Experimenting with Animation with Fine Artist Kane Cottrell

Artists can devote years and years to mastering one specific skill.

It’s understandable really. It takes years of dedication and practice. Take the cinematographer, for example. Learning the ins and outs and habits of all of the industry spec equipment takes a long long time, not to mention all the time spent watch movies for “research.”  Then you add lighting, all the tips and tricks that come with learning how to create (or counteract) the tiny fluctuations in light which can make or ruin a scene. You spend all of your money on the kit, you work out where the on button is, you practice and practice and practice. Maybe you build up a portfolio of work and a client base. I could go on. The point is, it’s challenging enough to master one medium, let alone start adding others into the mix


However, creativity doesn’t start or stop with one discipline. If you are creative then that talent doesn’t start and finish when you pick up and put down a camera, or a paintbrush or a pen or a Wacom tablet or a lump of plasticine. The best thing about creativity is that you can apply it to anything, a secret that multi-talented Artist Kane Cottrell is in on.


Kane is a an Artist based at Spike Island in Bristol. He works with animation and sculpture, pottery and a variety of other mediums. Today we talk about his  abstract and evocative moving image pieces which steer animation away from narrative to serve a purely visual purpose. These repeating forms give us a brief glimpse into a strange world of fluid objects and minute folding cityscapes.


Kane's work sits on the fringe between virtual and physical, creating works that resemble the many changes in the environment that sculpts our species. Notions of rebirth, reforming and recycling present themselves to Kane as an opportunity to create and respond. He engages with traditional process that are altered by time, such as ceramic/ mixed media sculpture, with a contrasting interest of pushing those forms into untouchable, digital structures.  

When did you make the jump from sculpture and pottery to animation?


I started making animations probably about a year ago from now.

I’ve got a friend who makes models of bridges in Amsterdam and he showed me a software called Blender. It’s Opensource and free so quite accessible. He uses it for 3D models and small physical models within his work in an architectural company. We just started brainstorming and he showed me all the stuff the software could do. I think structure and architecture is definitely something I’m inspired by. Something you see every day.

Learning to use Blender has been a really steep learning curve but I’m getting my teeth sunk into it.  I still only feel that I’m quite middle of the road in my knowledge with a year of on and off practice; I’m completely self-taught.  

How long does each piece take to complete?


It varies.  Some pieces can take a night to design and get all the key frames into the animation. It’s the  rendering process is the longest part, it can take anything from a day to a couple of weeks, it’s completely different for each one.I’m currently working on a short – it’s going to be 90 seconds and I physically don’t have the computer power to render it all out at once. I have to render it out at a pace of 3 seconds a day for a month – Hopefully I’ll get there in the end!

What is the subject of this new longer piece and how does it differ from your current work?


All my shorter pieces are quite quick, fleeting, visceral really kind of playing along with the whole vibe of Instagram. You’re just flicking through social media, it’s all quite quick and you take it in and then you don’t ever see it again. So, I decided to work on something longer and it’s going to be about the similarities between the virtual and the real, and whether virtual is the new real.

What’s the difference between working in a physical medium like clay and a virtual medium like Blender?

This is why I work with both.  I love working infront of the screen and with my hands but sometimes I get sick of doing one so it’s nice to kind of go back and forth.I guess with ceramics you kind of know how it’s going to turn out. I’m at a stage where I’m trying to move my physical objects into the virtual realm so to speak. I think the beauty of that is in the virtual space you can do stuff to objects that you can’t do in the physical world because physics applies.

 You can mess with that. You can turn something that looks like clay into glass seamlessly so it’s a very quick way of working and changing materials.  

What’s in the future?


I’m currently working on a project for a magazine that’s starting up called Rung magazine. Rung magazine brings together 60 artists from around the UK split into groups of six. In my group we’re trying to create a double page spread in a newspaper with a link to the digital space. My group are thinking about creating a virtual office space. I’m creating a 3D office where artists can display their work. It’s all a bit up in the air at the moment but I’m trying to get my head around it.


Which artist  is on your radar right now?


At the moment an artist I’m thinking a lot about is probably Oliver Laric. He works a lot with copies and replication. Every year from 2009-12 he made a film comparing and contrasting works that have been copied called Versions. He compares different artworks, showing how artist reuse and re-imagine their work and copy and steal not only from others but from themselves. Everything is just a hybrid of something else.


What advice would you give to other artists?


I don’t necessarily think that you can’t do something just because you haven’t done a workshop or been trained. It’s perfectly easy to self-teach. Just use YouTube, it works wonders. I’d also say that you don’t have to be confined to one medium, clay and animation is a really weird mix. You can be a mix of all of them really and flitter between materials.

Versions, Oliver Laric