Popularly, the phrase “animated movie” usually translates to teams of Pixar employees working on bleeding-edge computers housed in climate-controlled studios. For Drew Christie, it means drawing flipbooks on the pages of old paperbacks in the front seat of a truck. But this local animator and illustrator prefers doing things the old-fashioned way—everything from making art to playing music to getting dressed.
“I like to make myself look older,” says the full-bearded 26-year-old, who appears to have been ripped from an 1840s daguerreotype. His art looks older than it is, too, thanks both to his low-tech methodology and his obsession with obscure American history. His recent films, often featured in local animation showcases, center on ironic and tragic historical snafus. Fire, Fire, I Heard the Cry (2010) chronicles the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, during which our fire chief was at a firefighting convention in San Francisco. The Sinking of the Hunley (2009) details the fatal misadventures of H.L. Hunley, the Confederate inventor of a hand-crank submarine. Christie says he’s drawn to “guys in history who were close to greatness but screwed up and did something really dumb.”
Currently, his subject is Boston Corbett, who killed John Wilkes Booth in 1865. Christie is telling his story in a new six-minute animation, The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Lincoln. He illustrates directly onto the pages of dusty paperbacks (older pages “have a nice patina”) using crayon, pastel and charcoal. Each page serves as a film frame; the approximate math is 12 paperbacks per five minutes of film. When finished, Christie takes individual photos of every page and runs them together, which imparts the films with their endearingly wobbly (and, yes, old-fashioned) look.
Growing up in Sammamish and studying animation at Evergreen, Christie reports he was always inspired by “old stuff,” including ghostly Northwest towns and countless historical biographies. Much of this subject matter appears in his linocut prints—chunky lines illustrating a menagerie of antlers, railroad tracks, stumps and igloos. His day job as a donation station attendant for the nonprofit Northwest Center allows him plenty of downtime, which he fills by sitting in the truck (his “traveling studio”) and drawing like crazy—animations, artwork for album covers and posters (such as his recent acclaimed portrait of Kris Kristofferson for local Light in the Attic Records) and meticulously drawn ’zines, such as Drew Christie’s Illustrated Guide to Old Time Instruments and Songs.
Christie isn’t entirely trapped in historical amber—he’s a blogger who regularly posts his latest drawings and films, and he learned to play guitar, mandolin and banjo via online tutorials. But now he’s “turning against the Internet,” he laughingly insists. Like a character in one of his films, Christie has a radical idea: “You should be able to access it from ages 15–21, but then you’re cut off.” Sounds like the rant of an old man.
CATCH HIM: The Man Who Shot the Man Who Shot Lincoln, featured in the Local Sightings Film Festival at Northwest Film Forum (nwfilmforum.org).