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Andreas Rocha is a veteran designer who has mastered the art of matte and digital paintings. His portfolio will take you to incredible fantasy landscapes that you could only dream of. Andreas gives the readers a window into how he creates his beautiful illustrations by explaining the art of matte painting and also telling us about the equipment he uses. Don’t miss this great interview with a multi-talented artist.

Q Welcome to Psdtuts+, please introduce yourself. Could you tell us where you're from and how you got started in the field?

Hi. My name is Andreas Rocha, I was born in 1976 and live in Portugal. I've been freelancing in digital art for the last four years, although I've been doing it since 1997. I had always enjoyed drawing from an early age. I mostly sketched characters and did portraits but in 1997, when I found out about tablets, everything changed. Until then, my failed attempts at painting with acrylics and watercolor were frustrating me. But when I started seeing work from other artists done with the digital medium, I knew I had to get a tablet and I never looked back since then.

Q For our readers that are not familiar with Matte Paintings, please tell us exactly what a matte painting is. Give us your own explanation of what you do also.

My best answer to that is to check out Wikipedia for "matte paintings" as it will give you a much better explanation than what I could give you. Basically, it's an image created for the purpose of creating a virtual backdrop for a scene. They are very popular in fantasy and sci-fi films because they mostly deal with imaginary places which are only possible to create through matte painting and make them believable. Before there was digital art, these matte paintings were painting on glass using traditional media like acrylics. Some famous matte paintings created in this way were done for the original Star Wars Trilogy and the first 3 Indiana Jones movies (watching these movies nowadays in HD you can even see the brushstrokes). Nowadays, it's all created digitally with the use of photography, digital painting and 3D. On a side note, I remember seeing an original matte painting from The Return of the Jedi a few years ago and I was completely blown away.

My approach to a matte painting is to start with a digital painting as base without the use of much photography. Having a solid foundation on top of which you can overlay your photos and 3D elements is a must to achieve consistency and believability. I also think it's very important to give an overall painted feeling to the image by painting in a lot of the elements. The blending of brushstrokes adds to the realism and you avoid the cut and paste look. Finally, a lot of post production is also necessary with a lot of layers to simulate atmosphere, lights, shadows and reflections.

Q It’s a must for all painters to have a tablet, so give us a visual of your workspace. What are your tools, and why do you prefer your equipment over everything else?

I have an Intuos4 L and dual 24inch LCD setup. I use a PC and Photoshop for most of my work. I've tried a Cintiq for 2 days and returned it to the store after that. It may seem like a flaw that you can't paint directly onto your working surface but not having your hand in the way is something that I had never realized would be so helpful. The strain on the eyes was also something I didn't like. Most likely Cintiq's will get better and more responsive in the future but for now I am really satisfied with my Intuos.

I also use a dual monitor setup so I can keep all my tools and tab groups on my second monitor to free up space. This helps a lot because the more I see of the entire image at a good zoom percentage the better. Finally, regarding Photoshop, it's just very user friendly in my opinion and really speeds up my work flow, compared to other digital painting software.

Q What would you say is the key to create a realistic and believable matte painting?

As mentioned above, you should be able to start with a digital painting without much use of photography. You will have a better control of composition, light and drama. It is also very important to use a lot of layers dealing with atmospheric effects like hazes, blooms, god rays, etc. But try and leave these for the final stages as introducing them too early may make the work flow more complicated. Finally, I would say that actually painting in a lot of the elements is also very important as you will have a greater control over them. It is also important to follow rules of traditional painting. For example, avoiding detail where you don't want the viewer to look is something that you easily control with painting. Photography, on the other hand, registers every tiny detail. So, relying on photography alone to compose a matte painting can make it look uninteresting and bland.

Q You list classic movies like LOTR, Star Wars, Blade Runner, and more as your inspirations. How exactly do these movies inspire you to create your stunning paintings?

Some inspired me at an early age and made me love the environments portrayed. I think it made me want to be able to create such worlds myself. Over the years, as I improved my technique and after watching all of these movies countless times I realized that I could also start sharing with others all the ideas and imagery that went through my head. It's a very fulfilling sensation, when you get it right, but it sucks, when you completely missed the mark.

Q "The Gathering" is a very mysterious painting with some great colors and composition. Please walk us through what you were trying to illustrate, and how you created it.

It all started with a thumbnail sketch I had done in the previous year. I was just practicing black and white thumbnails so there was no real intent other than to paint something in a fantasy theme. Later on, I decided to make a bigger color version out of it. Again, I did it for practicing purposes and also tried to make worthy addition to my portfolio. Instead of writing about what I did I will show you the several stages of the painting process.

Q Your digital paintings range from beautiful scenery shots, to cinematic action shots. What would you say is your favorite type of scene to paint and why?

Well, I would say my favorite type of scenes are definitely wide fantasy vistas with a lot of natural elements in it. I think it has to do with my overall love for fantasy. It's also a funny feeling when I get to the more detailed stages in these paintings and I start imagining all the things that might have actually happened in such places. I really immerse myself and start living inside the painting which is quite rewarding.

Q Thanks again for providing Psdtuts+ with this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts for our readers?

Don't be disheartened if you fail in your first attempts at digital painting. You will inevitably get better if you keep painting, you can't avoid that. But be patient, sometimes it can take a couple of years before you start seeing any visible improvements. Also, try to have fun while you paint. It should be a rewarding experience. Start by copying other artists' works or photographs. Even though, it's probably not something that you will be able to show it will make wonders to your technique.

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