Art Director + Matte Painter
By Karin Idering
Westworld is one of the most fascinating and visually appealing shows this year. I reached out to LA-based Matte Painter and Art Director Maxx Burman, who have worked on the visuals on the show, to talk about his work.
Can you tell me a little bit about your work and thought process when creating the art direction for Westworld.
I worked with Director Patrick Clair and the awesome design team at Elastic on the opening titles for the show. When the project first came in to pitch on, Patrick and I sat down and went through all the different motifs, emotions and ideas that we wanted to convey. Things like showing violence and horror hidden beneath beauty and life.
We started very abstract, but knowing what our subject matter was, these perfectly life like machines. We did a deep reference dive, and found a lot of inspiration then began creating our designs. A couple of the big influences were Damien Hirst and Body Worlds.
Your previous work always have a futuristic tone, and one the thing they have in common is that they always brings the viewer a feeling; a sense of earthiness and soul. How do you get the advance technical design to feel emotional and not static?
Thank you. When I’m creating an environment, I always strive to make the environment be a reflection of the characters inside of it. I try to understand the tone and emotion of the scene or the project, and see how I can bring that through to a landscape or city.
I’ve traveled around the world a good amount, and I have the most vivid memories of taking a step back in a place so wild and beyond me, like sunrise over Angkor Wat, or floating out in the ocean looking over Montezuma, and just tuning in the awe of it. I still haven’t figured out how to convey that in a painting, but its what I’m aiming for.
We’ve gone from pressing buttons to touching screens. What’s your thoughts about interaction design and how it will look in the future?
I don’t know a lot about interactive design, but what I have noticed with design in general, is we’re getting better at cutting out the fat and simplifying to just show what’s necessary. Minimalism is now normal. I imagine as we move forward, we’ll continue to refine, and try to remove as many steps as we can from our thoughts to our technology.
Below: A selection of Maxx’s work.
The Big 5:
Maxx’s Top Inspirations
Ashley Wood is definitely one of my favorite artists. His work is so powerful, he’s created some amazing worlds, and he maintains a unique style that instantly captures an adventurous, foreboding tone.
Deak Ferrand is my favorite matte painter, especially his paintings for Book of Eli, they’re a great example of telling a story through an environment, and mirroring a characters emotions and journey in a landscape.
Michael Kutsche has the coolest character designs, and I love him for his palette. His colors are so vibrant yet desolate, and he doesn’t just present a character in his designs, he really presents an atmosphere.