Matte painter question

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  12 December 2012
Matte painter question

Hi. I don't really know how to rephrase my question without sounding dumb but here it goes: is i t possible or even common to one become a professional matte painter without having formal training in painting and just have good PS skills, developing the painting part as he progresses in his career?

I'm asking because from lots of tutorials I've seen, nowadays matte artists seem to use mostly reference manipulation and only use their painting skills for retouch, so basically its a photoshop comp with some minor painted corrections or extensions. Obviously not talking about old school guys like Dusso or Dylan Cole etc or disregarding the importance of the principles of value, color, perspective, etc that you learn in the traditional mediums.
  12 December 2012
Originally Posted by Ethervoid: Is it possible or even common to one become a professional matte painter without having formal training in painting and just have good PS skills, developing the painting part as he progresses in his career?

Its not advisable in my opinion, but matte painting is an ever more technical process these days. I still like to see if a person can paint because lots of people have a good eye for an image and can tell what isnt working, but FAR fewer people can actually tell you WHY it isn't working, and be able to paint something that does work to help guide the process. If you can paint well then it really displays that ability to bridge the gap between knowing something isn't quite right, and actually producing something that is right to fix it. That to me is where a matte painter can really be useful...
  12 December 2012
Thank you Your portfolio works are great btw
  12 December 2012
I'm a really shit painter and have no formal education beyond high school, and I've managed to do one or two matte paintings here and there over the last few years, so if I can do that, then i'm sure you can too You can definitely get away with quite a lot while just knowing how to use PS; however understanding light, composition and painting techniques will definitely push you a little higher above those who don't have these skills.

  12 December 2012
Thank you, its really great to have opinions from pros
  12 December 2012
Just to add, i also dropped art as soon as i got the opportunity in high school. I had no interest in the abstract art that the teachers liked us to do, or the more unusual media that they pushed us to experiment in. There wasn't a place at that time for someone who just wanted to learn the classical techniques like perspective, colour, lighting etc to do more representational art. I continued to draw and paint as a hobby, but only really started studying art at about 18 when i went to study vfx at university. It was just supposed to be something to develop my artistic eye whilst i trained to be an animator, but as i got better i realised i preferred the painting, so decided to try my luck with it as a career
  12 December 2012
I started directly with 3D, painting and drawing was something i got discouraged to pursue when i was a kid because i "sucked at it" so i have a couple of decades gap to pick up. I did went to movie school and learned photography,cinematography, etc, but i find it extremely frustrating not being able to express ideas directly on paper even when i have to storyboard or do some character sketching like i am struggling right now to start a matte. On the other hand after some almost exhausting 3D animation projects i found myself being really unhappy with it, i was becoming a technical button pusher. Instead of focusing on the art and expressing my ideas i had nightmares about render flickering problems, huge rendering times, lighting issues etc, which made me realize maybe i should check other fields of cg arts like matte painting or compositing, which so far i am finding so natural and "make sense" to me. Haven't got a career yet, but i'll do my best to start one in these fields
  12 December 2012
Update on my matte painting adventure. Have a small project to make a print to offer as a gift with no specific requirements on what to paint besides putting a 3D character i made in it. So far i've come up with these conclusions:

- A blank PS A3 sized canvas never looked so scary. It is seems to true what some teachers told me that starting from a blank page with infinite possibilities is the hardest kind of start. Inertia kicks in and i just keep erasing my poorly drawn sketches and restart ad nauseum. Maybe using a texture as background like some character designers do will can help.

- Using photo references is harder than what i thought, finding the right perspective for a mountain that i may want, i.e. is a pain. Considering to use VUE or model in Z-Brush, which makes me sigh deeply thinking about nailing the correct render settings and making an efficient model and light setups. Very stressful.

- My inability to put into drawing what i visualize in my head seriously demotivates me and makes me wonder if i should just forget matte painting and dedicate myself to compositing fully since its the image manipulation part that i have a better eye for.

- Noticed that some digital matte painters mostly do set extensions, clean-ups and change seasons etc, not doing the artistic "from scratch" concept landscaping that attracted me into it, so maybe i could start as one of those and develop my artsy skills in parallel.

- Although i'm failing, its soothing and helps immersion to at least try to do this work during winter with the rain outside
  12 December 2012
Don't be fooled into thinking that you always have to start with a blank canvas. Its actually pretty rare that you get to do that in a production environment. Most of the time you have at least a reference photo, a plate to work on or a render to use as a layout. I've only ever had to do one fully 'paint from blank canvas to fully photoreal matte painting' in my career and that was very early on. Now, i just cant see a production leaving that much to chance, and even if i was given a brief that allowed for that these days, i would probably jump into maya and model out a rough layout once i've conceptualised the environment to give myself a perspective, layout and lighting guide, and allow me to play around with some different camera angles...

It just makes sense to give yourself at least something to help you out. Its not a competition once you are working on a tight schedule, its about efficiency and good results, regardless of how you got there.
Blank canvas syndrome i can't help you with tho. It used to plague me, and i dont know how i fixed it, i guess one day it just didnt bother me any more. Probably on some day where i was under a ridiculous time constraint and didnt have time to worry about fucking it up
  12 December 2012
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