Having done some research last week of artists that work in the SF and Fantasy genre, I stumbled upon Wayne Haag from Sydney Australia, an amazing artist whom I found through his IMDb page has worked in the art department of some pretty important films, like Lord of the Rings,the Wolverine and many others. I asked him for an interview, and was pleasantly surprised when he took time from his work preparing for Illuxom and answered me.
My start in the film industry came about through photography. I created a series of sf images for my final year of my photography BA degree. They are what would be considered film/games concept art nowadays but this portfolio got me a job matte painting on the film The Fifth Element. That meant packing up my life in Melbourne Australia and moving to LA. Matte painting for those who don’t know is the process of painting backdrops for scenes in movies that can’t be achieved any other way. They used to be painted on glass or board approx 8 to 12 feet long, filmed and combined with live action footage. Hitchcock was a big user of matte paintings. It was Star Wars that made me aware of such paintings in the first place and I always loved how they showed these grand vistas, that there was a much bigger world out there beyond the walls of the film set. By the time I got into the industry, matte paintings were painted digitally… to my dismay! The majority of my film career has been in the post production departments, or visual effects. It’s only recently that I’ve branched out into Pre-Production artwork.
I won’t list all of my film jobs here but the most rewarding experiences were The Fifth Element, Red Corner (both at Digital Domain in LA), Lord of the Rings in New Zealand and The Wolverine at Fox Studios here in Sydney.
Working on a feature film can range from exciting to frustrating and that depends on how much freedom and how much direction you get. There is a good balance that produces excellent work. Too much of either can actually produce weaker work. I also personally prefer to work in quiet solitude at home which doesn’t work for a lot of productions, they like to watch over your shoulder and seem to be more and more committee driven each day. Micro management doesn’t create better art! Not all films are like that however, some are wonderfully collaborative and encouraging of exploration and excellence.
Did you oil paint before you started working in the film industry?
No, I started in Photography. I started in photography when I was younger because drawing was hard and Star Wars had just come out with all of these wonderful visuals that were to my eye, captured photographically, so that’s where I headed. It wasn’t until later that I learned a lot of what I loved about films like Star Wars was the artwork, particularly the matte paintings. I realized later in life that I could have bypassed the film industry altogether and gone straight into painting but it was the path I took and so here I am. No complaints. I have had the pleasure of working with some excellent artists in the film industry and owe my career to some that should be famous in their own right for the talent that they are.
I’m amazed at the beautiful brushwork and atmosphere you create in your oil paintings and when I saw your website I had no idea you worked in the film industry as well. Where did you learn to paint?
Well thank you! I’m self taught in pretty much everything. I was a lazy student at school so if I wanted to do anything I needed to knuckle down and get to work. The process of painting digitally allowed me to paint without fear and allowed me to learn progressively. I started using photo-montage as the basis of my digital film work which slowly but surely was replaced with direct painting, digital painting that is. Then bit by bit I started dabbling in oils and off I went. I still grapple with capturing certain effects of light, atmosphere and scale, that is easy to achieve with digital tools but not so easy with oils, so my learning curve is still quite steep. I might be doing it wrong but I tend to paint like I paint digitally, in layers using semi-opaque glazes to throw objects back into atmosphere for example. Not having the ability to ‘undo’ a paint stroke is a challenge sometimes! Removing the safety net of digital is one of the reasons I love oil painting, it encourages boldness and decisiveness. That and the smell and the tactile feel of a real brush on canvas!
What is your passion?
Painting and photography. I’m trying to meld the photography, specifically photojournalism into my sf paintings. I was really close to becoming a photojournalist but sf and particularly sf art had a greater pull, so I figured why not combine both. My current sf project is based on the ship breaking that happens in India, Pakistan etc except that the ships are spacecraft and massive in size. As usual it’s the people on the ground that end doing the dirty dangerous work and end up building an entire community around the breaking and recycling of these old expensive behemoths. I also see it as the breaking down of some big old rusty ideas in our world that need breaking down and recycled into something better.
And what do you see yourself doing ten years from now?
Making a lot less mistakes with my drawing! I’m working on a large format illustrated novella or series of short stories, which ever ends up happening first.. set in the ship breaking world I’m painting right now, the Sky Burial series, so hopefully that is finished and published. Before I loved film, I loved SF art in books and that is what I’d love to produce. As long as I’m painting I’ll be happy anyway.
Thank you so much!!!
You’re very welcome Dianne. Thank you!
You can see more of Wayne’s work on his website www.ankaris.com
If you happen to be anywhere near Allentown PA in September,Wayne will be exhibiting some of his work at Illuxcon, a con chock full of sf/f art from many different artists all specializing in that genre!