Salida SteamPlant screens hand-painted feature-length film
Loving Vincent made history when it became the world’s first fully painted feature-length film. The film will be shown at the Salida SteamPlant Event Center at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 21.
Terry Deveney, SteamPlant administrative coordinator, made it happen. “I felt like we have so much room to expand what we do at the SteamPlant. I had been exploring bringing in more movies and Loving Vincent came up. My sister had seen it in Oklahoma City and raved about it.”
The film, directed by Dorota Kobiela, explores the mystery surrounding the death of Vincent Van Gogh.
When Salida artist Sue Ann Hum learned Loving Vincent was coming to the SteamPlant, she mobilized. As a knowledgeable Van Gogh fan, Hum saw the film in Denver and thought it was “stunning, very hypnotic and staggering to realize it was all hand-painted.”
Hum’s business, My Art Trip, organizes and guides two artist-immersion trips to France. One focuses on Monet and the newest trip focuses on Van Gogh.
On the trips, Hum takes nine artists a year to all the places Van Gogh lived, painted and died.
While visiting the town where he died, Auvers-sur-Oise, Hum said some of the residents behave as if Van Gogh’s death happened a few months ago. At the time of his death it was believed that he committed suicide, which was considered a sin, Hum said. However, other evidence explored in the film suggests a different story.
Hum arranged for Colorado Springs artist Dena Peterson to come participate in the two-day Loving Vincent event. Peterson was one of 120 artists hired to work on the film – 5,000 applied. She will lead an artist workshop on “Channeling Van Gogh” from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 21 at the SteamPlant. Unfortunately, the class is sold out – there is even a growing wait list.
Hum said she wanted the artists to get plenty of one-on-one time with Peterson, so she limited the number of participants. There were a few spots for observers who could listen and sketch, but those are also sold out.
The point of the workshop is to encourage artists to add passion to paintings – not to copy Van Gogh.
“I think studying Van Gogh has encouraged me to not be afraid to experiment,” Peterson said. “I have enjoyed painting more in his style, but I truly believe that we cannot be anyone else but ourselves in our work, nor should we be. Van Gogh found his unique voice and that’s what I hope to do in my own work – to continue to explore my vision of what painting means to me.”
Peterson said she first learned of the film from Facebook a couple of years ago.
“I was immediately intrigued because it looked like actual moving paintings. I’ve been an oil painter for over 20 years and have always been a fan of Van Gogh’s work.”
Months after submitting her website for review, Peterson got the invite to join the crew in Gdansk, Poland. She had to pass an initial test to see if she could “handle the work and learn to animate.” After passing that portion of her audition, Peterson’s three-week training period began. After proving she could “cut the mustard,” she worked for six months in a small cubicle “helping to paint and animate the film.”
All the artists painted on 20-by-30-inch, bolted-down boards and had to take their own photos with a high-resolution camera. “We would paint a frame, take a photo, scrape it off and paint the next frame, and so on. Just like old-school animation – only with oil paint.”
Peterson explained the artists decided the brushwork and the color palette, but they had to watch the previously filmed actors’ movements on a projector before starting. Actors who resembled the characters from Van Gogh’s portraits were used to pinpoint movement.
“Twelve paintings were required for every second of film footage,” Peterson explained. “These were basically strung together to make them appear to move.” Of the 65,000 frames used to make the film, Peterson painted 250.
While Peterson said she has an impressionistic style, she had never tried to emulate Van Gogh’s work before the film. “(Loving Vincent) was meant to be a tribute to his work, so it was important to mimic his later style as closely as possible.”
Peterson’s five painted scenes accounted for about 21 seconds of footage. “I tell people, ‘Don’t blink,’ or they will miss my scenes.”
Her scenes include three close-ups of the Gendarme talking with Armand at the station, one close-up of Armand talking with Dr. Gachet in his garden, and the “Crows Over the Wheatfield” scene. Her favorite was the wheatfield scene, which is based on the iconic Van Gogh. “It was also Director Dorota Kobiela’s favorite scene. The fact that she chose me to paint it was quite an honor.”
That scene also reminded Peterson that Van Gogh “may have died in that very field. That really moved me. I saw the crows flight into the ‘heavens’ as symbolic of Van Gogh’s soul finally finding peace.”
Peterson said the first frame of every scene took the longest. Kobiela approved the colors, style and brushwork of every first frame. Getting the first frame done took a day to a week. The subsequent frames would take Peterson an hour or two to complete.
“My favorite part of being in the film is to know that I am a part of history. The creation of a full-length, hand-painted film has never been done before; that’s what makes it so very unique and what I hope people take away from this.”
Working on the film made Peterson a Van Gogh super fan. “Studying his brushwork up close helped me to appreciate his unique style even more, especially for his time. I appreciate his struggles even more as a visionary and an artist ahead of his time but not appreciated at all during his life. I respect his determination to stick to his style, despite the critics. He only sold one painting in his lifetime and that was to another artist.”
For Hum’s 2019 Van Gogh immersion trip to France, Peterson will accompany her as a guest instructor.
“I’m really honored; she’s never been. I get to show her Vincent’s France,” Hum said.
There will be an opportunity to meet Peterson at a 6 p.m. reception in the Paquette Gallery before the Saturday night film showing. There will also be a Q&A after the film with Peterson and Hum in the theater.
To learn more about the film, visit LovingVincent.com. To learn more about Peterson, visit DenaPaints.com and to learn more about Hum’s art trips, visit MyArtTrip.com. Tickets to the film screenings are $9 and available at the SteamPlant box office or online at SalidaSteamPlant.com.