Dylan Cole: Matte Painter

There are many people who misuse the term Matte Painter these days, when what they more frequently want to describe is a background painter.

Mind you, just to add to the confusion, even the term `background´ is now being eclipsed by `environment´. I suppose that sounds grander and more important than `background´.

Personally, I suspect that all this linguistic sloppiness is a ploy by artists in the games industry trying to get more pay for the same job. But I digress.

So, it’s refreshing to find a real matte painter who really paints mattes! He’s Dylan Cole, and he has his own website here.

Vinci Mountains
This image reminds me very strongly of something else.
It’ll come to me in a minute…

The Aviator: BEFORE
The scene from `The Aviator´ in which Howard Hughes crashes his plane into Beverly Hills.

The Aviator: AFTER
Interesting the way the whole horizon has moved upward in this version.

Can you spot the extra material added to this temple?

Chronicles of Narnia
From `The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe´

Chronicles of Narnia
Close up: `The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe´

Take a moment to look at those warm glowing colours, that majestic, mythological, idealised heroic scenery.

Does it put you in mind of a school of painting that enjoyed enormous popular success in the United States in the mid nineteenth century?


This screenshot is a view of the thumbnail gallery on the matte painting website, mattepainting.org and it shows that the majority of the pictures on the site also share these mid 19th century aesthetics.

At first I found this stylistic coincidence really curious, but when I stopped to think about it, it struck me that the painters of the Hudson River School and the film makers of modern Hollywood are (or were) in the same business, that of mythologising and idealising the American landscape as a context for the American dream.

Albert Bierstadt
`Looking Up The Yosemite Valley´, by Alfred Bierstadt.

Thomas Moran
`Golden Gateway To Yellowstone´, by Thomas Moran.

It’s curious that just at the time the movies were being invented, the taste for these epic scale paintings was beginning to wane, and the newfangled impressionism was gaining a popular following in its place.

I use the term `epic´ deliberately, especially in the case of Frederick Church. I quote from his Wikipedia page:

Church became known for painting colossal views, often of exotic locations. His painting “Heart of the Andes”, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, measures over five feet high and nearly ten feet in length.

Church unveiled the painting to an astonished public in New York City in 1859. He installed the work in a specially-lit room with curtains and palm fronds, and charged the public admission to view it. The painting was an instant success. He eventually sold it for $10,000, at that time the highest price ever paid for a work by a living American artist.

Some of Church’s huge canvases went on World tours and were marvelled at by a paying audience, some of whom were no doubt influenced to emigrate to the golden land portrayed in the vast pictures.
Art was being globalised.

Moran, although he came from a long tradition of English topographic watercolourists, produced landscape paintings of the Far West that were later instrumental in persuading Congress to found Yellowstone National Park.

He also found time to paint more intimate views of the landscape, including this beautifully composed, almost symbolist piece called `The Bathers´.

Thomas Moran
`The Bathers´, by Thomas Moran.

The century turned, the movies progressed and developed, and the Hudson River School of painters declined into obscurity as lamented on this sad page.

But I’m digressing again….

Here’s the link to Dylan Cole’s Website,
This one will take you to mattepainting.org
The Artcyclopedia index of Hudson River artists is here.

I wouldn’t mind placing a bet that Dylan Cole’s paintings have probably been seen by more people than the hundreds of thousands who used to flock to H.R.S. exhibitions, the irony being, though, that they’ll never know they’ve seen them. Paintings that can make themselves invisible. Ah, the magic of the movies!

Art & Design in The British Film # 5: Ferdinand Bellan

Another chapter in the continuing series about Art Directors and Production Designers in British Film up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published..

This excerpt considers the work of Ferdinand Bellan.

St. Joan
(Click the thumbnails to enlarge)

Bonnie Prince Charlie
`Bonnie Prince Charlie´ Starring the youthful Ivor Novello and Gladys Cooper.

Bonnie Prince Charlie
`Bonnie Prince Charlie´

Salute The Soldier
`Salute The Soldier´

Pickwick Papers
(Probably `The Adventures of Mr. Pickwick´, 1921)

The text continues after the fold: Continue reading Art & Design in The British Film # 5: Ferdinand Bellan

Mitchell & Webb: “Identity Theft”

David Mitchell and Robert Webb hit the issue of identity theft with a large comedic cosh.

Also featuring “Bronze Orientation Day”, “The Rally Drivers” and other inspired nonsense..

This broadcast went out on the 24th of May and you can listen again for 7 days afterwards.

If you miss it completely: download the excerpt.

Click to listen
Laugh? I nearly passed my Polos round.

Art & Design in The British Film # 4: Wilfred Arnold

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Wilfred Arnold (1903 – 1970)

That’s right, he was the brother of the Art Director who was featured in the previous entry in this series, Norman Arnold, and they are known to have worked together occasionally (See text below).

Wilfred’s career as an Art Director started with `The Rat (of Paris)´ in 1925 and he worked as an assistant to Alfred Hitchcock in his 1929 film `Blackmail´

Projects 1
(I believe that the name “Projects” was the name of the production company, British Projects, rather than the title of the film) Click the thumbnails to enlarge.

Projects 2
I like the way that there is so much variety in the surfaces, and yet it’s drawn with such economy.

Atlantic Ferry, or Sons of the Sea
A group of thumbnail sketches from `Atlantic Ferry´ starring a young Michael Redgrave.

This film was made in 1941 at Teddington Studios. IMDB entry here.
The writers, Derek and Wynne MacIver lent their surname to the two rival heroes of the film, Charles and David MacIver. Script meetings must have been hilarious.

Atlantic Ferry, or Sons of the Sea
More finely crafted thumbnails from `Atlantic Ferry´.

The text follows after the fold: Continue reading Art & Design in The British Film # 4: Wilfred Arnold

Life Drawing Meetup on Tuesday 7th June


The Who: Cartoon, animation + character figure drawing Meetup group

The What: 2 hour cartoon figure drawing / photography session.

The Where: The Hub, Top floor, 5 Torrens Street, London EC1V 1NQ Tel:0207 841 8900

The When: Tuesday, June 5, 2007, 7:00 – 9:00 PM

The Why: Because you need to do some more life drawing!

The How Much: £10 (depending on numbers)
At the time of posting there were still 26 places available for this session.


(Via Bentos at Skwigly Animation Forum)

AAArghh! Why does it always have to be on Tuesday evenings? There’s another life drawing group that meets on the same night! Choices, choices…

“Meetup” is a social grouping messageboard that puts together people who have interests in common .

UPDATE: Frankie, the moderator / organiser of the Meetup group has left a comment at the bottom of this post, about a Meetup this Sunday, just off Oxford Street.

The “About” page for this life drawing group reads: Continue reading Life Drawing Meetup on Tuesday 7th June

Madame Tutli-Putli

Madame Tutli-Putli

“Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski of Clyde Henry Productions have recently completed their first professional film, Madame Tutli-Putli, produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

In addition to their role as filmmakers, Chris and Maciek wear many hats-as animators, sculptors, collage artists, screenplay writers and art directors.”

Madame Tutli-Putli

“Madame Tutli-Putli took shape with a train trip across Canada via the northern trail in 2002. Lavis and Szczerbowski lived on the train for the best part of a month to discover the distinct rhythm of travel that would define Madame Tutli-Putli’s journey.

They absorbed the Canadian landscape, discovering, for example, the particular feeling of isolation and disquiet that comes from a train standing still deep in the woods 100 km north of Lake Superior.”

The film will debut at The Cannes Film Festival International Critics’ Week in the next few days.
(May 17-25, 2007)

Madame Tutli-Putli

Madame Tutli-Putli

Madame Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski
These two lads look as if they could use a wash and brush up before they hit the promenade in Cannes.

At the time of writing, all the movie clips on the website were broken or (maddeningly) dumping you back onto the page you’d just started from, but you can still read about this fascinating and painstaking project here.

Good fortune in Cannes, Messieurs!


Art & Design in The British Film # 3: Norman Arnold

Continuing a series about Art Directors in the British film industry up to 1948, when the book containing these articles was published.

This chapter deals with Norman Arnold

Norman Arnold was one of the most prolific production designers active in British cinema in the two decades immediately before and after the second world war.

He was art director for at least 154 films, and

his experience has taught him to be able to work in two styles, one clear and precise so as to save time in construction and misinterpretation by assistants, the other full of atmosphere as a guide to the director. The twenty-minute sketch for the Law Court scene in ‘The White Unicorn’ is a good example of this last.

Norman Arnold
Hue & Cry, Ealing Studios

Flying Fortress
Flying Fortress, Warner Bros,

The Rake's Progress
The Rake’s Progress, Individual Pictures

White Unicorn
The White Unicorn, Ealing Studios

Flying Fortress
The Flying Fortress, Warner Bros.

The rest of the text appears below the fold -> Continue reading Art & Design in The British Film # 3: Norman Arnold

Composition part 2: Edgar Payne’s Rogues Gallery

About a year ago I posted some little thumbnail pictures by the American painter, Edgar Payne, that act as mini guidelines for composing pictures.

These composition hints were much appreciated, especially by students. Happily, I have now acquired the 1941 book from which they were scanned. (Thanks Colin!)

It was delightful to see all the other gems the book contains, especially this page that is the antithesis of my prior post about composition, because it lays out how not to compose pictures.

So I now present Edgar Payne’s sheet of thumbnail drawings called “Things to be avoided in composing”

Mistakes in composition
(Click to enlarge)

The first illustration (above) is a web sized overview and not recommended for downloading and printing. You can download a printable PDF file at the bottom of this post.

Halving the canvas

Equal spacing

I really like the squiggly quality of the type in the captions. I think they must have been done on a typewriter originally, and then pasted onto the line drawing artwork.

Parallel lines

Too close to the frame

Trees on a line

Equal spacing

Central placement

Central horizon & scattered objects

Three equal divisions

Regular equal masses

Crowded design

Download the (1.1Mb) Acrobat PDF file for a printable copy of the page, and pin it up above your drawing table!
PDF download button

Ratatouille Podcast

The marketing campaign for Pixar’s next release rolls on.
Have a squint at the latest Ratatouille Podcast here.

This new feature contains some of the most physical animation that I’ve seen so far from Pixar. Bodies are flying all over the place! Well, at least one body is. And it’s Linguini’s.

Ratatouille Podcast

Ratatouille Podcast

Ratatouille Podcast

Ratatouille Podcast

Ratatouille Podcast

This last screengrab contains some CG goodness that really cheers me. Can you spot it?
Answer after the fold. Continue reading Ratatouille Podcast