I’ve probably put way too much emphasis on American and European artists, overlooking painters from other great traditions. So let’s take a minute to appreciate Kazuo Oga, the painter who helped create the forest in Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film My Neighbor Totoro.
On ConceptArt.org, Mr. Oga said: "Basically, I use poster- color. Because as we have to paint much, we can't use expensive paint. Poster colors can show brightness or depth of color and, above all, it is easy-to-use."
In the landscape below, I love the way he alternates empty areas, such as the sky, with busy areas, such as the hanging laundry. He also alternates the parallel stripes of the cultivated areas with the wild shapes of the foreground.
Look at how he builds gradually toward the mysterious dark under the tree. He keeps the grouping of far trees in the center of the picture close in value.
The result, for all its complexity, is quite simple in tonal and coloristic design, an important consideration for animation backgrounds, which must be understood quickly.
My Neighbor Totoro trailer on YouTube
Studio Ghibli on Wikipedia
Background painting from My Opera.com
List of Studio Ghibli Films
Photo and quotation from Monisawa Blog