted card when my sound designer dropped out). I recognize the film's inaccessibility and even seeming randomness, but I encourage you to pose any questions you may have about artistic intentions. I ensure you everything is in place for a reason- I hope in the future to make my works more clear and enjoyable to a general audience. You will also find an artist’s statement in the description on youtube which may well clear up thematic questions. So to prove the film has merit outside the pretentiousness of art school, I will say that it has been popularly featured across online forums, accumulating hundreds of thousands of views in its combined appearances. Below also are the  film festival awards and selections at the date of this post. Without further delay, I proudly present, Breadheads:

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