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Best of Behance: Chris Phillips

By Jenny Carless

Who: Chris Phillips

What: Animation and Illustration

Where: https://www.behance.net/crispe

Behance member since: 2009

Chris Phillips is a master of character-driven, vector-illustrated animation—particularly “odd little GIF loops,” as he describes them, and longer-form client videos.

“There are many amazing animators and illustrators with skills well beyond mine,” he says. “But I think my work stands out because of the ideas at the center. They’re usually a little quirky, humorous, or slightly dark.”

And Phillips is excited about the resurgence of GIF as a format. “It’s so much easier to create something small and get it in front of people, compared with long-format video,” he says.

He has become known for his “explainer” GIFs.

“I’d been doing Flash animation previously, but I crash-coursed myself in Adobe After Effects CC and 3D,” he says. “Coming from a design and advertising background, explainers seemed like a good fit; I could get my hands dirty on most of the process—perfect for freelancing.”

Soft Serve and Super Dunker, two recent GIF animations: “The idea itself for Soft Serve—an ice cream cone being violently drowned in chocolate—is very dark, but I wanted it to be adorable at the same time,” Phillips says. “The ice cream building on the top of the cone took a little figuring out. I used shape paths with trimmed strokes and inner shadows to create the effect.”

Swingers and Self Portrait, two recent GIF animations: Phillips has some advice on easing, the process of making an animation reflect natural motion: “It’s extremely simple to boost the quality of your animations with plugins, the handiest being Motion v2 by Mt. Mograph,” Phillips says. “It’s a must-have for Adobe After Effects animators. You can set custom eases with a single click, without using the graph editor—I can’t overstate how much of a timesaver it is.”

GIF COLLECTION 2016: JANUARY–JUNE

The work in his most recent collection on Behance began as skills practice—particularly character animation using Adobe After Effects rigging plugins.

“I started with some Star Wars fan GIFs to practice DUIK; they became pretty popular, and it compelled me to keep making GIFs for fun,” Phillips says. “Now I’m addicted.”

Phillips created Self Portrait as a profile pic: “I wanted something that represented what my days are like,” he explains. “It stumped me initially: I kept focusing on coffee, but those ideas felt clichéd and not unique to design. I started working on the face design in Adobe Illustrator CC, and as I scaled and moved him around, I realized that the idea was right there in front of me.”

Each of the GIFs in this collection took between one and three days to complete, depending on the complexity. Swingers took the least time; Super Dunker took the longest.

Phillips’s process begins with a list of weird ideas—anything that pops into his head.

“I doodle up a very basic five-minute layout sketch either on paper or in Procreate on my iPad Pro. Then I go straight into Illustrator to create the vector artwork,” he says. “I take the Illustrator file into After Effects, convert it to shapes, and break them apart using a plugin called Explode Shape Layers.”

He adds, “Rubberhose is a brilliant character animation tool. When I’m done animating, I fire a movie out to convert to GIF in Adobe Photoshop CC or export from After Effects with GIF Gun.”

My Body My Friend and Listen to Your Thoughts, from Mindfulness, a collection of animated GIFs.  

MINDFULNESS

Phillips recently took on a project to help children learn about mindfulness. Independent art director Katrina Wiedner engaged him to animate humorous illustrations based on techniques as taught by German cognitive therapist Maria Kluge.

“I landed this project off the back of my Feeling Under the Weather GIF,” Phillips explains. “The client wanted me to create all of the animations based on that same aesthetic, which was fun for me to do.”

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

In his university days, Phillips studied graphic design and new media, and he cut his teeth as a print designer.

“Being largely self taught, I have no doubt that my methods may be scrappy,” he says, “but I think you just have to get in there and practice…. Set yourself little projects, post in communities like Behance and Dribbble, and if you want to be an animator, buy The Animator’s Survival Kit, by Richard Williams,” he adds. “It’ll get you off on the right foot.”

Speaking of getting off on the right foot: Since gaining visibility on Behance and Dribbble, Phillips recently picked up artist representation by The Jacky Winter Group’s short-form animation arm, GIF Horse.

“They are repping me in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, so I’m excited to see where that leads,” he says.