The Ballad of Holland Island House
Animation: Lynn Tomlinson
Lyrics: Lynn Tomlinson
Music: Anna Roberts-Gevalt with Elizabeth LaPrelle
The Ballad of Holland Island House tells the true story of the last house on a sinking island in the Chesapeake Bay, brought to life through fluidly transforming animated clay-on-glass paintings. The house sings of its life and the creatures it has sheltered, and contemplates time and environmental change. Told from the house's point of view, this film is a soulful and haunting view of the impact of sea-level rise.
My clay-on-glass animation involves both planning and improvisation. It’s a bit like finger painting, using warm modeling clay that looks like thick oil paint. It is a stop-motion process, meaning that I create an initial painting, and then alter it bit by bit to create the movement. The process is both creative and destructive: As I change the image, the original is changed over and over until it no longer exists. When I spend three hours to make one second of finished animation, I enter a state of flow, concentrating on altering the malleable clay, changing it slowly, frame by frame. For this film, instead of a storyboard or movement pencil test, I edited a video-mashup-collage animatic I edited from found video fragments (of trees falling, boats rocking, crab feasts and model ships sinking) with well-known artworks and historical photos. Sometimes I used this video collage as a rough guide, and other times I actually rotoscoped or traced the movement, to add a life-like quality to my moving paintings.
A haunting photograph I saw on the internet inspired this story: a house standing alone in the water. Reading more about this particular house, I was struck by its story, and its relevance today, when so many communities are facing challenges from sea-level rise. The painterly, expressive, visual style reflects the artwork of Winslow Homer, VanGogh, and Kathe Kolwitz, artists working in the late 1800's, the time period when the house on Holland Island was abandoned. I wrote the lyrics to the ballad and began the animation for this film while on a two-week artist residency at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, across the bay from the remains of Holland Island. I created this film from start to finish in two months: two very intensive months!