Playful Scenes by Julian Frost Animate the Absurd through Minimal Details

May 31, 2023

Grace Ebert

A nose juts out of a pool, with a person's silhouette in the background

All images © Julian Frost, shared with permission

Illustrator Julian Frost might equate his animations to one-liners. Minimal in composition, his works convey a simple idea through succinct absurdities. A line-drawn character walks with an exceptional amount of purpose only to wander a tiny cube or slam into a pillar obstructing its path, while another figure dances in an endless loop of flying daggers, detached body parts already lining the floor.

When creating, Frost strives to pare down his animations to just the necessities, likening them to jokes “so well-crafted you couldn’t remove a word.” The goal is to create what he calls “idiotic zen poetry,” conveyed through repeating motions, clean lines, and healthy doses of negative space.

Find more of Frost’s animations and illustrations on his site and Instagram. You also might enjoy this conversation with Christoph Niemann who discusses wit and distilling ideas.


A person walks in a box

A person walks down the street with extrusions applied to each component

People walk and slam into pillars

A person dances in a cube with flying daggers

A person climbing uphill and then down

A black dot morphs into a smiley face and then a more detailed portrait of a man

three people walk but get nowhere




Animation Illustration

Conner Griffith Animates the World of Objects Through Historical Engravings in ‘Still Life’

May 25, 2023

Kate Mothes

Still Life,” a short animation by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Conner Griffith, opens with a classic game of “guess which hand.” As the illustrated hands open and close, a tiny ball morphs into a series of tools and other household objects, and we are whisked off on a journey through more than 1,000 historic engravings. Collecting images from sources like the Iconographic Encyclopedia of Science, Literature, and Art and Gray’s Anatomy—both published in the 1850s and now in the public domain—Griffith examines how items and materials help to define lifestyles, attitudes, and consciousness of the world around us. “The film explores the idea that we live in a world of objects and a world of objects lives within us,” he says.

Find more of Griffith’s work on his website and on Vimeo.


All images © Conner Griffith




An Animated Swimmer Dives into the Exhausting Experience of Working Under Pressure

May 3, 2023

Grace Ebert

A relatable animated short from the Ukrainian artist and director Iulia Voitova captures the total collapse and immobility of burnout and exhaustion. “La Plongeuese,” or “The Diver,” follows a professional swimmer so affected by a rigorous training schedule and the incessant noise of her coach’s whistle that she decides to give up her career entirely. When she visits a talented masseuse, though, she finds that her nerves and anxiety, which Voitova brilliantly depicts with tightly crimped paper, finally get some reprieve.

“La Plongeusese” was the director’s graduation project for La Poudrière, an animation film school in Valence, France, and you can find more of her works on Vimeo and Instagram.


A swimmer with crimped paper legs stands at the edge of a diving board

A swimmer with crimped paper legs stands at the edge of a diving board while a coach blows his whistle

A hand pulls at the middle finger of another hand, with two fingers in crimped paper

A large man stretches out a swimmer in exaggerated fashion




An Unwitting Consumer Finds Himself Out of His Depth in the Stop-Motion Animation ‘Five Cents’

April 18, 2023

Kate Mothes

Stumbling upon a coin purse, a lone consumer finds himself in possession of a bit of extra change in the stop-motion animation “Five Cents.” Aaron Hughes created the film by using thousands of market analysis pages from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times, on top of which he applied layers of ink, Wite-Out, gold leaf, and gouache. A symbolic and witty criticism of capitalist society and how economic mechanisms like inflation impact the everyday cost of living, Hughes’ solitary character purchases essentials like glasses and an umbrella before being hoodwinked into unnecessary purchases.

“Five Cents” won the 2022 South by Southwest Animated Short Audience Award, and you can see more of Hughes’ work on Vimeo.


A still from the stop-motion animation film about capitalist society made with ink on newspaper market analysis pages. A figure walks with an umbrella and a label reads "Mirror 25 cents."

All images © Aaron Hughes

A clip from the stop-motion animation film about capitalist society made with ink on newspaper market analysis pages. A figure puts on glasses.  A still from the stop-motion animation film showing a black outline figure holding a nickel and a red coin purse.

A clip from the stop-motion animation film about capitalist society made with ink on newspaper market analysis pages. A figure with glasses bobs in the water near a flotation device. A label reads "Flotation 95 cents."



Animation Illustration

Virginia Mori Twists Everyday Anxieties into Dreamlike Illustrations

April 11, 2023

Grace Ebert

A gif of a swimmer jumping into a pool on a larger figure's face

All images © Virginia Mori, shared with permission

Through pen and ink renderings, Virginia Mori continues her elegant and surreal interpretations of the prosaic. The Italian illustrator and animator (previously) gravitates toward the everyday and turns moments of relative simplicity into strange otherworldly scenes. Plucking a book off of a shelf reveals a figure lurking behind the volumes, for example, while an enormous detached head plummets to the earth where a team awaits with a cushion for a safe landing. Often featuring minimal palettes of pastel colors, the introspective works meld relatable feelings of anxiety, hesitation, and fear with dreamlike inventions.

Currently, Mori has works on view in a group exhibition through May 7 at the Seoul Museum and is preparing for another opening in September at Jiro Miura Gallery in Tokyo. Shop prints of her illustrations at Librera di Fursaglia and stay-hop, which also sells t-shirts, cards, and her latest book Feeling Bed. You can follow her projects and collaborations on Instagram.


Two illustrations, one of a person peeking through a gramophone, and another of a giant head tumbling toward the earth, with a group of people stretching out a cushion to break the fall

An illustration of a person doing yoga, with their head on their hand

An illustration of tiny figures sitting on a larger figure's ear

Two illustrations in yellow, blue, black, and white, one of a man reading a book from a shelf with a person peering out from the books, and another with a woman hanging her head over the edge of a bed to reveal a celestial expanse

An illustration of a person doing yoga, with their head split in their hands

Two illustrations in yellow, black, and white, one with a woman seeing her shadow in leaves, and another of a man sitting on a bench with a leaf on his face

An illustration of a person sitting in a box on a blanket with a cat nearby



Animation Art

Kongkee Resurrects an Ancient Chinese Poet in an Energetic Cyberpunk Vision of Asian Futurism

March 20, 2023

Grace Ebert

A vibrant work featuring an oversized person whose head is primarily submerged in water, with two cats sitting on top

“The Tears” (2020). All images © Kongkee, courtesy of the artist and Penguin Lab, shared with permission

The story of the legendary Chinese poet Qu Yuan ends in tragedy. Living during the destructive Warring States period that ran from 481 to 221 BCE, Qu Yuan was an influential writer and politician who was banished by King Huai of Chu and subsequently spent much of his time traveling the country and working on verse. The life of exile didn’t suit the poet, though, leading him into a deep depression and toward his eventual suicide in the Miluo River. Created as a hunt to retrieve Qu Yuan’s body, the annual Dragon Boat Festival continues to this day in celebration of his legacy.

A forthcoming exhibition at Chicago’s Wrightwood 659 imagines the poet’s afterlife “as his soul journeys from the ancient Chu Kingdom to a retro-futuristic Asia where he is reborn as an android in a psychedelic cyberpunk landscape.” Melding history with a distinctive sci-fi vision, Kongkee: Warring States of Cyberpunk features works in several mediums by the London-based Chinese animator and artist Kong Khong-chang, known as Kongkee. Using videos, projections, installations, ancient objects, and graphic pieces, the artist explores Asian Futurism through the energetic and luminously rendered narrative of a Chinese icon.


A vibrant work of a person standing with their back to the viewer as they look at a vivid green-washed cityscape

“Time Traveller” (2018)

An extension of a comic series Kongkee created back in 2013, the show considers existential questions of immortality, how the body and soul interact, and the tenuous relationship between humanity and machine. Bold, saturated colors emphasize the role of the digital in the visionary realm, while mountain ranges, clouds, and vast starry skies incorporate more natural and classical motifs that have existed for millennia. Rippled waves and water feature prominently, referencing Qu Yuan’s drowning in 278 BCE.

Although based on a life of immense suffering, Kongkee’s works are optimistic as he envisions a universe where redemption and reconciliation are possible. The artist shares in a statement:

I asked myself, what happens when a soul emerges after 2,000 years from underwater—does it seek out something new? Does it return to familiar places? Qu Yuan’s poetry has a psychedelic, wandering quality that I tried to reflect in my art, but I also wanted him to reflect the disorientation, as well as the hope, of our era.

Following its U.S. debut at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, Kongkee: Warring States of Cyberpunk opens in Chicago on April 14 and will be on view until July 15. Find more from the artist on Instagram.


A portrait of a woman-cyborg with her face revealing her machine brain against a green backdrop

“The Singer” (2018)

A portrait of a vibrant cyborg figure with radiant beams surrounding its head and a city in the background

“Dragon’s Delusion vinyl cover” (2021)

A portrait of a person holding a mask with several renditions of the figure and cyborgs in the backdrop

“Dragon’s Delusion—Departure poster” (2017)

A vibrant work peering up at a shirtless man in front of a building with a night sky above

“Qu Yuan, Dragon’s Delusion—Assassination” (2018)

A vibrant depiction of a city nestled in the mountains

“The 25th Hour” (2018)

A spliced work depicting a ship up top and a cyborg with illuminated eye beams below

“The Pier” (2018)