Monday, December 23, 2013

Mark Sullivan, One of the Last Matte Painters

Many movies will include matte shots, where part of what is viewed on the screen is filmed action and other parts are images that fill in architectural details or create a different outdoor setting. Matte work is done because it is usually much less expensive to hire some artists than it is to construct a huge movie set or find an exactly right landscape. What has changed over the last few decades is that nearly all matte work done today is via digital imaging rather than oil or acrylic paints, as was done previously.

There are several web sites dealing with matte art, but the one I tend to follow is Matte Shot, hosted by a semi-anonymous New Zealand blogger and featuring matte work from pre-digital times.

A recent post features Mark Sullivan, who began his career making matte paintings in the waning days of that era and now does a good deal of digital work. His web site is here.

The Matte Shot post consists of a long interview with Sullivan and a collection of images, some of which I include below. The majority of the interview is in-group chat dealing with personalities, something of interest mostly to matte painting fans. But if you scroll down to some point in the second half, Sullivan discusses his approach to matte painting, something of interest to artists in general.

Some matte painters such as the great Albert Whitlock usually favored a freely painted, almost impressionistic style. Sullivan paints more tightly, especially in areas near where the live action will be composited. He assumes viewers will be focusing attention here, rather than on other parts of the screen where he loosens his style.

I find matte art fascinating because of its final effects that are divorced from the need to be accepted as Fine Art painting, yet remain impressive examples of craftsmanship carried out under severely constrained conditions.


Ghostbusters 2 - 1989

Hook - 1991

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - 1989

Bugsy (1991) - El Centro Avenue matte and composite

Bugsy (1991) - Vine Street matte and composite

Rocketeer (1991) workup and final

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