Oscar-nominated director of ‘Blind Vaysha’ returns with harrowing tale animated using encaustic-painting technique; see the clip and breakdown of his exacting technique.
Theodore Ushev, director of the Oscar-nominated animated short, Blind Vaysha, is back with his latest piece, the hauntingly beautiful and highly-anticipated The Physics of Sorrow. Animated using the encaustic-painting technique, where heated beeswax, colored with various pigments, is applied to a surface, The Physics of Sorrow will premiere at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, which runs September 5-15, 2019.
Produced at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), the first fully animated film using this rare but ancient technique was inspired by Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov’s novel, which tracks the outlines of an unknown man's life as he sifts through memories of his youth in communist Bulgaria up to his increasingly rootless and melancholic adulthood in Canada, all the while struggling to find home, family and self. he sifts through memories of circuses, bubble-gum wrappers, first crushes, army service from his youth in communist Bulgaria, and an increasingly rootless and melancholic adulthood in Canada—all the while struggling to find home, family and self.
According to Ushev, he painted the slightly bleached beeswax mixed with pigments onto paper, then let it dry out. “It was an old recipe that my father gave me,” he noted. “After that, I make it hot so that it becomes liquefied. Then I can change the movement and colors. It’s very physically demanding. You have to paint very fast because the hot wax dries out quite quickly.”
Described in first century AD Roman writing and seen alongside Egyptian mummies from the same era, encaustic painting in an exacting and difficult artistic medium. Ushev’s choice was not random. “The first time capsules were the Egyptian tombs and coffins,” he explained. “They would put everyday objects alongside the buried person with an encaustic portrait on top of it. Encaustic was the first technique used to create realistic portraits of the dead on Egyptian sarcophagi, thus allowing the memory of the buried person to be preserved over centuries. With The Physics of Sorrow, I wanted to create a sarcophagus of my generation.”
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.