All artists possess a unique combination of skills, and an artist is apt to use their skills in a variety of ways.

Christopher Lowther taught the first Introduction to Time-Based Media course this semester and will be adding additional courses this fall.
The Department of Art & Art History recently added a technical component for students to consider: Time-based animation.

Time-based media focuses attention on work that changes with time. It combines video, animation and digital technology into one cohesive program of study with courses in video, animation, interactive design, Web design, 3-D modeling and animation, motion graphics and emerging technologies. Students are encouraged to create projects using traditional and computer animation methods, video, experimental film and installation art.

Christopher Lowther taught the first Introduction to Time-Based Media course this semester and will be adding additional time-based media courses this fall.

“This semester we really focused on concepts in time-based media,” Lowther says. “We looked at the very beginning of motion. We even looked at things like Greek vases and urns and the way that when you turn them they reveal a narrative. We moved from that into early visual devices like primitive scopes, mutoscopes and flip-books — any early form that captured motion.”

The students’ first project was to create an early visual toy or device. Most students created flip-books, a series of pages with photographs or drawings on it. One student created an electrified praxinoscope that lit up inside when it was turned.

Another student created a hand-cranked mutoscope animating someone riding a very early bicycle.

“The actual crank on the mutoscope was made from used bicycle gears,” Lowther says.

Long road to UAB
Lowther came to the department in August 2007 to develop a video- and time-based component to the curriculum. His hiring was the culmination of a long journey that began with an undergraduate degree in art history.

Lowther’s appreciation for art began with his grandmother, whom he says was the lone artist in the family. Lowther accompanied his grandmother to art openings all around Hamilton County, Ind., where he grew up. He had an appreciation for art, but it wasn’t something he considered producing for others to consume.

“I just treated it as a hobby,” Lowther says. “I dabbled in art at the academic level but didn’t think of taking it seriously, really.”

When he was earning his master’s degree in instructional systems technology, Lowther’s grandmother began succumbing to Alzheimer’s. Lowther remembers visiting her and seeing many of the works she created hanging throughout her house. He tried to talk to her about her creations, but she didn’t remember producing any of them.

“I don’t know why that stuck with me or what it meant to me exactly, but I applied for graduate school to earn a masters in immersive mediated environments,” he says. “It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, so I switched to a master of fine arts degree in digital arts. I was doing mostly video work in the beginning, and by the end I was creating interactive video installations.”

Career choices
Students with video- and time-based animation experience have many different career paths they can choose.

If someone wanted to be a fine artist, they could create video art or video installations. Three-dimensional modeling and animation in a fine arts context also are available. Those considering more commercial opportunities can consider working in animation film and video. Graphic designers also will have many more tools to invest in, making them more marketable.

“Graphic designers probably are the most professional of our areas in fine arts; in the past they did not have to think about motion in their work, for the most part,” Lowther says. “Now, graphic artists are expected to create or be part of the process of some of the more technical aspects, like when you see artfully designed opening credits for a movie. That’s motion graphics, and graphic designers are creating these things because it deals with font and layout. Increasingly, they are expected to know video because they’re going to have to use software to create these things.”

Because of that, Lowther wants the program to engage students with continually evolving technologies and encourage an investigation of new media and visual arts.

Lowther is on the university’s film minor committee, and all of his classes are considered part of the concentration in film minor. He will begin teaching an emerging technology course, which will give students something more experimental and cutting edge. Throughout the course they will be creating experimental films and more.

“I hope that students really push the limits in this area,” Lowther says. “I’m working my way to getting them to create projects that are much more dynamic and larger in scope. I know I’ll get a good bit of what many people might think is commercial work, but I hope to get cutting-edge work for a gallery setting — something not entirely meant for passive public consumption.”

For more on the program, visit