Sharpies and Shoes: My College Muses

Given that I made three stop-motion animations solely about drawing on shoes, another animated short about a shoe stampede, and a short film about finding your true love called Sole Mates (surprise: it features shoes), it’s fair to say shoes were something of a muse during college.

So today I’m taking a look back at a series of stop-motion animations that feature Sharpies and Shoes that I made each year of college to see if there’s anything to be learned.

Sharpie Shoes 1 (2007): Frustrated by a gooey brownie stain you can see at 00:01, I lay down on my not-so-clean dorm room floor freshman year, and got a doodling. You can see how flimsy the camera stand was because it dips ever so slowly the more I press the shutter. Besides that dynamic error, the shot is static. The shoe isn’t stuffed with anything, so the tongue is flapping around. And yet, without this little adventure, would any of the others have come to be?

Sharpie Shoes 2 (2008): A major improvement in every conceivable sense. Well, except for actually planning out the art ahead of time. Despite not doing that, I remain impressed with how the visuals turned out. Different camera angles, rotating shoes, different pen thicknesses, and music… how much better could it get?!

Sharpie Shoes 3 (2009): Oh, how I’d grown as an artist by my junior year. Just before a spring break trip to Japan, I propped my shoes up on our apartment’s dining room table and set to work. I gave more thought to the composition of each individual shot (is that… depth of field?!), the sound design, and the art itself. Somehow, the shoe actually bears a passing resemblance to Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa.


Finally, my senior year. To make sure I went out with a bang, I put together what looks like a thesis film compared to the others. There are shoe extras, stunts, and, yep, still some sharpie animations. What’d you expect? I had to go 4 for 4.

So, without further ado, here is Stampede (2010): a story of dramatic rescues, angry mobs and stunning heroics.

(At least, that was the intention. Re-watching it now, I get maybe 70% of that ambitious storytelling. You be the judge.)

I feel a certain fondness for this progression; I also feel a reverence for the process. Each video leans so heavily on the one before it. Without the mistakes and the lessons of the first, the second wouldn’t have been as strong. Without the improvements of the second, the third wouldn’t have been as refined. Without all three, I would not have had the confidence to make a short film. Yet, finishing college with an animated short film about shoes wasn’t what I was thinking about the night I spilled dessert goop on my shoe.

So, while we can’t always see what we’re building up to, there are still so many reasons to keep building on what we’ve done.


Also published on Medium.

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