Sitting Down with a Creative: A Matte Painter

Today we are sitting down with Sun Yoon,  a matte painter, from DreamWorks Animation.
Q: What does a typical day for you look like?
A: I rush down to get breakfast which shuts down at 9:00am, and then I take all my breakfast to my desk. First I check my schedule for the day and then I check the renders that I submitted the day before. They get rendered over night so I am able to check the ones’ I have done the day before. If there is something I don’t like that I can quickly adjust I do that in the morning, then I move on to other paintings and shots. There are other meetings with supervisors and art directors about what direction they want to go and what direction I want to go. There are lots of meetings and lots of coffee breaks.
Q: What is matte painting in a nut shell?
A: In feature animation it gets very expensive very fast to create everything on screen in 3D so they only create things that are close to the camera in 3D. Everything else is painted. So matte painting is taking care of the 2D elements in a 3D world. The goal is to integrate the 2D matte paintings with the 3D characters, and other props so that when the general audience sees it, it looks like it’s in a 3D world and not 2D. The purpose of using matte painting is bringing the cost down, verses making everything 3D.

Q: How did you get started in this industry?
A: At first I started working on painting backgrounds for 2D animated films. Then I got introduced to matte painting by taking a class. Then I got hooked and ended up here. It looked like where animation background was headed, so I continued to do it.

Q: How did you get into DreamWorks?
A: They were looking for people. At the time there was a friend of a friend working here. So I showed my work online and they liked it and then I had to submit everything to HR. Then I get through.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be an artist / work in this industry?
A: I think art is something that we always do. I think there was never a question about it; it was such an organic process for me. I thought I wanted to do science, which I did for a couple of years. And then I went back to art and it was very affirming.

Q: What are some films you’ve worked on so far?
A: Here I worked on Puss In Boots, Turbo, Kung Fu Panda II, and How to Train Your Dragon II. Before here I worked on small animated shorts that weren’t very well known.
Q: What is one of you favorite projects you’ve worked on so far?
A: Kung Fu Panda II because it was my first feature animated film experience. It was artistically most challenging. I grew a lot and I learned a lot so it was the most exciting time. I think that was the first time that I was actually working steady at one place too, so started building relationships with people at work.
Q: What is your experience in traditional art?
A: I always drew and painted. I painted quite a bit before high school and then after high school.

Q: What is the most important part of creating for you?
A: I think for me, at work, since we are creating what art directors have already envisioned, the most important part is understanding their vision and materializing it and being able to take criticism if I don’t get the notes, and keep adjusting until I actually hit what is in their head.

Q: Who or what has been the biggest influence in your artistry?
A: It's hard to say because it’s always changing, from period to period. I few months ago I was working on Turbo and we were using LA for reference to create backgrounds, so I was most influenced by looking around me. I really like referencing the sky and mountains.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in your career?
A: I think the biggest challenge was right after school. I hadn’t done much painting. I had spent a lot of time at school studying animation, but not painting. I was lacking skills and a portfolio for painting. So I had to spend a lot of time working on my painting skills and building my portfolio. It was very challenging emotionally and financially.

Q: What has it taken you to get this far in your career?
 A: I’m very goal oriented so when I set my goal I work really hard for it. Since I am Asian I am very disciplined. So it comes very naturally working hard for what I want. When getting into to DreamWorks, it was God. I didn’t think I was good enough, but it was a door opened by God and I have been placed here.

Q: What are some of you creative hobbies?
A: I love bones, I like looking at skeletons and bone pictures. I want to paint them or draw them, but I am too lazy, so I just stare at them. I like designing and decorating with bones and skeletons.
(via Sun Yoon)
Q: What is it about those hobbies that you enjoy most?
A: There is quality about bones that are very beautiful looking but also morbid, but it’s mostly really cool looking. I don’t really think of what was on the outside. I just look at the bone and it looks like it had a lot of story.
(via Sun Yoon)
Q: What advice would you give to those wanting to go into this field?
A: Some think it’s all about the software, but what is most important is to know your artistic skill and passion. That is the most important. If someone who has great artistic skill, but isn’t familiar with the software they should take time to learn the software. If someone is familiar with the software, but the artistic skill isn’t great, they need to work on that.

Q: What do you want to see in your future career?
A: That is something I stopped asking myself since I realized that God is in control. I live day by day. I’m just waiting to see what his plan is for me.
 Thank you so much, Sun, for sitting down with us today! You're story is so inspiring.

Follow on Bloglovin