The ‘formula’ for love is charmingly spelled out in chalk in Hilary Grist’s new video for her song Chemical Reaction.
Not only does Grist fill a classroom-sized blackboard with scientific calculations in the video, her chalk-work doodles eventually expand to create an entire beaker-filled laboratory, then a brick neighbourhood, a city skyline and, ultimately, a whole planet and universe.
The Vancouver-based singer/songwriter performs on Tuesday at the International Beer Haus in Red Deer, admitted she needed a really, really big board for her ambitious stop-motion animation project — so she created one.
Grist and her musician/filmmaker husband, Mike Southworth, transformed several walls in their studio apartment into a 30-foot-by-12-foot chalkboard.
The project involved so much drawing that Grist didn’t have the heart to erase all the work yet, so one wall remains covered with the chalk cityscape.
The 33-year-old singer estimates about two weeks of doodling was required to make the three-minute video. “You need eight pictures for every second of film,” she said, so a whole lot of erasing and redrawing went on to create the effects.
While Grist did a lot of the sketching, the Chemical Reaction project was so enormous, she had to bring several other artists on board. “We’d be drawing for five hours and then it was, OK, I guess we’re going to have to erase it now,” said Grist, sighing at the memory.
But she believes the result was worth it.
Viewers have been impressed with the whimsical, handmade feel of the video, said Grist. Unlike computer-generated imagery, this stop-motion animation isn’t slick or ambiguous. “It feels human and people can appreciate all the work that goes into it.”
The video for Chemical Reaction, a tune on her second album Come & Go, can be watched on YouTube along with Grist’s previous chalk animation projects and film-noir-ish, non-animated short made for her rendition of Waltzing Mathilda. (That video project won a grant from Shaw’s Optik TV and Public Records and was recently used to open an Okanagan film festival.)
Grist is best known for writing the song Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over, which became pivotal to a romantic story line on a second-season episode of the TV series Grimm. Her tunes have also been used on DeGrassi: The Next Generation, Being Human, Endgame, the W Network series Tess & Scott, and the Hallmark Channel’s Cedar Cove.
Grist grew up in Quesnel, B.C. as an introverted student, who didn’t aim to be a singer/songwriter. “I loved science-y stuff, and I still watch a lot of pop-science shows, like (CBC Radio’s) Quirks & Quarks,” she said. “If I wasn’t a singer I might have been a (scientist). … Well, maybe later in life. …”
She accompanied her school choir on the piano — until the choir teacher discovered she had a lovely voice and encouraged her to sing. “I was about 14 or 15 and I totally fell in love with singing. I got really, really passionate,” said Grist, who later studied music, specializing in jazz for voice and piano, at Capilano University.
“My original thought was I’d do a Diana Krall-type career” of singing mostly jazz standards. But Grist discovered that the challenge of songwriting made a music career more interesting.
“People tell me there’s a pop/ jazz/folk feel to my music, and I think that’s where that bit of jazziness comes from.”
Grist, who also plays guitar, will perform as a duo with her drummer husband at the International Beer Haus.
The other singer on the bill is fellow Vancouver artist Dominique Fricot, formerly of the band Painted Birds. (Both he and Grist are embarking on a dual album release tour across Western Canada.)
Tickets to the 9 p.m. show (doors open at 7:30 p.m.) are $10, available in advance or at the door.