3DTotal: What advice would you give to someone wishing to build a portfolio and establish a career in this field? Dylan: Well having a good portfolio is the first thing necessary. Try to have a wide variety in your work so you aren’t pigeon holed as the “sky guy or “greenery girl” or whatever. Be critical of yourself. Just because your mom loves it doesn’t mean it should be in your portfolio. A portfolio of five strong pieces is always better than a portfolio of five strong pieces and two okay ones. The two okay pieces will bring down the strong ones. Send out as many portfolios as possible. Even better is to have a website and email links to anyone you can think of? And a word on websites, don’t have some convoluted flash site that you need sit through intros and push 5 buttons before you can see a piece of art. A simple HTML site will do just fine. Be active on the forums, anything that will get your name and work noticed. If you have the talent it can happen.
3DTotal: How did your career lead to a job in film and in what ways do you think matte painting utilises your artistic talents?
Dylan: Well my career started in film and it began with an obsession in high school and college with
traditional matte painting. I always enjoyed painting in
acrylics and a little in oils
and I was always doing sci-fi and fantasy pieces. I was first exposed to matte paintings in the art of Star Wars books, where I fell in love with Michael Pangrazio’s work, as well as that of Chris Evans and Frank Ordaz. I became obsessed with being a matte painter and then I was quickly disappointed when I found out it was all being done digitally. Being a traditional, fine art guy and the whole computer thing was something new. I got an internship at ILM and I had barely touched Photoshop before I got there. I learned more that summer than I did in 4 years of school. Afterwards, I just worked on my portfolio endlessly until I thought it was of a certain standard. I began sending it out and 9 times out of 10 didn’t hear back. Syd Dutton of Illusion Arts was the first to give me a chance and I am eternally grateful for that. It then kind of snowballed after that. I think matte painting utilizes all of my artistic talents and has developed ones I didn’t know I had. You have to be disciplined in so many different techniques that it is always a challenge.
3DTotal: You have an impressive resume that spans numerous film projects. Which would you say have been the most challenging projects to date and why? Dylan: Return of the King was the most challenging, just because the bar was set so high. We had to top the first two films and then there was the sheer volume of work.
It was also the longest I have on a project, so there was some definite fatigue. It was really difficult to nail down the look of Mordor; that process went on for months before everyone was happy. Since then there have been challenging moments, but not one big challenging project. There are always challenging paintings for some reason or another, but usually it is because some weird restriction has been
imposed, such as only being allowed to have a green sky, or to cheat lighting
3DTotal: Which paintings have you particularly enjoyed producing? Dylan: I really enjoyed the paintings I did for I, Robot and the shot I did for the Aviator of period Beverly Hills. I like working on invisible matte paintings as well as the big epic ones. The Aviator shot was a good example of a matte painting that does not call attention to it and tells a story. I also had a lot of fun with the alien landscapes I did for Riddick.
3DTotal: What interests or activities do you pursue outside of your job and do you feel they enhance your abilities as an artist in any way? Dylan: I play guitar and I have been at that since I was twelve. It is a great release. I also enjoy fly-fishing, skiing, and bodysurfing. I am also learning how to play the cello. Basically the way these activities enhance my artistic abilities is that they give me a break from art! I need time away to recharge my creative batteries.
3DTotal: What are the things that excite you most about your job and help keep you motivated? Dylan: I just love creating something out of nothing. Those first few strokes of a painting are very powerful. I like to create worlds that do not exist; it is kind of like playing god. I also get a big rush when I am sitting in a theatre and a shot that I am proud of comes up on screen.
3DTotal: What subject matter do you enjoy exploring in your personal work? Dylan: I am a sci-fi junky. I can paint futuristic cities and alien landscapes all day long. I never tire of it; I guess I am just a big kid. I enjoy architecture that is integrated into the landscape in an interesting way.
3DTotal: How have you enjoyed the teaching aspects in your career with regard to the Gnomon Training and have they taught you anything about yourself? Dylan: I have really enjoyed teaching, whether it is the DVDs or the workshops that I have done. I really enjoy the workshops because I can interact and feed off of the audience. Whenever you teach you are forced to formalize what you do every day. It is actually quite hard when you have to ask yourself, “Why do I do it this specific way?” Some things you do instinctively and you learn a lot when you are forced to answer that question of “why?”
3DTotal: What are the kinds of projects or films you would love to work on in the future? Dylan: I would love to work on big sci-fi as usual, but I think I would also enjoy some period dramas. Some more invisible work would be fun. I also think it would be great to art direct a CG feature. I am also looking for a window in my schedule to work on some book projects of my own.