Most of the best-known artists focused on one medium, or at least their best-known works were done in one medium. In our world today, mixed media has become quite common. People combine music, acting, and dance in musicals. Lights and sounds often accompany visual art displays. Even something as basic as food can be served in an artistic presentation. What would Van Gogh, renowned for his works in a single medium, have to say about this? Better yet, what would he have to say about the new “painted movie” they’ve made about his life?
Loving Vincent, a film by Hugh Welchman and Dorota Kobiela, is the world’s first oil-paint film. The content of the film, as well as its visual art, have already garnered several award nominations in the film world. They’ve also drummed up some well-earned buzz. All the reviews applaud the innovation and the beauty of the visuals in this film. The only negative mentioned, and this in only some reviews, is the plot. But then again, the idea behind this film always was more about visual art than storytelling. It’s only fitting that a movie about Van Gogh focus more on the art than the dialogue and acting to tell the story.
The process for making this film has to be the longest in modern filmmaking history. It began as a regular film, with regular actors. Then, hundreds of artists were hired to create 65,000 oil paintings of the frames of the movie. Finally, CGI artists took the oil paintings and rendered them into an oil paint-animated film, all in the same style as Van Gogh himself.
Let’s pause a moment and consider what Welchman and Kobiela did: they created a new art form. Whether or not this type of art takes off and becomes popular isn’t entirely relevant.
They created something by combining two well-known art forms in a way no one has before. This opens a whole new door in the art world, a door where paintings, sketches, and sculptures can all come to life on screen. While many people find new ways to create art, it’s quite rare to see a whole new genre form.
Let’s also consider the difficulty of taking static, 2D paintings and turning them into moving pictures.
These still frames had to be worked to appear to the viewer as if they were real people and things being filmed from different angles, distances, and with changing lighting. It had to appear as if there was a camera zooming in and out on real people in actual places. While CGI generally involves turning design over to a computer, there is clearly a high level of artistic ability in the CGI work here. It’s the art of acting, the art of painting, and the art of digital cinematography all working in harmony to create a modern visual masterpiece.
Vincent Van Gogh himself evolved artistically throughout his life. And the world of art in which we live evolves, as well. Today, oil paintings live happily alongside Photoshop®. As more options develop in the types of media available for artistic use, the varieties of mixed media will grow and evolve as well.