If you are looking at taking classes this may be useful


[b]I am taking matte painting for the next year to build a solid base or at least that’s my hopes.

This is not a guide for you to follow but my personal reflection and thought to moving forward on what area to focus on for myself and where the strength and weak areas are. Feel free to jump in with some of your own thoughts or plans for what you want to work on this year or in the coming months and how you plan to tackle the road ahead! [/b]

I have about 50 unanswered email or messages anywhere from starters to professionals that want to switch gears a bit that vaguely ask a lot about the following. I thought I would sum it up for those in my experience. This is not advice as much as a look back at what “I” am doing this year and some thoughts that led me to what to focus on for myself>

The rest of this year i will be focusing on building a more Professional understanding and skill for Matte Painting rather than simply enjoying my art or “growing”

This includes going back to foundation painting skills and matte painting approaches through the more technical side of where Matte Painting has evolved to. I find that at the moment this is one area of the pipeline in the past 5 years that even Matte Painters seem to have trouble describing where it’s at now!

I’m going to give myself 4 terms before jumping into the next area of focus. I have worked as /and am confident in Concept Art< Modeling<and Art Direction so Matte Painting is really an foriegn language for me at the moment. This also lets me better understand what classes we might be missing that could be useful. At the moment. I would love a 4 week workshop or maybe 3 day workshop on shooting landscape for reference, Angles, Lighting, etc.
For me I look at: What I Know, What others currently are doing that I need to understand more/, And how often I personally need to use it, or better how I am handicapped without it. I look at the balance of how far behind I may be by not staying current with my existing skill.

I love to model, I need to learn new tools X-gen, Marvelous etc but I know enough of these to continue to jump in on my free time and self educate. I have also been a modeling supervisor so I trust my eye and understand where I need to work. For personal work it’s just the love, but hard to find the time, so the issue with growing is obvious as well.

For professional work I will likely never jump back into this position as its much more effective for me to hire and art direct someone that spends 80 hours a week like Jason Martin or Adam Skutt to pull off the vision needed. ( I wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to these guys today) The power of art direction with ubber talented artist is you get a very similar creative fulfillment where artists can mimic or often improve the idea in your head and take half the time to get you there letting you focus on the entire picture not a frame. I think this is the big change for me today for modelers I expect a strong modeler to have a similar design sense as a concept artists not just the ability to translate a concept. Artist I work with always deliver which is a testament to their skill and my comfort with communicating. Art direction and people skills is always a work in progress but luckily I have worked with 2400 artist and this has given me a range of personalities and self reflection to build a solid foundation. So reflecting on modeling im safe for while but will need to pick up where I can to not move backwards and likely need a refresher course or two in 2019
Concept Art/DesignAlways involves you’ll never master it just keep chasing and every other skill you acquire helps that pursuit. Any class you take will improve design and ability here. This one is easy I will always enjoy and look to learn more in this domain that never ceases to offer reward for time spent. Alexander Mandradjiev is the artist that is helping understand mood better at the moment so I am enjoying this and it’s an area easy to pick up a few hours over the weekend. More travel at the moment and random experiences is what helps most here. Mountain Climbing, Archery, Photography, Horseback Riding, Quad runners, speed boats, Paleontology Digs and Anatomical Reconstructions, have been some of the experiences I have done over the past few years to make sure my ideas and influences are coming from life not just other artists
Matte Painting! This is the skill I need to better comprehend through trial and error. After taking a few environment classes I find it’s not enough to push me to the type of shots I want to invest my time in. Ken’s class is by far one of the most rewarding classes I have sat in on and leaves me hungry to push it further. Truth is I don’t have that skill yet to do this, so choosing this years focus is easy and its something I want to pick up.

Lessons Learned from my past and building on previous knowledge

I learned my lesson with modeling. Did it ass backwards!!! I jumped straight into 3d, no sculpture background, no foundation modeling. All along the way I had to learn in tandem, anatomy, perspective, camera lens, gesture, rhythm, form, silhouette you name it. Learning this way has a few advantages but mostly takes 3x as long for someone like me to learn so the advantages are trumped by this delay in structured learning. I enjoyed every minute but after years of modeling it only took one sculpture class to find out I knew nothing about the human arm? Forearm in different poses’ Oh MAN especially because I had been sculpting in t-pose for years and spent years cementing weak knowledge.
Access to the best knowledge at the wrong time and why timing and order are helpfulAfter having Titans like James Clyne, Dylan Cole, Andree Wallin and Eytan Zana teach with me I went from a 2 to a 6:) hmm maybe 5, still!!..That’s more than enough return for someone in 10 weeks, which tells you how good these guys are.

I can’t help but wish I did the low end stuff that started me at 4 not 2;) That doesn’t just mean fundamentals, but mileage, traveling, taking notes in your sketchbook not just sketches painting not just for story but to better understanding. There’s a big reward for being ready when the opportunities present themself not just the desire and will but the preparation to belong.

Time management and the responsibility of managing your surroundings

Some of this was my surroundings, some focus, some intimidation, some laziness. When you are around hundreds of amazing artists you will pick up more from conversations at lunch in a few years more than most students will get from a 4 year degree. Don’t let this fool you to feeling like you can drive a harley 100mph on the highway because you understand the gears. There is the time it takes to practice or experience the skills and then there is overcoming the social awkwardness to get feedback and build skill through feedback. You learn the skills but your on a basketball court with jordan. I for one can say its really hard to try to slam dunk a ball in front of a legend that can hit it from half court. So intimidation can stunt your growth unless you face it and move beyond caring.So can trying to get fancy instead of hitting a clean shot and building from there.
Be critical but fair when it comes to where you are then work to move beyond it
I am mediocre. That’s not low self esteem, its self analyzation to say I simply haven’t had the focus or time to spend in one area to do the 80 work week it takes to knock out solid work these days. I can art direct with the best in the world. For 15 years I have worked with artist that make me look like a toddler, but it’s a lot like recording bobby fishers moves every day for 15 years eventually your just damn good at reading the board and the other players moves. So you can take that info and do nothing or decide how to grow it. These days I have that luxury to take the time to focus. 1 year at a time on that one skill to get a professional standard level. Mixing old knowledge with new mentorship, organization and hard work. Scuba diving taught me in my first dive that I live on an alien planer that few will be able to visit. Learning one paramount skill opened a world full of creatures in an environment hidden in plane sight that on its own makes me a 10x the artist I was before without a single brush stroke. I may never do a professional matte painting but every lesson I learn opens up a hidden ability or insight I didn’t have before. Any skill that enables your minds to communicate ideas better gives you the advantage.

Mining for inspiration is your bucket to full?
Partnering to start my own Studio
Co Creating 100+ DVD’s
Organizing and Creating 200 events
100’s of interviews
Became the justification for putting the joy of artwork to the side to often
If everyone around you is the best in the world at what they do, but Independently each all do different things Modeling, Rigging, Lighting, Concept, Animation Then you become a very good curator on what is quality, but for you to focus becomes an almost impossible mission. It takes a better man than me to overcome access. Like falling down the rabbit hole of pinterest where the reference mission becomes fulfillment of what you came there for and kills the desire to jump into the image. What if you could learn to paint from Craig Mullins or Charlie Wen but it meant you won’t have time to learn to model from Adam Skutt or create a Matte Painting like Alex Nice. I have never wanted to give full access to all the art classes you could take because for me and artist like me it doesn’t work! This isnt advice I don’t know you as the reader, you could be superhuman or normal and better than I am but for me it wont work. Ive worked with nearly every artist I could have dreamed of and have access to tons of learning. Your bucket becomes over full you can’t carry it without losing tons of valuable information and at a certain point you won’t be able to grow at all because your bucket if full of mixed up parts. The information we love the most tends to be the short term. The events we go to that recharge us or teach us tips and tricks but becomes like writing in the sand. Easy information is here today gone tomorrow. When I feel like a class is to hard I know I am where I should be. Im working on long term memory the stuff that is hard to learn. There are those artist who seem to be able to learn everything. I am not one of them for an artist like me it’s been an amazing life with access to working and learning from the best in the world. Educated in every corner, but needing to focus in one. You may find that in today’s market with endless access, you feel the same.This long drawn out write up could save you some time and move the needle towards 10 much faster I will reach.

End Part 1


Part 2

I wish I had more foundation before the luxury of picking up such talented mentors. Don’t get me wrong everything I have learned elevates me and it’s exciting to follow along the artist you admire I will take all of these classes again as soon as any of them want to run again.

So where does this self reflection lead to ?
It puts me back to Modeling situation, where I need to go backwards, to move forward . Im lucky that I get to go back having already visited the destination. No question, it gives me an advantage, but for an upcoming artist it might have value to hear an old mans perspective.

Be AGGRESSIVE with your desire to learn the simple stuff.

Find a focus early on if you can. You can branch out later but get as good as you can before you start filling your bucket full of to many individual elements so that the next mentor takes you to 9 or 10 not 6 or 7 because you were not ready for them.
What are you in this for? Why will it matter?
Not all of you are in this to grow as an artist some realistically want to do a job they find fun and pays the bills to do an entertaining job everyone reading this has worked with someone that had this intention. The truth is you CAN have a long successful career in this industry as a mediocre artist but you WILL find that leads to this becoming a job really quick. The reality is that many of the “best” have it harder, not easier, because they truly want it more, not the job, but the growth. They are not always growing because someone younger and faster is on their heels, but because they want to learn more spend less time getting to the destination raise the resolution or output to create something that belongs to them. One of the biggest dangers in my opinion is hitting success early on in your development. The pressure to perform magic at every level once people have defined you van be brutal and crippling if you read the comments and let it effect the art you love making. Working to be your best can make more money than the mediocre but the hours will reflect it, not because you need to but because its in the blood and this is what leads to being the best ultimately just hard work and love with the ability to remain flexible and open. Not running the race, its because you can’t sit still in the bleachers. Spend enough time in the studio and someone great can become mediocre until someone comes along that makes it fun to run again. That’s another story about team building for later.


Learning Matte Painting Starting with the reality of JOB!

One pipeline position I have yet to take a serious dive into. Not just environment painting or concept but the real deal, with real expectations, to do it right. If you are a noob like me this may be interesting or helpful

Below are classes I have already taken and a short overview. I am going back to my notes and taking a second look throughout the next 12 to 14 months.

One to re -enforce my current notes with new knowledge, or similar knowledge.
My notebook is one of the most important tools for taking classes, without it I’m just watching entertainment and will loose easily half of what I gain over the next 2 years.

Dylan Cole Production DesignUsing adjustment layers in general, color overlay, screen, Tips and techniques. I’ve found his methods to be the best so far for tweaking lighting and getting blends to work really well. I also find that as good or comfortable as I am with traditional composition for painting takes on a new meeting for camera and story. Maybe we talk about this enough but it is fair to say you are amazing at composition but when it comes to matte painting have a lot of room left to learn. James Clyne cemented this with film examples like once upon a time in the old west and apocalypse now! There’s never been a conversation with James that has left me without a lesson to learn. Worth taking notes on, on it’s own. Something I feel lead both to being the top at what they do.

Andree Wallin, Pure fun with Andree who really cycled through different environments and action shots with atmospheric effects. This was great for learning to move the camera and subject. Art direction and eye of a 30yr veteran. Andree is able to repaint an entire image by knowing the hero element of an image and its effect overall. A gift or just lots of mileage. It re-enforced my time spent evaluating other artists images as often as painting my own.
Ken Fairclough Games environments, but design sense and instinct second to none. I have yet to go through the class completely from front to back so reviewing it one final time and taking lots of notes. Hiis approach to architecture is paramount. each class gets better so again taking solid notes to go back to

My curriculum for the next 12 to 14 months

CGMA classes, Gumroad to fill in gaps or as quick projects between classes or go deeper into subjects, Looking at free resources like Kitbash or Photography Videos on you tube and finding a group of artist that want to get there with me.

I have other students looking to learn. My goal find the ones that are commited not the best but the ones that are going to be on at 3 in the morning sharing and asking for help. The most underrated value of any school is your peers and their collaboration with helping keep you up to get your work done> I currently use nick tools and tk actions and plan to integrate them into my pipeline so check out some current software before getting started to know what you want to integrate into what you plan on learning, Octane< Vray< blender etc but don’t let them distract from starting with a pipeline that you then modify or fit in.

[b][u]Classes Completed but referring back to and building more solid notes

Dylan Cole[/u][/b] Production Design, possibly running again at CGMA this October
Andre Wallin Environment Keyframes October possibly as well, If Andree has time I would love to take it again myselfCGMA Ken Fairclough “In process”
CGMA Igor Staritsin Intro to Matte Painting
A few classes left with 3 weeks of doing all the work before committing to Eric’s B Class

Term 1 Begin July 21st until October

For July I will focus on 2 classes, one assignment based where I will need to keep up, and the second to introduce me to ideas, tech and use with Nick. I intend to retake nicks a second term as well. The first will be without doing the assignments rather notes and understanding. The second to jump in and take notes on feedback. The feedback is where the info sinks in.

If It weren’t for my color theory and lighting classes, and skills then my choice would be different. I picked up from last years lighting for portraits and photography the knowledge that i needed, if not I would elect to match a lighting and color with Eric’s.

Erics Class covers day for night, and lighting scenarios that allows me to categorize an approach to using each effectively. Categorizing the types of mattes needed is big for me because matte painting has specific applications and rules i need to follow, without failing an image because I didnt fully understand the pallet or lighting conditions, resolution camera move etc. It will cover atmosphere as well which is a lot of fun I think there’s a lot from this class that will improve my selection of shooting live shots as well or set ups for correct lighting for reference images which is a huge +

My 2nd Term
CGMA Eric Bouffard
Solid course. Your going to need to know these things, Color, Atmosphere, Day for Night, Mood. This class gives me studio definitions and standards I need to learn to hit from a professional stand point. Looking forward to it. Not having this class would be like saying your a character artists that doesnt know how to do uv’s, texture or go beyond a quick sculpt in zbrush.

CGMA Nick Hiatt Concept and Matte techniques including photography tips and tools.

This is a class I will take 2x it covers shooting your own content and many of the skills covered in my other three classes. Taking it the first time allows me to get familiar with terminology ideas and uses. Taking it again the next term will allow me to focus on doing the assignments with reinforcement of the ideas and how to use them
During break the goal will be to capture as much real world footage maybe along Highway 89, Zion, and some shots from utah into a a shot of my own with one variation on weather and lighting using nick and erics tutelage. I will have a lot to work on beyond these classes that will take me well into next term so taking notes is vital. Not just for the stuff you just took but for what is coming and comparing along the way. Your creativity is built on prior knowledge so making sure that prior knowledge is put to use is just as important as picking up new methods

My 3rd Term
CGMA Heather Ables,
The more technical stuff and day to day freelance situations you would be faced with. I am not looking to do matte painting for a living but I need the skill to work next to a professional and gain their respect. That doesn’t mean being better just professional and responsible. But most importantly its like learning a language that enables you to walk in a room and have a great conversation. I love
Nick Hiatt work TermSame as before with homework and feedback.

Travel, environment photography, hiking and the ability to mimic those places and envision a world with them that would seamlessly fit into a project is the goal to master if this education provides me those tools and it is reachable in a year for the rest of my life I am not limited by the lack of this ability and am more likely to jump in and ideate rather than dictate or be confined by the talent i need to hire to achieve a project for pitch or creative fulfillment

My 4th Term

Capturing/ shooting Pano shots with the intention to create completely digital environments the advanced stuff

This may be a term to lighten up and enjoy the process of an artist I admire or a Look to analyze Darek Zabrocki or possibly taking a look back at David Luong, Cinematic Matte, Max burman or Jama are also artist that continue to push new techniques forward. With a foundation It will be nice to gain what I can from checking them out as well. Part of completing the series of classes is to have the freedom to take more classes to push me forward once a base is established to move forward.
By now I will be pretty spent and far from mentoring these skills. But i have the roadmap, I speak the language, and I understand when to use it to easily communicate to others. It’s a point close to having freedom over my limitations. This is the term where the education can start to evolve into exploration. Having a structure and understanding lets me learn to play with the slang and again return to the classes where I can follow styles or looks of artist to break down and integrate into my own workflow.

Chaos and Flexibility are good to build into any plan. Alternatively This term would be a good term to take a term off, or pick up easily digestible classes or a gumroad by an artist.

More than Likely this term will push me towards a rendering class to go to the next level beyond Heathers Class but it’s important to leave this open to where I am and how well I was able to absorb the previous terms. Motivation and excitement have to play a roll somewhere in your curriculum to contrast hard work. This will be the the undecided term for me to look forward to more work or experimenting with my new skills for 10 weeks
As you can see this is customized based off analyzing my own time commitment, previous experience and understanding and evaluating what gaps need to be filled to have a professional skill not just casual method for approaching my learning it won’t be a good guide for you to follow you will need to do the same for yourself but if you are starting out and thinking that this might be something you want to take a real grab at it might help to look at a longer game not just what you want to take.

Luxury once I complete I’ve bought a few gumroads months ago that im looking forward to. They fall more into the category of picking up a stylized approach or work along the line of what I have learned from Dylan, Eytan, and Ken Fairclough so I leave it to be the desert after eating my veggies giving me something contrasting to a more work focused mindset. If I am able to commit and keep up then this becomes the break between my first two classes. It could fit anywhere but the idea is to develop a pipeline then look at another approach before tangenting off. You should consider where something like this would fit for you based on your creative discipline and temperament.

Just finishing up the last few classes with Igors class for intro to matte painting.

I found that, for the most part, there was not a lot of new photoshop knowledge i didn’t have before taking this class,Having said that I found running through everything and picking up professional terms and approaches, and when to use them had a big impact in the end.

There are things like wet for dry that didn’t even occur to me to include in a portfolio that now I can’t see not having. At first I thought I could have skipped this class, to be honest I do enough environment sketches and photobashing to feel more than comfortable, but the pace of this class, and making you focus had a big impact. It gave easy assignments with tools im familiar and continuously took me back to what matte painting was for Professionally and started to organize the process for me which is important.

In the end the thought i was left with, is that, (as with many intro classes) I could have skipped it. However the next thought was that if I would have taken this class before Andree and Dylans both of THOSE classes would have moved up 2 points on what I was able to pull from it.

At my level if I only had funds for one class this year, I would have choose something else. That should be obvious when you mention an intro class, it assumes your taking that skill somewhere and is built to get you the base skills at an engrained level. If you are choosing a real curriculum with several classes this would be good to rounding out the skills to start.

Taking on the unknown gives you an EDGE

One of the choices we must make when we feel like furthering our info is to push forward into the unknown or to quiz yourself on what you think you have a solid understanding of. If your bad at calculus chances are you don’t understand algebra well enough not calculus. So work harder on calculus and stutter or go back and quickly brush up those gaps in a lesser skill of algebra and take off. The advantage going back is speed and comprehension. You understand, you quickly re-enforce which makes learning the harder faster as well.

Dylans Class covered more matte painting tools for production design so you got a nice mix of concept art, matte painting skills and the best situations to portray for telling story. It really was more for quick sketches and story so I want to get better informed on what todays matte painting actually is and how to use it professionally
Igors Class has been good as a brush up on photoshop skills and a general run through of blending modes, layer organization etc. Having come out of Andree and Dylans Class it pulled together alot of the conceptual tools and methods I have tried and organized it into more of a pipeline which if you are unorganized as I am is great thing. It also took methods Andree and Dylan used and gave me a depth of approaching clouds, atmosphere and exposure blending in multiple ways

After completing Intro to matte painting this month I already know I want to get deeper into areas like painting wet for dry, dry for wet, getting an overview was really great and opens up my ability conceptually to effect the mood of a piece in a way I was handicap before. Ever checked out those amazing floors in Tron? The way that that film was done in almost entirely black will go down in concept history . Trying to capture some of those procedural looks in a matte painting easily is one of my goals as simple as it may seem. I have the beginnings now but want to push that further so it gives me solid goals to practice on my own for.

Why stay immersed in classes?

A lot of these lessons could be absorbed just by creating the mileage but matte painting has a specific purpose as opposed to just blue sky painting. It helps to have professionals give me real world assignments with deadlines and provide feedback the same way I would get direction in modeling or concept art for a client. Left to my own resources I would grow a collection of paintings that interests me but may not force me to go photograph my own resources. I might choose stagnant shots instead of varying the camera angle. Lots could go wrong. Most importantly the classes gives me a pipeline to organize my skill and process. The goal is to enable me to be efficient on my time and understand the full list of skills

Wish me luck on my own work and let me know if you are having trouble figuring out your own path. Create your own list of lessons learned and the troubles of overcoming them and we can figure out how to help. Dont take anything I have written as law just my approach. There are lots of alternative classes other than the ones myself and CGMA offer so be open. When it comes to education the people behind the classes own growth helps determine the experiences you will share in a class yourself its important to always be immersed not just in what I am good at but where I am next to you as a student looking for the right info that is most accurate to the job associated with it


Good read. Thankful for this kind of content. Its interesting to see people at the top give themselves an entire year to learn a new skill. I realize I try to learn 5 skills per month. Definitely have noticed that the slower and more carefully you go the faster you become.