What do these psychedelic cartoons make you think of? The artist wants to know

Whether she's making video games or comic books, Paloma Dawkins gets her inspiration from nature. But you might see something completely different...

Paloma Dawkins gets her inspiration from nature, but you might see something completely different

Still from "Gaia's Dark Garden," a scene from Museum of Symmetry, a new game by Paloma Dawkins. (Courtesy of the artist)

Paloma Dawkins is hugely inspired by nature — a fact that might sound as ordinary as blue skies and green grass until you actually see the sort of psychedelic jungles this cartoonist is building.

Self-taught in animation, Dawkins — who happens to be this week's featured artist on Exhibitionists — is currently developing a VR video game for the NFB (Museum of Symmetry). And she's whether making games or comic books or GIFs, this 27-year-old is the creator of one serious mind-warp of a world, where 2D plants (or maybe they're animals?) bloom like kaleidoscopes.

Per her bio: it's "a wiggly planet full of colours, surprises and psychedelic patterns."

I just want [you] to ask what they remind you of. What inspires awe in you?- Paloma Dawkins, artist

"Whenever I travel, I tend to look for natural shapes that are new and strange," Dawkins tells CBC Arts. Maybe she'll be fixated by the shape of leaves on a tree, or patterns left in the sand by a receding tide.

"My sketchbooks are filled with natural shapes that I find weird," she says. "I'll look at those natural shapes later and imagine them moving or try to go back to how I was feeling when I saw them. That's where I get my inspiration."

The animation you'll find posted below is mostly a mix of Dawkins's short films, but she's also shared a few clips from her video games with Exhibitionists, including her upcoming VR project, Museum of Symmetry.

A mix of 2D animation and 3D objects, Dawkins describes the piece as being almost like a play — albeit one you watch on a Vive or Oculus Rift.

On one level, it's a simple quest — the story of a girl taking a trip to the titular "museum of symmetry." But Dawkins says the project has a more abstract narrative as well, inspired by the elements and a cycle of colours.

She pitched the project to the NFB back in 2013. She was part of Hothouse at the time, their filmmaker incubator program.

"I hadn't made a game before," she laughs. The learning curve was steep, and Dawkins says just the concept of making games was initially intimidating.

"It just seemed so far from art," she says. "It doesn't feel like something that artists are encouraged to try, I guess."

But this isn't Super Mario. If anything, Dawkins's games mess with player expectations so much you could call them satirical.

In her "chill adventure" game, Gardenarium, for example, you can gather all the junk around you like you're running through Hyrulean Rupees. But if you do it, the other characters will call you out. Because really — who does that?

"I'd always wanted to make a game because most of my animations are like loops," Dawkins says, "So I figured it would make way more sense if they existed in a space where they can just sort of live their own life and you can travel around my animation."

Museum of Symmetry is on track to be completed by December, Dawkins says. In the meantime, check out some of her animation below — but first, some parting thoughts from the artist.

Like Dawkins said before, nature is how she finds her inspiration, but maybe that's not what you see in the scene. While you're watching, try reflecting on this:

"I just want [you] to ask what they remind you of. What inspires awe in you?"

Take a look!

Watch Exhibitionists online or on Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) on CBC Television.


Leah Collins

Senior Writer

Since 2015, Leah Collins has been senior writer at CBC Arts, covering Canadian visual art and digital culture in addition to producing CBC Arts’ weekly newsletter (Hi, Art!), which was nominated for a Digital Publishing Award in 2021. A graduate of Toronto Metropolitan University's journalism school (formerly Ryerson), Leah covered music and celebrity for Postmedia before arriving at CBC.


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