Give an artist a pencil and paper, and this is what happens – rough sketch lines become a head of tousled hair, or a streamlined body. Where there used to be only graphite markings from a soft pencil, now there’s a completed drawing in their stead.

For freelance animator Serene Teh, that’s merely the start of something bigger.

She flirts with many ideas in her head and conceptualises a story. Then, she captures the motions flitting through her mind, and expresses them in the form of ink and fibered sheets.

Throw video editing and moving frames into the mix, and it’s the birth of a great stop-motion narrative.

All in a day’s work for this Singapore-based animator.

Serene The Animator

Taking inspiration from traditional art forms, such as flipbooks and Japanese origami, Serene’s works feature the unique element that’s handmade animation.

Fluid transitions, slick movements, and experiential film direction have since served as trademarks of her expert craft – and all of those traits truly show in the amount of traction her projects have garnered.

As of date, her Assassin’s Creed stop-motion piece has yielded a total of 48.7k views on Instagram, and managed to rake up such popularity that even popular media space INSIDER picked it up.

The rest is, as the saying goes, history.

my paper parkour, again. #assassinscreed

A post shared by Serene Teh (@saggyarmpit) on

The short reel follows movie protagonist Callum Lynch as he vaults over obstacles, leaps across wooden beams, assaults enemies, and executes the iconic Leap of Faith while in the body of his ancestor and master assassin Aguilar de Nerha.

Every scene unfolds smoothly over moving frames, and the entire short is accompanied by a well-selected background song.

A self-professed movie lover, she finds great interest in creating or making art revolving around the craft of filmmaking.

In fact, the newest addition to her impressive show reel is a 27-second fighting scene from Kingsmen 2: The Golden Circle.

“It was nice to see that people are actually entertained by the way I animate. I’m very pleased to hear from people around the world that my works have inspired them,” says Serene.

Working on the Assassin’s Creed animation is seemingly a callback to her roots – coincidentally, her first project involved the topic of parkour as well.

In 2010, Serene produced the Parkour Motion Reel as part of her sub-culture assignment during her degree days, and wanted to portray the beauty of a freerunner’s movement. What she didn’t count on, however, was the overwhelming popularity of the fully hand-drawn animation.

“The short 48-second animation unexpectedly went viral for a time, and was picked by several online sharing influencers like Hypebeast,” she shares.

“Since then, I’ve gotten a stream of commission from Disney XD to create handmade animated spots of their sitcoms.”

A viable career was in the works, and Serene has never looked back since.

Armed with a slew of experiences from being a former full-time graphic and 3-D designer for nearly 10 years, she started to head down the road less travelled, and push the boundaries of her artistic pursuit to new heights.

Running Dry

Of course, nothing is as smooth-sailing as it seems. Being a stop-motion animator is an unconventional choice, and it’s easy to understand why: the job requires a lot of patience, original creativity, and proper planning.

A simple 30-second animation puts Serene through a three-month process, starting from storyboard planning to the final editing stage.

“It (the journey) has been challenging. I’ve been trying to push a little further in making animating more interesting by creating subtle new methods in portraying a story.”

When inspiration runs dry, she counters slow and uninspiring days by going out for a walk, and visiting museums or the library.

The long preparation time is expected, especially in a field that deals with one single frame after another. According to Serene, the toughest part of the entire animation process is visualising the movements of an object or subject.

 “There’s always a need for plenty of time to study the flow and movement of a character, which tells a lot about who and what the character really is. This contributes to the story in overall.”

The stop-motion artist, who has recently given birth, has shifted her entire focus to handmade animation.

Between that and family commitments, it’s evident that Serene’s passion and love for her craft truly runs deep – an admirable trait in a society so entrenched in fickle-minded behaviour.

When asked on the advice she’d part to her younger self, this is what she has to say: Never doubt yourself and your abilities. It’s a message enshrouded in simplicity, yet the words ring of nothing but the truth.

Moving forward, Serene enthuses, “The local arts scene has recently been blossoming with the help of social media. I love where it’s going, and would like to get involved more in collaboration with other fellow artists and media.”

To check out more of Serene’s works, click here.

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