CP Loves... The strangely moving web art of Dain Fagerholm


by Magnus Shaw.


Animated GIFs - the curse of the internet. In spite of the myriad possibilities of HTML5 and the rise of some truly brilliant digital designers, there's still a tendency for the keen amateur website builder to become very excited when they discover libraries of free but poorly executed cartoons which move when published. I'm sure you've seen them: flashing 'email me' buttons, national flags wafting unconvincingly in the breeze or worst of all, a yellow 'smiley' waving at you from the masthead of a homepage. Yep, the animated GIF is certainly the enemy of excellence in online design. Or is it?

The ability of the Graphic Interchange Format file to rotate through a series of frames brought animation to the internet at a surprisingly early stage. Long before social networking, streaming media and podcasting, moving images were part of the internet experience. But it's unfair to blame the GIF itself for some of the woeful results of its use produces. As with any technology, it simply requires a designer with talent and imagination to realise its potential - and very few people have done this with such aplomb as Dain Fagerholm.

Dain is not someone seeking personal fame. A Google search produces many blogs referring to his work but not a single picture of the man himself. In fact, only the most meagre of facts about Fagerholm can be established. He lives in Seattle, attended Loyola Marymount University and works as a freelance illustrator. His drawings have been bought by MTV and Saatchi & Saatchi amongst others and he favours ballpoint pens and pretty straightforward software as his tools. If he prefers his portfolio to do the talking for him, then he hasn't made a bad decision, because his pictures have captivated, fascinated and impressed a great many people. Not least of all because he has completely re-imagined the animated GIF in a remarkable way.

Fagerholm's portfolio is made up of a family of hand drawn three dimensional animations which he calls 'stereographic drawings' (there are some 'flat' drawings too). Of course, this method of tricking the eye into perceiving depth by using two, offset but similar images is nothing new. Indeed, it pre-dates the internet by a few hundred years. But it's not the technique that makes Dain's pictures so striking, it's the way he deploys it to bring his strange creatures and locations to life. First sketching the image freehand, Fagerholm then creates an illusion of depth by converting his illustration into stereographic GIFs. That's when his two dimensional drawings become three dimensional, moving images.

As a copywriter, without so much as the ability to draw the curtains, I often find great design impressive - illustration particularly so. But there's something so atmospheric, hypnotic and even emotional about Dain Fagerholm's animations they rise above the plethora of other portfolios across the web. And if that's not enough of an achievement, he may well have rescued the animated GIF from the ignominy heaped upon it by discerning designers.

And now, let's enjoy the work of Seattle's Dain Fagerholm:

Seven Headed Creature
Seven Headed Creature - ink on paper

Mystery Planet Friends
Mystery Planet Friends - ink on paper

Mystery Planet Creature with Gemstone
Mystery Planet Creature With Gem Stone - ink on paper

Mystery Planet Guardian
Mystery Planet Guardian - ink on paper

Asylum - ink on paper

Blue Girl
Blue Girl - ink on paper

My Blue Room
My Blue Room - ink on paper

Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant

A collection of Magnus Shaw's columns is now available as a Kindle book


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