All artwork and text is copyrighted by Paul Lasaine, unless otherwise attributed to the respective copyright owner. It is illegal to publish, print or reproduce any such artwork or text without written permission by the artist or copyright owners.

Welcome to my my Portfolio Page.

This is where you'll find my professional work (and some personal pieces as well).

As always, I'm unable to post my current work, as it's for films that have yet to hit the big screen.

Don't forget to visit my BLOG. There's more of my work there, plus a bunch of other fun stuff.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

First Post: Matte Paintings

I thought it fitting that for my first post, I go back to my humble beginnings in the film a Matte Painter. In March 1988, I began working at now defunct, Buena Vista Visual Effects Group (Disney, for those of you not in the know) as an apprentice matte artist, fresh out of art school. I spent the next 7 years in the matte biz...mostly at Disney...though I also did a bit of freelance at other studios.

All but the last two are what are now referred to as “Traditional” matte paintings (i.e. not “Digital”). I started in the matte business only a few years before the digital revolution happened. I was fortunate to have been one of the last of the matte artists who actually painted on glass with real paint…which means that I was also one of the first of the new breed of matte artists that painted on computers, when my Matte Department went digital a few years later.

Unfortunately, I never found digital matte painting as much fun, or as challenging as traditional matte painting (sorry, no offense to you digital matte painters out there.) So in 1995, I hung up my matte painting brushes and started concentrating on concept design and art direction.

Here are a but a sad few of the matte shots I actually have digital files of. They’re all in the “before and after” format, with the live action first, and the final composite last. A couple of them didn’t have any live action, so there’s just a painting.

My first big show was...


THE EL (Elevated) TRAIN:
This was the first “finaled” matte painting for Dick Tracy. I painted it along with my supervisor, Mike Lloyd. After finishing it, the director (Warren Beatty) came by to take a look. He said that it looked totally real - that if he didn't know it was a painting, he would have been totally other words, it was completely wrong. What he was looking for was an unreal world - one that didn't exist and couldn't be filmed. The best example we had were the matte paintings Peter Ellenshaw did for Mary Poppins, which were very idealized versions of the real world. So we went back into the painting with an eye for pushed color and graphic compositions. Warren loved it, and the "Tracy" style was born.

This painting is the background level of a multi-plane painting of the city. The character was shot in front of a blue screen and composited into the painting.
The first Batman film came out while I was working on this shot. In honor of it, I hid a little Batman in the painting.

This is one of the several paintings we did to create The Bridge location, for the climax of the film. Except for a few limited set pieces, almost all of the bridge was created by matte paintings. Most of this scene is painted, with the "real" portion of the scene being the stair case and a small, square section of wall behind it.

This painting took about two weeks to paint. Only when I was done with it, did someone point out that I'd misspelled "Warehouse". Go back...fix it.
By the way, in keeping with a long Disney tradition, we hid Mickey Mouse in almost every matte shot in Dick Tracy. Can you spot him in this one?


In Dave, when the White House appears on screen, it's almost always a matte painting. Why not just shoot the real White House? You can't. No cameras crews are allowed to set up on the White House grounds. You're welcome to shoot from the sidewalk, but if you need a shot from within the gates, you have to create it yourself. Building an entire full size replica of the White House would be incredibly expensive. So sections of it were built and extended with matte paintings. For this scene, the center portico was built as a setpiece at the Los Angeles Arboretum. I painted the rest.

If an Art Department is really on the ball when they're designing a matte shot, they'll build just enough set to serve as a backdrop for anything that moves in the scene. Anything outside the "motion area" can be handled by the matte artist. In this case, the moving object is the car, and the only portion of the White House that was built, was the low wall that's visible just above the car's roof.

This scene was cut from the film just after I finished painting it. As a consolation prize, my boss said I could have the painting, which, at Disney, was almost unheard-of. There must have been a curse on it though, because of all the hundreds of paintings on glass in the matte department, the only thing we lost in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake was this painting.

This scene could have been shot for real on The Mall in Washington D.C. However, the crew was here in L.A., and it wouldn't have been worth it to send everyone to Washington for one shot, so we shot the live action plate here in L.A., on the golf course in Griffith Park at about 2am. As the painting needed to represent an existing location, it was necessary to get some good photo reference of the real thing... which I shot from the base of the Washington Monument, in 5 degree weather, sometime around midnight, in January of '93. I’ve never been so cold in my entire life.


When doing a matte shot, it's a good idea to get a few frames of the surrounding footage to help you to understand the environment, lighting, mood, etc. Sometimes, you don't get any surrounding footage, or the cuts you get, don't help any. That was the case for this painting. The surrounding shots were all closeups of the actors, shot on a soundstage. The only set piece was a chimney, and two, out-of-focus, phony pine trees. The art department gave me architectural plans of the houses, but that was it.

I wish this shot looked better in the final film, because I was really happy with the painting itself. It was my fastest painting ever. Everything was working right, and even though it was a pretty large painting (5 feet across), I completed it in one day.

This one, I did not complete in a was more like a month. The concept here was that Santa's workshop was under the polar ice cap. I felt that a mix of architectural styles would give it a timeless appeal, as though this place has been here for a long time. There's renaissance, baroque, gothic, art nouveau, Victorian, etc., all rolled into one. I started this painting by roughing in all the buildings as dark silhouettes. That way I could see how all the big shapes worked against one another. Once I was happy with the space and the atmosphere, I turned the lights on.


Most traditional matte paintings were painted on glass…a rather delicate material upon which to create a work of art, to say the least. Some of the old time matte painters boast that they never had a painting break during their careers. I wasn't so lucky. I lost two - this was one of them. The easel that I was using, gave out in the middle of the night and fell over. I found the painting in a million pieces the following morning. Fortunately, I'd finished it the night before, and we shot it for final approval before we went home. Lucky for us, it was approved by the director, who didn't know that he couldn't have another re-shoot if he didn't approve it.


Most of my work, I do in acrylic. This however, is one of the few matte paintings I painted in oil, and I think it's one of my best paintings. Unfortunately, I'm not happy with the way the shot ended up in the final film. C'est la vie.


This was one of my first all digital matte paintings. This is pre-Photoshop; we used the painting module from Disney's CAPS compositing system. It was pretty rudimentary.
Part of this painting was done by Chris Evans.


In 1999, I moved to New Zealand to work on The Lord of the Rings. Later I'll dedicate an entire post to my LOTR work. But in the meantime, here is one of the matte paintings I designed for The Fellowship Of the Ring. I say "designed", because this is really just an illustration of what I wanted the shot to look like. The final painting was done by Laurent Ben-Mimoun. Check out his web site...


nina said...

interesting stuff you do. i wish i had a job like yours, but im stuck to a desk. not found the courage or inspiration yet, to paint something... i like pastel and watercolors... more power to you with your blogging. its real great stuff...

Luc Desmarchelier said...

Hi Paul,
Congratulations and welcome to the virtual world. I think I know some of what's coming on this site and I envy the people out there who are going to discover your work for the first time. Go, man, blow them away.

Marcelo Vignali said...

Paul, I was going to put a link to your blog in my blog, but then I saw the horrible anatomy you painted on Mowgli. He didn't look nearly as well painted as that background!

Hey, I had to find something to dislike!

Justin K. Thompson said...

God. I wish I could paint. And thank God there's artists like you around who can. Awesome that you decided to put up a blog. Love it. Thanks.

SIM-R said...

When I see paintings like these I feel like a talentless git . Beautiful work and very inspiring to say the least . Fantastic .

Looking forward to seeing more .

Mark McDonnell said...

Hey Paul,

I have been a fan of your work for a long long time. The breath and scope of your work is incredible not to mention the fact that you have worked in almost every facet of film making. Your current work is not different. I was swept away when I began to see Prince of Egypt. Thanks for sharing your work online,


PEDRO NUĂ‘EZ said...

Great stuffs Paul.Your works are very inspired for me, I´m so happy to meet your new blog.
We are waiting more works¡¡


Armand Serrano said...

Finally, Paul! Welcome to the world of blogging. These postings are fantastic. You're already linked up. Congratulations.

Billy George said...

Hi Paul
Ive admired your work for a long time- Great to see youve started a blog! Thanks for posting all that awesome work.

Bill Robinson said...

Incredible work...can't wait to see where else this blog goes. Woohoo!

Erin Middendorf said...

Thank you so much for sharing your work! I am very glad to know of you now. Can't wait to see more!

hans bacher said...

welcome to the crazy blogging world, paul. when I see your incredible artwork I wish I had chosen the
matte painting path. I am still a great admirer of albert whitlock. stunning the worlds you can create,
this is the ultimate creativity. I am very happy that you allow us a look behind the scenes of that fantasy world.

Marcos Mateu said...

Hey Paul, congratulations on your blog!
You know we had all been waiting for it for a long time.
It's great, not only to see your artwork, but also to read the stories and anecdotes that are linked to each piece, the complete experience!
Needless to say I'll visit regularly (and by the way I believe the Mickey Mouse on the warehouse shot is above the vanishing point inside the 'triangular' piece of machinery...'that right???)

Jared Shear said...

Exciting!...I've followed your work for a long time, and always come away both inspired and humbled, and eager to see what you have in store for us. Congrats!

stephen Silver said...

great to see you are up and running. This is unreal!!!Fantastic work as usual.
take care.

Alessandra Sorrentino said...

Hey Paul!

This is a great news, you finally did it! :)
I'm delighted to see such an amazing artwork, and your old paintings are so charming.
What to are really something!
Take care and lovely to meet you in LA that day!


dicet said...

One of the most anticipated blogs in the world of art!

Please don't wait to post your other master pieces!!

such as Prince of Egypt, Lord of the Rings etc...


Seth Hippen said...

I'm in awe. Wonderful stuff. Thanks for sharing. I was at Sony for awhile, and now I'm sad to see that I never met you. Perhaps some day.

crazyred said...

Freakishly nice stuff Paul. Thanks for giving us a peek!


Dave said...

Congrats on the blog! And what a first post! I'm excited to see what else is coming :)

Ben Mauro said...

Hi Paul,

so much great work, cant wait to see more.


Paul Wee said...

Welcome to the blog-o-sphere, Paul! I can't wait to see all of your awesome work in future blogs!

Paul Wee

A. Riabovitchev said...

Welcome and Congratulations!
I can't wait to see more the beautiful works from you.:o)

laurent said...

Great work Paul, fantastic! I'm glad you are starting a blog,...It's very inspiring.
By the way I'm the one who did the matte painting for LOTR.
All the best,


Erick Tran said...

Hey Paul! Beautiful. It was cool going out to lunch with you and the gang a while ago. You rock!!! Very inspiring!!! I'm hoping to work with you some day!


shahen said...


I`ve been waiting for your blog for a while . Awesome work as always

Philip Dimitriadis said...

Wow!!! More great work. Looking forward to seeing more. Thanks for sharing Paul.

Nathan Lindsay said...

amazing work sir. wow.

Ramses said...

Welcome to Blogspot! Paul

Omar "OX" Rodriguez said...

I love this movie...thanks for helping re-create this wonderful world

BEN said...

oh god..I love you!:D words..

Saigonradio said...

Very exciting. Finally you have a blog.

Valerie said...

So excited you finally have a blog! You're amazing.

Quick question tho because it'll bug the heck out of me; where is that little batman? I can't find it and it's killing me.

Andrew Glazebrook said...

Love your Dick Tracy work and the Alien 3 paintings ! Superb work all round though Paul !! Top notch blog man !!

Mark McDonnell said...

Hey man,

I just wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday season. Thank you very much for the inspiration . . .I really enjoy looking at your work and putting the pieces together. My best to you and your family,


Mark McDonnell said...

I'm sure we will bump into each other soon. I'll see if I can come by the studio and drop in next year or so. I'm afraid to drop by the house for the holiday season . . .I might find the entire Santa workshop complete with an animatronic Santa and a full functioning sleigh all resting on hand scupted wood planked floors constructed out of a slew of hand-crafted elements. Man.

Best to you Paul, and Merry Christmas,


gareth jensen said...

hi paul, nice to know youre alive, well and being creative, best of luck for 2008

Paul Lasaine said...

Is that Gareth from the LOTR Art Dept.?????

Edward Grad said...

Hi Paul, I like your work very much; for years I’ve seen many of your work, you done absolutely spectacular work in great movies!
I'm a digital matte artist, my tools are Photoshop, Maya, Painter, Shake, AE. I ‘m very glad and excited that I find this blog, it seems to me inspiring, and helps me to improve my matte painting skills. I enjoy painting in Photoshop (12 years user), building 3D models that I use in my paintings, do history and style research for my projects, whole process is very exciting either building new world or recreating lost ones. Working on preparing my matte painting portfolio/demo reel very challenging, and with many different dilemmas such as: “detail in image V.S stronger charisma”, “fine art painting V.S set extension approach”, “historical knowledge V.S more stylized”, “ painted V.S photo reference” always hard to define that thin line, suggestion will be very helpful to improve my portfolio /demo reel , take a look at my portfolio and resume at .
All the best,
Edward Grad
Digital Matte Artist

psychostyrene said...

yes paul, its me, although i should appologise for being slow to respond.
i must comment that of all the people i met on that project you were right at the top for being engaging and cool to discuss art and creativity with, and i always wanted to say thankyou for that.


Raphael Lacoste said...


I love the way you can give life to a full world with a few brush strokes , your art opens my eyes, and a great inspiration for me now ;)

all my best,


alanr said...

I would like to have your permission to use your Happy New Year image on a e-card we plan to send to our customers. You created a beautiful card!

I am with Empire Music ( and we specialize in elementary instruments for schools things your 5 year old might be interested in.

We will acknowledge you as the artist.

David Wachtenheim said...

Hey Paul, I met you YEARS ago at Disney. I had interned for a Summer with Bob Scifo and Ken Allen at DreamQuest and came to Disney looking for am entry level job. I had done a few sample paintings to show you and you were very nice in showing me around the matte painting studio. I think it was right around Dick Tracy. I'm sure you don't remember me.
I ended up getting into animation but thoroughly enjoy your blog and love looking at your beautiful work.
Just wanted to say hi and thank you for your kindness way back when.
Keep em coming.

Anonymous said...

lucky me I found your blog!!!
I got more imagination for my writing work:)
I love many art works on your bolg.
BTW wish you success and thank you for your beautiful and inspiring blog.

milind said...

very inspiring as always ,,,,,,,,,,,,,!

Anonymous said...


This is Gary B. from the old neighborhood. I still have your drawings of "Bill the Cat" and Micky Mouse on a napkin from El Torito from 1980. Give Radner a call to get my number if you would like to get in touch. Your work is incredible!!

Paul said...

Hi Paul,
I love your paintings and have the utmost respect for any illustrators that painted the old matte paintings on canvas or glass. It's a lot harder than merely mashing photos together which doesn't take a lot of skill - I know, I've done it and I'm not impressed by it! To actually realize a building or entire city by hand is nothing short of sensational. The city and White house in Dave is incredible, just incredible and it saddens me that these special FX shots are no longer used. I'd rather watch a film which looked like a fantasy rather than watching reality. We have reality all over TV and now it's spilled over into films and helped to ruin the industry and robbed it of it creativeness. Such a shame. I would use one of these 'traditional' paintings in one of my films over a digital effect any day. By the - by the looks of things 'Lord of the rings' would've looked 100 times better had they done it using your shots, rather than the digital ones. Thanks for posting these marvellous images. I really enjoyed looking at them. Best wishes, Paul