GradEx: Crystal Smith on Animation, Shifting Interests & Finding Patterns

Crystal Smith is an illustrator, animator, and motion graphics designer whose practice revolves around the exploration of colour and form in paintings and digital animations. She frequently incorporates patterns into her work. “I love bold colours, geometric shapes, and repeating patterns, and I try to incorporate those elements in my work,” she says. “I’ve also been doing a lot of research on screenwriting techniques to help me improve my storytelling skills.” Smith is currently working towards her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts at OCAD University, and her work will be on display at GradEx this week. 

SDTC: Can you describe what you’ll be presenting at this year’s GradEx?

CS: I’ll be presenting a short animated video titled Memory Swings. Memory Swings is a narrative 2D animation about Alzheimer’s Disease and its effect on familial bonds. The plot focuses on a woman caring for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease.

Walk us through your process to creating a new work. 

The first step is researching the topic. For my animation, I researched Alzheimer’s Disease and its effects on caregivers and patients. The next step is the storyboarding process (figuring out how the narrative will progress and shot composition). Then I draw the characters and backgrounds in Adobe Illustrator and add details and textures to them in Photoshop. The longest part of the process is animating the characters. I animate the characters using Adobe AfterEffects and edit the scenes to match the storyboard. The final compositing of the animation happens in Adobe Premiere, where I sync the audio affects and visuals so that they match perfectly.

How has OCADU helped you develop as an artist?

OCAD University has helped me to find my path as an artist. When I first started at OCADU, I wanted to be a figurative painter but gradually realized that I was more passionate about digital art and animation. I was able to take classes that reflected my interests, and I made friends who shared the same interests as me. There is a great community of artists and designers ready to provide us with positive feedback and support. All of the instructors I’ve had over the course of my program have given me valuable advice. Their honesty during critiques helped me to make stronger pieces, and they introduced me to the contemporary art world.

Fill in the blank. Art is _______. Design is _________.

Art is expression. Design is evolution.

See Crystal Smith’s work in real life this week at GradEx, taking place at OCADU until May 5. Get all the information here.

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