Ballistic Publishing Artist Profiles show all

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The Matrix
After seeing the first ‘Matrix’ film, I was intrigued by the possibility of working on the sequels. Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Alien’ films inspired me at an early age, and I wanted to work on an intelligent adult science fiction film. I sent my portfolio to the Wachowski Brothers and was elated when they asked me to join their team. They were still writing the scripts in Chicago when I was commissioned to start helping the visual development process from my home in San Francisco. I later moved to Los Angeles to join the director’s core creative staff, including production designer Owen Patterson, Geof Darrow and other talented artists that created the look of the first film.

Over the course of the next four years, my role as conceptual designer evolved into Senior Visual Effects Art Director. As a fan of adult science fiction, working on the futuristic mythology of the Matrix was a dream project. My favorite films are ones that offer new ideas and challenge the imagination. With such high concepts and unique mythology, I was honored to help the directors illustrate their scripts into drawings and paintings. Without a doubt, working on ‘Matrix Reloaded’ and ‘Matrix Revolutions’ has been the most satisfying experience of my career. You might think that is because of the hype of the films and such. But it was actually the personality of the directors, artists, and crew that made working on these films more than a job. I got the opportunity to collaborate closely with the core creative team, building the movies from script to stages and visual effects.
This stage of preproduction was the most incredible artistic experience of my life. The creative talent and energy within this core group was absolutely thrilling. The directors were very accessible, quite humble, and treated the artists with great respect. For me, that is the greatest motivation, and it drove me to do my best conceptual work. Every director has a different style and creative process. Some have a clear vision in their heads and can communicate in words how a scene or idea should look. I then ask questions, maybe brainstorm ideas, and then create drawings to help pre-visualize the setting, scene, visual effect, etc.

Sometimes a director is searching for a look and simply points to the script (if there is one) and asks for ideas. This can be frustrating or rewarding as I can participate in the creative process more. At the end of the day, a director hires an artist as they would an actor. The artist should be cast because their artistic style already matches the look the director envisions for the film. He can give a brief description and the artist should know where to take it. Just like an actor who knows the script, knows the genre, and has done his or her homework.
Concept 8
Development
Concept 9   I learned how to do conceptual illustration with markers, inks, gouache, and pastels. Just as I was feeling pretty confident at it, the industry changed to more digital art. I was always better at drawing than painting and I spent most of my time trying to improve my drawing/design abilities. For this, I think the computer offers little or no advantage. But, when it comes to rendering a design realistically, markers and inks can only go so far. No one ever used paints extensively to render because the work has to be done very fast.

I first started trying digital painting in 1999, and it was not pretty. I decided to take a step back and take some time off to practice traditional painting. I did many color sketches to ease me into things. I finally ventured back into Photoshop for my work on ‘Finding Nemo’. I found that it was very handy for film concept work fast and easy to revise. While I worked on the ‘Matrix’, I tried to do as much as possible in traditional media. I always drew in blue pencil, inked my line work, and sometimes did a preliminary marker rendering.

As I became more digital savvy I skipped the marker rendering step and went straight into the digital painting. After a year of that, I began to feel comfortable painting from scratch, working digitally from the very beginning.
Concept Art
Before movie design, my only experience was from my internships at industrial design companies. I could draw cars, consumer electronics and other products. The first thing I learned when diving into the film world was a film designer must be able to draw everything. Because there are so many genres of movies, a designer can’t survive by just doing a few things. I needed the skills to draw complex perspectives, churches, canyons, machines of every kind, as well as dinosaurs, people, fashion, animals, etc. Although this was daunting, it was the exact reason I chose film over any other type of design.

The variety of subject matter means you will almost never get bored, and you are always learning about new things. I love to study new subjects through the drawing process.
Concept 10
  Whenever I start an illustration, I think about the focal point and value composition first. I like images that can be bold enough to make the point in a few seconds, yet subtle enough to have depth and emotion. I go through a process when providing art direction which helps people clearly decipher the qualities of strong imagery.

It revolves around three basic ideas: (1) knowing the essential controlling idea of a shot; (2) deciding on the focal point which will express that idea easily; and (3) designing everything in the color, lighting and value composition to support that idea. With complex imagery, this can be much harder than it seems.

However, attention paid to these steps can be the difference between dramatic, captivating imagery, and a muddy composite of great detail but poor design. Computer graphics are inherently noisy with detail; so this is crucial in visual effects.

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