Michael Aubtin Madadi

Working with cels

Michael Abutin Madadi, born in London of Iranian origins, is currently living and working in Tokyo. He has spent a year and a half drawing and animating “Sefton’s Dream”. To create this lovely animation, he used ink, acetate and a vintage SEGA board video game from 1985. During this year and a half, he accumulated over 1500 acetate image cels which he now sells on his website. 

Michael has an MA in Communication Design from Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, having previously studied Illustration at University of Westminster. His animations have been shown at  international film festivals, and screened in galleries and film festivals around the UK.  Michael is also a devoted comic-book artist and has put together several Graphic Novels including  the short story “Starfields”.

There seems to be a studied balance between Digital and Analog in your animations. What is the process behind your work? Do you begin with hand drawings and then rely on digital techniques at a later stage?

The thing I like most about animation is drawing so the basic process for all my animations is pretty much the same; drawn and inked images photographed frame-by-frame with a digital camera. I do really like a lot of aesthetics you can create digitally too though so I incorporate them into my work also. When I first tried animating I found I really didn’t enjoy importing my drawings onto computer and working on them digitally as it just felt really cold and took the fun out of what I like about drawing. So instead I try to find ways of bringing digital images to my drawings rather than the other way around. Whether that be projecting digital images onto paper as with “Tear Drops Blossom”, or inking images directly onto a TV screen like I did in “Sefton’s Dream”.

When I think of my biggest influences almost all of them are from my childhood

Could you tell us about the vivd colors in particular scenes of your animations. What part does color play in your animations?

I tend to enjoy using colour sparingly for the most part in my animations and then introducing more dramatic moments of colour at different points in the story. It’s become a sort of tool for me when I want to communicate a different emotion or change of pace in the narrative.

There is a subtle romance in your compositions. What are your thoughts on the use of space in the animation frames?

Whenever I start an animation it’s always with just a pen and a piece of paper, and from that first point I think a lot about composition. I’m not really interested in detailed backgrounds, I’m much more concerned with trying to create an atmosphere through composition and creating textures in the blank spaces, whether that be through ink, paper, or digital textures.

Could you expand on the process behind the audio tracks of the animations? Do you envision a final product with specific sounds to accompany it or do you work on the audio as the project develops?

I start a project normally with a specific emotion I want to communicate and from that point on I think of how the visuals, sounds, and narrative can work together to achieve that. Once I start drawing, be that sketches or the final animating itself, I’ll have little sounds or ideas I’ll make a note of. Then when the animating’s finished I’ll watch it back and put all those sounds together. I’m no musician though, so it’s more a case of just messing around until I stumble upon something I like.

Would you describe the characters and subjects of your animations as representing different parts of your persona, almost autobiographically, or do you consider them as fictional, exploring what is unknown to you?

The situations and characters are very much fictional, and I don’t necessarily feel they’re representative of me as such, but I try to recreate very personal emotions through them.

It’s normally a case that I’ll be moved by something or feel a certain way and I’ll think “I’d like everyone to feel like this too for just a moment too”

Do you find animation to be an outlet to explore and portray the deeper, sometimes dark emotions that you feel?

I don’t know if I’d call them dark emotions but yeah I definitely feel my animations are a reflection of what I’m feeling at a particular time. It’s normally a case that I’ll be moved by something or feel a certain way and I’ll think “I’d like everyone to feel like this too for just a moment too”. Then I try and work backwards from there to create a story and so on. I don’t find these emotions to be dark or depressing though. Somehow I find those kind of feelings really uplifting and touching, and that’s what I’m trying to communicate to the viewer.

A romantic mood is almost ever-present in your work. What inspires you to explore topics such as love, tragedy or confusion?

They just seem to be the stories and themes I’m most interested in. I’m not entirely sure why. I like trying to capture that fleeting moment between the start of something and it’s abrupt end. A lot of the old stories from Persian mythology and folklore I heard and read as a kid left quite a strong impression on me I think. Loads of those stories are so full of tragedy but even so I somehow I always found them comforting.

I’m concerned with trying to create an atmosphere through composition and creating textures in the blank spaces, whether that be through ink, paper, or digital textures

To truly appreciate your work, it seems like one must free his/her mind, allowing it to reach very deep and core emotions. Almost child-like in this regard (in a positive way!). Also the style and the beautiful simplicity of the your drawings reminds me of children books and stories. Do you look for purity of mind, to some degree a childishness in the reaction of the viewer of the animations?

When I think of my biggest influences almost all of them are from my childhood. Not events as such, more like favorite animations, images, sounds, things like that. I can still remember vividly how they made me feel. Those are the same kind of atmospheres and emotions I’m trying to create in my animations, and hopefully bring out in the viewer too.