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Connected Ink: How the PAR Lab is using Wacom devices to create an innovative science communication project

October 27, 2023

The Penn Animation as Research Lab, co-directed by Simon Richter and Joshua Mosley, is an innovative project at the University of Pennsylvania that combines science and art to communicate emerging research related to climate and the environment in a uniquely engaging way. UPenn students have a unique opportunity to bring together interests too often kept separate in university environments, in order to both engage in meaningful scientific inquiry as well as create projects that can communicate that research to the masses.

As part of the Lab, the Penn Climate Animation and Research Studio brings six students together into a mobile animation studio to both conduct research and work on an animation project on location. As part of the project, students traveled to the Netherlands to learn more, meet experts, and “critically reflect on emerging adaptation strategies with the intent of producing works of art that inform and influence policymakers and communities.”

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A still from one of the Studio’s animations

How did the lab come about?

Many of the participating students double-major in Fine Arts or Design as well as Engineering, Science, or another STEM field. “For a long time, I’ve wondered how these students could build a future career that incorporated both paths,” explained Mosley. He wanted to develop a model of collaboration so that artists and researchers could “tell pressing stories about how science informs decisions that we make to adapt and shift human behavior,” and established the Lab with Richter as a result.

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Students storyboarding their animation project in a farmhouse in Haastrecht, Netherlands

Why Wacom?

Wacom is proud to be a significant part of this project — many of the student participants use a combination of Wacom Cintiq 16 Pro pen displays and Wacom Intuos Pro pen tablets to create their animation project — and to host a presentation from the team as part of our annual Connected Ink program on November 1st, 2023, at 6pm ET. More information about the presentation can be found at the end of this blog post.

“[The] switch to Cintiq Pro 16 [displays] … has been transformative,” says Mosley. “I have been using Wacom tablets in my work and teaching since 1996, [but] what I found with the Cintiq is that it was much easier to control hand-drawn lines … the color is accurate … I could see an immediate improvement in the students’ drawings, in their organization of compositions, and it was so great for the team to have consistent color across the production.”

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A student engages in a tour of ecosystem-based coastal defense structures using oysters with the Coastal Resilience Lab in the Netherlands

The project

In the Netherlands, students spent a month on location observing areas affected by climate change, meeting experts as well as local artists, and beginning work on their animation project, which will become a part of Project Poldergeist.

Project Poldergeist, also co-directed by Richter and Mosley, is an online animation experiment combining video animation and climate science in an attempt to make climate research more engaging and easier to understand. Students in the Penn Climate Action in Research Studio produced the below animation, and are currently hard at work on two follow-ups.

The two upcoming animation projects will continue to explore and explain important climate research: “One of these investigates the side effects of dredging for transportation and shipping, and the limits to how much sand is available for climate adaptation,” explained Mosley. “The other … deals with how we battle with our ego when defending ourselves against the forces of nature. We often think we can engineer a solution, but nature plays the long game. In this scenario, eventually, water creeps in.”

The first part will debut during their upcoming Connected Ink presentation, and the other will follow shortly.

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Upcoming Wacom Connected Ink Presentations

Connected Ink is Wacom’s celebration of art, technology and creative chaos. It creates a space for continuous exploration about the future of human creativity by bringing imaginative and curious people from all walks of life together to ask questions, exchange ideas, and inspire each other about new and alternative ideas at the convergence of art, education, science, and technology.

The Penn Climate Animation and Research Studio will be presenting on Wednesday, November 1st, but theirs is just one of a slate of engaging sessions exploring technology and creativity. Here’s the Connected Ink lineup:

Dave Zaboski

The Universal Laws of Creativity

Join Dave Zaboski, former Disney Animator and Chief Creative Officer of successful creative industry startup Laetro as he shares a version of the talk he gave to new artists at Disney to put them on a path to mastery. You’ll learn real-world tools and practices gleaned from the halls of Disney and beyond used by the world’s greatest creatives to turn their thoughts into things. You’ll get a deeper understanding of the power of story, tools for unstoppable collaboration, and practices for finishing strong on every project. This powerful and engaging talk will inspire you to new heights, and your creativity will thank you for it. 

Speaker: Dave Zaboski // Chief Creative Officer, Laetro

Wednesday, November 1, 2023, 2:00pm PDT
Add to calendar: Gmail | Outlook | Yahoo | ICS
Attend or bookmark the webinar: YouTube Livestream Link

UPenn Connected Ink presenation

Animation as Research: A new approach to climate change research

During this Connected Ink presentation, attendees will hear the behind the scenes stories of the Penn Climate Animation and Research Studio’s journey through the Netherlands in the June of 2023 and watch the first of their two part animated series.

Joshua Mosley, Professor of Fine Arts // Penn Animation as Research Lab Co-Director
Melody Kuo, Animator Researcher // Academic focus: Communications, Consumer Psychology, and Design
Annabel Sumardi, Animator Researcher // Academic focus: Design and Communication, Data Science

Wednesday, November 1, 2023, 3:30pm PDT
Add a reminder to your calendar: Gmail | Outlook | Yahoo | ICS
Attend or bookmark the webinar: YouTube Livestream Link

Panchita terrain example

The Art of Panchita!!: How Unsaid Studio made an animated film from scratch

Unsaid Studio created an animated short film called Panchita!!, based on the true story of a South American girl with dreams of tap dancing. The film was made in collaboration with TECHO, an NGO that builds homes for people in need. Unsaid Studio used 3D animation software and Wacom hardware to create the world of Panchita!!, and worked closely with TECHO to ensure the film accurately represented the lives of people living in informal settlements. The film is more than just a movie; it is also a way to raise awareness and fight poverty.

Doug Bello // Unsaid Studio Co-founder, Panchita!! Director
Keka Petrich // Unsaid Studio EP, Panchita!! Lead Producer

Wednesday, November 15, 2023, 2:30pm PST
Add to calendar: Gmail | Outlook | Yahoo | ICS
Attend or bookmark the webinar: YouTube Livestream Link

‘Back to the Forest’ themed Drink & Draw @ the Wacom Experience Center PDX

Join us in celebrating Connected Ink in-person at our December Drink & Draw event. Draw along with fellow artists and our amazing creative community in Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, December 7, 2023, 6:00pm – 9:00pm PST
Address: 1455 NW Irving St. Portland, Oregon 97209
Google Maps: https://bit.ly/WacomXPDXGoogle

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