22 June 2007

Eric McLuhan on Ancient Egyptian Animation

My friend, Eric McLuhan (yes, that McLuhan) is working on a book about Egyptian silhouette style and its further possibilities, including its remarkable form of three-dimensional representation and what it holds for our contemporary arts. He recently presented a remarkable paper based on the first chapter of that book [pdf], demonstrating that the Ancient Egyptians discovered and used animation.
The Egyptians of the earliest Dynasties could produce prodigies of civil engineering and breathtaking feats of architectural accomplishment; they had no difficulty making sculptures that faithfully reproduced the originals. But one glance at their drawings and paintings and we conclude that, whatever else, they just couldn’t draw very well. They couldn’t seem to get it right. They had all the elements but somehow misconstrued them. They almost “got it,” but stopped at an early stage and held there … for thousands of years. Now it appears that they did “get it right” after all, in a manner that has some surprising consequences. The odd quirks that distinguish the classic Egyptian pictorial style serve as the vehicle for a completely novel, and completely unexpected, effect. In the following pages, you can see how the ancient Egyptians managed their quirky style to produce lively moving images. By following the four Steps you can soon become adept at bringing the animations to life once again.
It's a fascinating read and fun to try, with step by step instructions on how to bring the familiar images to life.

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