Charles Young studied architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art and graduated with a postgraduate degree in 2014. But he never achieved the qualifications to become an architect and instead began working as an artist and animator, immersed in the papercraft world. “I started making paper models in college,” he tells Creative Boom, “after I graduated, I found it was a quick and easy way to make something everyday.”
For most papercraft work, Young uses regular 200gsm watercolor paper. “I found it worked well on a small scale. It has the flexibility to take curves but thick enough to have structural integrity,” he says.
Four Color Houses is a project he started in 2020 after purchasing the book A Dictionary of Color Combinations by Sanzo Wada. “It contains two-, three-, and four-color combinations taken from early 20th-century Japanese design and was first released in 1935,” he explains. “Until then almost all of my art on paper had been done entirely in white, and it seemed like a good way to introduce color into the things I was making, to break through through the combinations creating homes and vehicles using these colors.
Young completed all 108 four-color combinations in early 2021, and these pieces were showcased together at CODA Paper Art 2021 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. Young says he’s currently working on the 120 three-color combinations and will eventually get to the two-color combinations as well. “I’m also aware there’s a second volume of the Color Dictionary, so there’s plenty more to come.”
The process begins with Young printing the colors onto a single sheet of A5 watercolor paper with a regular inkjet printer, each color taking up a quarter of the sheet. “It limits the amount of material I use and makes sure each piece is roughly the same size. I usually have a rough idea of what I’m going to do before I start, and the clearer that idea, the better it comes out I can do a little sketch of the final shape I want ahead of time, but often I just start drawing directly on the printed paper and dial it in as I go.
To bring houses, trucks and cars to life, Young says he does the animation pretty quickly with stop motion. “I set up the piece that’s animated, securing the parts with double-sided tape if I need to make sure they don’t move. I then shoot a series of frames, moving the parts that need to be a bit Because these small parts are meant to be done quickly, I animate entirely in-camera, without using any other software where you can overlay one image with the next to check for movement like I would on more complex animation . put together in Photoshop where I can turn them into images for animation.”
Interestingly, Young tells us that when he started creating this type of looping animation for his Paperholm project, they had to be uploaded to Tumblr, which still has a pretty strict file size limit for gif files. “That meant I had to learn to be very frugal with my animations, removing as much information as possible from each frame in Photoshop so you end up with a fixed background image and the motion happening in front of it. .”
Color models take up to four hours, depending on the complexity of the structure and the amount of cutting required. “I do all of this by hand with a scalpel,” he says. “If a part includes animation, it’s built in from the start. To achieve smooth movement on moving parts, paper sliders and wheels should be included during construction.”
Looking at some of Young’s other work, there’s an amazing project for the Music Hall in Aberdeen that presented quite a different challenge. Commissioned by New Media Scotland’s Alt:W fund, the animation was made in a scale paper model of the area of the city surrounding the Music Hall, one of Scotland’s oldest concert halls .
“The basic model I created pretty much replicates a section of central Aberdeen along Union Street,” says Young. “This model took me a few months to build, partly because of its size (it’s about 1.2 square meters) and partly because copying things that already exist takes a lot longer than inventing something. thing. Once the basic model was done, I took several days to finish the animations I wanted. I used a stop motion program called Dragonframe that lets you see what you’re doing, comparing the setup to the previous frame and letting you read what you’ve done so far.
“The idea for the animation was to take the familiar streetscape of the city and add an extra layer of invented occupation on top of it,” he continues. “Through this, the viewer would have a new perspective and be encouraged to think differently about space and what might be happening above them if they looked up.”
For another recent project, one for Toyota, Young uses a combination of white paper models he already had and specially made parts, including bridges, boats, cows and a stadium. The film talked about the possibilities of battery technologies and featured ideas the company wanted to push ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
“The animation took place over a week, with a re-shoot day later in the year,” he tells us. “It was my first time doing this kind of more complex narrative animation, and the script I was working on gave me plenty of opportunities to try new things which I now enjoy being pushed to do. , even if it was intimidating at the time.”
In addition to the Four Color Houses project, Young is currently working on making larger, architecturally inspired wooden structures, using box and furniture making techniques like cane weaving. “It’s nice to do something a little bigger sometimes,” he says.