This month Star Wars Insider
has an interview with Original Trilogy matte artist Craig Barron. Check out the exclusive preview below!Star Wars Insider
#212, which hits newsstands on August 2nd (subscribers may already have their copy in hand), includes this incredible article with matte painter Craig Barron, excerpted below.
Craig Barron, a visual effects supervisor, film historian, and Academy Award winner, began his career in 1979 when he was hired – aged 18-years old – as the then-youngest person working at Industrial Light & Magic. Mentored by Ralph McQuarrie, Barron worked in the legendary ILM matte department and was given the opportunity to craft some incredible shots seen throughout the original trilogy.
Star Wars Insider: What were your early experiences working as a matte photography assistant on The Empire Strikes Back?
Back then, you had to physically cut out the matte painting, where the live action was going to be. I would be handed a razor and think, “Oh man, if I slip and blow this, I’m going to ruin the painting.!”
Star Wars Insider: You worked under legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie. What did you learn from him, so early in your career?
I would do whatever Ralph needed. Matte paintings were done on glass, so I would prepare them for him, spraying each with a Krylon white, so that the acrylic paint would stick to it (because paint doesn’t stick to glass naturally). I would clean his airbrushes, and then every once in a while, he’d let me kind of go in and do a little part of a painting. If he didn’t like it, he would paint over what I’d done (laughs). I did paint the power generator that gets blown up in Empire, which was okay for me to do because it was just six frames.
Compared to most of the department, Ralph McQuarrie was much more advanced. A lot of us were young: I was a teenager, while most of the other people working there were in their 20s and 30s. Ralph and I both lived in Berkeley, California at the time, and because I didn’t have my own car my girlfriend would drop me off at the corner and Ralph would pick me up on the way to work. On the journey we would just talk about art and design; it was like a private education.
Ralph wasn’t really a matte painter in the traditional sense, but because he was such a great artist he could do anything. What was unique about Ralph was that he would follow through sequences he had initially done the concept art for to then paint the mattes.
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