GIFs are the Internet--and particularly Tumblr's--lingua franca, but their actual creation can be an enormous pain, particularly if you want something more sophisticated than a three-second clip of Rihanna failing to wink. Thankfully, visual artist and animator Andrew Benson has come to the aid to those of us who lack Photoshop skills but desperately miss the days of Kid Pix, with an addictive new GIF-making tool called Boopy Club.
Made with a little help from the good people at GIPHY, the DIY tool operates on a loop-drawing mechanism. Using a variety of "brushes" to create different textures, you can make a mesmerizing animation. Each line you draw continues to redraw itself into infinity, and you can even download your infinite-looping art into a GIF. Behold a few of my own pitiful efforts.
You can even take a webcam photo, which works in a scratchcard-esque way, as you reveal whatever's underneath the gray screen via your purposeful mousestrokes -- on loop, of course.
And while I'm not exactly a great artist/muse, Benson was more than happy to provide a few explanations about the tool, and more complex examples of what potential applications this tool can have for Internet artists and digitally-inclined folks everywhere. We also chatted a little about the background of his process, time-based art practices and, of course, how Boopy Club got its name.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your practice.
I live in Los Angeles, formerly San Francisco, and work primarily in time-based (often realtime) digital media. My practice incorporates 3D animation, experimental and process-driven video, software development, interactive technologies, web programming. I come from a strong painting and music background, but started getting into experimental graphics and video as an outgrowth of noise shows I was doing. While I use a lot of programming and technical approaches in my work, it's still really rooted in this duct tape and patch cables approach. In addition to GIFs and websites like Boopy Club, I develop tour/show visuals for musical acts (just launched Clipping tour on Wed), make video art works, music videos (just released one with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith), and video installations. Most of my work is the product of a lot of digging around in graphics processes and trying out wacky ideas. I also draw a lot.
What drew you to GIFs as a medium?
Originally, I liked GIFs as a way to quickly share some video ideas I was working on. Over time I really started to enjoy working with it on its own and developed some fairly complex workflows for making GIF projects. It's probably the one thing that really got me working with 3D modeling. There is a specific texture to the GIF compression that I really love, and the way it constrains things is great. I tend to habitually think of GIFs as secondary to the other media that I work in, but over time I do feel it has become a specific and special thing. The way that it is at once an image but also happening over time and in a loop is fantastic. I don't know that we really have sufficient language to discuss this effect.
Can you talk me about how you came up with the idea for Boopy Club? How do you envision people will utilize it? What do you expect people to make with it?
Boopy Club came from a simple idea, which was to combine drawing with a delay effect, like the way that looper pedals work. Many musicians use looper pedals to build up these complex, layered, repeating patterns. It also has some affinity with the direct animation techniques of Len Lye and Stan Brakhage. So I thought "what would it be like if, as you are drawing, the canvas was looping?" From that simple idea, I developed a prototype and instantly loved it. It's very addictive. I've added a number of fairly idiosyncratic drawing tools like a webcam brush and a GIF-brush that pulls from the GIPHY database. You can do really mangled looking selfies with your friends, or create abstract action paintings with it. I am always surprised by where I end up.
Why call it boopy? (lol)
For a minute I was calling it "Loopy," but that turned into "Boopy" as I started thinking of each mark like a sound and saying "boop, boop, boop" as I played with it.
Most of your work seems to deal with visual motifs surrounding dissolution, melting and transformation — can you talk about why you apply this to a lot of pop culturally-significant images (particularly I'm interested in hearing what you have to say about this GIF)?
There a lot of billboards in my neighborhood. When they tear down the ad on one of them, it's not complete, so you see this wonderful collage of layer upon layer of torn away commercial images. Sometimes you can make it out, but mostly there is just a splash of color or text or a pair of lips left from each ad. So you can think of it as dissolution, but you can also think of it as a mark that was left behind, holding a memory of that space. Still there is a kind of wildness to the way it is torn away, and all the ragged edges. The way I am working with Boopy Club, it feels like an inversion of that almost, selecting and purposefully painting on the bits to hold onto. The timing element of the way Boopy Club collage brushes work makes that extra challenging and you still end up with some bizarre mistakes and surprises.