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Artist Randy Cano Puts His Surrealist Spin on the Power of Parkas

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For the buzzing Los Angeles motion graphics artist anything is possible—as long as it feels real.

Los Angeles-based artist Randy Cano’s work with motion graphics has captured the minds of many. His surrealist forms—from dancing, technicolor confetti creatures to GIFs of towering cheeseburgers—reshape everyday objects in unexpected ways. Cano’s unbridled creativity has also afforded him the chance to work alongside many of the world’s most innovative brands, using visual manipulation to rearrange how people view their products. His latest project is a series of animated GIFs that highlight how the new Ultra Light Down Seamless Parka from Uniqlo repels the natural elements. It's another trippy example of how his work skews the way we perceive the world around us. We caught up with Cano to hear more about his vision for his latest project.

How did you get started?

Like everyone, I started drawing as a little kid. I got really serious about it in college. Eventually, I stumbled upon people doing 3-D animations and motion graphics and I became fascinated by it. I started watching tutorials and reading manuals in my free time and it ended up being my passion, even though I was technically a graphic design student. After a couple of months, one of my professors got me an internship with a studio and we got a contract with YouTube to do animated intros and logos. I’ve pretty much been doing [motion graphics] ever since.

It seems like you’re drawn to fluid movements in your work. Why?

I’ve always been interested in how to make things move organically. My early work was more rigid and mechanical, and I wanted to learn how to make it more fluid. So that was the starting point. I then wanted to learn how to combine those techniques with humans or even objects like Mickey Mouse.

Was your approach to these Uniqlo animations any different than usual?

I tried to approach these animations in my own style and figure out how I could make them trippy—whether it’s the way the parka is moving, or the different colors I used, or the wind that I showed blowing [on the garment] and the liquids that poured on it to show how it’s water-resistant. A lot of my stuff is really colorful and vibrant so I wanted to tie that into some of these animations.

How did you go about animating the parka?

I usually just start out looking at a photo and then get into the 3-D modeling. Then I just go straight to the computer and start getting the proportions down and getting into the details. For the parka, I used a program called Cinema 4D and another called Zebra. With Cinema I started building out the overall shape and getting the silhouette down. Then I brought it into Zebra, which is a 3-D sculpting program, and started making it a little more organic and doing the folds and creases. After I was done building that, I made a low-res version of the parka because there’s so much detail when you’re done sculpting that [the program] can slow things down and make the object appear heavy. You need to build it in a way [that allows] you to run simulations on it, but still have it look fluid and organic.

What about the weather simulations?

I brought the animation into Cinema 4D. There I used something called TurbulenceFD that’s a smoke and fire plug-in. I used the smoke and [manipulated it] so it felt like a wind tunnel was being blown towards the parka and you could see the wind flowing around it. To do the liquids and the snow I used a different effects program called Houdini. It’s a super crazy program where anything is possible, as long as you know how to use it.

You’ve worked with natural elements in the past. What is it you enjoy about it and how is it challenging?

Yeah, I’ve used liquid, wind, and smoke in the past, so I knew how to approach those. There’s a lot of settings that we needed to tweak and test out. For example, we needed the surface to fold in a bit so you can really feel the impact of the wind hitting the parka. Subtle things like that, where the parka is actually interacting with the dynamics of the elements, are tricky and can take a while. I like how [working with natural elements] feels more organic opposed to some other more rigid styles of animation. It’s a nice way of communicating and enhancing the elements—and in this case the strength of the parka.

What kinds of emotions do you think people take away from your animations?

Whatever they want to. Whether it makes them happy, or uncomfortable, or awkward, or entertained. I get all kinds of reactions and all of them are cool—[I’m happy] as long as people are feeling something. I did one animation influenced by my frustration of waking up in the morning and having to go to work. That’s how a lot of people feel on Mondays, I think. Playing with discomfort is definitely a recurring theme.

UNIQLO is a global apparel company from Japan.The brand offers clothing that comes from the Japanese values of simplicity, quality and longevity. UNIQLO' s new Ultra Light Down Seamless Parka has an incredibly lightweight and seamless design to keep warmth in, and rain, snow, and wind out. #UniqloULD #SeasonforSeamless

David Garber is a writer and DJ living in Brooklyn. Find him on Twitter.

All photos by Alex Welsh