Keiko Sono’s studio on Route 212, next to Jolly’s Market in the same complex that once housed Lucky Chocolates, is airy, light-drenched and fun. There’s a chalkboard, a light box, a number of white boards, a sand or paint box, and piles of art supplies…and Legos! Everything’s organized but loose. She says that it can hold up to four kids or adults at each of four or five “stations” around the space, although she finds it better to work with groups of three.
Sono and her teaching partner at Flick Book Studio, Dave Goldin, are passing on what they know about animation to students mostly age eight and up, but including some six year olds, and a growing number of local artists, many of whom Sono got to know in her years as a working artist in town, as well as from being a participant in last year’s New York Foundation for the Arts MARK program for the region.
“For the very young we do time lapse pieces,” she says, showing off a great little piece available online in which Sono’s son draws monsters and landscapes, talking about what he’s evoking the whole while with a musical soundtrack adding heft and humor to the proceedings. “They always get their friends asking, afterwards, ‘How did you learn to draw so fast?’”
“Flick Book Studio is an open-studio where artists of all ages make and learn stop-motion animation,” this new school’s website explains. “Stop-motion animation is a medium utterly fluid and inclusive, there is nothing that can’t be used. Requiring at least 15 frames to make up a second, it can be a tedious and painstaking method when tackled alone; with a small group of friends, however, the process becomes an exciting opportunity for a collaboration, something rarely found in our daily lives. Our studio encourages artists to do what they do best: to be curious, to delight in senses, to have fun, to care, and to share.”
Sono says she first took the space she’s in for herself, but then decided to draw in others both to aid her income and expand her capability for collaboration, after her involvement with MARK, which encourages working artists to maximize their creativity through just such methods. She began holding classes in November and is now expanding her student base from home schoolers to a number of artist friends.
She said she tried teaching what she does at Flick Book in Woodstock Elementary a few years ago, but the schlepping of materials was too much for the medium. Much better, she’s found, to have folks come to where she is already.
Sono grew up in Tokyo, Japan and went to college in the Pacific Northwest. After getting an MFA at New York University, she started teaching at Empire State College and building up a city-based art career, “struggling,” until she got pregnant with her first child and moved upstate some 14 years ago.
“Interestingly, as I gave up on my artistic career in New York City my artist’s career took off,” she said, noting how at one point she was working with a key Japanese gallery and showing elsewhere. “I found, however, that I liked the community here and was shocked at the amount of creativity and talent all around me. I decided to focus on being an active member of the community…”
After moving to Woodstock from New Paltz, where she had a large painting studio, Sono found herself pulled towards working in video…albeit with a painter’s sensibility. And collaborating more.
“Trained as a painter, you aim to get to the top of the mountain,” she added. “But lately, I’ve been feeling better working with others. The more you open up yourself, the more ideas come out.”
She noted how this becomes apparent with the kids in her classes. She showed off one complex Star Wars Lego piece made by two sets of best friends, neither of whom wanted to work with the other set…at first. Then the ideas started popping.
“I have to admit there was one moment where it seemed everything was going to break down completely because of a disagreement over which light sabers which characters should have,” she said. “But then everyone ended up happy with the eventual outcome.”
We watch a fast-paced minute of Lego mayhem, set to music. Battles give way to explosions and an infectious sense of fun.
The same sensibility fuels everything in Sono’s students’ portfolios. There’s a chalkboard Christmas tree animation, watercolor abstracts, and more explosions.
The latter, she admitted, seem to result from every boy collaborative project she’s overseen. Although consistently, all of the works are bright, fun and effervescent.
Sono pointed out how important it is, teaching animation, to not only work fast through a project, but then upload it to YouTube immediately. The final step is the same point of validation newsprint, or even the typed word, once offered.
Flick Book Studio’s classes have a progression of steps, week to week, with added claymation and special one-day sessions. Classes are in the afternoon and weekends and include a fun stab at remaking classic movie scenes using clay, paper cut-outs, and drawing (you should see the cut out monster version of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly some young boys have made); “Elemental Phenomena,” working with basic elements such as fire and water in stop motion experiments; and for the upcoming Presidents’ Day weekend in February, a special Lego Star Wars Marathon.
The films on the studio’s website range from How To Eat An Oreo to fun happenings with magnet monsters.
Goldin, Sono stresses, is an equal partner in the classes…and described online as “a left-handed artist, accordion enthusiast, international junk collector, magazine brat” and student of the great illustrator Chris VanAllsburg. And newly involved will be former INDIE director Russell Richardson.
Shall we repeat how fun it all is?
It all meets with regularity… but call or email ahead to make time.++
For further information on Flick Book Studio, call 616-4635 or visit www.flickbookstudio.com. And for pure entertainment, don’t miss this website…