I love a batshit Minecraft megabuild, I really do.
r/Minecraftbuilds user ChrisDaCow has posted their mammoth recreation of Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 masterpiece ‘The Starry Night’ in Minecraft. Every part of the famous painting has been recreated in exacting detail, from its signature tree, its dark mountains, its nestled (and, in real life, imaginary) village, and, of course, its spectacular, post-impressionist night sky.
ChrisDaCow explains the process of using Minecraft to recreate ‘The Starry Night’ in a YouTube video. Aiming to get as close as possible to the original painting in a three-dimensional space, he spent many hours cross-referencing images of the real painting. Recreating a painting like this would be relatively simple if Van Gogh’s style had come from the school of realism, or impressionism. Rather, Van Gogh was part of a wave called post-impressionism. This was a school of painting that rejected the tenets of realism in favour of symbolism. They treated colour as an expression of meaning or emotion.
‘The Starry Night’ is so beloved because it is perhaps the apotheosis of this ideal. Van Gogh could see a beautiful vista from his asylum window and turned what he saw into one of the most striking and instantly recognisable artworks in human history.
How do you take something created by feel as much as anything else, and recreate it in a 3D space? Here’s ChrisDaCow to explain:
To get Van Gogh’s palette completely correct, ChrisDaCow determined he would need to use the 1.12 version of Minecraft from 2017. That version of the game, now five years old, contains far fewer types of blocks than the current version. To ensure he had the blocks he needed to recreate Van Gogh’s curved brush strokes, ChrisDaCow says he had a friend modify that version of Minecraft to insert these newer blocks and retain the colours he needed.
Chris then recreated the painting’s signature foreground tree over two days, block by block, piece by piece. And then the background trees entered the frame.
If you take a good look at ‘The Starry Night’, like really spend some time taking it in, you’ll start to realise just how many trees Van Gogh actually painted into the background. Of the 92 trees, Chris was able to count, each was coloured differently, meaning each digital recreation would need to be unique. To get the painterly look he wanted, Chris says he ultimately used glass blocks to give everything a “fluffy” look that retained his carefully arranged colour palette.
Once the matter of painterly-looking trees was solved, it was on to the next part of the painting: the village. The village in ‘The Starry Night’ is famously imaginary. It doesn’t exist, Van Gogh just invented it as he was painting. Not only did Chris have no real-world town to draw from, but a pixel-art breakdown of the painting also revealed that the colours Van Gogh used to create the village were surprisingly complex. Three days of painstakingly recreating the brushwork later and Chris felt he had the village dialled in enough to proceed.
The only thing left to create was the sky. But how to recreate such a massive component in the painting?
After attending an immersive Van Gogh exhibit similar to The Lume in Melbourne, ChrisDaCow felt like he had an understanding of how to make ‘The Starry Night’s starry night work in 3D. Piece by piece, stroke by stroke, Chris recreated the sky of ‘The Starry Night’, starting with the giant central swirl and moving to its moons and stars. The only way to ensure that the night sky looked “right” was to fly back and forth from his prepared vantage point, cross-reference his work, and nip and tuck. Because of the size of the Minecraft realm in question, this took a while.
The results speak for themselves. I mean:
Just so very impressive. Huge effort, Chris, beautiful work.