Meet the Man Who Turned "Blade Runner" Into a Half-Hour Watercolor Hallucination

The Sweden-based artist Anders Ramsell painstakingly recreated the entire sci-fi classic with a paintbrush. Here's why he did it.

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Nov 25 2013, 5:10pm

No doubt, Blade Runner is one of the most hypnotic, dreamlike big budget sci-fi films put to tape. So much so that it's not particularly difficult to conceive of the story as a blurring reel of animated, noirish watercolors—even before the artist Anders Ramsell went and painted a "paraphrase" of the entire film in over 12,000 separate aquarelle stills. Okay, so no one else likely would have ever thought to actually undertake such a painstaking project. But thematically and philosophically, the flickering, wispy intimations of those famous frames seem of a piece with the classic—like we're imagining, fantasizing, or remembering the film in a gauzy subconcious haze.

It's also gorgeous, and a must-watch for fans of the film and the genre. Aside from its ethereal aesthetics, the film itself deals extensively in dreams and memory: there's the recurring vision of the unicorn, the omnipresent question of how machines perceive reality and process memories, and why its important that we do so differently. Ramsell's creation floats us through all of those ideas in about the time it takes to watch a sitcom, to stunning effect. 

The film made the blog-rounds last week, but I wanted to hear more from the dystopian dreamer himself, so I reached out to the Sweden-based artist to ask him a few question about his work.

Motherboard: What was the inspiration for this project? Why Blade Runner?

Anders Ramsell: To explain where the inspiration, or rather any inspiration comes from is like trying to remember when a dream starts—you cannot really remember that, can you?

But If I would try to back trace the origin of the process I would say that just by looking at the movie (the Director´s Cut), its sheer beauty was enough to trigger something in me.

And there I saw an opportunity to express the essence of Blade Runner in a new angle, that was not done before.

Portrait of the artist from his website

Why watercolors?

I did experiment with other mediums but I soon realized that aquarelle was the way to go. It works very well when you need to do a large volume of paintings. And feelings are like water and pigment, add just a little pigment and you see how it spreads over the paper, just like what a little love can do to your mind.

Blade Runner has been remixed and recut three times officially now, and that effort began with a fan-based movement—why do you think this film is so ripe for remixing?

Because it has so many layers!

Any plans to watercolor-ize any other films?

No, I have recently begun my Bachelor of Fine Arts at Konstfack – University College of Art, Crafts and Design in Stockholm. So I have enough on my plate as it is all ready…

What was it like to spend so many hours painting scene after scene of this imaginary dystopian future? Did it impact your brain?

No, not during the time I was painting. It was more after the work was finished, something changed but I can not put the finger on it… I think I need a couch to lay down on, to be able to answer that question. Haha.

Who do you sympathize most with in the story now—Deckard, Rachel, or one of the (other) replicants?

Rachel and her struggle of being certain of who she is, and then being told she is really is not what she believed.

Do you think Deckard is a replicant?

No I do not think he is a replicant… No wait he is! Hmmm… or is he??

If there was one full-length film you'd like to see a complete watercolor-ized version of, what would it be?

I have a few titles in my journal, but they will be kept a secret for now.

What's next for you and your work?

I have started to work on an original idea for a animated-short film. However just trying to find a way to finance this project takes a lot of time. Not to mention the actual painting…

Thanks Anders, and good luck.