New Contribution to Conceptual Audio-Visual Album is a Hand-Drawn Masterpiece

London-based electronic artist Max Cooper‘s Emergence project has demonstrated his knack for picking exciting visual artists as collaborators, as we’ve seen before. The conceptual project sees Max work with a different artist for each track of this album, ultimately piecing together a multi-track audiovisual account of our world’s “universal timeline.” Sabine Volkert‘s animation for Organa is the latest video from the series that caught our eye, with a dizzying series of shape-shifting animal morphologies. All drawn by hand.

The painstaking production took 290 hours all told: “a big challenge in animation is always to keep the workload realistic, since it gets out of hand so easily,” Sabine shares with THE PLUS. But it is this handcrafted quality that takes the project in a more “humanised” direction than a lot of the more computational offerings in the series.


The dizzying visuals were built up bit by bit, and explore the slight variations in evolutionary chains through similar animal structures, from lobsters to crabs, and from wolves to cats. Hand-drawn work, then, is a good fit with the more free-flowing organic process of Darwinian Evolution.


A freelance artist working in animation, illustration, and design, Sabine fits in personal projects around her work at studios across the UK, US, and Germany – twice now, her work has been selected as Vimeo Staff Picks, and she was one of the artists for the 2016 Rio Paralympics title sequence. ‘Emergence’ is clearly something this growing artist has down to a T.

THE PLUS: You’ve used loads of animals for these warping morphologies. What made you pick these particular ones?
Sabine Volkert:
They had to work well with bilateral symmetry as a stylistic device, either from a frontal or top view throughout their evolution chain. Each chain would have to have three or four stages, and also have to work in combination with others when layered on top of each other. Very occasionally I did break my own rules – the giraffe especially broke most of them.


TP: Besides the amount of time that went into this piece, what was particularly challenging?
One of my biggest concerns was that it would end up boring to watch – keeping it interesting within its constraints made the editing process and compositing phase more complex than the animations themselves. 

TP: Blue is the main colour you used in the music video, why?
Blue is the colour of water reflecting the colour of the sky, and water is life – it felt like the most natural choice. With the animations all morphing in and out, and intersecting seamlessly, a restricted colour palette helped to keep the focus on the shapes and structures.


TP: How was working with Max Cooper? 
He gave me full creative freedom to portray the ideas behind the music in my own style, and was very open for experimentation and abstraction. As I left a lot of room for myself to play around throughout the process, it also meant that most of the time it wasn’t entirely clear how the video would turn out.

TP: How do you describe your style, and who’s your biggest influence? 
In recent years I have focused mostly on flat graphic styles – somewhere in between abstract and organic. Instead of having a set style, I want to keep exploring and pushing my own boundaries. Japanese animation has influenced me greatly over time, and if I had to name a person, it would be one of my best friends and fellow creatives Yino Huan.


TP: You are from Germany with roots in Taiwan, do you think this has influenced your work?
My roots have always been a big part of my identity, with close family ties to both places. I think it’s hard not to be influenced at least a bit, when it’s a natural part of your life.

TP: What does illustration mean to you?
Illustration is a way of expression. It’s a beautiful thing that has accompanied me through all my years. I have been neglecting illustration itself a lot though – despite being closely linked to 2D animation, which I often don’t count as “illustrating”. There are times when I’ll keep saying “I miss drawing!” whilst working on animations in which I keep drawing everything frame by frame.

TP: If you could collaborate with anyone from the music industry, who would you really want to work with?
It would be the Japanese electropop duo FEMM. I love their music, fashion and visual style – their music videos are just stunning, so well-designed, and always creative.


Direction, Animation, Design: Sabine Volkert

Music: Max Cooper
Label: Recursive Music