How to paint a novel at 24 frames per second
Be patient with the 30 second advertisement in the video, illustrators. It leads to a rewarding interview with traditionalist oil painter and Academy Award winning director of animations, Alexander Petrov, talking about the process behind My Love, his 25 minute adaptation of a 1927 novel by Ivan Sergeevich Shmelev. Click the “cc” speech balloon icon at the top right of the player to see English subtitles.
When Petrov finished his work on The Old Man and the Sea for the National Film Board of Canada, he returned to his home in Yaroslavl, Russia, hankering to get back to more Russian literature for source material. He’d already tackled Dostoyevsky, Pushkin and Platonov.
My Love took three years of production and 35,000 paintings in Petrov’s unique oil pigment on glass method and ultimately required a team of artists, animators and technicians in multiple locations around the world to complete. It won the Audience Prize and the Special International Jury Prize at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival where it premiered in 2006.
“More than the story itself what makes this film (and Petrov’s other films) so appealing is the rare technique used: animated oil paintings, writes Laura Pontieri Hlavacek in a 2008 review of the film in Kinokultura. “Petrov paints directly on glass, primarily using his fingers, and only at times employing paintbrushes for small and precise details.
“The effect is a poetry of shades, tones, and light that imbues each of Petrov’s films with a lyrical atmosphere. Every single frame is a work of art that seems to allow the canvas to come alive and move in a dimension made of patches and nuances of color,” she says.
“Painting is very sensual,” Petrov told interviewer Russell Berkins in Animation World. “I use only five or six colors, combining and recombining them to get the look of spring.”
“The hardest thing is getting the facial expressions right. My favorite part of the work are the scenes where you can work very fast and use expressionistic techniques.”
“A boy of sixteen encounters his first love, in all innocence.” writes Pierre Radulescu in his blog
Updates, Live. “It’s tempting, and it’s unknown chart. He falls for the household maiden, he is also troubled by the mysterious young lady from the house nearby, he doesn’t know which way to follow, so he advances quirky on both. He will fail, of course, and the memory of the first love will accompany him for all life, with a very unclear feeling of guilt. Or sorry? For the girl, or the girls? For his innocence? For the time that never comes back?”
OK, so now it’s time to see for yourself. A caveat first: The animation is not child friendly. It’s Russian literature, for crying out loud. Maybe OK as YA fare. It’s about first love, after all. And there’s something (else) universal going on here: Petrov’s unflagging attention to the telling details makes this a must-see for illustrators who have’t yet. Animation aficionados already have seen it, most likely along with Petrov’s other works.
I uploaded the videos that had Spanish subtitles because these give a better view of the art than the English subtitled ones. Don’t worry about the text. My Love is really about the sounds, voices, music and those flowing images that transcend dialogue.
Anyway you can see the English subtitled versions on Radulescu’s post.
Animators: Dmitrii Petrov, Iulia Kuznetsova, Elena Petrova, Svetlana Shukhaeva, Elena Pisarenko, Tat’iana Murysova, Mikhail Tumelia; with the assistance of Izol’da Solodova and Dmitrii Ivanov.
Sound: Viktor Duritsyn
Producer: Liubov’ Kuznetsova
Production: Dago Company
Here’s Petrov’s Facebook Page if you want to show support of his work and “like” the page.