A new Sketchbook film: Hayley Morris in “Under the Sea”

Hayley Morris is a whimsical, sometimes dark stop-motion animator whose sketchbooks are filled with creative musings and pencil sketches. My girlfriend Jenny met her recently and immediately called me to say she thought she’d be willing to be in a Sketchbook film. I love Hayley’s films and videos and was super-excited to visit her Brooklyn studio and once again collaborate with Tommy Kane on shooting her creative process.

Despite her scratchy line, Hayley puts down each stroke with confidence and vigor. Her drawing seems to pulse and vibrate. She layers her watercolor quickly, wet-on-wet, creating more vibration and vitality. I like the ease and spontaneity of the way she makes art — you’d think a stop-motion animator would be enormously controlled in her work but Hayley leaves room for reaction and response as she makes her art. In an era of CGI and digital processes, her work harkens back to stop-motion puppeteers like the Jan Švankmajer and the Brothers Quay. It’s beautiful and emotional.

Hayley uses her sketchbook to incubate ideas, jotting down notes in the margin to remind her of how she will execute the thoughts in film. We watched her develop creature designs for a new video, animating to the strains of a new collaboration by Hilary Hahn and Hauschka. It’s a dark and powerful piece for violin and piano and Hayley turns it into an undulating underwater dance in a densely populated tidal pool.

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We shot this film more quickly than our last one (we didnt need to stop to replenish huge amounts of alcohol or to wipe up blood) and even we managed to fit in a few crude little  stop-motion animations of our own. I filmed Hayley with a Canon 7D and four lenses (a 15/2.8 Fisheye, a 50/1.4, a16-35/2.8 L II, and a100/2.8 L IS MACRO) and Tommy used his own video camera for the aerial shots.

The music is the classic chanson “La Mer” by Charles Trenet.

PS The film was just mentioned on motionographer: