Colouring Pencils – not just for colouring

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 3.28.29 pm

Hudson and Troop’s song Against the Grain is metaphorically animated in this whimsical three and a half minute  music video, a work created in collaboration with dropbear (aka Johnathon Chong). Released in 2011, this text uses everyday school items – pencils, erasers, sharpeners – to illustrate a sense of personal isolation within the everyday regimentation of educational and social expectations.

Opening with a woodgrain backdrop and accompanying radio static, a constant beat and strumming guitar herald the simplicity of the melody. This constancy reminds us of the need for persistence, whether in choosing a life of challenges or remaining within social constraints.

infinity symbol

  • the opening statement explains a common situation for many of us – ‘I’m asking questions time and time again’ – whilst the infinity symbol highlights the ongoing nature of this pursuit that ‘never ever ends’

swaying breeze

  • animated lead pencils illustrate the line ‘hanging from my limbs in the swaying breeze’ drawing our attention to the primal urge of seeking answers, with the smudged green graphboard background further enhancing a jungle theme

coloured circle

  • white paper unfolds or unscrunches to herald a new scene or opportunity, while the zooming into the centre of a circle encourages a closer examination of the energy that maintains the status quo

zooming in to closely examine

  • a small coloured pencil ‘goes against the grain’ which highlights the enormity of a decision that might lead us into conflict with others around us, and the inherent power of the group as opposed to an individual

going aginst the grain

  • the sharpener, slicing downwards through ordered pencils, illustrates the line ‘or it will kill me down below’ reveals the possibility of pain in making a less than popular decision

kill me down below

  • different waves of pencils appear during the music video, offering mesmerising moments of movement that keep time with music and reinforce the naturalised simplicity of belonging within society

waves are illustrated in different ways

  • following the chorus, the persona relates the situation of singing a song never heard

pencil points highlight lyric

with pencils pointing to the significance of feeling part of something different

wild things creeping into view

  • he acknowledges that there is ‘no direction home’ but that his decision to go against the grain has led to ‘where the wild things grow’ as animated vines twist and twine around contradicting arrows. The specific wording ‘no direction home’ is a line from the chorus of Bob Dylan’s iconic 1965 song Like a Rolling Stone, as well as the title of Martin Scorsese’s 2005 documentary of Dylan’s career in the early to mid sixties. These suggest a drifting lifestyle that has the potential to lead to important revelations, even though there is likely to be emotional pain

good and bad come and go

  • the possibility of pain is shown in the animated act of pencil sharpening and metaphorical wearing down of resolve

damaged pencil

or the image of a damaged, snapped pencil

inclusive coloured circle

  • a more inclusive coloured circle reminds us that the more we share and accept difference, the brighter our world becomes

killing teeth

  • yet the contrasting mouth of threatening teeth sharpens the persona’s resolve to ‘quicken the pace’ and challenge himself to step outside comfort’s ‘warm embrace’ in being an individual

simple equations

  • simple equations, explained in a mechanised voice over, are inserted throughout the video, together with references to computers and machines. This reiterates the blandness of predictability and reminds us of the impetus for being different

The music video ends with pencils returning to three primary coloured cases, before a smooth woodgrain finish dares us to become our true and authentic selves.

Against the Grain lyrics

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