Matte Artist Peter Ellenshaw


Matte Artist Peter Ellenshaw

Matte Artist Peter Ellenshaw

To create the film illusion of an imaginary landscape or city, nowadays moviemakers create 3D digital environments, generally by replacing the greenscreen behind the action with a layered virtual environment.

But in the early days of film, the art of matte painting was the province of oil painters with traditional skills. Their scenic paintings had to seamlessly match the photographed action, but they also had to convey the emotional spirit of the scene.

(Video Link) One of the most remarkable pioneers in this field was a British-born painter named Peter Ellenshaw (1913-2007). In this video, he tells his story: how he started painting scene extensions for Thief of Baghdad (1940) and how he got some dream jobs for Walt Disney on Treasure Island, Mary Poppins, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Darby O'Gill and the Little People.  

The hour-long video is broken into six chunks of 10 minutes each.
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Previously on GJ:
Digital Matte Painting
Blending into the Background 
Book: The Digital Matte Painting Handbook

8 Comments on Gurney Journey: Matte Artist Peter Ellenshaw

  • Brett W. McCoy
    on August 18, 2012 | 09:09 Brett W. McCoysaid :
    "His son, Harrison, was a great matte artist, too, and did a lot of the work on the first two Star Wars films (and also Black Hole and Tron)"
  • Kevin
    on August 18, 2012 | 12:22 Kevinsaid :
    "It's worth mentioning that 2d matte paintings are still used all the time for film, though they're normally painted digitally. Or, alternately, they'll use a mixed approach, projecting a matte painting onto very simple 3d geometry. Creating a fully 3d city or landscape, while possible, tends to be far more expensive than a matte painting, and, depending on the camera moves required, won't necessarily give a better result."
  • Daroo
    on August 18, 2012 | 12:37 Daroosaid :
    "Thanks for these links.

    I'm always amazed at the random precision (to quote Pink Floyd) required of a successful matte painting. Not too tight and not to loose. Brushwork that achieves a consistent texture but is both descriptive and evocative without drawing attention to itself.

    I wonder if the style developed from observing and evaluating the painting through the single eye of the camera lens."
  • David P. Geister
    on August 18, 2012 | 17:54 David P. Geistersaid :
    "There is an excellent site devoted to matte painting, which I suspect you are already aware of:

    Thanks for posting this and so many other great pieces!"
  • Mel
    on August 18, 2012 | 18:56 Melsaid :
    "Thanks for these links. Such an insightful and interesting documentary. Its interesting to see just how far the production of special effects has come in the past 50 or so years. "
  • Larry Kitchen
    on August 19, 2012 | 01:25 Larry Kitchensaid :
    "Thank you James for a great connection to Peter Ellenshaw. I've enjoyed his work at Norton Art Museum in Shreveport LA. for years. They have his Himalayan painting and 20-30 more from his travels in later years. If you're ever in East Texas, come by and we'll go see them. "
  • en_b
    on August 19, 2012 | 08:53 en_bsaid :
    "Really enjoyed watching that.
    Great post.
    Even Peter Ellenshaw knew he was a tremendous painter, and he was."
  • JaneBucci
    on August 19, 2012 | 21:12 JaneBuccisaid :
    "Pure delight!"
Matte Artist Peter Ellenshaw

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