November 27, 2012

Rebecca Mock makes animated GIFs, but they’re much subtler than most examples of the artform. Mock has made animated versions of two New York Times illustrations. In one, a breeze blows through an empty small-town main street, waggling a sign that casts its shadow on an empty storefront while a “don’t walk” light blinks almost imperceptibly. In another, the world goes silently by passengers in Amtrak’s “quiet car.”

“I really like cinemagraphs — GIFs that are made to look like ‘still’ photographs but have a moving element,” Mock says in an interview conducted via instant message (I’ve edited the transcript lightly for style). “I like to think of my GIFs like they’re clips from movies or a window into a scene, that kind of thing.”

The shadow in the Main Street image “was a challenge,” Mock says. “I had to set up a little scene on my desk with the right lighting to better guess how it would move. But other small parts of my GIFs were easier than that. I like finding small moments that are deceptively simple to animate. Like the flashing light, it’s such a small detail and it’s just turning a frame on and off, but the illusion carries.”

Mock’s “Main Street” GIF (courtesy The New York Times)

Nonetheless, Mock says she’s a fan of the showier GIFs out there: “I see a lot of crude GIFs I love. Raw, crazy GIFs!” she says.

Mock is 23 and lives in Brooklyn. She graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2011 and got into the Times by emailing some art directors there, she says, who asked her to do print and animated versions for the Main Street illo. She works in Photoshop, is learning to use Adobe After Effects and describes herself as a “zinester.” She works mostly digitally but says, “I do like to play with traditional media” for comics and sketchbooks.

Image courtesy Rebecca Mock

She posts her work on her blog and Tumblr, and gave me permission to reproduce this piece, called “Nothing To Do In This Heat But Sleep” (note the box fan).

Mock supplements her freelance income with a part-time job as an office assistant. She hasn’t found regular illustration employment yet. She cites Edmund Dulac and Edward Hopper as particular influences. “I am most inspired by that ‘quiet’ feeling in scenes from movies, or small still life moments in my studio,” Mock says.

Related: What journalists need to know about animated GIFs — really

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
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