Tell us about yourself: how would you describe what you do and your current practice?
I am an illustrator with a background in architectural and interior design. However, I have always loved drawing stories and, for as long as I can remember, my art was depicting action or ‘something happening’. I love urban sketching and observing mundane scenes which I then spice up with a story; I rarely let reality get in the way of a weird visual and most of my work starts with a physical place that I have seen or drawn while out and about. Although my practice relies on drawing static scenes, I always envisage them as moving images for the end product. I’d say that my stuff lies between still image and full-on motion: I like to let the person looking at my work fill in the blanks in between!
In your own words, could you tell everyone on Voice Magazine a little about your short film and what inspired you to make it? How did the idea for Songs of the City come about?
The idea for Songs of the City came from my final book illustration masters project. Originally, I had a ton of drawings of Manchester which I had done while out and about in the city. I was listening to a lot of minimal and contemporary jazz around the time and that stuff became a soundtrack to a narrative that I was starting to see in my sketches.
The animation is beautifully drawn in the style of inks and watercolours. What was it like to work with this medium and how did you find the process of using this style of art/animation within the film?
I have always been slightly old-fashioned and preferred ink over digital tools. I use Procreate to edit and enhance my work, but the basis of my drawings lives in sketchbooks. Drawing by hand always surprises you and the fact that you can make irrevocable mistakes in ink is something I strangely enjoy. When it came to animating the work we had to consider the textures I had been using in order to make the work preserve its character. Arcus Animation who produced the animation were brilliant and worked with me all the way through to still convey the hand-drawn-ness of the art.
What inspired you to have a blackbird as your protagonist?
During the time I was drawing the artwork I read an article about the disappearance of bird song in cities in a scientific journal and suddenly it all came together: I decided to use my favourite song bird, the blackbird, as a way of exploring Manchester and its noise. I find blackbirds fascinating because of the range of melodies they sing and their shape is really lovely to convey in ink!
What was your role in making this short film? How did you find the film-making process?
I took on a director’s role in the production of the film. The material was mostly there, so the job was to make sure that we preserved the essence of the book and fit it into a 3-minute film. This was perhaps the hardest part because each place I had drawn was an important pit-stop in the journey. At the same time, having a strict time limit is a good way of really forcing you to make sense of what you are actually trying to say, rather than offering up an overwhelming selection of artwork. I had a sound designer based in Belgium whom I provided with some street recordings (the Manchester tram, for example) and a brilliant composer and friend, Robin Dewhurst – they both understood the concept and did it justice. The opening shot of me painting the ink blob onto paper was something I wanted in the film because it conveyed the idea of the work being rooted in reality: an artist painting on paper and letting the marks take the viewer away.
The film is very observational about Mancunian life and features some key Manchester landmarks. Can you describe how this sense of place and architecture influenced or informed your work?
Manchester is a fascinating place: there is lots of really impressive architecture, but there are also parts of it which look like the cramped back streets of New York. It is a very eclectic visual mix. While the film nods to a lot of familiar Mancunian places, I think it also has an overall appeal on a universal level: all big cities have a cathedral, a library, a back alley with bins, a town hall, and a tram system. Manchester models this image well because it is so quirky!
Songs of the City shows a journey and an exploration, how do you relate to this journey? What observational research or personal experiences went into making this short film?
Being an urban sketcher forces you to sit and draw what is in front of you without any prior preparation; you cannot control the scene, so you just let it happen. My personal experience of Manchester is mostly through sketching, looking, listening to local music and absorbing all of this. I love architecture and drawing it. I also love the more grunge-y aspects of it and I tend to romanticise these in my work.
What ideas or messages do you hope viewers will take away with them after they have watched Songs of the City?
Hopefully anyone watching the animation will be inspired to listen out for birdsong and look more intently at things around them. I think that you can find interesting stuff everywhere. Not very often do we walk down the street and look above eye level, even though we should – there is so much above eye level! I would also like to inspire people to take a journey through their city and just take it all in!
What’s next for you?
In terms of this project, Arcus Animation and I are hoping to take Songs of the City into a VR Dome next. I also have another VR concept for which I am hoping to secure funding for in partnership with Arcus.
In the meantime, I have started learning animation more in-depth and am now producing bi-monthly animation title sequences for a group of musicians under the guise of Songs I Want To Play. Next year, I also plan on making a full animated short/jazz music video. I am excited about making more films, really, so just taking each day at a time!
Do you have a website or social media information you would like to share or anything additional you would like to promote?
I love Instagram for its simplicity for sharing visuals – I tend to post lots of stuff there under the username @adelinacourt. My website also has my full portfolio, so do check it out: www.adelinacourt.co.uk!
New Creatives is supported by Arts Council England and BBC Arts.