Bringing his illustrations to life, Toronto based digital artist Joe Pascale, also known for his alias Young Gun Motion, creates an alternate world through his undefinable style of digital animation. Juxtaposing an alternate reality through digital effects, the artist’s work combines 2D and 3D techniques, paired with a surrealist approach. Captivated by the unpredictable and an absence of logic, Pascale creates a passage of consciousness that exists in its own world, free from limitations.
Jelly limbs, distorted forms, and pixilated monsters are at the centre of his work. Using living elements to dispense realism, the imagery featured often replicates ordinary objects. Having the ability to control and manipulate them in a 3D space, Pascale contrasts human and horror, making hybrid animations. Carrying an interest in simulation-driven work, he creates a digital realm comprised of ‘monster-people hybrids.’ From his sketchbook to the digital world, his work comes as an extension of his creature-like illustrations combined with experimental 3D contortion.

The artist’s use of humour plays a pivotal role in the majority of his work. Intrigued by the haphazard and unpredictable results of his work, he finds humour in the darker spaces of his pieces. Exploring unique ways of distorting the human form, he experiments with an artificial creation of bodies, challenging the notion of portrayal and perceptions of form. Having always been fascinated with the different ways to distort the human body through digital art, Pascale’s work functions as an escape from reality. Read on as he takes us through the alternate world he has created.
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You have a very unique style. How did this aesthetic begin and how did it manifest itself into the works you create?
I was always interested in drawing at a young age. I grew up in the eighties, so it was into a lot of superhero-inspired stuff (Batman, Ninja Turtles, etc). My drawings started to get weird in high school and university – I have tons of sketchbooks from those years filled with mutated monster-people hybrid things.
In university, I taught myself how to use Adobe After Effects, and it was the first time I was able to bring my drawings to life. Of course, those animations will never see the light of day, but learning that software was definitely the point at which I knew I wanted to work in animation and not just illustrate.
In terms of the look and style of my work over the past several years, a big part of that is the extension of my creature illustrations combined with the 3D software I’ve learned in the many years since graduating. I’ve really been interested in simulation driven work, specifically through a program called Houdini. I love the idea of setting up parameters and then letting the software do its thing.
Your digital art combines 2D and 3D techniques, paired with a surrealist approach to create your own parallel universe. How would you describe your style and this alternate world that you’ve created?
I always have a tough time trying to define my style because it’s all over the place. But I would say that humour definitely plays a big role in almost all of my work. I’m a big fan of absurdist comedy. I was really into Dada art in university, and I appreciate nonsense in general. I’d rather spend hours watching Bill Wurtz videos on YouTube than the new Justice League movie.
My favourite kind of art is unpredictable and has no real discernible logic to it. It’s easy to have an idea and then paint a picture about that idea and say: “Here is my idea!.” It’s more interesting to create work as a stream of consciousness that just exists in its own world without limitation or reason. I hope that makes sense. A good example of this is the art of Cool 3D world. They are a perfect blend of comedy and technical skill – their work is so absurd and funny because you have absolutely no idea where it’s going, and it looks so good at the same time.
Could you tell us about your creative process? From how you begin with an idea to pairing the animations with it and adding the sound? Are there any recurring images or themes that can’t be missing?
To be honest, I don’t really have a set method. There are usually two elements at play in the majority of my work – one being the 3D characters and the other being the 2D footage for those characters to live in. I’m always shooting footage, so I’ve got a pretty extensive bank to choose from. And I try to use footage that has living elements in it (such as people, cars, animals, etc.) in order to provide an extra element of realism and juxtaposition. This also helps give the 3D characters a sense of scale.
When it comes time to making a piece, it’s really a toss-up as to what comes first. Sometimes I start with a piece of footage that I know I really want to use and then have that shape what the 3D characters will look like. Other times, all of my energy is spent on the 3D characters and then I just add in the footage as an afterthought. Both ways of working have their benefits.
As far as the sound design, I’ve recently been adding foley to my work which I think elevates the humour aspect. I’ll often add a music track to inject some energy into the work, usually based on what I’m listening to when creating the piece.
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How did you first develop an interest in 2D and 3D animation and how would you say it has evolved over the years to where it is now? What is it about this form of animation that drives your creative process?
I basically started out in 2D animation because I really wanted to bring my illustrations to life. I made a few hand-drawn cell animations in university and really enjoyed the result but also didn’t have the patience to stick with the process.
I have a day job animating for television shows, so I’m constantly in front of my computer learning new software and techniques. Over the years, I’ve added a ton of 3D software to my tool belt in order to express my demons through animation. If I have an idea that I can’t execute, I will spend weeks learning different programs in order to make those ideas become a reality.
The great thing about this industry is that there are a ton of resources online, so as long as you put the work in, you can pretty much create anything that you envision in your mind. There is also a great community of artists/animators that are there to help along the way.
Your work specialises in surreal and unique ways of distorting the human form, what is it about distortion and this ‘artificial’ creation of bodies that fascinates you? How does your work question or challenge the notion of portrayal and perception of form?
I’ve always been fascinated with different ways to distort the human body through digital art. I still remember discovering artists like Matthew Barney and Chris Cunningham back in high school and just being blown away. I was always into eighties horror films but seeing monsters in art galleries made me feel like there was validity to it as an art form.
To be honest, most humans are just kind of gross creatures, so having the ability to control and manipulate them in a 3D space is endless fun. Turning limbs into jelly, bending the body in ways it’s not supposed to bend – it can be both hilarious and horrifying at the same time. And I think that’s the element that people either love (or hate) about my work.
Your animations also focus on creating monsters out of pixels, how did you first discover this form of distortion and manipulation? What about it inspires you to create?
I think a turning point for me was a few years ago when I started to learn to use Houdini. I always knew I wanted to introduce more simulation and physics into my work to make things feel more organic, but it took a while to figure out how to do it without my computer exploding. The software has really pushed the envelope for me when it comes to distorting these monsters because it feels limitless in potential. It also creates a lot of happy accidents that gets me excited to continue to work within it.
In terms of finding inspiration to create, a lot of it comes from following other artists. There are some really talented animators and VFX people I follow on social media who I definitely draw inspiration from. The list is too long, but they know who they are. Films also have a big role to play. I often have some really bad cheesy B movie on in the background while I’m working.
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Your works have a very surrealist approach to them, juxtaposing an alternate reality through animation. Why is important for you to take the human form, sometimes featuring public and political figures, and turn them into monsters? What message are you trying to send?
We’ve all got a little monster inside of us. There’s that scene in Fear and Loathing where they’re checking into the hotel and Hunter S. Thompson is tripping out and everyone turns into these wild reptile creatures and they tear each other apart – that scene plays in my mind quite often.
Some of your animations feature the former United States President Donald Trump in a sort of monster-like form or in comical settings. Would you say there’s a political motive behind your work? Does your work speak to any larger social issues?
Generally speaking, no, I don’t intentionally tackle political or social issues in my work. In regards to Trump, I just really can’t stand the guy as a human being. He’s everything I despise. Loud, obnoxious, inarticulate, dumb, fake, incoherent, lacks humility – he’s really just a piece of shit. I was very much on the fence about including him in my work, partly because he’s such an easy target, but there were just instances where I couldn’t hold back. I figured since I make monsters anyway, why not include a real-life one.
As per social issues as a whole, I don’t go out of my way to create work that provides social commentary. I know it may sound like a cop-out, but I’d rather the viewer construct their own narrative (if any) than I force-feed some deep conceptual idea to them. It's about evoking a feeling, usually joy – but sometimes also discomfort.
Each of your animations features sound. How do you decide what sounds to pair with the visuals? How do you use sound to emphasise the message behind the piece?
When it comes to sound, and music specifically, I usually just throw in some tracks that I’m listening to while making the piece. My musical tastes are all over the place, which I find help give my animations more variety. It’s also a fun way of sharing music that I enjoy with other people. Recently, I’ve been exploring the NFT world like everyone and their dead cat, so I’ve moved away from using commercial music. This new direction has been rewarding because I now get to work with other artists and friends.
As for the sound design, I do all of that myself. It’s actually become an area I’ve been exploring a lot more lately because I feel that it adds to giving the creatures more life, and brings more humour to the work.
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From what I can tell, humour plays an important role in your work. Your animations appear to mimic this dystopian-like environment, while also featuring bright colours and humour. How do you find a balance between the two? Why do you feel it’s necessary to include fun objects in your animations?
Life is dark and heavy enough as it is. Don’t get me wrong, I have a huge appreciation for art with a deep and powerful message, but I prefer to make work that is an escape from reality. I’m generally a cynic, but I’m mostly hopeful. So even if aspects of my work come across as dystopian, I try to do it with some levity. There’s almost always a punchline hidden away in even some of my darker pieces. Like, I constantly tell myself everything is going to be okay but maybe it’s not – who knows? You just have to find the humour in things or else you become an unbearable person.
Your work has a very entertaining and amusing atmosphere to it. Is there a single piece or a series that resonates most with you or that you had the most fun in creating?
I’ve had the pleasure of working on a lot of fun projects in the past. Last year I worked with my buddy Smearballs on a music video called One Way by Naïve New Beaters. I also had a great time working on a pilot called Dayworld a while back which helped kickstart my character animation journey.
In terms of my own work, I recently created a piece called Cookout 666 which still makes me laugh every time I watch it. It was a blast to make and I’d like to explore more of these mini vignette pieces in the future. 
Are there any projects you’re currently working on? What is your next move going to be?
I just finished some work on Danny Elfman’s Kick Me music video last month. I’ve been a huge fan of his work since I was a kid, so that was a pretty huge honour for me. I’m also about to start work on a few shots for another music video in the coming days. I may dabble some more in this NFT thing, and continue to release work on my Instagram.
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