Art comes to life in Lyme artist’s hands

Kelsey Ross of Lyme builds puppets for her animated Russian fairytale project.

I•fusing static images with movement and sound intrigues Kelsey Ross of Lyme - and her ability to work this magic with her drawings is what won the recent Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts graduate the Wardlaw Prize for Excellence in Illustration.

Dr. Stephen Wardlaw and Lynn Wardlaw, also of Lyme, give an annual $2,500 prize each in sculpture, painting, drawing and illustration to Lyme Academy College seniors. The prizes have a three-fold intent: to assist students financially, to provide added incentive to their studies, and to support the college.

Ross says she was very excited to win the prize because it enabled her to purchase camera equipment and animation software programs.

"I am extremely grateful to the Wardlaws," she says. "The investment in industry standard software and imaging equipment eased the stress and technical challenges associated with completing my senior project and greatly impacted my eligibility for professional success beyond my senior year."

Ross has been drawing since she was a child, influenced by her mother, who is an artist. But her interest in animation began when she was a sophomore in high school.

"I was fortunate enough to go to Lyme-Old Lyme High School, which had an animation program. Most high schools don't," she notes.

Ross continued her studies at Connecticut College and Rhode Island School of Design and then received a scholarship to transfer to Lyme Academy College.

"I chose Lyme Academy because I figured I really need strong draftsmanship and figurative art skills (to do this work)," Ross says. "Everyone has their own process. Personally, I wanted to have a very good understanding of anatomy and a very solid background in drawing from both observation and imagination."

Ross graduated with honors in illustration and has won numerous awards for her illustration and animation, including a week-long, intensive digital animation workshop during her studies at Connecticut College. In the summer of 2012, she interned as a mural artist for the City Canvases art initiative to shape public spaces in Connecticut around cultural and artistic characteristics of local cities.

Ross works in a combination of traditional and digital mediums.

"There are a lot of ways to make static images come to life," she explains. "I'm particularly interested in stop-motion animation - when you take either found objects or those you've created and you incrementally move them and take photos of the manipulation.

"I find because they're actual objects that exist in our world, it's visually interesting to me, mimicking the actual physical world around us. These objects already exist but don't move in these ways until you manipulate them to do so."

Ross is working on a short stop-motion animation film based on an Eastern-European folktale.

"Illustration majors are required to create a book for their senior project. The book I created was based on 'Vasilisa the Beautiful' - a Russian folktale," Ross says. "I chose to adapt it because the first version of the story I saw was an 1800s translation of the fairytale, illustrated by Ivan Bilibin and I really like his use of color and pattern. I really like the Eastern-European aesthetic, and his images are very design and graphic-oriented and I thought it would be interesting to take that aesthetic into a three-dimensional environment."

The film will be about six minutes long, but it takes 30 frames of photographs to create just one second when you're photographing an animation, Ross notes.

"While you're working on it, it's super tedious and sometimes frustrating but entirely worth it in the end to see this story come to life," she says. "I really enjoy it."

When the film is completed, Ross plans to submit it to shows and festivals and hopes it might lead to other commission work.

For now, she is focused on finding full-time employment and says there are a variety of jobs in animation.

"There's a ton of advertising requiring animation, lots of TV shows and films using animation - it's being used more than ever now," she says.

For the summer she is teaching an animation and a bookmaking course for children at Tracy Art Center in Old Saybrook.

As far as her education at Lyme Academy of Art, Ross says, "It was a really good combination of both traditional and digital art making and that helped to prepare me for what I'm interested in doing."

Kelsey Ross of Lyme arranges a scene in her animated Russian fairytale film.
Kelsey Ross of Lyme arranges a scene in her animated Russian fairytale film.
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