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Ron Crabb's art is almost undetectable, yet it has been seen by millions. He is a matte painter for major Hollywood films, such as X-Men, The Bucket List, and Speed Racer, and it is a compliment to say his work is undetectable. As a matte painter, Ron's role is to create imaginary scenes that look entirely real. Building on an early career in motion graphics, he has developed his incredible photorealistic style. He spent twenty years working with digital painting systems beginning well before the advent of Photoshop. Today, Ron uses a combination of Photoshop, CGI, photographs, and good old-fashioned painting skills to create stunningly realistic matte paintings, special visual effects, title sequences, and concept art for movies. He also creates fine art using the same set of skills. This installment of Creative Inspirations takes viewers a thousand miles from L.A. to Bainbridge Island, Washington to get a look at the career, work, and lifestyle of a man who escaped Hollywood only to master it at a distance.
(Music playing.) Ron Crabb: My fine art pursuits have gone back a long way. I guess it's almost my origin was illustrator/fine art. There was always this desire I think just to work on my own. I think that's where it comes from. In other words, if you are in any kind of commercial, illustrator, motion graphics, matte paintings, whatever it is, it's a collaborative effort.
You've got a group of people who are more or less dictating what they are looking for and it's your job to deliver that. Fine art is really more about me exploring myself, like I think it is for any fine artist. Instead of asking the question, what does that client want, you are asking the question, what do I want to create? I am asking those questions of myself. So it's really self exploration, finding out okay, what am I about, why do I like painting what I like? I have been exploring the fine art thing since high school and trying to figure out what I wanted to do there.
There was a period in the mid 90s where I really pursued it fairly hard. I would work freelance for 3-4 months and then take a month or two off. It went well but the struggle with the fine art thing there was my work is very detailed. It takes me a month-and-a- half to do a piece of work. I have to finance that month-and-a-half and then on top of that it goes to the gallery, and until you have about ten years under your belt and have a really good name, your price point is not high enough to really support that.
The struggle was obvious. It started becoming, because of cycle of saying okay, I need to paint rapidly and I need to paint something that people want to buy, to create the kind of art that I just feel driven, detailed, rich lots of image, and as for me, I just can't tear away from something that is realistic and has detail to it. I have tried and I can kind of do it. But I just keep getting drawn back to really wanting to see the texture of something. It's not just the shape. It's the texture, it's how it feels.
I want people to look at my work and go, I know what that smells like, I know what that feels like. You've really brought there, you have made that real. Now, that's what I enjoy doing. Digitally, that window is now shortened. So, I can do much more elaborate work, much more detailed work than I could ever do with strictly oils, and as I said, it allows me to explore that fine art world in a whole new way now. So, I can deliver now in a reasonable time frame, something that is satisfying for me to do and then I also think visually interesting for people who would want to buy that.
So, it's become more reasonable. The fine art world is okay, it's catching up to me. Everything -- my whole history has kind of giving me the skills I need to explore this again and let's see what I can do with it. I am asking a lot of fine art career, but that's okay, why not? You go for it and because every artist that freelances that I know of has its feast and famine. Often times you can be really, really busy, and then it quiets down. So, my hope is that fine art wise, what percentage that is versus commercial? I don't really care.
It would just be nice to get it going to where when I do have those down times, I look forward to them. I kind of say, oh! good. I get to work on this a little bit and see what happens with it.
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