My work addresses the sociological, hierarchical structures in body-image and perfectionism. In my research of fad-diets, I discovered Helen Gurley Brown, Editor-in-Chief of Cosmopolitan magazine from 1965-1997. Brown was a central figure in the feminist ideology of her time and was a self-described feminist; however, she possessed a deep fear of nourishing her body. She serves as a symbol in my work when addressing womanhood, food issues, and body-image disturbances as they relate to societal pressure. Helen serves as a metaphor in my work; she is always in flux and serves as a symbol of beliefs and constraints. Through my work on Brown, I came to the realization that she is not a singular person but a person who exists within us all. My general methodology focuses on insights that my previous work about Helen Gurley provided while not focusing completely on her. 

 

I structure my work around a singular moment that has no defining spot on a pre-conceived timeline. I start with a sketch, allow the sketch to grow and become fully animated before deciding if it’s place is before or after the next event. My process lends itself to unconscious realizations allowing the plot to be a sequence of main events that are loosely tied together like a dream and form narratives that operate in the abstract, allowing the viewer to finish the story by questioning how the visual metaphors surrounding issues of perfection, bodies and control fit into their own personal experience.

 

I rarely use a storyboard and instead work frame to frame. I address my themes using hand-drawn animation (digital and non-digital methods) layered with textures and motion graphics in After Effects, showing women as they contemplate the meaning of their bodies via the push and pull of traditional and digital methods in animation. This lends to a deeper sensory experience. The flawed drawings coupled with a digitized space allow for a wide spectrum of experience to unfold. My work provides a less dichotomous, less rigid view of ideas and beliefs regarding the concepts of perfection in hand-drawn animation and societies perception of an ideal human body. I find the human experience, and specifically the female experience, to be one stifled by perfectionistic standards and ideals, and I find classic methods of animation to be burdened with the same idealistic and narrow framework.

As an undergrad in December of 2020, I began teaching myself animation. I

found that my lack of experience and knowledge gave me a new freedom to propel my ideas surrounding body-acceptance further. The simple act of allowing my animations to exist on a spectrum of “flawed” and “perfect” allowed my concepts to unfold with more depth and vulnerability. This ‘spectrum’ became a new element of expression in and of itself. Thus, my work showcases a contrast between careful, regimented drawing and drawing that comes from a more intuitive place, characterized by less planning and the existence of characters who often times do not stay on model. They are part of worlds that display an ironic sense of control while simultaneously finding freedom. I push for my worlds to be in constant motion, symbolizing the constant change and anxiety that is ever-present in my story line and characters’ minds. 

Without relying on a carefully outlined storyboard, I operate from a place of discovery that allows for self-trust and surprise to take precedence over perfection. It becomes less about the objectification of creating perfect images in motion and more about the depth in which the art is allowed to exist. Lately, I have considered how these issues may fit into a space or narrative that is magical, horrific, or supernatural. There is something about the need to control, the ability to let go, and the inability to do the same which is central to the pillars of how I animate. 

Danielle Nicole