Exhibitionists

Guess which Canadian cities inspired these out-of-this world GIFs

John Soleas, this week's Exhibitionist in Residence, has spent his life in the suburbs. Since he can't always be in a lively metropolis, he draws them instead.

Bright lights, GIF city. Peek inside the world of John Soleas

John Soleas is this week's Exhibitionist in Residence. (Courtesy of the artist)

John Soleas, this week's Exhibitionist in Residence, has lived in Burlington, Ont. since he was a kid. "If you live in a suburban hell for long enough," he says, "you long for more interesting and lively places."

And if you can't always be there, then draw it.

On Sunday's episode of Exhibitionists, visit Soleas's dream city.

"I have my own sort of world that I've been building over the last couple of years," says the 28-year-old.

A graduate of Sheridan College's illustration program, he's self-taught in animation, and on his website and Instagram, you'll find several series of GIFs, all set in a cluttered but cozy metropolis — one that's clearly influenced by all the anime he grew up on. And in this unnamed place, the buildings and vehicles — and even scrap parts — are as alive as the residents, blinking or steaming or spinning in an endless loop.

If you live in a suburban hell for long enough, you long for more interesting and lively places.- John Soleas, artist

"I really like architecture, I really like urban cityscapes," he tells CBC Arts. "I feel like I spend most of my life in suburbia so the city is — it's kind of a treat."

And while there's no place in Canada that looks quite like Soleas's world — there are way fewer giant robots in these parts, for instance — he says that his GIFs are "heavily" influenced by Toronto and especially Hamilton, where his studio, Claptrap Content, is based. (The company, which he co-founded with Jon Westwood, produces animation and illustration for clients in the non-profit and film industries.)

"A lot of the industrial side streets, either in lower Burlington or in Hamilton, there's just a lot of concrete — gated-off areas that just have old machinery that's been tossed aside. Hamilton's really good for that. If you drive through you can find pretty big piles of just junk."

To get inspired, Soleas will pack a sketchbook and draw what he finds. He says he's been making regular trips to nearby junkyards since he was in school — or he'll just get on his bike and ride until he finds an abandoned truck or tractor that triggers his imagination.

"I really enjoy drawing vehicles; I spend a lot of time taking things apart," he says. "That's always been a huge fascination." Drawing and animating machines and industrial cityscapes is just part of that obsession. "You manage to find a personality in something that otherwise doesn't really have one."

Check out some of his work.

Find more from John Soleas on his website and on the new episode of Exhibitionists. Watch online or Sunday at 4:30 (5 p.m. NT) on CBC Television.

Want to see your creations on CBC Arts? Just send us an email! You could be an Exhibitionist in Residence this season.

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