EK Interview: Ori Toor

Ori Toor is an animator and illustrator based out of Tel Aviv, Israel. Whether it be a still or moving image, everything starts with a simple pencil stroke. The painstakingly meticulous nature of his works can be exemplified in his latest music video Evoking Spirits. A simple yet inspiring piece that gave me the initial push to find the brains behind the brushstrokes. Fortunately, Mr. Toor obliged my curiosity.

Read the full interview down below:

Hello hello and welcome. First off I want to thank you for contributing your time and efforts to do this interview. That being said, let’s get started. How about introducing yourself a bit to our readers? Like where you’re situated, what your field of expertise is?

So, I live and work in Tel-Aviv. I graduated from the Shenkar School of Design in 2010 (illustration studies). I work as a freelance animator and I do some part time animating for a social Facebook app. My favorite way of working is to just create animated loops mindlessly and matching them with music. I like riding my bicycle and having dinner with my friends.

What was it that got you initially interested in graphic design and animation?

My mom who is a textile artist that specializes in carpet design, encouraged me to make art since I was born. I always liked drawing stuff and was inspired mostly by animation. It felt like there’s no limit to what you can do with animation. When I was a kid, every time I saw a video showing an animator drawing a character and flipping through his pages to make it move It seemed like a super power to me.

The ability to draw something beautiful really fast from one’s imagination became something I aspired to do.

With respect to both your graphic design and animation work, how much preplanning is involved? Is every step an unexpected turn that you continuously adapt to, or is there a more by-the-book methodology? How was the workflow on the EVOKING SPIRITS (2012) music video (or any other animated piece) different in comparison to let’s say your BRAIN JUNK FOREST (2011) graphic print? How were they similar? What aspects of both do you find rewarding? Do you still find challenging?

That depends on what you call pre-planning. I always think about what I’m about to do for a few days and just fantasize about the results. But I never actually plan what I’m going to do. An image in my mind might never actually gets to the screen. It’s very important for me to stay loose and treat the animation process as if i’m just doodling stuff or mixing and matching an improvised collage work. My experience taught me that pre-planning of any kind or any use of references just doesn’t serve me well.

Whether I do a music video or a drawing, surprise is always my reward and I think the viewer’s reward as well. The challenge is of course to make it look good and new. I work hard to make things different from past projects. It’s hard not to repeat yourself when working with loops all day.

The same is with drawing. In BRAIN JUNK FOREST I started with drawing leaves then decided on a deer and just took it from there sprawling from the middle of the canvas outward.

I always sense a fluidity to your graphic work, which is obviously prominent in your animated projects. Where does this organic style come from? Why do you place emphasis on this type of illustrative form?

I think It’s an ego thing. If I can’t draw a straight line – I’ll draw the best curve ever. For a long time I was obsessed with drawing a perfect circle. I think I drew a million of them.

It’s also part of the improvisational nature of my work. I was never one to “search” for a line. Meaning, I never draw and re-draw with a pencil and then trace it with a pen. For me there’s one opportunity to get a line right and that’s it. When you only get one shot It’s easier to strive for fluidity than rigidness.

Your character design also seems to follow the same motions as your detailed backdrops, as if blending right into the scenery. Why do you represent your characters in this fashion?

In school some teachers told me I should draw backgrounds and not just characters but I just wasn’t interested. Drawing characters or objects in space was good enough for me, thank you! But when I started animating I felt like something was missing. I started adding backgrounds and foregrounds which began being important to me as much as the characters. Right now I think my attitude towards this has settled and I see every element as one thing. All the environments I make are just one huge character that mostly lives off-screen.

Let’s get a bit on the technical side of things. What kind of analog / digital equipment do you utilize within your work (both in graphic design and animation). Do you prefer traditional pen and paper, as opposed to digital painting software? In the insanely fast speed in which information travels nowadays, how do you feel technology has positively and negatively impacted the art world, as well as your own artwork?

I use a computer and a small Wacom tablet. I think most people would consider my setup as pretty low-tech. When it comes to drawing, I definitely prefer using pen and paper. My hand is much, much steadier like that and the line I get is usually the line I intended to make. The computer gives you the magical and yet horrible undo button (which I use less than before). It gives you the power of second guessing which is a good thing and a bad thing.

The limitations of the computer as a drawing tool yielded positive things for me because it forced me to “invent” a method of animating that works for me, so I kind of owe technology my style (as does everyone who grew up seeing digital works).

I think technology gives accessibility that enables people to become creators more than ever before and at the same time gives them the ability to consume more than ever before which could be desensitizing.

How do you feel your work, and your own artistic values, have evolved since your very first pencil stroke? What areas do you feel still need improvement?

Well, the thing that was so important for me when I was young – getting a perfect smooth line – I think I’m there. Meaning, I’m pleased with what I can do technically when it comes to drawing. I definitely know my likes and dislikes when it comes to what I do and that’s valuable to me.

I feel lucky and surprised by what my animation came to be. It’s not what I imagined when I was a kid and I see that as a good thing. I’m getting more comfortable with color and I want to explore that further.

I’m sure I can always get better on the computer as well as growing my editing skills. It would also be fantastic if I could reach beyond the limits of a music video and into the world of live music and video performance.

Have you ever thought about stepping outside of 2D animation? Maybe tackling 3D?

I think about it sometimes. It might happen one day. Thing is – I’m fascinated by 2d and feel like after all this time there’s still undiscovered territory in that field.

Who are some of your artistic role models / major influences (max of three) that have guided you onto the path you are on now? What specifically has each contributed to your development as an artist?

Works by people like the Fleischer brothers really opened my eyes to what you can do with animation. Paul Klee who has this amazing freedom in his works and a very emotive use of color. Music in general really influences me all the time and remains my greatest inspiration.

Alright Ori, we’ve come to the end of this interview. Again, we here at Empty Kingdom can’t thank you enough for contributing your time, patience, and efforts. Before we sign off, do you have any upcoming projects or potential ideas you’d like to share with our readers? What can we look forward to next from Ori Toor?

Thanks, It was great talking to yaw’ll. I recently signed with Canadian “Brink Studio” to represent me so I’m looking forward to join forces with them. Working on a video and perhaps finding time for some collaborative personal projects. Keep your eyes peeled.


Full music video for LION IN A COMA (Animal Collective).

Full music video for EVOKING SPIRITS (Kingdom Crumbs).

Ori Toor