Oliver Wetter is a familiar name on IAMAG Mag website and community. The German artist is known for beautiful Pin-ups, book covers and a lot of experimental works. Oliver’s technique is unique while detached from a specific technique or art style. It is all about his vision, his constant artist growth through thinking out of the box, experimenting with brushes and resources and nonetheless, the spirit of learning and improving.
One of his recent projects, The Ancient Kaiju Project, united the moods and visuals of classic paintings to Pacific Rim’s iconic Kaijus. The result was a collection of 6 the most beautiful paintings you may see in digital art these days. Oliver’s curious and creative genius presented us with breathtaking scenes of pure Fantasy.
Q: When did the idea for this project started popping up in your mind and what was the first step you took?
A: Actually the idea came up when I stumbled upon an article about the thrift store painting movement more than a year ago. I just found the idea nice but at that time I did not have the intention to do something about that matter, I kept the idea in the back of my mind. So the first step was to do nothing. Painting over thriftstore paintings seemed to be a step backwards in terms of style and expression – I wanted to do something better – and obviously bigger.
A few weeks ago I found a resource site on facebook that had been sharing drop-box folders of public-domain paintings and so the idea in my mind got cooked up to the point that I could gave it a direction. But that was just theory. I had to try it and see if it was possible to paint in one of the hi-res images in a way that it would look like painted by the old masters.
It turned out that the first piece by Albert Bierstadt – depicting Yosemite Valley – was a good start.
No specific Kaiju for the first few steps, just a random creature I painted to see if I could match the depth, lighting, coloring and strokes. The book about color and light from James Gurney was a good help. I considered that it could have been necessary to use another software such as Painter or Artrage for the technique, but was very pleased that it all was possible with Photoshop.
Q: Why Kaijus?
A: Good question, maybe because I have seen Pacific Rim recently and that was a huge inspiration. Thinking about Kaiju´s also led me to Godzilla but also other “big creatures” like Totoro or the Marshmellow man, you can imagine, once you start thinking about one, there´s a ton more…
The next image I worked on was by Thomas Moran and an “impossible portrait” too (think picture-in-picture) and that was the first I published – which then went crazy on deviantArt and elsewhere.
Now I know the proportions are way off and it is only roughly inspired by Otachi – I was really surprised that most die-hard PR fans were not bothered by these facts.
Q: What was wrong with the Otachi inspired Kaiju in the Juniata piece?
A: Actually the creature must have been 350-400 meters big, some research shows that Otachi is only 60-70 meters big. Also it used to have wings and what I depicted as claws is actually a joint – it was just what I rendered and saw in the rough sketch and references that I had.
Q: Which were your main learning goals during the process?
A: The idea behind all this is to constantly learn how to get better but that wouldn´t be an amzingly new thing, for me it has to be fun to be perfect for learning – and this series is a lot of fun!
The most important thing (and less obvious as well) is that with one such painting session I spend between 8-15 hours and more surrounded by a masterpiece – looking at it the whole time, a time that you would never stare on a masterpiece in a museum. This alone teaches so much in terms of lighting, structure and composition – it even feels like a short vacation. The next key in learning was to get into structured brushes. A thing I hated to do in Photoshop till now. Now I love it because I know what it can do. You can´t really teach it because most of it is trial and error. Structures are enormously capable tool within the brush palette in Photoshop but without being guided – as with an existing image that has to be matched – you´d never use it to it´s fullest potential.
Q: Did you choose the original painting on which upon each work is based randomly or on a more personal basis?
A: I´d say surely because of personal choices but also to support the idea that I have in mind – not randomly.There are a few factors that come into consideration, for once it is the resolution of the images and also the mood that I am going for. But, resolution is not the number 1 important factor, because in the piece “Howl´s moving castle at Staubbach Falls/Switzerland” I had only a very rough 32KB sized jpeg image of this painting but was so in love with the mood and scene that was a perfect match for the Studio Ghibli creature, that I took the chance to paint the whole environment. Based on what I saw in the very rough and artifact-rich image I took the freedom to change the whole direction more towards the Miyazaki universe. Since there is only a small piece on the internet, no one can compare it really.
Kaiju is probably not the right name here, but I wanted to explore more “big things” in the future and see if it could go well with the initial idea of the series, I think so far it works and keeps it open for a variety of other creatures.
Q: Which were the most difficult points during the process and which aspects were you most satisfied with?
A: The most difficult points are the imperfect captures of the original paintings to work with. It is hard to verify colors by a variety of smaller versions upon research – the one and only solution is, that I can take some artistic liberty with this and change colors to my liking. Like the Star Wars rendition shows:
In other versions of the original painting by Albert Bierstadt I found more blues and brighter greens but thought that the brownish and violet tones were a very good fit for the walker – such as an autumn scene.The positive aspects happened when the point was achieved until it started to look as if the original painter could have imagined it to be in it the original painting. This was the toughest challenge and in most cases I have reached this goal.
Q: How long did it take for the project to be accomplished?
A: Actually it took me 4 weeks to finish 6 of these paintings. The time for an individual painting vary, the fastest and first one took me around 6 hours and the Moving Castle piece with the whole environment took over 25 hours to complete.
Q: Would you do such a project again or do you have anything like this coming in a near future?
A: Definitely!I think the project isn´t even done yet as there are a lot more creatures and landscapes that scream to be put together and it seems there´s no one else doing it. So if time permits I´ll add more to this gallery. Other projects such as the “Skull:z& Idols” are still in the making and bear similar potential for being endless – and fun!
Q: Which traits did you learn during the project that you would like to stick with in a personal level?
A: Anything I learned through this is an asset for any upcoming project you can think of. The curating of images and subjects is as much important than placement of objects and composition. The brush techniques are helpful on a daily basis. The benefits of learning how to match styles and paint something in an existing image is something that is important in my own works as well – be it commercial or personal because anytime you want something to change, it is vital to not change the general direction. I even had commissions for book cover where another artist did the creature but the hands were off, I was asked to paint these and since it made ⅔ of the images it was a pleasant job and maybe the initial ignition for this project. I love to match different styles and use them to depict ideas – that is always a fun challenge.
Q: Now you mentioned in your blog that it was difficult creating the strokes, to make them look like traditional art or match the original characteristics – can you share with IAMAG how did you do that to achieve that level of realism? Can you show us a bit of the process?
A: As mentioned before the panel “Structure” becomes important when working with paintings such as these, but that is just a technical matter – a bit experimentation with the default stone textures in Photoshop and looking up videos about that matter on youtube –such as this – will lead to a good understanding. The more important part is layering:
Kaiju evening at the Juniata process:
Godzilla in the mountains:
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