Jaime Jasso

With more than 20 years of experience in film, video games and visual media, Jaime Jasso is a force to be reckoned with. His incredible skill and determination has landed him a spot as one of the most prestigious matte painters in the world. Now working as both a Director and an Art Director, Jasso aims to transition into his own style of Filmmaking.

Having been a part of a long list of timeless films such as Avatar, Star Wars, Avengers and Transformers to name a few, we have no doubt he will continue to excel within the industry, further shaping cinema history.

We are honoured to have been able to chat with Jaime about his career and life as a creative, and hope this interview provides you with some insight into the magical world of matte painting!

If this interview inspires you to get started with Matte Painting or if you’re looking for more background information about it, then make sure to check out our recent article: The Fundamentals of Matte Painting!

Introduce yourself, tell us a little about who you are as a person and as a creative!

I’m Jaime Jasso, visual Effects artist and Art Director from Guadalajara Mexico. I’ve been working on matte painting for film and video games for more than 20 years now. I have an innate passion for photography, art, film and science.

When, how and why did you get started with matte painting?

When getting started on my creative journey, I experimented with many fields of animation and visual effects. When I came across Matte Painting, it caught my attention immediately – it encompassed all I love and wanted to do.

It included 3D modelling, 2D painting, Lighting and Rendering as well as CG cinematography and compositing. I also was interested in creating photorealistic imagery, and matte painting was the perfect opportunity to try it.

If you completed any studies, where did you study?

When starting out, I decided to study a degree in Industrial Design. Although it did help me a lot, I decided to drop out after a few years into it. I began sourcing out my own books and resources so I could learn from home and at my own pace.

What is your biggest inspiration?

I’m a visual artist, so any and everything that I come across serves as inspiration for my creativity. Watching movies, reading comics, playing video games, discovering fine arts, visiting museums, and of course traveling, have all inspired my work.

I’d say that one of the best things you can do as an artist, is to experience other cultures and see with your own eyes how others live the world – in regards to their design perspective to architecture. By combining all this with photography, I am able to refine my eye and teach my brain how light works through a lens.

Walk us through your creative process, step by step

Whenever I’m given the script from a movie, or undertake an initial meeting with directors or supervisors, I begin gathering real world photo and video references – whether it be from the internet or books, anything helps.

I find that it doesn’t really matter if I’m going to be working on sci-fi or fantasy, my designs will need to have something that we all relate to, something that connects our reality with the imaginary worlds. This way, my work has a better effect and captivates the viewers.

My next step is to form a strategy – will I proceed in full 2D or will I use 3D as well? I need to think of all the technical considerations in order to come up with a production plan. This is super important, as working for a production requires you to be both efficient and resourceful.

After that, it’s simply a matter of going through the production process, trial and error until its complete.

Is being an artist your main job or more of a hobby?

Although I’d consider matte painting a hobby of mine, it does generate money as a secondary effect. Although I enjoy it, it’s still a kind of job. Just like with other jobs, I sometimes tend to get burned out.

Morning Coffee - Cyberpunk city Matte Painting by Jaime Jasso
“Following my Cyberpunk favorite style but this time trying something different, a daylight scene”

What mediums/software do you use as an Matte Artist?

In terms of mediums and software, 3ds Max has been my go-to 3D tool since I started in the mid 90’s. I then moved on to Nuke, Photoshop and many others like Z brush and Blender.

I have experimented and tried out a number of renderers, but Vray continues to be my number one. I sometimes also use Intous Pro too. All of the mediums I use are digital of course.

Where do you get your resources from?

When searching for resources for a particular project, I usually use Textures.com or Photobash.org. I also make use of my own photo library as well!

What has the journey been like since you started, leading up to now?

Lately I’ve been taking on many roles in VFX and animation, and am currently a Visual Development Director for Tencent USA. In working towards my goal of becoming a filmmaker, I’m currently working on my second short film as a producer and director.

Pandora's Orbit Matte Painting - Avatar Movie
“I did this Matte painting and later re-projected in 3D geometry, as seen in Avatar ( 2009 ) it was part of 2 or 3 shots in the film”

Has the pandemic affected your creative process in any way?

Luckily, the pandemic hasn’t really affected my creative process or required me to make any changes. Although I definitely miss travelling!

Do you have any advice, tips or tricks for aspiring matte painters?

I think everyone expects to come across a magic formula when they read answers to this question, but in reality, I’m nothing special, I’m no Einstein or Van Gogh – however, I’m very persistent.

I’ve always worked harder than my colleagues, slept less and dedicated my focus and discipline to this for years… decades! Although you see my success now, I’ve experienced years of failures.

The trick is to learn from these failures and use them as motivation to keep going. As long as you have both determination and fun, and are prepared for the time it will take, you will succeed!

Xibalba MotherShip

Do you have a favourite piece? If so, why is it your favourite?

My favourite personal piece will always be my latest one. To me, my most recent work demonstrates my maximum skill and represents a level up with every new piece. Not only artistically ,but also technically speaking, every new image you work on is a thesis of all the education and practice you have throughout your career up until that point.

Star Trek Into Darkness Concept Art 2013 by Jaime Jasso
Star Trek Into Darkness Concept Art 2013

Do you have a vision for the future?

I envision advancements in internet speed and the cheaper costs of high-end computer systems that grant us access to technology like never before. I envision instantaneous results, the ability to learn and adapt in new ways, and a worldwide community of amazing artists that continuously inspire one another.

Today, there’s plenty of hunger for content, film, video games and more recently, streaming services. What will set you apart from the rest is your ability to bring something different to the table, embrace the challenge and make a difference.

What will set you apart from the rest is your ability to bring something different to the table, embrace the challenge and make a difference.

To find out more, you can find Jaime Jasso at: Artstation, Instagram and IMDB.

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