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Thu, Oct 13 2011 21:06:02 UTC

Interview with Francesco Corvino

Today we have an interview with Francesco Corvino, a concept artist and matte painter from Italy.

Could you briefly describe yourself?

I'm a 27 years old Italian concept artist and matte painter. I have the privilege to work at the Aaron Sims company in Hollywood, spending my time designing environments and key scenes for feature films.

When did you decide you wanted to be an artist?

That's a good question. Well, the path that brought me to art was actually pretty unexpected. Since I was a child I've always drawn, I had a very imaginative mind, and I spent my days reading fantasy books eagerly. But when I was young I never brought this passion to the next level. During most of my life I've studied and devoted myself to things that are a bit different from concept art and matte painting. During high school I studied humanities and so I spent five years of my life studying Latin and ancient Greek.

After this I started to feel that I wanted to embrace something more artistic, but in Italy concept design is not already a solid profession, capable to give you a future and at that time I really didn't know what this job was really all about. That's why I decided to attend the University of Architecture in Milan. I was attracted and fascinated by architecture. This was certainly the first contact with what I'm doing nowadays. I was literally shocked by some of the most imaginative architects in history, Piranesi, Boulle, Gaudi. Their work was inspiring to me, and even today they are probably my most important source of inspiration. It's during these years that I developed my passion for creating imaginative environments. I remember the endless hours in university sketching star wars cities instead of paying attention to the teacher. I think that during those years the idea of becoming an artist started to grow in me.

Did you always want to draw concept art, or did that come up as opportunities appeared?

As I said, I found out what concept art or matte painting meant pretty late. During university I still didn't know anything about this profession. I've always thought I couldn't really make money on this passion of mine. When in 2008 I gained my master degree, I started to work as an architect and at this point I was sure to do this profession for the rest of my days. Luckily after a year of profession I understood that architecture was not enough. Thanks to the support of my wife, who is the real inspiration of my life, I sent a portfolio of sketches to the Gnomon School of Visual Effects in Hollywood and I was admitted. It was a great joy, cause I really wanted to learn the tools to give shape to my visions and I knew that Gnomon was the right place to learn them.

The experience at Gnomon was phenomenal, I had the possibility to explore every area of visual effects and entertainment design, and during the years spent there I understood that my strength was environment design and matte painting. I developed my knowledge at Gnomon and half a year before the end of the school I was offered to join the team of the Aaron Sims Company as an intern. After five months the company offered me to sponsor my visa and become effectively an employee. This was a really great opportunity for me, that gave me the chance to become a professional concept designer.

You recently graduated and went through an internship, how easy is it for Art students to get into this process?

It's not easy. It's important that students learn this fact as soon as possible. This industry is extremely fast and competitive, and it's hard to make the first step in a company just as an intern. The truth is that there are tons of other people out there who are trying to have an internship and the companies have plenty of choice. That's why they will pick the student who is capable from the first day to show his talent and proficiency using the tools. This means that in a really short amount of time he will be able to deliver.

I honestly think that for a student it's essential to use as much as he can during the time spent at school, trying to understand what the job is really about, and what an employer will require from him. At the end of the school his work needs to be at least at a semi-professional level in order to really impress the recruiters. Unfortunately competition is tough, and the only way to succeed is to show the companies that they will not need too many efforts to make you a professional artist.

For international students, like me, competition is even harder. These students will need to find an employer who wants to sponsor a visa in order to hire them. It's a complex process, and definitely a big deal for a company who can hire a local artist with no headaches.

What is most important in your opinion for employers, a good reel or a college degree?

Definitely a good reel. In every field, from architecture to concept design, it's essential to demonstrate proficiency using the specific tools and showing the vision to make the job done. This is even more true in concept design or matte painting. Most of the time as a student of medicine or architecture, in fact, you need a degree in order to work. In this field, otherwise, it is possible to find a job and be paid well for somebody who simply has talent and knows well the tools. I'm not saying that studying is not necessary, I think schools or colleges are a great way to develop fast and well your skills, but at the end of the day, what makes you invaluable for an employer, is your ability to deliver the work requested.

You've done some work for various productions, can you talk about that?

The internship at the Aaron Sims company was an incredible opportunity for me. As a student from one day to the next I found myself working on big feature films, dealing with the requests of directors and production designers, designing environments and scenes that maybe eventually will end up in the movie and working with some of the top artists in the industry. The company gives me a great amount of freedom and responsibility, so I can show entirely my vision and ideas and make them part of the creative process of a movie. I had the chance to work on many different productions, learning how to be flexible accordingly to the specific project, to create photoreal images in a short amount of time and to use the most advanced 2d and 3d tools to create compelling designs and environments. Many times I have to create images to convey the overall mood and lighting of a scene, some others I have to really go deep in the details, and explain clearly the function and the structure of an environment.

The variety and complexity of these productions make the job always exciting and inspiring.

How much time and effort does a single matte painting require?

That's an interesting question, It really depends on the specific kind of project, on the complexity of the scene and sometimes even on the deadline that in any case I have to follow. Even if I'm doing a concept or a matte painting, my works are usually pretty tight and resolved, I like details. I heavily use photo elements and 3d, integrating everything with painting. If a scene is pretty simple, it usually takes me few hours to accomplish a photoreal and resolved image. For more complex scenes it can take one day, or even a couple if it's a crazy battle scene with tons of characters involved.

For really polished matte paintings it can take more, even a week if the task is really complex and the level desired is really clean and detailed. Obviously the deadline is a pretty important element to consider when you decide how to approach a work. If you have just a couple of hours for a design, you have to make choices, select few areas to detail out, and make everything work as much as you can in that short amount of time.

You've done some amazing landscapes and sci-fi elements, what is your favorite type of scenes?

I don't have a really favorite type of scenes, I like to do a variety of different environments, just not to get bored. For sure I love to make fantasy or sci-fi environments, something really imaginative where I can go crazy with my creativity. The images that I love the most are the ones with a unique atmosphere, light and design, that are capable to deeply involve me in a dramatic scene. These are the main features that I always put in my favorite pieces.

Can you talk about some upcoming projects you're working on?

Unfortunately I cannot really say too much of the details since the movies have not been released yet, but in the course of these months I had the opportunity to work on some really exciting productions. I designed many key scenes for Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, World War Z and the sequel of Clash of the Titans, setting the mood, lighting and perspective of the scenes. And there are a couple of really big feature films that have not been already announced but that I'm really proud to have helped in the development. I look forward the day where I will be able to announce it, so take a look at my website in the next months! I had even the honor to create a matte painting for Archetype, the new short film of director Aaron Sims.

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