Recently I returned from Gdansk, Poland where I was working May-Nov 2016 as a painter-animator on the world’s first hand painted animated feature film 'Loving Vincent' by Oscar Award winning Studio Breakthru Films. The film is based on the life and art works of Vincent Van Gogh. The trailer of the film is here.
I was born and raised in Mumbai and graduated in Computer Engineering from Mumbai University in 2006 with distinction. After working as a programmer for a couple of years, I quit my job to follow my creative calling and did Masters in Animation and Film Design from IIT Bombay. In 2013 I decided that it was important for me to acquire additional training in classical realism to enhance my skills and draftsmanship. Thus, I travelled to Florence, Italy and then to New York, USA to pursue my art education at three renown art schools - Angel Academy of Art, Florence, Russian Art Academy in Florence and Grand Central Atelier in New York City.
Two years ago, I saw the trailer of the Loving Vincent film. Van Gogh has been an inspiration to me because of his paintings, the subjects he chose and how he expressed himself through his letters. When I learned in April 2016 that Breakthru Films was interviewing artists to work on the film, I applied with my portfolio and within three days I was invited for a test in Gdansk, Poland. I flew there, passed the test, which was followed by three weeks of intense training to paint in Van Gogh style and animate. After the training I started painting, animating shots for the film. I worked there from the end of May till 31 October 2016, painting 7 complete shots. Every shot consists of hand painted frames that are used to create animation. I created 358 painted frames for seven different shots, all of which are included in the film. Every second of the movie consists of 12 painted frames. We had to reproduce Van Gogh’s paintings using similar brush strokes and his color palette.
Paint supplies after passing the test and training:)
My PAWS- Painting and Animation Workstation in the studio
There were close to 5000 applicants for about 100 positions for the artists to paint and animate the film. Artists from all over the world were chosen.
As there are many artists working on a particular scene, it is important to match colors to the shots already created. The colors you paint often look different on the computer screen. And the color matching is done based on how it looks on the screen. Depending on the length of the shot, paints are prepared in good volume and stored in the plastic jars, labelled as they are used- Lights and darks for the skin, jackets, etc. And we use the same throughout the shot.
My workstation after first month:
It was my first time in Poland and the life in Gdansk had been very pleasant. The city itself is very beautiful and conductive to art. The architecture of the old town has Dutch influence and is fascinating. Gdansk is the port city of Baltic coast, and there are beautiful beaches and green forests. At the beginning, when the workload was less, we would go to the beautiful beaches every weekend. We walked by the side of a forest on our way to work, where we picked apples and cherries for breakfast. It was a good life and being from Mumbai this was all so beautiful and amazing to me. It was wonderful working with the team of artists from all over the world, many who I can call dear friends made me feel like I had a family in Poland.
This has been such an enriching experience for me, for the people I met, the city and the film itself.
In October 2016 we did a group art show in Gdansk with 15 artists/coworkers from the studio who were from six different countries (India, Poland, Ukraine, Spain, Ireland, Iran). If you'd like to see the photos, here is the link https://m.facebook.com/hemali.vadalia/albums/10210602948370363/
Following one’s dreams and passions is always very fulfilling, and support and a little encouragement coming at the right moment, can often change everything. My journey from beginning as a software engineer to traveling and working on the world's first fully hand painted feature length animation film has been quite adventurous and rewarding, with its highs and lows; and I have learnt to be true to myself, despite all the contradictions to what our culture and traditions dictate. And by sharing our journeys, we inspire others to be courageous and follow their own dreams. I am forever grateful to people in my life who have encouraged me to hold onto my dreams, no matter how rough the path looked like in the beginning.
Thank You for reading.
Instagram post by Hugh Welchman, Director/Producer 'loving Vincent'
Instagram post by Dorota Kobiela, Director 'loving Vincent'