By now, you’ve likely heard about (and hopefully have watched) the world’s first fully painted movie, Loving Vincent, a film about the life of Vincent van Gogh.
From IMBD: In a story depicted in oil painted animation, a young man comes to the last hometown of painter Vincent van Gogh to deliver the troubled artist’s final letter and ends up investigating his final days there.
We’ve had the pleasure of featuring Dena Peterson, one of the painters of the film, and today we bring you an exclusive interview with Tiffanie Mang, who also worked on – and was incredibly moved by – Loving Vincent.
Cherie Dawn Haas: What are five things you learned from the Loving Vincent experience?
Tiffanie Mang: This experience was truly a one of a kind experience that I would never give up for anything now that I have gone through what I did. But if I could narrow it down to five things, it would be these:
1. Never so “no” to an opportunity to which you think you can grow from.
Believe it or not, I was almost going to turn this opportunity down because I was scheduled to teach my first plein air painting class in LA at the time Breakthru films wanted me to fly to Gdansk, Poland to complete an animation test for the film. After the suggestion of a friend, it dawned on me that I had to just try because I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t. What was the worst that could happen? I would get turned down, come back, and still be able to teach. But on the flip side, I would have gained new experience in oil painting animation and would have visited a new country I had never been too.
Ever since this job, I have always said yes to any opportunity that comes my way unless it conflicts with personal events. I truly believe that in order to grow as an artist, it is important to step out of your comfort zone and diversify your experiences so that you can enrich your soul and mind in order to further your technical skills as an artist.
2. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you think you are capable of achieving.
After being officially initiated into the team after passing three-day testing and two-week training, the first scene I was given was a 500-frame scene of Dr. Gachet and Armand Roulin having a conversation. I was very slow painting this scene (portraits are not my specialty), and they took me off the shot after a couple weeks, much to my relief. I was placed on a couple other shots which were more landscape heavy, both of which I was not allowed to paint the first frame. Another senior design painter painted them and handed the shot over to me because the scenes were important key moments of the film and I wasn’t experienced enough to paint the first frame and “set the accurate look.”
Since my specialty was landscapes, I took the initiative to email the director myself and ask her if she would give me the opportunity to paint my first key frame with the help of my painting supervisor. It was definitely a bold move to email the director myself, but I wanted to show her directly that I cared. In my delight, she emailed me back saying that she had already thought about letting me paint the first key frame of the next shot (something they only give higher level painters to do), and that she trusted I would do a good job. This experience taught me that when you stand up for yourself with respect, people will respect you and see the potential in you. In other words, do not be afraid to ask for what you think you deserve or are capable of achieving.
3. Work hard, play hard.
During this six months in Poland, you could say I definitely lived by the motto of work hard, play hard, and it was exhilarating. There were many nights where I would stay painting at the studio until 5:00 am to make a deadline and finish a scene. But being the outgoing person I am, I still somehow had energy to explore the city of Gdansk, go out and paint on weekends, and go dancing at night. Most nights when I came home from the studio around 8:00 pm, I would cook dinner and still then sit until 2:00 am to paint in the apartment kitchen inspired by photos I took around the city. I definitely grew a lot as an artist because I was painting at work and also painting in my personal time.
4. Think out of the box to grasp new opportunities.
I am proud to say that while working on Loving Vincent, it was also the time I organized and hosted my first group exhibition. I encountered the most adorable cafe that was a coffee shop downstairs and had an art gallery upstairs. I talked to the owner, who upon listening to our pitch and seeing our artwork, agreed to let us organize a group exhibition upstairs! I gathered five artists from the film who were my friends, and together, we created works for the show titled “Perception,” each showcasing our individual styles related to the theme. On opening night, the whole studio came out to support us, and it was a very happy moment and glimpse of what could be in store for me in the future if I pursued the world of fine art more. I was able to showcase about 25 of my plein air and “studio” gouache pieces I had done throughout my time in Poland.
5. Be open to meeting new people.
This statement was perhaps one of the most important reasons why I was able to survive in a foreign country where I did not speak the language and knew zero people. It was also what allowed me to maintain my sanity when work seemed to swallow me up (believe it or not, oil painting frames that look almost the same for eight hours straight can be very tedious and boring at times). I am naturally an extroverted person, so meeting people was not too hard for me, but I am so thankful I made some friends in the studio whom I can still call some of my best friends today. The most fascinating part was that the studio was comprised of people from literally all around the world: Poland, Serbia, Ireland, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Spain, and the US, just to name a few! Talk about the ultimate melting pot! We all had so many adventures together exploring the city of Gdansk, and since a lot of the animators were extremely talented fine artists as well, the well of inspiration was always brimming.
Related Article > Loving Vincent: 10 Things I Learned From Van Gogh
How has it changed you as an artist and/or as a person in general?
This experience has changed me as both an artist and as a person in many ways. As an artist, the sheer requirement of the work made me be able to mix colors a lot faster and a lot more accurately. For one scene, I would sometimes have to mix 22 or more colors in one day or two. Besides mixing, I would have to test the colors on the canvas, take a picture, and make sure that the colors that appeared on the computer matched the colors of the key frame on the screen. I was able to develop speed in painting, as time was of the essence. Being in a new city inspired me to paint more outside as well, as I was in love with the Polish architecture. The newness of the subject matter required me to face my shortcomings on what I needed to improve on in painting.
As a person, it made me embrace new opportunities much more and also helped me grow more independent. I went to Poland with just a suitcase, not knowing if I would stay or come back, not knowing what the future had in store for me. It taught me that having a healthy level of spontaneity with an open, fluid mind and embracing all opportunities as valuable learning experiences is so important. It taught me the importance of chasing after your dreams, standing up for yourself, and creating opportunities for yourself… because sometimes they don’t always come to you.
Most of all, it taught me the importance of taking risk, which is a philosophy I hold for my art today as well. Taking risks in life and also in painting is one of the most important mindsets an artist can embrace, because until you do take risks and make mistakes, you simply do not know what your potential is. How do you know what you can or can’t achieve if you don’t push yourself over the line of what you are comfortable of standing behind?
Related Article > Step-by-Step: How to Paint Like Van Gogh
What advice do you have for artists when it comes to applying for such a position?
After being accepted, I asked the head painting supervisor why they had chosen me, because I do not paint in any way like Van Gogh. He said that the team was impressed by my plein air gouache paintings, and that they saw some energy in them that told them I would be fit for the team.
Therefore, my best advice is to pursue your painting with zest, boldness, passion, and sincerity. Do not paint what you think others want to see, but paint what you truly want to convey. If you do, it will show in your paintings, and the genuine communication is something that cannot be explained or described through words. It is a vibrational dialogue felt in the mind and heart.
What’s next for you?
Right now for me during this quarantine, it is an awkward time, as I am sure it is for many people. However, I am thankful to be back home with family, so I cannot complain. I also just launched my own online painting mentorships this year 2020, where I mentor a small group of students for eight weeks and help them elevate their painting skills traditionally, digitally, or both. I am in my second term right now, and starting my third term in September. I am so thankful that I have had full terms each time, and that all the students have been so hard-working and receptive to learning! Teaching is one of my biggest passions, and I am so happy that launching my own business has been a success so far.
Watch the trailer for Loving Vincent:
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