What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing you as both a 3D generalist and matte painter?
I am not really a matte painter, well not the classic type anyway and instead I use techniques borrowed from matte painters. They should actually invent a name for it and if they won't come up with a fancy one anytime soon, I promise I will [Laughs]. Everyone does matte paintings nowadays, combining a few photos and a lens flare. I think "mixed media" is a more appropriate name for it. Matte painting is based on production requirements, creating photoreal set extensions or modifying existing sets.
As for challenges, I think making it believable is the most difficult part. Anyone can create an alien, but not everyone can make it an original and believable alien. A realistic alien on a very realistic alien planet, now that's a challenge. I am still working on that aspect, and I might even hit 60 whilst still trying.
I agree that creating plausible designs is indeed a challenge, but what do you think are the best examples you have seen that have looked both original and believable?
I think the whole Alien series is both believable and original; it's one of the best examples I can think of. Everything is so detailed, from the anatomy and the skin texture, which even gives you a good idea of how it would feel to the touch, to the way they organize, reproduce, breathe and eat. Even their planet is carefully conceptualized, making you wonder "what if"
The Mist, where the creation of truly believable and unique monsters was pretty challenging I think, since they haven't been described in detail in King's