Artist Spotlight: Skip Hursh
When did you first start marking GIFs? What was the first GIF you made?
I started my current GIF project less than a year ago, in September of 2012. The idea behind it had been brewing for a while; I have been making abstract, illustrative personal work for years outside of my full-time job as a designer/animator with Nickelodeon’s on-air design team, but had not really combined my skill set as an animator with my more illustrative sensibility until a 5-second experiment animating this piece from 2011:
After that, my first experiment designing something specifically for the GIF medium was this piece:
What kind of a process do you go through to create your art?
I was happy to come across a quote recently by Brian Eno from an interview with the Guardian a few years ago that perfectly describes my artistic process:
"Instead of shooting arrows at someone else’s target, which I’ve never been very good at, I make my own target around wherever my arrow happens to have landed. You shoot your arrow and then you paint your bulls eye around it, and therefore you have hit the target dead centre."
Working intuitively and following my instincts has been the most successful process I’ve found for my creative work. Making art is crucial for me as a designer because it provides a testing ground free of anyone else’s needs or objectives to play, experiment, and follow an intangible spark of an idea to see where it leads. Once that arrow hits the target of something interesting, I can build up a structure around it that justifies its existence and makes it more compelling.
This GIF started with the idea that I wanted to create a number of discrete objects operating like little looping machines and then start putting them together to see what would happen.There was very little planning involved; I like to let the work develop organically. Whenever I make personal work like this, I start unconsciously creating visual rules based on how the different forms seem to interact with each other, both in proximity and in movement, in the case of GIFs. My favorite constraints are the ones I make up for myself.
Why GIF art?
There is still a lot of unexplored territory for GIFs. I felt like I could bring something interesting to the GIF art medium with my particular viewpoint and sensibility as an extension of the the rest of the work I do. A lot of the public perception of GIFs now is still rooted in captioned TV footage, reaction GIFs, and internet meme culture, but there is a growing movement of artists doing interesting things with GIFs. Tumblr has been instrumental in spreading their work, and I’m excited to see what Giphy can do to spread the word on GIF art even further. Watching a looping animation is a totally different experience than watching something linear and continuous because while it is very short, it allows for close examination. The experience of viewing a GIF is closer to the experience of viewing a still image than video, but is not exactly like either.
Who are a few of your favorite GIF artists/or artists in general?
My favorite GIF work tends to be from artists who aren’t necessarily “GIF Artists”, but who have a great body of work and have dabbled in the medium to varying degrees. I come across a ton of amazing GIF art that I post to a curated tumblr I started called GIF Selections.
Some of my recent favorites include:
What is your all-time favorite GIF?
There’s no way I can pick a definitive favorite, but one of my favorite series of GIFs is this exquisite corpse experiment project by Josh Cochran and Guillaume Ettlinger, featuring contributions from some amazing artists including Mike Perry, Damien Correll, Jon Han, Olimpia Zagnoli, Leif Parsons, and more.
Giphy interviewed me for their Artist Spotlight.