This week, Warner Bros. film 42 opens in theaters, showcasing concept art and matte paintings by Art Center alumnus Brandon Gonzales, Entertainment Design class of 2011.
Directed by Brian Helgeland and starring Chadwick Boseman and Harrison Ford, the film is about the life of baseball player Jackie Robinson. 42 focuses on the 1946 deal that signed Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African-American player to break the baseball color line.
“Before we even started, I did a lot of concept work on what the stadium could look like by researching black-and-white images of those stadiums,” said Gonzales. “This way the director and production designers would be confident we could make the stadiums look like they did when [Robinson] actually played there.”
One of the matte paintings he worked on became the final one used in the movie poster. “It was one of the main shots I worked on,” said Gonzales. The final picture shows baseball player Pee Wee Reese with his arm wrapped around Robinson on the field.
Gonzales has been working as a matte painter and concept artist since graduating from Art Center, first at Rhythm and Hues before joining the team at Hammerhead Productions. He has been involved with a number of feature films such as The Hangover Part III, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Gangster Squad, The Guilt Trip, Prometheus, and Snow White and the Huntsman.
He notes that every project he’s worked on has brought different challenges, but hopes to explore opportunities in science fiction and fantasy film genres. “I worked on Prometheus, which was one of the most fun films I’ve worked on,” he said. “One of the biggest sequences that we did is the presentation of the tablets and mission. I redesigned the cube and how it would work as well as the VFX look of the tablets and stars.”
Before becoming a matte painter, Gonzales wanted to be an illustrator, working with traditional media like oil paints. While studying to become an illustrator in the Bay Area, “I was exposed to artists I liked, and the majority of them went to Art Center,” he said. Influenced by the work of Thom Tenery, Scott Robertson (Minority Report) and Drew Struzan (Star Wars, Indiana Jones), he left to study in Pasadena.
Once he transferred to Art Center, he felt drawn towards a new career path. “Tim Flattery showed a lot of confidence and trust in me and matte painting,” he said. “Being able to pursue independent studies in that field launched my career.”
42 will be released in theaters on April 12. To see more of Gonzales’ matte paintings, visit his blog at brandon-gonzo.blogspot.com.