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Dhamindra Jeevan is a matte painter with a great eye for design. He enjoys painting breathtaking landscape shots as well as painting shots from his favorite films. In this interview, we discuss how to deal with creativity problems and what kind of tablets are good to use for painting.

1. Welcome to Psdtuts+! Please introduce yourself, give us a brief bio, tell us where you're from, and how you got started in the field.

My Name is Dhamindra Jeevan, I am located in Montreal, Canada and I’m 27 years old. I’ve basically loved drawing for as long as I could remember and I have always kept it as a hobby throughout my years in school. I studied science in college and completed two years in building engineering at Concordia University before I transferred into Film Animation. It was there that I started seeing all aspects of filmmaking and animation, and started drawing more regularly.

It was also during that period that I discovered the art of Craig Mullins (who inspired and amazed me with his work) and I was completely sold on the path I wanted to take. As I got more immersed in the world of digital art, I started working at an architectural rendering company, where I got introduced to matte painting and drastically improved my Photoshop skills. From that point on I quit my job and focused on finishing school while freelancing as a storyboard artist and matte painter. By the time I had finished school, I had made enough contacts in the film and vfx industry to start a small company and live the dream as a freelance artist...!

2. You categorize yourself as a "Matte Painter." Could you give us a small look into what exactly a matte painter does opposed to just a painter? And how does the art differ between the two?

Originally, matte painters would paint large backdrops that would otherwise be impossible to film...but the medium has become digital and is widely used in the film and advertising industry today. As far as my definition goes, I believe that digital matte painters use a lot of photo-manipulation techniques and 3D, in addition to their painting in order to achieve a photo-realistic result.

A matte is usually a background that is used in the integration of live-action footage or CG. Although I am hired under contract as a "matte painter," I don’t fully consider myself within that label...mostly because I am lacking in certain skills such as photography and advanced 3D that separates me from most professional matte painters. Hopefully, I’ll overcome this issue by the end of the coming year.

3. From looking at your portfolio we see that it is mostly made up of paintings. What exactly draws you to that specific style instead of say photo-manipulation, or abstract design?

I believe it was a natural progression of my love for drawing with lines and shapes that moved me towards digital painting, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in photo-manipulation or in abstract design. I’ll definitely venture into them at some point. Both those mediums fascinate me as well and I’m sure that the challenges that would present themselves would humble me and help me grow as an artist.

4. What do you think is your biggest challenge in terms of your paintings? Have you overcome this obstacle yet? If so tell us how.

My biggest challenge is usually related to originality and creativity. It seems strange to say, but all those years in sciences and engineering muted my ability to be creative. I learned to draw and paint in a very technical and analytical manner and I’m still struggling to free myself of my methodical conditioning. I rely heavily on dreams and spontaneous sources of inspiration to draw and paint, but those moments are always dependent on my environment and my subconscious.

I have yet to develop the ability to pull truly original material out of my imagination on a consistent basis like many of the artists I know and admire. In my quest to overcome this obstacle, I do my best to be as observant as I can be, and cross-train my brain in all kinds of mediums and disciplines. I find that reading, watching films, listening to music, etc, all help me acquire a vast library of knowledge in my head that I hope will eventually seep into my artwork.

5. Your paintings are extremely diverse, you paint everything from portraits to landscapes. Why exactly don't you stick to one type of style and master it?

I guess that would be a mixture of impulsiveness and curiosity. I constantly see things that I would like to paint, draw or sculpt and I have never wanted to feel limited by a single genre or style. I also feel as though switching between all those mediums allows me to grow more rapidly as an artist. I absolutely love the variety that is inherent to my field, and it constantly feeds my need to expand as an artist.

I find myself sculpting and modeling in 3D, drawing on paper, painting in Photoshop, animating in after effects and everything in between...and even though I work mostly as a conceptual artist and matte painter, I also do storyboards on occasion, and find that my work improves as I attempt projects from different angles using different styles. I don’t think I’m necessarily looking to master a style, but rather to find that zone that every person feels when they see concrete and immediate progression when tackling something new.

6. You seem to be influenced heavily by movies. What was your favorite painting in which you painted a scene from a movie? And give us a small look into the process of creating that piece.

I tend to follow certain cinematographers in the film industry that I really admire, and often find myself wanting to paint their compositions. I loved Roger Deakin’s work in The Assassination of Jesse James, and painted quite a few shots from the film trailer. One of my favorites is a shot of Jesse James as he walks away from a train track while holding a lamp. I did all those sketches in order to train my eye to understand value and colors by painting on a single layer with the default round brushes in Photoshop (with opacity set to pen pressure). I basically squint my eyes and block out the basic shapes and values with a large brush and refine and add detail incrementally...a simple but very useful exercise.

7. All digital painters use tablets when designing, so tell us what tools you use to create your amazing paintings? What does your specific equipment bring to your design that you wouldn't get with another tablet?

To be honest, I haven’t had the opportunity to test out the numerous tablets that are available in the market. I’m currently using a widescreen format Wacom Intuos 3 tablet to paint in Photoshop CS3 and CS4. In order to paint in Photoshop or sculpt in 3D with Zbrush, my Wacom is invaluable, but anytime I need to do line drawings or sketches, I greatly prefer to work on paper.

I haven’t switched over to the fully digital world yet! Besides, my Wacom isn’t the same size as my screen and so I find that it distorts my hand-eye coordination. I mix the mediums (analog and digital) fairly consistently but always find myself wanting the next big jump in technology, like a flat tip Wacom marker brush, or a portable Cintiq with a stand-alone version of Photoshop...that would be awesome...

8. Thanks again for providing Psdtuts+ with this opportunity at interviewing you, any final thoughts? What would you tell other designers that hope to be as good as you one day?

I really appreciate your taking the time to interview me, it was an honor. The only advice I could give would be to practice as much as possible...There is a ton of technical information out there now that is easily accessible to anybody and everybody, but putting in the focused hours is the only way to build momentum towards any goal. Thank you again!

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