Why This Software Engineer Turned Artist from Bhopal Was Picked to Paint Scenes for a Film on Van Gogh

Van Gogh is easily one of the most reputed artists in the post-impressionist movement, which took root in France in the early 1920s. But the story of his tragic death is more popular than some of Van Gogh’s most iconic paintings.

This story is going to be immortalised in the world’s first feature-length painted animation film called Loving Vincent, to be produced by Oscar-winning British producer Hugh Welchman.

A 34-year-old software engineer turned artist from Bhopal is one of 107 artists painting 62,000 frames on over a 1,000 canvases for the film. Shuchi Muley has managed to perfect the art of painting like Van Gogh ever since she was selected from among more than a thousand applicants for the job.

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When The Better India spoke to her about her journey from amateur artist to professional, she said, “I started painting as a kid just like everyone else, but became a professional artist only in 2012. I used to work as a software engineer in San Francisco in the US. In order to develop a hobby I decided to attend art classes on weekends. I joined Sadie Valeri Atelier in San Francisco and started learning the Flemish technique of indirect painting. The more I learnt the more I wanted to pursue it full time. What started as a part time thing slowly became my passion. In 2014, I decided to quit my job and learn painting full-time.”

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The film is a labour of love for everyone involved, especially the artists, because they have to painstakingly capture every minor detail in their paintings. The entire film was filmed with the actors before it was handed over to the artists.

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The first frame was painted on canvas as a full painting, the artists painted over this again and again until the last frame of that shot. Animators worked on making the film fluid with the help of live-action images. Loving Vincent is made up of 853 shots and the team made 853 paintings, 42 of which are already up for sale on the film’s website.

When asked if she would identify with being called as a post-impressionist artist, Shuchi said, “I am a representational artist and knew nothing about impressionism before visiting Van Gogh’s museum in Amsterdam. That’s when I became more interested in his paintings and style. I love his confident brushstrokes and his choice of colours to show subtleties. I am still searching for my style of painting and am currently learning as much as I can.”

And how did Shuchi manage to land a job that would make her name go down in history books? She said, “When I saw the trailer for Loving Vincent, the idea sounded incredible! So I started contacting everyone I could find connected with the movie and sent them my portfolio. After one month of constant follow-ups, I got an invite for a three-day test in Poland. During the test, we had to learn not only Van Gogh’s brushstrokes but also the animation software used by the team. After three rigorous days of testing, I got through. Then came the 16 days of training, which were just like the test, only longer and more difficult.”

One second of the film takes up to twelve paintings and Shuchi’s favourite painting is called Wheatfields with Crows. “It can take a week, or more than three months or even longer to paint one scene,” she added.

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Shuchi is back in India now after her stint in Poland. She said, “ I just came back to India and am looking forward to sharing my knowledge with other artists. My plan is to hold some workshops and demos.”

You can follow Shuchi’s art on Facebook, here.

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