3DTotal: Hello Jean-Marie. Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself, and what first inspired you to take up a career in the Arts Industry? Jean-Marie: It is not that I selected this career - it was the career which selected me. I have always drawn and painted. I started Art School at the age of just 14, and I left 6 years later as an illustrator. In 1979, I started to create matte-paintings, and I continued to create work for the cinema, always responding emotionally with my work. Leaving school, my ambition was actually to become a painter, to exhibit in galleries, etc …
3DTotal: What was it that directed you away from becoming a traditional painter? Do you ever wish that you had followed your original dreams, or do you feel that matte painting is a much more fulfilling career than what exhibiting in galleries could offer? Jean-Marie: It is simply random chances and meetings that have diverted me away from the original career path which I had imagined. In 1979,
I left my studies and started to work as an illustrator, but France is a country which is more literary than visual, and so illustration is not the best means to earn a living. To start a career as a painter was practically impossible. A combination of circumstances, during an exposure which I took part in, gave me the opportunity to meet people working in the cinema. With nothing to lose, I followed them and I started to paint on glass. I have never followed a career plan and have always let myself be carried by the wind. The cinema, and matte painting in particular, taught me the techniques, and with the years I matured to be able to give an acceptable wisdom to the art form.
3DTotal: Your portfolio [www.jeanmarievives.com] is very impressive, and is evidence that you have created matte paintings for some very famous films, including “Alien Resurrection”, “City of Lost Children”, “A Very Long Engagement”, and “Amelie” to name just a few, but which film to do personally feel allowed you the most freedom to express your creativity? Jean-Marie: I will say that, the one film that gave me the most freedom was a film called “Tom Thumb”. This is because the Director was very passionate about matte-paintings and planned for me to have the pleasure of creating the matte-paintings, so I always had a certain amount of freedom. The film that I had the least amount of freedom with, must be “Alien Resurrection”, because everything had already been pre-decided by the production team before shooting.
3DTotal: Would you say that in cases like this, where there are already very strict guidelines in place, that you find the work more challenging, and perhaps less enjoyable, than when you are given much more freedom to explore your own ideas? Jean-Marie:For me, the freedom in creation resides in the capacity for your hand to follow and transcribe your thoughts, without any problems of execution. To work in the cinema as a matte painter enabled me to not only get a certain accuracy in many more techniques which now enable me to express myself as an author, but also to train my spirit to conceive and format increasingly complex ideas in order to synthesize my own vision.
3DTotal: Having worked on a diverse range of films under a variety of different titles, such as “Matte Painting Director”, “Matte Painting Designer” and “Matte Painter”, which of these roles do you feel were most rewarding to yourself? Jean-Marie:In France, it’s all the same person, in the same way. For example, the Artistic Director exists practically, working with the Director, the Director of Photography and the Director of Special Effects. There were only some matte-paintings that I loved creating, and others which were real pains! But, above all, the most important feeling is the feeling that one has, or does not have, with the Director. If feelings do not pass, then it can become difficult to prepare and to work.
3DTotal: Which matte-painting has been your all-time favourite creation, and why? In contrast, which matte-painting do you feel has been the biggest nightmare to create, and why was this? Jean-Marie: I tend to say that the matte that I have preferred to make are those which came without a little sorrow, as in a state from grace. Certain mattes from the “City of Lost Children” are amongst those there, more especially because the imagery is close to my own. In contrast, the most difficult mattes are those that you do not understand yourself, or when the pressure is too strong, as in “Alien Resurrection”; the small “Frenchy” who works for the first time in Hollywood with lots of mattes of the film, who is afraid to stand tall.
3DTotal: You employ a very realistic style in all your works. Could you share with us some of the techniques that you use to achieve such impressive final results? Jean-Marie: I do not truly have a “technique” as such. Rather, I should say that I have a “realistic vision” of things. I am a hyper-realistic painter and illustrator, and my canvas paintings take a similar approach to that of the work by Andrew Wyeth, Richard Estes, or Chuck Close, of which I am great admirers of both their paintings and artistic methods. My favourite painter however, remains to be Francis Bacon. All of my images are created using a mixture of 2D and 3D, but that will not teach you much about the software that I use. I work with all the same software, the important thing is the way that one has a feeling for an atmosphere, whether it is a landscape, a portrait or a still-life. If you have a vision of your image in your head, then the way of creating it will just come naturally, especially with the number of tools which we lay out now.