It wasn’t until Katy Daft was in her final year at Kingston School of Art that she fully got into animation, after a chance to collaborate with a friend came up. “I just realised that I loved drawing something over and over, I think that’s because I become more confident with the subject as I keep going,” says Daft. “The first frame tends to be a lot more rigid, but by the tenth frame my drawings are a lot more fluid and simpler. I find that it’s really satisfying to see that process relayed back to me when I watch the animation I’ve made play for the first time.”
Often combining the surreal with the funny, the everyday with the absurd, Daft describes her animation style as “colourfully abstract”. She often finds herself using simple shapes like circles for heads to keep movements and transitions easy, while still allowing space for her oddball characters to come to life.
Daft says her work references stick and poke tattoo designs, as well as ancient representations of women, TV shows from her childhood, memes, The Sims and weird dreams, among many other things. Another source of inspiration has been the strange times we’ve been living in recently. “I think the circumstances of lockdown have caused me to absorb the world around me a bit more than I usually would,” explains Daft. “I also find that social media is a great space to gather inspiration from, due to its structure as a platform in which people are constantly projecting themselves at other people.”
She has recently been sharing short gifs and animated loops on her Instagram that see her blending the mundane with the unexpected, like an undulating character avoiding large droplets of rain, another where the subject is thinking about dreaming about eating, and one captioned “My highest ambition is to be what I already am”, where a character manifests a smaller version of itself like a wooden Russian doll.
“Whenever I start making something new, I try to work out what message I want someone to take away from it when they see it. After that I usually have an idea in my head of how I would like the animation to go, drawing a few style frames so that I’m familiar with the composition, but it’s mainly improvisation,” says Daft of her creative process. “I just really enjoy the process of animating and that I never fully know how something is going to look until the end.”
Previously, the animator says she used to overthink the outcome too much, which resulted in work she felt never looked as good as it could have, and the pressure she puts on herself is one her biggest challenges. “I make daily targets of what I want to achieve and I can be quite hard on myself if I fall under my expectations,” she notes. But she realises enjoying the process is ultimately the most important thing when making work. “I’ve always thought that if you’re having a good time making something, that it really shines through to others at the end.”
Daft’s favourite kind of projects are the ones that allow her to be her most creatively free. “I worked on a music video recently, which I found really fun as there was no rigid storyboard, so I could do almost anything I wanted,” she says. “I ended up learning a lot from the experience, because it was the first time I had animated something where I was curious about what each image could change into as I was doing it. I guess I also enjoy working on projects where I learn something from the process, which allows me to continue to grow in my work.”
For those watching her work, her wish is for people to feel a sense of joy. “There are so many awful things happening in 2020 alone, that it’s nice to think that my work could connect with someone and help them feel better,” says Daft.