Art Fundamentals Professor Valerie Fulford discusses her work with Loving Vincent – the First Fully Painted Feature Film

Merging the iconic Impressionist style of Vincent van Gogh with the magic of animation, Loving Vincent, the first fully painted feature film to be created seeks to bring the vibrancy, mystery and turbulence of the artist’s life and work to the big screen. Structured as a noirish detective narrative, the film is set a year after the Vincent’s death as told through his paintings and the characters that he depicted. His 800-plus collection of personal letters provide much of the narrative for the movie which unfolds through interviews with the characters closest to Vincent and through dramatic reconstructions of the events leading up to his death.

The ambitious project has garnished international interest and recognition through its breath-taking visuals. Created by a team of 115 painters, each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas. Last summer, Sheridan Art Fundamentals Professor Valerie Fulford was one of the painting-animators who was brought on to work on Loving Vincent. 

The film’s viral online presence is how Valerie first learned about the project. After seeing a Facebook posting in April, 2016, she applied through the film’s website, sent in her portfolio and was contacted for a skype interview with the project’s production recruitment manager a few weeks later. After that, the training and testing part of her initiation began at the project’s main studio in Gdansk, Poland. Valerie underwent a three-day long painting and technique test to see if she would be suitable for the project which was then followed by another three weeks of intense training to learn Dragonframe (an animation software) and the subtleties of fully painted animation, colour and style matching needed to work on the film.

  

At the end of her training, Valerie moved to a smaller studio outside of Athens where she worked and stayed for the remainder of the summer. During this time, she worked on three different scenes involving Armand Roulin, The Old Man, and Armand speaking to his father Postman Roulin. All the characters in Loving Vincent are performed by real actors either on specially constructed sets designed to look like Vincent’s paintings, or against green screens with design paintings composited in through a live view system on the set.  The live action material was then combined with computer animation for elements such as birds, horses, clouds and blowing leaves and composited together with the design paintings to create the reference material for the painting animation. In the next phase of the process, painting animators used this reference material as the basis for the layout of their first frame. Animators then transformed the reference material into the iconic broad stroke style of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. Once a frame is complete the painting animator takes a 6k resolution digital still, and then starts work on the next frame. At the end of each shot we are left with a painting of the last frame of the shot. There are 898 shots and 65,000 frames in the film. Over the course of five months, Valerie estimates that she invested approximately 1000 hours towards the film, averaging about 60 hours a week and more as the end drew near.

  

Although faced with a heavy workload of twelve frames/paintings per second, the team of painters were fuelled by a strong desire for the film to succeed.

We all understood we had a staggering amount of work to get finished if we wanted the film to succeed. We were a team in every sense of the word and close friendships were made. ….with such a looming deadline and the stress of getting the work done, we pulled together. 

Valerie Fulford, Art Fundamentals Professor, Painter/ Animator for Loving Vincent

 

Loving Vincent will be released in North America sometime in 2017. Visit the film’s website for updates.

Valerie Fulford currently teaches Intro to Colour Theory and Intro to Painting in Sheridan’s Art Fundamentals program. Visit Valerie’s website to see more of her work.

To learn more about Sheridan’s Art Fundamentals program, visit our program page.

Photos courtesy of Valerie Fulford.  Artwork Images © 2013-2016 Loving Vincent

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