Paintings That Dance

In a flurry of motion, hula dancers leap off the screen to soulful Hawaiian chanting, or leis are piled forehead-high onto a grad. Tandem surfers glide acrobatically across a blue ocean. Brazilian beats drum into fevered gear, accompanied by capoeira kicks and twirls. These snippets of local life can be shared across the miles, thanks to multiple-award-winning artist Laura Margulies.

“Friends of mine had the idea that I should make (Hawaiian-style) eCards,” says Margulies, whose 30-year animation resume includes creating commercials and working for networks MTV and CBS. “I’ve always been interested in short-form animation, not narratives. I love the collage method of storytelling, where you can present a very small piece of something, and it evokes a feeling, an atmosphere and a memory.”


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Stop-motion animated eCards by Laura Margulies. Photos courtesy of LeiMation

Her passion for short-format animation gave rise last year to, a way to tangibly comprise “pieces of feeling,” as Hawaii-born Margulies describes it. When you sample the simple beauty of her multimedia art, featuring original music, you know you’re experiencing something special, but dive into her world and you’ve entered a realm of pure, painstaking and creative passion.

Rather than the traditional method of animation where hundreds of frames are created, Margulies typically uses more of a 3D, claymation technique. Using a single board, she paints a fluid picture, taking repeated, time-lapse snapshots of her painting, which she stores digitally.

At 12 stop-motion portraits being shown per second – that is, 12 unique shots of her painting per second – some of the five- to 10-second cards on her website take up to 10 days to create.

“This is all with the idea too that my personal films,” which have shown at numerous international film festivals, “take about a year a minute, so five years to make a five-minute film.”

That’s some mind-bending dedication, but the intense attention to detail is also why each card is so hypnotically graceful and compelling. And Margulies knows something about capturing motion, being a dancer and yogi herself.

As for her artwork, career landmarks include fine arts degrees at UH and NYU, teaching at NYU, and working on design and background for Beavis and Butt-head. The stark contrast between MTV’s animated duo and Margulies’ aloha eCards is apparent, but the same principles inform both works in terms of color-blending and animation, as well as attention to foreground, background and lighting.

LeiMation offers cards for all occasions at $3.25 each, or $16.99 for a year’s subscription, with more in the works.

“I keep a notepad, and if I see somebody on the street – you know those ladies with the walkers that have the tennis balls on the bottom, and they’re wearing sneakers and muumuus? That’s coming up,” she laughs. “Little things pop out, sort of like if you were writing poetry and you had a line pop into your head. The beautiful part about these LeiMations is that all it takes is one little idea – and that’s a complete piece, with some illustration skills involved and music. They’re little, tiny films.”

In the foreseeable future, Margulies will offer customizable photo and video eCards, where your uploaded content is blended with a painted background and animated foreground so that your image blends with the animation.

Writers Workshop

For the word-wise, HPU presents its annual Ko’olau Writers Workshop April 12. Signing up ( earns participants morning and afternoon sessions with expert linguists – Kristiana Kahakauwila, Katherine Beutner, Mark Tjarks, Lavonne Leong, Jaimie Gusman and Melanie Van der Tuin Oka – in the fields of fiction, nonfiction, poetry or scriptwriting. Entry fee ($40) includes lunch, parking and the keynote address by noted author Kahakauwila, whose debut fiction book, This is Paradise, received accolades from Barnes & Noble and the New York Times. Kahakauwila will talk about the concept of home and place in relationship to writing. Meanwhile, the workshops will involve a mix of lecture and writing exercises. Write on!