Moving Pictures: Rebecca Mock Has Turned GIFs Into an Art Form
As you scroll through Rebecca Mock’s website, the motion in some of her animated GIFs is immediately apparent—like the darkened Italian villa shaking with the first tremors of an earthquake. Others contain subtler movements that you might overlook at first glance—like the flick of a dog’s tail, a cat’s paw emerging from a gift box, or a bit of steam wafting out of a teapot. But as soon as you notice motion in a few illustrations, you start looking for it everywhere.
As a kid, Mock was fascinated by those images created on the opposite side of the globe. She stayed up all night downloading “scanlations”—Japanese comics scanned and translated into English—and followed Clamp, a group of female manga artists formed in the 1980s. “I spent all of my allowance on manga—I had bookshelves and bookshelves full of it. Even now, my parents have huge boxes of my manga collection in their house in Florida. And now that I’m a full-time artist, it’s a business expense—which makes it a real problem,” she says, laughing.
INSPIRED BY MANGA—THEN AND NOW
That obsession with animation helped her earn one of her first paid gigs. An early user of Tumblr, Mock had followed accounts devoted to some of her favorite television shows, where fans turned video clips into animated GIFs. After watching a few online tutorials and generating several GIFs from footage from the TV show Supernatural, she decided to incorporate her own illustrations.
It’s a bleak landscape: A beige sky and beige buildings frame a seemingly lifeless beige parking lot. Then small details come to life: a rat scurrying beneath a car, pieces of trash blowing in the wind, a trail of exhaust from an idling car, a flickering neon sign, and a group of school girls just discernible in the distance.
USING PHOTOSHOP’S TIMELINE FEATURE
For the Clique GIFs, Mock started with reference video, which she used to create sketches for the client to review, with notes explaining the movements to be animated. The client selected three of the five sketches, and Mock created illustrations from them (she notes that she primarily used Kyle T. Webster brushes in Photoshop).
Then she focused on the individual components to be animated—by duplicating layers and introducing incremental subtle changes on each, and then then converting those layers into animation frames. (To do this, go to Window > Timeline to open the Timeline panel; then click on Create Frame Animation, and select Make Frames From Layers from the Timeline menu. The Timeline feature lets you preview your animation before exporting (Export > Save For Web).
For the Clique GIFs, Mock used 30 to 60 frames. A swaying strand of hair is relatively simple, whereas the motion of a finger has a dozen moving parts, and a blinking eye requires redrawing the eyelid six times and playing with reflections for the full effect.
See the original clip that inspired the Clique series or learn more about Mock’s work on Aftershocks in this video profile for Intel, featured on Uproxx. You can follow Rebecca Mock on Twitter or Instagram.