Loving Vincent Van Gogh

Keyframe from “Loving Vincent”

I mean, really loving him. Loving him so much that you would join dozens of other artists to hand paint over 62,000 frames in a new biopic of his story, together bringing to life one of the most unique rotoscope-style animated films ever made. Just take a look at this stunning trailer to see the effect.

According to the website, “Loving Vincent” is a new movie made in a completely unprecedented way. It started with original, live action footage which was then translated into ninety key “design paintings.” These established the overall aesthetic of what a film would look like had it been entirely painted by Vincent Van Gogh himself. Then using those design paintings as a kind of style guide, ninety-five artists manually painted, on canvas board, the starting frame for each of the movie’s 853 shots.

Aside from sounding epically laborious, that methodology makes perfect sense to me. But the process from there on out truly surprised me. To create each subsequent frame, the artists would then paint directly over that scene’s original starting painting. After that new version was photographed, the artist would then paint the next frame, and so on and so on. The end result is some 62,450 captured animation cells—but only 853 oil paintings of the final frame in each shot. All of the interstitial steps were effectively lost, buried under countless new coats of paint. That’s a shockingly unflinching and fragile way of working, but it does seem to be a fitting tribute to the deeply analog nature of oil on canvas.

The film is due to be released in October. Until then you can explore the process at lovingvincent.com, or read coverage about the project at nytimes.com.