d'artiste - Digital Artists Master Class: Matte Painting, with Dylan Cole, Alp Altiner and Chris Stoski; ISBN: 1-921002-16-6
Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, March 2006
Published by: Ballistic Publishing
MSRP: US$55.00 (soft slipcover edition)
I've long had an appreciation for special effects-based movies and epics, including impressive productions like Star Wars, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet. These movies impressed me when I was a younger, and as I grew older my appreciation didn't wane but only increased with my exposure to the crafts that came together to allow films like these to come into being. The fantastic vistas often portrayed in the amazing productions were often being nothing more than paintings.
Now let me apologize for that last statement. I said "nothing more than paintings" but in reality, the craft of Matte Painting is one of the most challenging and also can be one of the most rewarding when things come together as planned. In the early days, mattes were often used as scenery fillers to create scenes which would have been too expensive to recreate just for a film. They have evolved into something which allows the use of computer-generated virtual sets and imagery digitally blended with live actors to recreate fantastic scenes as well as everyday environments.
This book, like others in the d'artiste series primarily features the work of three artists who work in the industry, in this case: Dylan Cole, Alp Altiner and Chris Stoski. These artists have worked on movies such as Daredevil, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, The Chronicles of Riddick, and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. They also produce conceptual and finished art for games and books.
Matte painting, it seems, is an obsolete term according to Dylan Cole who insists that it’s more relevant to call it virtual environment art. Personally, I don't care much for the trend in revisionism that we see occurring far too often these days. It is apparent though that the modern matte artist is doing a lot more than just painting. The use of 3D tools and photo imaging applications has changed their world and ours irrevocably. Many matte artists also work as pre-visualization or concept artists, giving shape to and bringing to life the vision of the storyteller during the pre-production phases of movie making.
d'artiste: Matte Painting is an excellent example-based tutorial book which takes you step-by-step through the process of creating some amazing scenes. Each tutorial demonstrates that matte artists need an amazing grasp of spatial relationships and dynamics, light, color, mood and atmosphere.
The examples from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, The Lord of the Rings and also The Tower of London were excellent (not in the least because they're so familiar to me). Watching how the artist built up the scene using their preferred tools and the way the critical decisions were arrived at helps to expand one's appreciation of the art and also demonstrated ways by which I could improve my own work. Each tutorial is followed by a gallery showcasing the works of artists invited by the featured artist. Pretty much all of the work presented in these galleries is inspiring stuff. This book may not be an obvious choice for review, but as someone who works in Photoshop and who often uses 3D to create illustrations for my design work, I really appreciated the showcased work. I learned several new things, which in anyone’s books is always a good thing.
Cons: I'd like to see a few hands-on tutorials with a CD containing the associated files. The lack of general availability of the title is also an issue, but it's somewhat forgivable considering the specialized nature of the subject.
Pros: Well presented with excellent production values. The artists presented in the book are all top notch. d'artiste: Matte Painting is aimed at the artist who is interested in the art of bringing imaginary worlds to life. It explores the world of matte painting as seen through the eyes of current masters of the art. It showcases scenes from both real and imagined worlds, demonstrating just how effective matte painting can be. If you are thinking about becoming an imageer or just want to improve your abilities when it comes to working with your photos and composite images, or even if you just like collecting books about the art of movie making or fantastic imagery, then this book is for you. Highly recommended.
This book can be purchased directly from the ballistic publishing book store.
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