Animation: Is Oil Painting The “New” Technique?

Pixar. You say that name and everyone can tell you their favorite short and/or full length film by them. They are practically synonymous with the most high-tech approach to animation in the industry right now. The last time I can recall the use of anything other than a tablet used in animations, was in Walt Disney’s animation studio a very long time ago. It’s true that many characters still start out as pencil on paper, but their main production is done digitally. To be fair, it’s faster, and fixing a mistake? Well, that’s just a quick key stroke and you’re ready to go again.

But what if you’re doing a movie on Vincent van Gogh, a Dutch  post-impressionist that has done work ranging from portraits to landscapes with a very distinct style, perhaps you would want to do something a little different. That is exactly what Polish painter and director Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman are doing. Their movie, a biopic on Vincent van Gogh will be done completely in oil paintings. Think about that for a minute…ALL. PAINTINGS. I’ll do the math for you: that comes out to about 57,000 individual oil paintings completed by 40 Polish painters.

Loving Vincent: Production

Through a very distinct set up for capturing the paintings as they appear (that I have only partially figured out), they were able to animate them, capturing the beauty that is Vincent van Gogh’s heavy paint strokes that give a level of texture not seen by many. I’m not sure what to be more impressed with first: The ability to find 40 artists able to even begin to replicate van Gogh’s painting style or the sheer production needs of such a set up? Below is the full trailer.


No only am I interested in this new project because of the novelty of it, but also because it’s taking a production technique and giving it a new space to live in. I don’t know about you, but I don’t own an oil painting. I gave the technique a go back in college (the first time) when I was getting my art history degree, but just couldn’t stand the drying time. I would inevitably wait the minimum amount of time, walk over to it, and touch it, of course smudging my work. I never did learn.

But I’m more intrigued by the fact that this group of Polish artists and directors are re-introducing oil paintings to the modern world and people are just over the moon about it. No lip curls of derision or that little eye roll that they think no one caught. People are excited! They’re talking about it! Everyone is writing about it (myself included!) So my point is this: Give things a chance. Innovation does not always mean coming up with something or a process that has never been seen before. If that is the only definition we live by, we might be coming up short on innovations real soon. But if we expand the definition to including re-thinking how we have previously viewed something, then maybe, just maybe, we’ll leave ourselves open to some truly amazing opportunities to be awe-inspired.

To learn more about the Loving Vincent project, visit their website here!


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