Chillhop Music’s newest project is called Tales of a Flowing Forest and it’s a bit different in its artistic approach: Canadian illustrator/animator Sean Lewis created four scenes and – using that imagery as source material – producer Leavv later crafted eight instrumentals.
Art inspiring art.
With a story to go along with the album (featured in the vinyl booklet and the YouTube video) together we sculpted this project into an immersive multimedia experience.
Ahead of the full-length dropping tomorrow (Monday, November 9), we spoke with Lewis about his artistic approach, his travel inspirations, his quarantine lifestyle, and more!
Can you talk a bit about the process, and how it came together? From early draft to animation.
I was drawn to the idea of an isolated forest with remnants of an ancient city scattered across the landscape. Water and its movement across this huge space seemed like a fun way to tie multiple images together. I really enjoyed sketching out compositions where I could contrast sweeping landscapes and intimate scenes of plants and water. Ultimately we decided on having a mysterious source of water perched at the top of a mountain, and a cascading waterfall nourishing the forest below.
What inspired the early drafts of this ancient world?
I went on a few trips before the pandemic took over our lives. The first was a California camping trip with friends and the second was to Portugal. I think these pictures came out of our time in Yosemite and the absolutely unreal landscapes there. Huge cascading waterfalls and a sense of scale that is impossible to express unless you’ve seen it in person. Portugal was only my second time in Europe and seeing these ancient cities and castles perched on mountains was mind blowing. I took lots of pictures of overgrown ruins and sort of combined these two locations together. I am always inspired by the work of Hayao Miyazaki and I do think a little of his films and world building made it into these pictures.
What’s the next country you’d like to visit?
I’d be happy going to most places in the world at this point. But I’ve been finding myself daydreaming about Japan. I spent half a year there and worked on a farm for a couple of months. I think about the lovely family that took care of me there and miss my time working outside with them and soaking in an Onsen at the end of the day. I’d love to go back there.
You work a great deal with landscapes and the outside world. Have you been escaping to the outdoors during this pandemic?
Yes! I felt very lucky to be able to get out of the city (I live in Toronto) and spend lots of time on Georgian Bay. It’s my favourite place and the pandemic allowed us to get up there more often because offices and studios closed down. So we were able to work up there! But the season is over so we’re permanently in the city now. I think I’ve been hiking and spending more time outside since we’ve settled into this new reality. Our only time spent with friends has been outside and I hope we can keep it up through the winter.
If you were hiking in this foreign land, what would you need in your backpack?
You’d need some snacks for sure. Scaling those steep rocks and endless stairs would be tiring. Bring a big water bottle to scoop up all that fresh water. If you’re staying the night, I’d bring a sleeping bag, headlamp and camping stove. Looks like it would get cold there overnight. My new favourite camping food is Japanese curry! You can buy single serving packs with some rice and it’s so easy and delicious to make!
Outside of this art project, what are you currently working on?
Right now I’m working on a stop motion animated project with people who have inspired me for years! I can’t talk about it too much right now but it’s a dream job for me. Other than that I work steadily on freelance editorial jobs and teach at OCADU, which is the art university here in Toronto.
In closing, do you have any advice for visual artists working on their craft?
Just keep drawing, painting and experimenting, as soon as you stop learning you’re in trouble. There is so much to know and the process of improving is a lifelong journey. I think that’s partially why it’s such gratifying work. At the same time it can be financially unstable and demoralizing, there’s a lot of self reflection and if you’re like me, you can be hard on yourself. But if you can ride that instability, learn from failures and make changes, it’s a really exciting path. I grew up drawing and it was the only skill I developed, so I’m locked in whether it goes well or not!