Ripping off Seurat

Lake Shore Drive, my current animation project, features a scene in which my characters are inside the Art Institute of Chicago, and they are contemplating the famous Seurat painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I decided I would copy the painting, instead of importing a jpeg of the original. This will allow me to change up the picture later for a subsequent shot.

Copying Seurat, in all his pointillistic glory, became a project. It took me eight days, one to three hours a day, to get it done. Here is a png file of the original:

A Sunday on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, Georges Seurat, 1884

And here is my rip-off:

Photoshop Study of Seurat

Photoshop Study of Seurat

For the placement and proportion, I imported the png file into Photoshop and traced the hell out of it. Then I chose the color I thought best represented each section and colorblocked it. After that, I added another layer and used a coarse airbrush tool to fake a pointillism effect. For my project, I think it is enough like the original to be instantly recognizable (which it has to be, because it only gets 2.1 seconds on screen). But it is also flat enough to better match the cartoonish animation style I’ve been using. (Although I just did a test run in the scene, and it still may not be flat enough. I may have to retouch it.)

Pointillism is wild. I used the color picker tool, just for fun, on a piece of the original that I was *sure* was blue, or purple, or orange. It threw colors back at me that I never dreamed would be in there. And the construction! Each figure in this piece is a fully realized character. The more you zoom in on any one of them, the more the personality jumps out at you. (Don’t zoom in on mine; it has the opposite effect.) I love what Seurat does with texture, volume and shading. I wish I could have attempted to draw it freehand, and spent longer studying the nuance of the pointillism. But time passes quickly, animation is tedious, so, moving on. However, I am glad I spent the time I did to copy this piece. It was an excellent learning experience.

But, now that I’ve finished the copy job, I have questions.

What’s up with these certain pairs of wooden characters?

Sunday Afternoon, detail

Zombie Pair #1

Zombie Pair #2

Zombie Pair #2

Everyone else looks human in the painting, even if they appear relaxed, or disengaged. But these guys are standing at attention like Beefeaters at Buckingham Palace; particularly Pair #1, who actually look like soldiers. But even if they are soldiers, why are they standing at attention all by themselves, in the middle of a relaxed Sunday atmosphere?

The couple in the foreground are doing the Zombie Stance as well, but they are in profile, facing left, so it’s not quite as obvious. Nonetheless, they appear to me to be standing stiffly, in the midst of everyone else looking relaxed.


Zombie Pair #3

Also, the monkey. Does it look slightly transparent to anyone else? Like it may not really be there?

I’ve read that the painting could be interpreted as the isolation felt in the company of others; no one is making eye contact with anyone else. They are each in their own world as they recline on the bank. The little girl in the white dress is, as far as I know, the well-known exception. She appears to be staring out of the painting at the viewer. But what about the lady with the red hat? Does she seem to be looking directly at the little girl? And if so, what does that mean?

Perspective of a Perspective?

Perspective of a Perspective?

On to strange objects:

WTF is this?

World's Biggest Creampuff?

World’s Biggest Cream Puff?

What is this thing?

I got nothin'


And these things are crazy… what are they?

I’m sure a Google search could probably answer my questions. But, again: Giant project. Must go finish. If anyone has an answer for me, or would like to ridicule my lack of knowledge of late 19th Century French standing postures and artifacts, please feel free to leave a comment.


  1. jackcuffari · September 15, 2014

    “WTF is this?” Looks like she’s sewing a repair into a bustle? And the next thing is the back of a woman’s bonnet, I think, with its red ribbon down coming down her back. The stiff figures could be a comment on bourgeois inhibition, maybe. And the monkey a symbol of the repressed trickster archetype…. hey! I make it up as I go along. Brilliant work by you! I’ll make a ‘point’ of telling you so when I see you…

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