Interview with Zdenko Basic, part 2: A word or two on material tangibility

October 20, 2010

This is the second part of the interview with Zdenko Basic… Read the first part here: Scopes of lucidity in illustration and animation


Photo of Z. Basic by Filip Filkovic Philatz (c)

Could you please describe me a little bit your working processes when you work on some illustration and animation… What’s the difference between those two processes?

ZB: I don’t’ see between those two media such a huge difference, except in the idea itself. It’s a question whether I’m going to be satisfied, because the book handles one particular dimension of time continuum. When you browse the book, you can come back to previous pages and so, and that’s the element of exploring everything that the book is offering to the reader / viewer. Sometimes I can express myself through the book, and sometimes I need to go further to explore the story.

For instance with Gulliver, you had like really long period of incubating the idea, but how the whole working process looks like in completely practical aspect?

ZB: Firstly, the thing that I’m doing a lot while the story is arising is taking lots of photographs. I’m photographing some elements in which I can recognize the idea I had previously in my mind. Then I’m working slowly on the puppet. Sometimes I don’t even start from the puppet, but according to discovering motifs in the process. I use them all together to build everything, with this sort of process, eventually everything else will fall into its place. This is the phase of making the story board, but during the preparations I’m slowly entering into whole unity: discovering ways I’m going to use to elaborate the story, time and tempo.


Angel by Zdenko Basic (c)
Photo by _Sanja_ taken from flickr

After that, I’m starting to use concrete materials and puppets. I don’t know how it goes with other animators, but for me, the storyboard has to be very, very precise, all in details. I already have all colours and its use completely elaborated, as well as photographs and the puppet. Absolutely all segments have to be here.

Even the puppet, when it’s photographed has the visual look and the scope of the final result – and that’s the film. I’m trying to be very concrete in these phases, for myself primarily, and later on because of all people I’m planning to collaborate with.


Zdenko Basic (c)

In animation you need a strong team work and complete understanding of the theme.

Whilst the illustration gives you enough space to be with yourself in the working phase in order to consolidate the story you want to tell. In animation you have to understand other people, too.


From ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Zdenko Basic (c)

Yeah, making compromises…

ZB: Compromises and mutual understanding, because immediately when you invite someone to work with, you gave the possibility to this person to upgrade your work. Actually, I think that’s brilliant because I can make sort of detachment from myself and this other person can make detachment from her/himself. In that way we can make some new ways of development.

Have you ever thought of publishing your storyboards as an additional material to your DVD’s or as a comic book?

ZB: The storyboard itself won’t be published with the Gulliver DVD, because technically it’s not designed in a way I would like to use it as an additional book. But I’m reconsidering now the idea of making a picture book like a story that goes along with the film, but created from another perspective, and that’s the perspective of the Lilliputians with different introduction to the story.

Oh, it’s another work that goes parallel…

ZB: Actually, another work that would tell the same story.


Elf from Snow Story by Zdenko Basic (c)

Besides Tim Burton, what other artists did influence you?

ZB: Maybe I’m not even aware if and in what extend something has influenced me. As for the animation, that was Yuriy Norshteyn and the Russian animation. I like this Russian precision and their will for fineness and the atmosphere in the film.

Tim Burton was a real trigger on a personal level, because I decided to experiment with puppets while I was still in high school. That had been a period when I kept my focus more on drawings and illustration; and immediately afterwards I’ve felt that I really must do something with the third dimension.

Of course, I find very interesting cinema during German expressionism, Romanticism in visual arts, and lots of things, I can’t say concretely now. It’s something I simply recognize as something personal in these artworks.


And what about the music and sound in your work? Your work is rather atmospheric, you know…

ZB: Yes, music is very important to me! I would say that music is sort of the second part of the film. On Gulliver I had an opportunity to collaborate with the composer Anita Andreis. When she composed the music, afterwards I was able to see the other part of my own film that had been till then unfathomable even to me.

So, I can say that then the film got in a way its very own body. This is something that carries its part in the editing phase, because in animation, music sort of sets the pace. I think that’s a remarkable juncture. Music in general had always been my inspiration. Just like you have mentioned, it’s about the atmosphere…


From Guliver by Z. Basic (c)

What about influences in literature?

ZB: Fairy tales! This is something I’m constantly coming back to, every time. Somehow it happens that my tasks are constantly coming back to me, so now I’m working on Snow Queen for the third time with the new publisher and a new approach to the topic. This is something that makes me happy.

You are well known at the international illustration scene, your work has been recognized by some major publishers. It’s obviously a result of a hard work… Can you tell me something about your beginnings?

ZB: Well, everything started so natural. I had a portfolio with works I did for Croatian publishers when I graduated at the Art Academy. So, one day I simply decided to send it to some international publishers, and then they contacted me with their offers.

It’s very hard to live only from illustration on domestic publishing market… I remember that comic book artist Esad Ribic said to me similar thing two years ago…

ZB: You can live only by doing illustration, but it’s a question of compromise, will you accept the terms offered by publishers here? I got impression from my own experience that publishers like to exploit young illustrators, especially their lack of experience. Of course, there are some exceptions and there are some really professional publishers…


Heads by Zdenko Basic (c)
Photo by _Sanja_ taken from flickr

Yeah, there is no business culture…

ZB: Yeah! It’s much conditioned due to characteristics of our reading circle, because it’s not a big market and these facts may be rather restrictive.

What do you think, in what direction will you go with your animation in the future? What would you like to try out within this media?

ZB: Actually, this 3D element began to interest me, but in a way that it offers a connection with the old school techniques, I mean classical techniques in animation and painting. I believe this is a scope where I’m going to try completely new approach. I took aquarelle as a basis, but with different objects included.

I want aquarelle’s fineness and its dissemination in the water as a part of the painting process, and then to try to render it with 3D technique – using objects and photography to get this impression of transparency and dissemination. But to catch it before the painting dries, so I can within this process, get something new by using another technique.


From Guliver by Z. Basic (c)

During 1990’s 3D and illustration exploded… but then people decided to get back to basics, and now there is a lot of use of vintage and hand made elements in illustration and animation… seems like lo-fi techniques are getting again attention and new re-reading…

ZB: I don’t think they had ever lost their value, at least in some circles. It was simply very trendy in one moment. I got that an impression that was only a sort of need for experimenting. But classical techniques can’t be lost. I was once asked if the printed book will be lost. That’s not possible, really. There are moments when you need a book, and moments to watch a movie.


Z. Basic in his spare time playin’ with some liquid toyz
From Z. Basic’s  private album

Are you by chance interested in interactive thingz? Stuff for iPhone & iPad & iPod… and similar platforms like tablets… Something that doesn’t include animation exclusively, but programming and so…

ZB: That’s interesting. Recently I’ve started to look at iPad, because it offers the possibility of the finest graphics, high quality image and the interactivity. Basically, what I find interesting is to connect music, movements, personal impression leaving something to the third person – the audience that may by reading it simply play with its imagination.

That’s interesting in your work… You don’t like to finish the story, but to leave at least one road for the viewers to have their own space within your imagination…

ZB: Yes, yes! That’s especially noticeable in Gulliver. I don’t like to finish the story, I like letting it out in a way for some new interpretations, for some new stories to arise.


Butterfly by Z. Basic (c)

You have experiences with stage and costume design for a fantasy theater…

ZB: Yeah, I work with a theatre troupe called Merlin. I want to explore how different materials, fabrics and my puppets function in theatre space. This is my main drive.  I’m interested in how these textures work in different spaces and under different conditions. What kind of objects and shapes I can get in real space? So, I’m coming back again to what I said at the beginning, disintegration of the material and its transiency.

Zdenko, thanks a lot!

Scopes of lucidity in illustration and animation

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