why people draw: ru kuwahata & max porter

Hello again!

Yes! I’m still here, and yes, if feels like I’ve been gone for a really, really long time.  A week ago today, Thom and I finally moved out of our Mahwah apartment and moved into our Fair Lawn house! Yay!  We are so excited to be in this house—it’s everything we were hoping to find and more.  The neighborhood is great, the sunshine coming in through our windows is beautiful, having a small yard were we can cook out is awesome!  And, of course, as new house owners, the trips to Home Depot seem to be daily, even hourly at times! Oh well…that’s part of the deal! As soon as we have everything set up, I’ll share photos of my new studio space—which I’m in right now, but still surrounded by a few too many boxes.

I’m happy, however, to be able to sit down and write for the Blog again.  And what a better day to start than on a why people draw interview day!

Today on the Hamster Wheel, I’m delighted to have Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter the animation team known as Tiny Inventions.  If you have been keeping up with the Blog (as I have no doubt you have, and have been sobbing uncontrollably since the last post, anxiously awaiting a new one!), you’ll remember that on Friday, March 18, I featured Tiny Inventions’ animated film Something Left, Something Taken.” I remember I was so amazed by their storytelling and their animation style that I spent the better part of that day looking through their other projects on their website.  You should try it too…here’s the link. Don’t miss Davy Crockett in Outer Space—a music video for They Might Be Giants—that one was one of my favorites!

Ru and Max are incredibly talented…but best of all, I get a sense, from our communications, that they are super nice and down to earth people.  So it was not hard at all to think of asking them for an interview.  Until recently, Tiny Inventions was working out of their Williamsburg apartment, however, as of next month, Ru and Max will be starting an animation residency program in the Netherlands that will last 2 years!  Oh, the awesome work that will come out of that (no pressure!)…I can’t wait to see more!  Thank you Max and Ru for giving kindly of your travel time to give me, and others a glimpse into your creative minds!


So, as I always say…without further delay, (drum, drum, drum) here are Tiny Inventions’ Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter in their own words and images! Thank you again!

"something left, something taken" independent short film directed by max porter, ru kuwahata (courtesy tiny inventions)

HW: What’s your earliest memory of drawing (or of being able to draw)?

RK: My older brother (who is now a graphic designer) was into drawing and crafting so I was exposed to creating since I was a baby. What I remember is crafting food and building a cardboard car to play with…which seems to be my life now.

MP: Though it’s not my earliest memory of drawing, I vividly remember painting a monster when I was about three. Something about it scared me and I made my mom get rid of it.

HW: What does being able to draw mean to you?

RK: Being able to create a world from nothing.

MP: Drawing can mean a lot of different things A drawing can be pure communication or a plan for something else. Sometimes the drawing is a finished product and sometimes it a way to study the world around us. I guess it’s all about the context.

"electric car" music video for They Might Be Giants directed by max porter, ru kuwahata (courtesy tiny inventions)

"electric car" music video for They Might Be Giants (courtesy tiny inventions)

HW: Tiny Inventions has worked on a bunch of animated projects. Do you have a favorite one that you have worked on?

RK: Of course our independent film, “Something Left, Something Taken” is my favorite. It was quite a struggle but we poured our heart in.

"something left, something taken" independent short film directed by max porter, ru kuwahata (courtesy tiny inventions)

HW: Do you keep a sketchbook? If so, do you find that you write or draw more in it, and what is its purpose?

RK: Yes, I have several sketchbooks. I tend to draw more than write. Sometimes it’s just documenting (reportage), sometimes thumbnails for storyboard, sometimes sketches for a specific job… it’s quite random.

MP: I’d say it’s usually more drawing than writing, but that can change. When I was younger I used to obsess about keeping my sketchbook presentable. I ripped out pages that had “mistakes” and I was always conscious of what people might think if they thumbed through the pages. Now I really look at a sketchbook as a functional tool for figuring stuff out. It’s a lot messier, but it’s a better representation of how I think.

HW: At what point did you two realize that working together would be even better than working on your own? What is it like having a creative partner?

RK: It seems to me that it naturally happened. Animation takes a long time so working together seemed efficient. Having Max as a partner is great, we help each other, and it’s nice to have somebody you trust to tell you when something is not working.

MP: I think we realized pretty quickly how we could complement each other artistically. Working with a partner can really force you to not be precious with your own work and help you understand the responsibility you have to your audience.

max and ru working in their brooklyn studio (courtesy tiny inventions)

part of the tiny inventions brooklyn studio (courtesy tiny inventions)

HW: There was a drawing game you posted about on your Tiny Inventions Blog (Feb 4) while you were at the Sundance Film Festival? You mentioned that it’s like exquisite corpse…could you explain how it’s played? It looks very fun!

MP: Our friend Kirsten Lepore (super talented animator!) showed us that game. Basically, artist A writes an evocative sentence and passes it to artist B. Artist B creates a 30 second drawing based on the sentence, folds over the original text and passes it to artist C. Artist C, in turn, writes a new sentence based on the drawing and passes it on. The back and forth between text and picture continues until the paper is filled. I think the game is “Pictionary Telephone.

HW:  If you could write a recipe for your animations, what would the “ingredient list” be (read like)?

RK: hot glue gun, fabric, cardboard, computers, cameras, patience, frustration, lack of social life, discipline, Excel spreadsheets, murder mysteries, sweatpants

ru working in the brooklyn studio (courtesy tiny inventions)

max working in the studio (courtesy tiny inventions)

HW: What gets your Hamster Wheel running? (what gets you itching to draw or create?)

MP: Most of our work tends to be inspired and abstracted from observations. We like to think that even the most fantastic creations come from some place real.

Max and Ru, I think that’s evident in every project you two do! Thank you!


Tiny Inventions site


Tiny Inventions’ blog


Tiny Inventions on Vimeo
Animations on the Tiny Inventions website

Other links:

Cartoon Brew
Red Giant TV
Tiny Inventions on Facebook
Tiny Inventions on Twitter

Please remember that any use of materials on this website, including reproduction, modification, distribution or republication, without the prior written consent of wacky shorts creations, is strictly prohibited. Thanks!

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