Nicolas Ménard turns feelings of heartbreak and loneliness into inspiring, vivid animation.
“There’s two things in my practice that I find utterly satisfying,” professed French-Canadian designer, illustrator and animator, Nicolas Ménard, “the feel and smell of ink on paper and the miracle of drawings moving.” Ménard’s acuity for both shines through in his recent animation, Somewhere. The short tells the story of an astronaut journeying to another world, while leaving a part of himself — literally, his left arm — back home.
“The film was actually ‘art therapy’ to get over a past relationship that didn't make it when I moved to London,” explained Ménard over email. After moving to pursue an MA in animation at the RCA, he wrote poems based on his personal transition, which would later serve as the narrative framework for Somewhere. “When I arrived in London last year, I had this constant, weird feeling of having left a part of me behind; like if part of me was still living my old life in Canada. I wanted to illustrate this feeling that comes with immigration in the film — and the feeling of missing someone in the distance.”
Beyond the meditatively paced narrative, what’s immediately charming about Somewhere is its stylistic point of view. The strikingly limited color palette paired with a wash of hand-made texture adds human warmth to the lonely plot. Ménard explained, “One of the early ideas of the film’s technique was to print all the frames and scan them back in the computer to give a unique print.”
In the end, Ménard’s technical pipeline was to use Flash for the rough animation, Photoshop for cleaning and After Effects for post-production. Still, he incorporated a traditional approach by manipulating frames manually in the software: “To achieve [the look], I had to actually work each image like if they were going to be screenprinted, to be able to create color separation. Notice on the film how there’s alway a colour wiggling, being slightly offsetted.”
Facing looming deadlines, Ménard turned to twitter for additional animation muscle. Coming to his aid, Anne-Louise Érambert, Louise Druelle, James Hatley, and Oliver Hamilton each took on a scene to help complete the film.
After animation was done, Ménard reached out to glitch-melody master, Rich Vreeland (aka Disasterpiece) for scoring and sound design. Previous to this film, Vreeland became known for his 8-bit-poignancy on soundtracks for indie videogames such as Fez. His music makes Ménard’s traversals of imagined expanses feel wider. Boops, beeps and static noise swirl together in a way that feels alive and personal.
Somewhere proves Médard and Vreeland are a formidable creative pair. “I think [Vreeland is] kind of an in-between in his field — his sound is referencing the catchiness of old-school videogame music while having this eerie, immersive ambience to it, reminiscent of some of my favourite contemporary electronica artists like Baths,” wrote Ménard. He added: “I think my work is also in-between a few things: between graphic design, strange illustration and printmaking...So maybe those similarities in our distinct fields makes his music work well for me.”
Below, check out a few of Ménard's early sketches:
All images courtesy of Nicolas Ménard // Art for Somewhere.
For more on Nicolas Ménard you can visit his webpage here.