An Interview with the Renaissance Man of GIFs

Jun 26 • Culture, Front Page, Trending • 4345 Views

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The Renaissance.

We’ve all learned about it in our high school history classes. Europe pulled itself out of the Middle Ages with arts and sciences, and geniuses like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci inspired the term “The Renaissance Man” with their countless achievements.

 

What you might have also seen in your history class, or perhaps if you’ve had the good fortune to travel to Europe and peruse the museums, are the countless art pieces produced as people started to better understand the human body. You know the ones I’m talking about—the nudes?

 

Well, it just so happens that there’s a guy out there named James Kerr that is doing some fabulous work with all those old paintings. When flipping through a book on Renaissance art two years ago, the collage artist realized that he could use the works as material for GIFs.

 

You know, these things:

 

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Except James’ GIFs are way, way cooler. He takes all these random subjects of old paintings and recreates them and their situations completely. There’s a lot of nude people, clergy, and Jesus dancing, getting tattoos and mooning people. Check it out:

 

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You’re laughing, aren’t you?

 

James started making these GIFs with the goal of making one per day for 365 days. After enjoying himself so much in that first year, though, he continued on and is still producing gems for our enjoyment:

 

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I actually reached out to James, and he very graciously answered some questions I threw his way about his creative process:

 

SP: What is it about a painting that catches your attention and inspires you to make a GIF?

 

JK: Normally what happens is that I come up with a GIF idea, and then look for paintings/images to support that idea. I like using paintings from the early and northern Renaissance because, quite simply, they are so beautiful.

 

What’s your thought process while you’re making these? For example, do you recreate personal experiences, or other people’s experiences, or are you just super creative?

 

Usually it happens something like this: Earlier today I saw a guy on the street wearing an old Soviet Russian hammer and sickle shirt, and it got me thinking about people harvesting wheat fields. Somehow, that led to me thinking about, what if they were harvesting a field of hot dog wieners instead of wheat? What if the wieners had faces, and were looking on in horror as their brothers and sisters were being cut down by giant harvesting machines? I’d then look for paintings that I could use to make this GIF (likely something by Pieter Bruegel).  I’m not sure I’d actually make this GIF, but I’ll definitely put it down in my notebook.

 

What is your personal favorite GIF that you’ve made?

 

Hard to say. I really like some of my more subtle ones. Like, the guy being pulled out of his tent by a flying saucer, or the guy passed out in the sand under a swing, surrounded by empty beer bottles. Come to think of it, it’s actually the same guy in both those GIFs!

 

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What’s been your favorite compliment, and worst criticism, that you’ve received about your work?

 

The biggest compliment I’ve yet to receive is someone telling me that I kind of ruined their museum experience, in a good way, because all they could think about is how I would animate the paintings in front of them. Oddly enough, I haven’t received too many criticisms that have bothered me too much, because, for the most part, they’ve been pretty fair. But, if I had to pick one, there was this one guy who put one of my GIFs up on his blog with his watermark on it. I asked him if he’d take it down, or at least give proper credit on it, and he sent back a message saying he took it down ’cause the GIF sucked anyway.

 

Have you ever seen these paintings in person?

 

I`ve seen a few in person, and it’s an incredible experience. I`ve been toying with the idea of planning a giant European museum vacation to see a lot of these works first hand.

 

What can I do to inspire you to get my own GIF?

 

I don’t know, write me a nice poem? I can’t promise anything, but I’ll definitely write back.

 

Yes, yes, of course I wrote him a poem—a haiku, in fact:

 

I want to be a

GIF, but I am not naked,

Painted, old or stiff.

 

I’ve yet to see any Sierra-inspired GIF, but I’ve not lost hope yet!

 

What are the implications of these GIFs? I can think of a few things:

 

  • Twitter now supports GIFs. You’ll be cooler than your friends when you post Renaissance GIFs, since your friends post GIFs of dancing cats.
  • When you go to Europe and visit those museums, you’ll have no shortage of amusement when you imagine all the potential GIFs that could be made from the paintings.
  • Your parents will think you are cultured when you reference old artwork.
  • You’ll always have a place to look for a good chuckle.

 

James has an entire gallery of these GIFs at scorpiondagger.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Instagram at @scorpiondagger.

 

You can also watch James talk more about his work in this interview.

 

So go on, kids, and check out some of the many other amazing GIFs I didn’t have space to share.

 

With that, I’ll leave you with a parting haiku:

 

 

I hope you enjoyed

Go check out Kerr’s other work

James, you’re cool like this:

 

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All GIFs were used with James Kerr’s permission and found at scorpiondagger.com.

 

 

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