There’s no way you’ve avoided the news today: When an oddity as rare and beloved as David Bowie dies, it becomes the Only Story for a moment in internet time. And everyone has their own version of the Bowie story, a way that incredibly cool, queer, sideways, constantly changing man affected them personally. Illustrator Helen Green has been drawing hers over a period of years — you’ve no doubt seen it today in GIF form, an animated Bowie shifting through 29 distinct aesthetics and identities.
Green started drawing the individual pieces to celebrate Bowie’s birthday, and in early 2015 she put them together to form the famous animation that took on new meaning when Bowie died Sunday. Each portrait took around 35 hours, from pencil sketch to coloring in Photoshop. “Though,” Green said, “much of that time was spent finding references where David was facing in a specific direction.”
Green created another portrait this year, when Bowie turned 69 and released his final album, Blackstar. She completed it less than a week before his death.
It’s hard to find the right words to mark Bowie’s passing, especially in a fleeting, constrained medium like Twitter, but it feels right to say something, and hundreds of people are finding that Green’s 29 portraits are worth thousands of words.