last fall, i was approached by the folks at MTA Arts & Design about the possibility of creating an art card for the subways. the art card project is a way for the MTA Arts & Design to give daily riders something to look at, among all the hustle, that hopefully makes the ride a bit more enjoyable.
i had recently wrapped up work on a children's book called The Secret Subway so my mind was already steeped in the beginnings of the subway and i wanted to find a way to fold that knowledge into this project as well.
as we started talking about the project, they also asked if i would consider creating a 2 minute stop-motion animation that would run on the 52 screens throughout the Fulton Center. Being that i had recently finished my short animation, Creosote, i knew i had what it would take to pull of an animation of that scale.
Knowing all the work that would go into both projects, i wanted to make sure that i ran them as parallel as possible not only to distribute the workload but also to allow them to compliment each other. wanting folks to see connections between the art card and the animation and how they both add to one another.
The art card pays tribute to both the past and the future of the subway as our hero chases his elusive blowing bowler across the platform and into the future as Alfred Beach encourages him forward.
here are a few close ups of the art card:
here are a few behind the scenes process shots of the project:
most of the set pieces were created with chipboard and wood. the entire project took over 100 #11 x-acto blades. to create the support beams i cut out card board replicas and used 200 pop-rivets.
our vaudevillian inspired hero.
a shot of the tiled backdrop:
the animation had quite a bit more elements to it. i wanted to be able to fold a quick history of the evolutionary design of the subway car, so i researched through all the models and picked out the design i liked visually and still spanned across the past 100 years.
this is from the press release:
“The Blowing Bowler” (2015) depicts a brief history of New York City’s subway car designs as a man pursues his wind-tossed bowler hat in a subway station. As the man follows his hat down a tunnel, a progression of subway cars rolls by representing designs from the Beach Pneumatic Transit Company (1870s), Interborough Rapid Transit Company (1910s), a second generation R-10 car (1940s), a R-15 car (1950s), a car from the 1970s State of the Art Car Program (SOAC), and a more recent R-188 subway car (2013).
In addition to the main minute-long animation, three shorter loops feature comical cat-and-mouse antics in reference to the round-the-clock operations of the New York City Transit system and a ridership that is always on the move.
“We are all chasing something, maybe the chase is more important than the catch. I encourage folks to enjoy the journey,” Sickels said.
here are some behind the scenes from the animation:
the various subway cars were constructed out of cereal boxes and manila folders.
for the scene where the guy chases his hat through the tunnel under the city, i created a series of individual cut out photos in order to accomplish a miniature version of the character that was properly scaled to the miniature subway cars.
here is a motion test using the miniature cut outs mounted onto freestanding, clear, plastic sheets.
to create the growing and shrinking hat i created several sizes of hats out of paper mache.
a special thanks to my son Owen for his assistance throughout the project especially with the animations.
to find out more about the other MTA art cards that will be out this year and those of the past, check out their website.
The work is presented by MTA Arts & Design with technical support from the MTA Multimedia team, Westfield Properties and ANC Sports.