Great Artists Find Time and Inspiration Anywhere

by Megan -

With a full-time job, loving wife, and rambunctious two-and-a-half-year-old twins often underfoot, most would be surprised to hear that Bert Guroff makes time for art. But after work is done for the day, the toys have been cleaned up, and little heads are resting on pillows, he retreats to the basement to experiment, practice, and create.

“Family and my job are my top day-to-day priorities,” Guroff tells us. “Cut-paper collage, time-lapse and stop-motion photography are hobbies I pursue as the rest of life allows.” Luckily, life does allow.

Ever since he was young, Guroff has been interested in stop-motion animation. Early on, he was inspired by a very unusual source. “There was a great commercial with Raisinettes dancing around circa 1986,” reminisced Guroff, “that inspired my cousin and I to fuss with a cassette-based camcorder trying to create something of similar quality. The results were totally abysmal, but I suppose that experience and the level of difficulty stuck with me.”

Not only was Guroff intrigued by the “cheeky and cool” personalities of the dried up grapes, but he also admired the production company because of the “real bravado [they showed] by kicking all the other snacks to the curb with an advanced and flawless stop-motion advertising approach.” Once he got his hands on the only tools he had access to at the time, he found the difficulty in creating his own stop-motion masterpieces quite baffling.

“The time and patience required, the repetitious nature of the process, the challenge of keeping your set pristine and camera motionless throughout, multiple characters moving simultaneously in tiny increments, how many takes it would require to get it just right. The commercial showed me not only the unlimited range of opportunity stop-motion provided, but also the high hurdles to entry and success. Of course, this was just on the cusp of the computing revolution.”

But Guroff’s interest in stop-motion never waned and as he explored other artistic mediums, he discovered there was a promising way to combine an early love with his current one: cut-paper collage.

“I was first messing around with collage, [when] I realized that the process was well suited to time-lapse photography. Without time-lapse, all the patient cutting and white-knuckled gluing that went into these little cut-paper characters and other projects I had made was lost. I saw time-lapse as a way to capture and preserve all the work that I had invested.”

Guroff realized that the audiences that view his paper creations might appreciate them more if they knew all of the time and effort that went into their execution, as well as appreciating the stop-motion simultaneously. It was a way to deliver dual art projects in one seamless video. Originally experimenting with iMovie to bring his new projects to life, Guroff found it lacking critical elements. After some time scouring the Internet, he met Boinx and its iStopMotion animation software. The two have been friends ever since.

“I've never used another stop-motion software. It's been all I've needed. It was ridiculously easy to learn and allowed me to focus on cut-paper creations, while simultaneously generating easy-to-manipulate stop-motion footage.”

Recently, Guroff created a promotional video using iStopMotion for his first art show. Paired with his wife’s photography, his collages are currently on display at Three Sisters on the East Side of Providence, RI. He shot a frame every six seconds to showcase the installation, then trimmed and timed the resulting footage to produce a three-minute film on a tight timeline.

“iStopMotion allows me to add additional depth to my work. For example, collage is glued-down and motionless, but there's a whole history to each piece that involves a great deal of motion and metamorphosis – documenting that behind-the-scenes activity can be rewarding for the artist and an audience.”

The future is bright for Guroff who is exploring new avenues for his work – animated narrative shorts using cut-paper “human” characters and an online storefront. But with a growing family, he may have to put his artistic aspirations on hold. He quipped, “Maybe when my kids determine that I'm not so cool anymore, they'll put me out to pasture, and I'll have all the time I'll need.”

Be sure to check out Bert Guroff’s art exhibition now through March 14 in Providence, RI and a growing archive of stop-motion videos on his YouTube channel.