Self Por­trait

LOV­ING VIN­CENT | The tor­tured artist is the sub­ject of the world’s first fully painted mur­der mys­tery.

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How do you make a hand-painted fea­ture film? Very, very slowly. Want­ing to cre­ate an an­i­ma­tion about Vin­cent van Gogh that cap­tured the essence and spirit of his art­work, di­rec­tors Dorota Ko­biela and Hugh Welch­man de­cided the only way to do it was to hand-paint all 65,000 frames in oil on can­vas.

“It started out as a short film,” laughs Ko­biela, “but that was seven years ago… Since then it’s ex­panded into some­thing quite a bit big­ger.”

Af­ter an ini­tial test that in­volved film­ing live ac­tors, dig­i­tally ren­der­ing them in a com­puter, and then painstak­ingly paint­ing over each shot on a can­vas board, Ko­biela worked out that it would take her “around 80 years” to do it all her­self. Pick­ing up some ex­tra fund­ing from a Kick­starter cam­paign,

the film­mak­ers hired a team of 115 un­em­ployed oil painters and re­trained them as an­i­ma­tors to help spread the work­load.

“We had a lot of doubt about whether or not it was pos­si­ble, for sure,” ad­mits Welch­man. “We knew that the idea of paint­ing ev­ery frame wasn’t ex­actly a small un­der­tak­ing. But the fact is, it just looked so much bet­ter. If we could have done it all in a com­puter, we would have. But you just don’t get the feel­ing of the brush­strokes. It wouldn’t have looked like a paint­ing com­ing to life, it wouldn’t have felt real.”

Step­ping into van Gogh’s most fa­mous mas­ter­pieces, Lov­ing Vin­cent turns the artist’s death into a de­tec­tive story star­ring (painted footage of) Dou­glas Booth, Saoirse Ro­nan and Chris O’Dowd, piec­ing to­gether his last days at Saint-Rémy.

“It was a very big and scary re­spon­si­bil­ity,” says Ko­biela. “We’re not copy­ing the paint­ings, we’re reimag­in­ing them. I didn’t re­alise how much he in­spired my life un­til I started work­ing on this. The whole ex­pe­ri­ence has been long and some­times hard, but it’s changed the way I think.”


VAN MAN The artist is brought to an­i­mated life in Lov­ing Vin­cent.

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