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Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

  • George Putic

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. Loving Vincent will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist.

With the help of as many as 60 painters, a group of Oscar-winning filmmakers is working on a movie about the life and mysterious death of Vincent van Gogh -- by animating his paintings and drawings.

The inspiration came from one of the painter’s letters to his brother who also was an artist, according to film director Dorota Kobiela.

“He said we can only speak through our paintings. And these words were very important for me and they were actually the reason we are making this film like that,” said Kobiela.

The producers decided to make the film in Poland because of the abilities of its painters and art students, many of whom spend up to seven years studying their craft.

In a studio in Gdansk, several artists work simultaneously in separate studios using oil paints on canvas.

With the original image projected on the canvas, the artist makes an exact copy of the artwork and then slightly changes the scene for each additional frame, according to the script.

“The animator uses this material and paints based on the projected picture, covering the previous image with the currently displayed image. After the painting is ready, a photograph is taken and the process starts from the beginning. After 12 frames we have one second of movie material,” said chief animator Piotr Dominiak.

The process brings life to the original pictures making the film look like it was done by the great artist himself.

Producers estimate the 80-minute movie will require almost 57,000 hand-painted frames, and they admit it’s a daunting project.

Film producer Hugh Welchman said, “On a daily basis, I go between thinking we're completely inspired, we are doing something no one's ever done, we're going to do it and I also think this is insane, there's a very good reason why no one has ever tried to make an entire film out of paintings.”

Welchman said it will take about a year-and-a-half to do all the paintings and then another six months to finish the film.