Sometimes art captures the soul of an artist. What if a piece of art could actually come to life and beat with the Art Beat of its creator? That idea became the inspiration for this story.
roles: concept development • creative direction • illustration
My father-in-law, Lester, was a true artist and renaissance man who enjoyed life to the fullest. His Amsterdam apartment was filled with art and mementos from his many adventures and travels. When he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, I wanted to find a way to honor him. I had just started to learn 3D animation, and my dream was to make an animated short. With Lester as inspiration, I sketched and sketched, and sketched some more!
Once I had the initial story and artwork figured out, I presented it to him. He loved the idea and gave it his blessing.
I connected with a producer in Amsterdam to try and get funding for the project from the Dutch Film Fund. In the end the animation never got made. This was unfortunate, but the process taught me many invaluable lessons. It was an amazing experience to see how far I could take it by myself. And to be able to share it with him.
Lester lives the life of a true artist. From the time he was a boy, he has found inspiration and wonder all around him. After decades of expressing himself through his art, he has come to the end of his life. And that is where this story begins.
I pictured Lester’s attic as a cool artist's lair. Lots of light coming in through big windows. Cozy and warm with candles and colored lights. Music playing. Painting tools coming alive with excitement as Lester starts a new piece.
It’s here in his studio that Lester receives the message that his time is up. He receives a pop-up card that shows him being pulled into an exit.
Lester is an old artist who lives on Half Heart Rock. There’s a knock on the door. It’s Lefty, a helping hand who delivers a pop-up card illustrating that Lester’s time is up.
Lefty gestures to the exit door that appears across the garden. It has an illuminated neon heart on top that beats as irregular as Lester’s heart is beating. It is time to move towards The Exit.
In the middle of the garden they stop at an easel. A marker hovers in front of it. Is this Lester’s chance to make his art live on? He reflects on his life as he looks at the blank canvas. Love has always been his greatest source of inspiration. Inspired, he puts his heart and soul into this last work of art.
Once the piece is done, the exit door opens. Lester goes through it and the heartbeat stops. The light dims. Faint beats begin to emerge from the painting. They are Lester’s Art Beats. Lefty captures them in one of the balloons attached to the pop-up card. An outline of Lester’s drawing appears on it.
Lefty flies to the Museum of Living Art (the M.O.L.A.) It is here that art captures the true soul of its creators. Lefty snaps his fingers and the illustration pops off the balloon into a sculpture. Lester’s Art Beat beats softly inside. If you put your ear to the sculpture, you can still hear the beats.
I loved designing Lester’s house, particularly the attic. I pictured where he would paint, eat and sleep. It was a great imaginary place to get lost in for a while.
Initially I designed Lester’s house shaped as a heart, but it felt as if I was pushing the symbolism a bit too much. Instead, I built his house straight into Half Heart Rock. Still symbolic! But in a way that felt more natural.
The garden also became a big part of the overall design. It’s where The Exit appears and where Lester draws his last work of art. He loves tending to his garden and watching the sunsets. And how does he get to and from his house? He takes the Upway!
Designing this world was a special treat for me. I wanted to give some European flair to the buildings, mixed with details of Dutch architecture. Elements of farmhouses and windmills for example. The landscape is a harmonious mix of different types of nature found throughout Europe. Together, it makes for a wonderful place to live in.
EARLY WORLD DESIGN
In the initial story draft, Lester’s world was made up of fragments from places he lived in in his past and present. Born in New York, he moved to Spain, eventually settling down in Amsterdam. I broke down and reconstructed these places to look like game levels. Lester was going to travel to each place by using the Upway to end up at The Exit in Amsterdam. The story became much too complicated and I changed it dramatically. I removed the separate world locations and designed the world you saw above instead.