Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tony Zhou's "Every Frame A Painting"

David Palumbo

As an artist, I think it is important to learn from art forms outside the ones in which we practice.  The key concepts of one discipline can often be applied in interesting ways to another even when they might seem completely unrelated.  Rhythm, for example, is a fundamental aspect of music but important in visual art as well.  It is certainly possible to compose and execute a picture without considering rhythm, but those who contemplate how it can apply to still images have an expanded set of tools to work with.

I think that artistic minds are always trying to solve problems or discover new ways of seeing.  Finding reflections of one's art form in unrelated creative work and looking for ways to adapt outside influences to their craft are great ways to grow while keeping things fresh.  Besides reading articles specific to painting and illustration, I regularly listen to a writing podcast, have become increasingly fascinated with photography, and love to learn about the subject of today’s post: the craft of film making.

There are a number of ways that film can be related to painting and every now and then I see blogs dedicated to the subject through study of color and compositions of still frames.  I’ve recently become a fan of a video series, however, which makes no attempt to inform painters with cinematic examples, but rather study the craft of filmmaking with the aspirations that, when done well, the result will make “Every Frame a Painting.”

The series, created by an editor named Tony Zhou, is clearly targeted at filmmakers.  All the same, I’m fascinated by the ideas discussed and the places in which they connect with my own creative process are often surprising and inspiring.  I don’t want to talk too much about what I personally take from these because I think the poetry of cross-discipline learning is in its ambiguous nature: the connections which we make are more meaningful when they are made organically and they suit us each in a very personal way.  That said, I think every video is worth watching regardless of how unlikely the subject seems to apply to painting because they ALL have layers of information to process.  As an example, I was really surprised to find all kinds of great big-picture type deep thoughts in the Michael Bay episode (a sentence I never imagined that I would write) and the Jackie Chan segment reminded me just how important an eye to detail and giving that extra bit of effort really are.  Others, like the recent Drive and The Bad Sleep Well videos which focus on composition, are more immediately useful to any visual artist.

Find all of the videos here:


  1. Thanks for this post, David. Really insightful. Echoing your sentiment, I think it's interesting how learning to create artwork is actually learning a set of underlying, creative principles applicable to so many different fields of interest (creative and otherwise). I got my BFA in Illustration, but was blessed to break into the creative professional world in graphic design—my illustrative training became the basis for branding and layout work. It does seem that one can't study or play with anything ancillary without it benefiting your main craft (even my kawaii interest has blessed my more realistic illustration efforts).

    One last thing I've noticed, something I find empowering and expansive for other creatives to take or leave—one that can help people break into the creative professional world more easily perhaps (not saying one should drop the dream of freelance illustration, just saying a lot of people would probably find deep satisfaction in opening the mind to other options available in the meantime at least)—since my current employer purposely hires multifaceted creatives (i.e. people who can draw AND design, or animate AND do layout, etc.) I've seen how easily those cross-overs can take place. In my experience, although design is certainly a separate discipline from illustration, very often an illustrator can cross successfully over to design (or to another discipline yet). Bread and butter while being creative isn't anything to scoff at wherever it can honorably be found :) Thanks again for the thoughts.

    1. oh absolutely. I know a few illustrators who come from design backgrounds and it shows in their work as a tremendous benefit.

  2. What writing podcast do you listen to? I want to hear it now.

    1. I've been following Scriptnotes for a couple of years now. I'm also a dedicated 99% Invisible listener, which is mostly about architecture and design (in the sense of our built world)

  3. thank you for sharing this channel, i can see movies with new eyes now.


Contact Form


Email *

Message *

Whatsapp Button works on Mobile Device only

Start typing and press Enter to search