Animated GIFs are mostly meme-fodder, generally repurposing video clips—funny faces, silly movie moments and other stuff ripe for parody—to make us laugh, but in a low-brow way. The Internet has proclaimed the animated GIF’s sole purpose over countless millions of Reddit comments, and they’re usually one big Hitler fart joke. But we’re seeing more and more signs of life in the art form.
The work by illustrator Dain Fagerholm is another nice data point in the trend. He uses animated GIFs to simulate 3-D images by quickly alternating stereoscopic perspectives (fooling our brains into thinking that we’re seeing two views at once). A few photographers have pulled off that trick before, but Fagerholm uses a different medium: ink and sometimes Sharpie.
"I am interested in GIFs as an art form," Fagerholm tells Co.Design. "I started making GIFs and posting them to Tumblr a few weeks ago and was surprised at how many reblogs the ‘Gem Creature GIF’ was getting (15,961 notes currently on Tumblr). I don’t know why people find these GIFs so striking."
I think I do, at least in part. Gem Creature and Seven Headed Creature combine a trademark analog style—those almost tangible scribbles on paper—with digital trickery. The result is quite simply something we haven’t seen before: sketched sculptures that float in air. Add on Fagerholm’s obsession with these charming, childlike monsters—which remind us a lot of Gary Baseman and Yoshitomo Nara—and the entire effect of his work becomes the ultimate notebook doodle come to life. It’s universal.
From what I can tell, he cuts out the main figure from the background, and then shifts/stretches select parts of the images ever so slightly to mock a second perspective. When I asked about the technique, however, his lips were sealed.
"I create only one drawing for each GIF," he admits. "The stereoscopic or 3-D process used to create my GIFs is very simple and easy. It is more fun for me to keep the stereographic process a mystery."