Diego is a Matte Painter at Entropy Studio and took home the Grand Prize for the Visions of Tomorrow MattePaint Contest that was held in March. We caught up with Diego and chatted with him about his Artistic Journey, his process, and his winning entry to the Contest.
Hi Diego! Thanks so much for catching up with us today. Congratulations on your Win in the Visions of Tomorrow Contest; your submission was so cool! So first thing's first; Who are you and where are you from?
Well I introduce myself, I am Diego Nicolás. I am from Zaragoza; a City in Spain and I have been working as a Concept Artist and Matte painter for two years. I started out as a draftsman and oil painter, but nowadays I'm practically only working as a digital artist. I am very grateful that you are interested in my work, I really enjoy doing it!
Nice one Diego, Looking forward to learning more about you and your work. On that note; what's the Story being told in your Contest Entry?
I was in the MattePaint Community group on Facebook and I always watch people's artworks; I love to see how many people get involved to create interesting things. I also knew the contest that you did every year but I had thought that I would not be up to it, but this year I decided to just to try because the theme was perfect to develop this idea that I had thought for a while, so I adapted it and this was the result.
"I have always been very curious about the World around us…"
Awesome work to step up to the Plate and knock it out of the Park! So your inspiration for the Image was an idea you had been working on for a while?
Yeah, I wanted to develop the idea of the paradise of Eden to give a new opportunity to the human being in which he can coexist with nature as he did in the time of the caves. That is why I put a group of bison grazing, reinforcing the bond that prehistoric man had with this animal. In the aesthetics I was inspired by science fiction movies from the 70's like Logan's Run or the Art of Syd Mead, I love retro-futurism. The buildings are shaped like spinning tops and float above the landscape without hardly affecting the environment.
Totally. You can really feel that balance of humanity and beast. So what got you interested in being an Artist? What's the story of your Artistic Journey and how you got to where you are today?
I have always been very curious about the World around us, I love Science and I have always had a lot of imagination, so drawing is the best way to create, express yourself and to be able to shape your thoughts. Since I was a child I haven´t stopped drawing, I loved to draw Dinosaurs, Animals and landscapes. Nowadays Digital work is the best option to open your mind thanks to the incredible programs that exist; like Photoshop and any other 3D program that helps create incredible images, mixing photography with brush textures etc. Nowadays I work at Entropy Studio; a VFX Company in Zaragoza, Spain, where I am doing Concept Art and Matte Painting for Movies and TV shows. I'm very grateful to work in what I am most passionate about!
That love of Drawing certainly came to fruition! So how do you go about starting a new Artwork Piece? What's your process?
I start with a quick sketch highlighting the values and define the colors. Then I start the Photo-bashing and I go into detail. At the end of the process I usually add a couple of layers of atmosphere to further highlight the values, and at the end of it all I add a couple of level layers and color adjustments to make everything look more beautiful and spectacular.
Sketching the basics is key to determine those base colors and direction hey? So what's the best way to motivate you? How do you get into the Zone and stay motivated and inspired?
I usually see many works of all kinds of Artists. On Artstation there are many treasures. Sometimes it seems that everything is invented, but we all have a personal vision and we always have ideas of the things that we would like to see and that doesn't exist, so we must create them to contribute to the community.
Sounds like you've got it figured out. So what's next for you? Where do you want to go with your Career?
I love creating scenes and storyboards for imaginary Movies that I would like to see but don't exist yet. I usually create series of illustrations with a specific theme and create a Fictional Universe for those images. For example, I have created a series of Post-Apocalyptic illustrations from my city, Zaragoza, which I will soon upload to Artstation. I also made a series of aquarium illustrations with a temporary window to any place or time in history, where you can see dinosaurs or prehistoric animals. I'm also working on Victorian Western and Steampunk series, or Space exploration series but I'm still developing these Universes. I would love if you could make a movie or a video game of these ideas.
Wow, some seriously big and exciting ideas there. Looking forward to seeing them come together. So who inspires you most in the Industry?
My references are Artists like Moebius, Syd Mead, James Gourney, Karl Kopinsky, Simon Stalenhag, Ian Mcque, Raphael Lacoste and Paul Chadeisson. Film influences are also very important to me. I love the atmospheres of Movies from Stanley Kubrik, Denis Villeneuve, or Christopher Nolan.
"The best thing is to be consistent and to change up the type of work so as not to end up overwhelming yourself."
Wow that's a lot to be inspired by. So if you could grab a beer with anyone in the World, who would it be?
Probably with George Lucas! He is one of my great references and inspirations. He has created a whole Universe and it would be wonderful to have a beer with him and ask him a couple of curiosities. It would also be a lot of fun drinking one with Elon Musk, that would be awesome!
Good choices. With such an intensive workload, do you feel burnout? How do you fight it if so?
Sometimes I feel a little tired, but it is all about starting work, even if it is putting up for a short time as sometimes it turns into hours. The best thing is to be consistent and to change up the type of work so as not to end up overwhelming yourself.
Sage advice my friend. So give us your top 3 super-tricks for Photoshop!
- Learn Color Theory and the values used. Sometimes we work hard on a photo-montage and it is well integrated and correct in layout, but at last can get very stuffy. It is necessary to make a sketch of values at the beginning of the composition and to take it into account throughout the assembly of the MattePaint. Keep in mind that it is the first thing you see in your work and highlight it with light, shadow or colors, that generates a visual trek and it is very important to avoid letting your eyes go to places that are irrelevant.
- Obtaining the Alphas using the Levels to highlight details that are intrinsic to the photographs, such as the hair of an animal, the textures of the bricks or the folds of a fabric means that we can highlight details when lighting elements.
- Not using so much photographic resource for everything, learn to draw to introduce elements the way we want, if we use photos from the image bank it is sometimes difficult to match what we need and forcing it makes the Matte-painting very static, then use Texture brushing also helps at certain times.
Appreciate the Tips! On your Artistic Journey what have you found to be the best resource for learning new techniques in Photoshop and the Industry?
I used to surf YouTube a lot and there are quite a few Tutorials and processes to see how great Artists work. Highly recommended is the FZD school channel from Feng Zhu. It is wonderful to learn concept art techniques. I also love Bobby Chiu's fantastic interviews. I recommend following a couple of channels that show how they work, such as the Benny productions channel that makes fantastic Star Wars fan-made posters, the PiXimperfect channel that has very good Photoshop tricks or the Art of Jose Vega channel that has fantastic videos of the digital art process. Also be sure to check out the MattePaint Academy.
(Our Academy features videos created by experienced industry professionals and are a killer way to quickly level up your skills. Check them out!)
It sounds like you can gain a lot from watching Video Tutorials. If you could have worked on any Film, what would it have been and why?
I would have loved to work in Game of Thrones, The Lord of the Rings or some Star Wars movie. They are infinite sources of inspiration to create fantasy worlds. I would have loved to work in Movies that are part of my childhood like Harry Potter or Pirates of the Caribbean. I would also have liked to work on the third season of Twin Peaks. I think the surreal Universe that David Linch has in his head is wonderful. They are currently in production for Dune and it would also be a wonderful experience to work for that project.
"Observe the International scene and try to work on your own to try to improve what already exists."
Oh yeah, ticking all the boxes there! Where do you see the Industry and yourself going in the next 5 years?
I would like to continue working in the VFX industry. I love working on Movies and shows and having your Matte painting appear in the background. I wanna learn some 3D programs and improve the digital art with it. I would also like to open up to a more international market and meet many of the great professionals who work in this Industry and have fantastic conversations with people who have a great creative vision.
Sounds like you've got some great plans in the works. With your experience, what would be your number 1 piece of advice to give Artists trying to get into the Industry?
Observe the International scene and try to work on your own to try to improve what already exists. If you work hard and do not fall for the typical clichés, your work will come to light in the end.
Words of wisdom that a lot of us could learn from. When you are working on a Matte Painting, do you primarily use a Tablet or Keyboard and Mouse for your work?
I recommend to all digital artists, if they can, to buy a Graphics Tablet like a Wacom, even if it is the lowest range. It shows a lot of difference! It's hard at the beginning but at last you will adapt. It is the best investment that can be made!
They are definitely a Game-changer in our industry for sure. So last, but not least...Star Wars or Star Trek?
The Mandalorian, this is the way!
This is the way indeed. Thanks so much for sitting down with us today and giving us a bit of insight to who you are as an Artist and your artistic style and process. We really appreciate your time! All the best and Good luck in the next #mattepaintcontest and your future endeavors!
Diego is a Concept Artist and Matte Painter at Entropy Studio.
You can follow him here: