Friday, March 18, 2011

Blending Into the Background

Thin channels of snow linger in the tractor ruts on a clear March day.

After I painted the scene on location, I set up the painting in front of the scene itself, angling the painting to try to match the light levels.

Trying to match a painting up with a camera view was the challenge faced by pioneering movie matte painters. One early technique, called a “glass shot” involved painting part of a scene onto a pane of glass positioned vertically in front of a camera. That way you could place a castle or some other structure in the scene adjacent to the filmed action.

If you want to play with this idea, it helps to have a panel that’s a little wider than the easel (in this case an 11x14 panel on an Open Box M pochade easel).

Also, the illumination on the painting has to be just right. My painting is shown in direct sunlight, but I often use a white umbrella to diffuse and control the light on the painting, especially when painting contre jour (facing the light source). In any kind of observational painting it really helps in color mixing if you can match illumination levels as much as possible.

And speaking of blending in, check out how this Chinese artist does it.
The second photo is of Paramount matte painting veteran Jan Domela setting up for a glass shot. You can read more about Domela at the blog Matte Shot

Previously on GJ:
White Umbrellas
Contre Jour Lighting


E.M. Gist said...

point of interest. In Planet of the Vampires(among other movies I'm sure), Mario Bava used a mirror to reflect a model set, and removed the silver on part of the mirror to show the actors with a partial full sized set. This allowed him to create a "matte painting" that moved with things like smoke blowing etc. I believe it is called the Schufftan Process. I imagine they ran into the same challenges with this

Michael King said...

Very cool. I will have to try this one out.

JonInFrance said...

That's a size-site technique, right?

Thomas Denmark said...

Wow James, your sensitivity to color and value is amazing!

ana said...

Very interesting art in the video of the invisible man from Beijing. I was surprised at how the optical illusion was rendered on the photos and the shoot. Philippines Blog

Daroo said...

Great photo and painting.

I've always been impressed with photos of Matt Smith painting -- they always seem to have this effect. His values and colors are spot on and his brushwork is loosely descriptive but not overwrought.

The best matte painters seem to have this sort of randomly accurate quality to their brushwork.

Roberto said...

The photo of your painting reminds me of several of Magritte’s paintings. Are you expanding your repertoire to include ‘Imaginative Surrealism’? -RQ

dominique eichi said...

fabulous painting with that background

Harriet said...

That is so clever!

NZPete said...

Hi James

Thanks for linking to my matte shot special effects blog. I'm astounded by the vast number of clicks which have originated from your Gurney Journey readers - who for the most part spend a fair chunk of time looking at the magic of golden era hand painted illusions.... with not a PC or Mac anywhere in reach...true maestros of the art of "the movie special effect that nobody ever noticed".


Austin Maloney said...

I love this one James. I was wondering what your limited palette consisted of in this painting. It looks like White, Cad Yellow, Cad Red, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Umber. Am I right?


James Gurney said...

Austin, Thanks. I think it was cad yellow light, Winsor red, burnt sienna, and ultramarine blue, but you could have painted it with the ones you listed, too.