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Dylan Cole is a leading matte painter and concept artist specializing in work for film, television, and video games. Graduating with a degree in fine art from UCLA, Dylan has worked with Illusion Arts, Rhythm & Hues and Weta Digital. His work can be seen in ‘Time Machine’, ‘Daredevil’, ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’, ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’, ‘The Ring 2’, ‘The Aviator’, ‘I, Robot’, ‘Van Helsing’, ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ and ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’. Dylan Cole’s work is featured in EXPOSÉ 3 and in his latest book d’artiste: Matte Painting.

d'artiste: Matte Painting is the authoritative book dedicated to showcasing and teaching the skills behind the art of digital matte painting. Leading Hollywood matte painters Alp Altiner, Dylan Cole and Chris Stoski bring readers through the digital techniques used to create breathtaking, photo-realistic sets and backdrops for film, television and video games. D’artiste: Matte Painting is now available to purchase directly from Ballistic Publishing. More

Ballistic Publishing speaks to Dylan Cole about his background, inspiration and work.

“I was always drawing at a young age. I wasn’t particularly good at it. I just enjoyed it,” explains Dylan. “I would sit around and draw space battles from Star Wars or Superman. I was the type of kid who would make cards for my parents on birthdays, or Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. I think on more than one occasion my Mom had a Star Destroyer on her Mother’s Day card! Nothing says motherly love like the Empire.”

Dylan’s sights turned to creating art when he started reading comic books at the age of ten. “I started drawing them and began to realize that I was doing it a little better than the other kids.” From that point on, Dylan wanted to be a professional comic book artist, sitting in his room for hours drawing his own characters. With supportive parents who would bring him to annual San Diego Comic Con, Dylan’s young artistic life would soon take a huge turn.

At the age of 15, Dylan started acrylic painting. “I know I wanted to paint for the rest of my life,” says Dylan. “After high school, I went to UCLA and did a major in fine arts. My painting skills had progressed and I focused mainly on that in college. UCLA is a very contemporary, art-minded school, which meant they were more interested in the ‘why’s’ of the work and not the ‘how’s’. In that sense, I am self-taught when it comes to painting. During this time I was doing a lot of surrealism, heavily influenced by artists like Salvador Dali, and various sci-fi illustrators.”

The lure of Hollywood
“When I first started painting I wanted to be a book cover illustrator having enjoyed the work on Michael Whelan, Jim Burns, James Gurney, and others,” explains Dylan. “My aspirations changed when I got the ‘Art of Star Wars’ books and saw matte paintings for the first time. Here was this beautiful science-fiction art that was completely realistic, and it was on screen for the entire world to see! This seemed like the perfect application of painting for me.”

“In my painting, I had mainly been interested in environments more than characters and I was always trying to paint them realistically. Matte painting really called to me.”

“Artists like Michael Pangrazio and Chris Evans soon became my artistic heroes. Once I fell in love with matte painting, I started to do some research about it and soon found out it was all being done digitally. I was crushed because I really loved traditional painting. I was also something of a traditional art snob.”

”I had some friends who were doing digital art, but I wanted nothing to do with it. I would tease them about cheating and not being real artists because they needed a computer for help -- all of the stuff that drives me crazy now when people say it to me! Needless to say, the joke was on me.”

”What really got me going with digital was when I was at UCLA and I got an internship at Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Although I was accepted based on my traditional paintings, they wanted me to start painting digitally. This was in 2000 and up until then the only thing I used a computer for was to write papers for school. I had barely used email until then.”

”I was very serious, so I emptied my savings to buy a Power Mac G4 and a big Apple display.”

“It was pretty funny when I was at my internship because I was surrounded by world class matte artists, and I was bugging them for basic Photoshop help. They were very tolerant of me and supportive and by then end of Summer I had the basics down pretty well.”

“Instead of doing many different paintings, I worked on the same two paintings for months and months, refining and refining. I think I painted those things probably five times over. I would figure out something and apply what I had learned to the rest of the painting. I spent my senior year at UCLA in my room until my work started to look like what I saw at ILM.”

“My digital art progressed rather quickly, and I think it was because I was only exposed to the best. I was around some of the best matte painters in the world up at ILM and that is what I aimed for. I wasn’t involved in the online community so I didn’t see what everyone else was doing. Nobody at my school was doing that type of work so I had nobody to compare with. I thought it was unfortunate at the time, but I think it helped me. As I progressed, I became more comfortable doing quick color sketching in Photoshop. I really began to use it as a paint tool, instead of just for matte painting type of work.”


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