Seattle artist Rudy Willingham posted a stop-motion video of American gymnast Simone Biles that not only wowed her social media followers, but Biles herself.
Almost a week ago, Willingham posted the video of Biles doing one of his famous gymnastic flips on his social platforms, but the catch was that he used 100 homemade paper cutouts from Biles on various backgrounds to make the video.
Willingham, CEO and founder of RudyCorp Worldwide, told USA TODAY that the process, which took almost 1.5-2 weeks, was tedious. He first found a video, exported a hundred images as images, and used Photoshop to select the subject, whiten the background, and cut out the clothes.
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He then printed all 100 cutouts and sent them through a Cricut cutting machine, photographed each in front of a different background, imported each photo to the computer for post-processing and editing, and aligned the photographs in a video editing program.
“I have to thank my wife and my creative partner Reagan Willingham for spending a sleepless night printing and cutting everything. These projects are too big for one person to do on their own,” said Willingham.
He says that to create the stop-motion effect on the video, you have to line up the paper cutouts in exactly the same place.
“The backgrounds change so quickly that it almost forces your brain to focus on whatever moves on the paper, and it turns into a kaleidoscope of color, a moving work of art,” Willingham said.
Every background means something, even if the cuts happen so quickly that viewers are unable to identify them. Willingham tried to search for red, white, and blue objects.
“Sometimes it was a flag, sometimes it was a neon sign, and sometimes it was just a red and blue chair next to each other. I also added gold backgrounds, because she’s a gold medalist. And a big wheel to represent the spinning, “said Willingham.
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Although the artist has been making paper cut art for the past few years for popular figures including Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan, he was trying to think of ways to evolve the art form.
“It would be a lot easier to create something like this digitally, but when everything is practically shot and behind closed doors it gives the video a human feel that you just can’t recreate on a computer,” said Willingham. “No matter how advanced the technology is, we still prefer human contact.”
He says what Simone Biles is doing is so beautiful and impressive, and he wanted to pay tribute to her.
“Like most of the world, when I see her flying through the air, my jaw drops. How, how can a human actually do that? It defies the laws of gravity,” Willingham said. “It’s so inspiring to see someone not only reach the top of their field, but rethink what human beings are capable of.”
Biles, who saw the video, reposted it on his Instagram story.
“I couldn’t believe she saw it… and loved it! She’s done my whole year,” Willingham said.
He said seeing something he created go viral and connect with so many people is an “amazing feeling.”
“The purpose of my art is to put something positive in the world that makes people happy. So when I see comments like ‘it brings me so much joy’ or ‘it brought tears to my eye too, “Willingham said.