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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: Well, obviously I don't live in L.A., as you can see.
I got married in 1996 and ever since that time we were coming up here visiting friends on the island. My wife absolutely loved the place. One of the things she told me after we got married is one of the reasons she married me was because I like the Northwest as well. So we would come up here once a year at least and just fell in love with the island, loved the whole place. But I was kind of tied to Hollywood and I was doing motion graphics. I started doing visual effects work and that kind of thing for television commercials.
But it just didn't look like it was going to be possible to ever live here. It just was like well, we'll visit a lot. We've got friends up here, we'll just come up a lot. But every time we came up, we'd come up in the summer, we'd come up in the winter. It's a good thing to do if you ever consider moving here, come in the winter, and make sure you can handle it. But we just kind of more and more fell in love with the place. So I actively started thinking of ways that I can work at home more, because motion graphics kind of required me being there to direct or edit or whatever.
Whereas, focusing more on the matte painting work for films and television, that was a more isolated kind of thing where I could work from home. I was already doing that quite a bit from home as a freelancer. So I would use the FTP sites, that kind of thing, and upload things. So I really never went into Hollywood except of to meet with somebody or to view things, viewing rooms or whatever. So it was starting to shift, where I could see I'm spending more and more time at home, this is becoming more and more possible. Once I really focused on that and really marketed myself as a matte painter for films, it shifted rapidly to where I could do that.
I had a discussion with the current clients that I had at time, and said, here's my plan, I'd like to move up to the Northwest, do you see a problem with that? The answer was predominantly, no. I mean, as it was I was working a lot of freelance out of my home in Los Angeles. So I was already using that remote kind of business model. So moving it up here really makes no difference. It's whether your doing a DSL upload from up here, or you're doing it from LA, it's the exact same thing. It's really been that advance in technology with the Internet kind of thing that has made all of this possible.
I guess that's the beauty of it. You can live in a place like this and still be tied to Hollywood and function perfectly normally as if you were there. It always surprises people when I meet them up here, they'll ask me, well, what do you do? I am like, most of what I do right now is visual effects for films and television. And that will stop them for a second, because they are like, this is Bainbridge Island. I am like, yeah, it's just Internet. Anybody can do it. But then you start finding out there are other people on that island that do similar things. There are writers, there are directors, those kind of thing.
So, it's not a big secret, but the local people aren't clued into yet. It's like, oh! you can actually do that? I am like, yeah, yeah! If you have an Internet connection, so it all works the same, same thing. It doesn't really where I work. So, now it's even getting larger, because now there was that whole West Coast corridor thing, which is primarily where most of my work comes from. But I've done work for East Coast companies and now I'm currently doing the one for London. So it's like what's the limit? There is none.
You know what I mean? I don't know what's next, Bollywood. I don't know, but the options that are limitless.
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