Feature: Seattle’s Indie Animator Britta Johnson

Britta Johnson brings a biologist

By Seattle Mag December 31, 1969

Category: seattlepi.com teaser headlines


More Seattle animators:
Clyde Petersen

Stefan Gruber
Webster Cromwell
Tess Martin

Thursday, March 4 at 8 p.m.,  Zeitgeist Coffee 

Seattle animators are bucking the computer animation trend, using lo-fi techniques to create lovely little films. See for yourself at the (free!) Local Animation Showcase, featuring work by the artists profiled in the March issue of Seattle magazine (Stefan Gruber, Tess Martin, Britta Johnson, Webster Crowell and Clyde Petersen) as well as a few fellow animators
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IN PROGRESS: Johnson recently completed a seven-minute short called Crashing Waves, which uses time-lapse photography. She’s at work on Unearth, a group of animated video art pieces made outdoors with large-scale found objects. TRUE CONFESSION: “One of the nice things about animation is that I’m allowed to be fussy in a way that would wreck another art form.” ON THE SEATTLE EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION TEAM: “It’s a solitary art, and we tend to be a little reclusive, so it feels good to know there’s a community of animators here.”  SEE FOR YOURSELF: Watch Johnson’s animated short films at thekmpi.net.

Animator Britta Johnson is talking about one of her favorite subjects: bugs. “They’re little fanatics,” she says, the velocity of her speech increasing with her excitement. “They’re automatons. They have this really closed set of gestures with only minor variations. Honey ants just eat honey until they explode! They have such clarity of purpose.” Johnson, a 34-year-old petite blonde from Wisconsin, says this with total respect for insects—facsimiles of which have appeared in several of her films, their bodies crafted from old buttons, eyeglass stems, wire and other flotsam and jetsam. Johnson confesses that she can relate to the bugs: “I find pleasure in repetitive tasks, and animation scratches that itch.”

A freelancer based in West Seattle, Johnson subsists on a variety of animation gigs—teaching for Coyote Central at 911 Media Arts, making music videos (e.g., for musicians Mirah and Andrew Bird), doing commercial animation (recently for Microsoft and BBC) and winning art grants. “It’s been a nice year for grants,” she notes, having been awarded project money from both 4Culture and Seattle Public Utilities (which commissioned a film for its water stewardship series), a City Artist grant from the mayor’s office, plus an Artist Trust fellowship.

A science fan from an early age (“more the visuals than the reality”), Johnson grew up fascinated by natural history museums, the PBS show Nova, diagrams, Time/Life books and microscopes. “There’s not that much difference between the practice of science and the practice of art,”


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