Character count

Laura Snoad reports on the cute critters taking centrestage at the Pictoplasma character fest in Berlin.

Berlin’s character design festival Pictoplasma is in full swing this week, with a packed programme of events that stretch until the small hours of Sunday morning. Organisers don’t call it a marathon for nothing.

Pictoplasma
Pictoplasma

Fragments of the Apocalypse
Fragments of the Apocalypse

Thursday’s screenings, dubbed ‘characters in motion’, ranged from the adorably cute, such as Dean Fleisher Camp’s Marcel The Shell With Shoes On, a fly-on-the-wall mini mockumentary covering the daily life of the comic little shell, to the harrowing, such as Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vazquez’s Birdboy. Patrick Jean’s short film Pixels struck a balance between the two, showing a word that is taken over, and physically destroyed, as it is transformed into pixels. As giant games of Pacman, Pong, and Tetris envelope the real world, everything they touch becomes pixellated until the world is morphed into a large, shiny, black cube.

Crim Collective
Crim Collective

Sketches by Jeremyville
Sketches by Jeremyville

Thursday also saw the first talks. Australian artist Jeremyville explained his working drawings and his inspiration for the weird menagerie of characters in his work. ‘They’re atoms of who I am. I try to express aspects of who I am by each individual,’ he says.

Rilla Alexander's Sozi
Rilla Alexander’s Sozi

Local illustrator Rilla Alexander discussed the characters she designed for a range of children’s products for the Prado gallery in Spain, and gave a reading of her new book Her Idea. The book is about young girl Sozi who is attempting to harness her ideas – something Alexander herself struggled with when trying to create a narrative for Sozi.

Roman Klonek
Roman Klonek

Other speakers covered process. Matt Jones, the designer behind the Lunartik in a Cup of Tea vinyl toys, explained his resin-casting process and Roman Klonek showed how he creates his distinctive woodcuts using a ‘lost cut’ technique. Animator Pic Pic Andre – best known in the UK for the Cravendale ads – shared working drawings and  story-boarding techniques and showed how each sketch is transformed into a couple of seconds of film.

Pic Pic Andre
Pic Pic Andre

Juliana Pedemonte
Juliana Pedemonte

Argentinean artist Juliana Pedemonte meanwhile explained how she created TV show family-cum-band The Ortegas, featuring main character Meg and her rock’n’roll grandma.

Mcbess
Mcbess

The party atmosphere built for a post-midnight screening of psychedelic characters and South Park. Following a gallery opening-cum-gig that drew the attention of the police on Wednesday night, French-born, London-based illustrator McBess showed how his tattoo-clad, heavy-drinking rock’n’roll characters are inspired by himself, friends and his girlfriend. Some are pleased with their inclusion into his world, while others apparently, don’t take it so kindly.

Nomint
Nomint

Satirical artist Christoph Niemann explained his New York Times blog, Abstract Sunday, and Greek studio Nomint explored work including troublingly amusing idents for E4’s Christmas programming with a gimp-ish Father Christmas and a tumor that makes everyone cry, naturally.

It was a whirlwind start to an densely packed programme of cute critters and moody vectors, with plenty more characters and their creators set to make an appearance. Watch this space.

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