Ron Crabb
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 12 (December 2005)

Ron Crabb

Snow Castle
Created from a set of images, this piece enabled the artist to transition from TV matte painting to higher-res film projects. The still includes a shot of the Grand Canyon, to which Crabb added the cast

Desert Towers
Another so-called self-promotion image, this one was targeted toward the sci-fi genre. The artist started with a cliff shot, added the cliff structures, the tent village below, the river in the canyon

Ron Crabb is a digital matte painter, creating backgrounds, from the realistic to the fantastic, for film or video projects.

The artist's path to this type of work occurred by happenstance. Crabb developed an interest in art early on. Eventually, he found himself at a television station, generating on-air graphics. That is when he was introduced to Quantel's Paintbox program, and a new world opened up for him. "I've been doing digital motion graphics, illustration, and special effects ever since," he says. In fact, Crabb's work is quite varied-news graphics, print, motion-graphics design, TV effects, concept art for film and television, film mattes, and special effects. "It's hard to get bored when you do that many things," he says.

Yet, 2001 seemed to be a turning point of sorts for Crabb. That was when he decided to capitalize on his photorealistic abilities to a greater degree, and he entered the world of film matte painting and concept art. His first feature was X2: X-Men United while working at the Hollywood Cinesite effects facility. Since then, he has maintained a close working relationship with his mentor, Lubo Hristov, on such high-profile projects as The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Matrix Revolutions, The Last Samurai, Constantine, The Chronicles of Riddick, and Catwoman. In addition, he worked on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which used all-CG backgrounds.

To generate digital backdrops, Crabb mainly uses Adobe's Photoshop and, on occasion, Maxon's Cinema 4D. "Experimentation is the biggest advantage [to using CG]," he notes. "The speed at which you can create allows so much more play with images and ideas-something that could never be done using traditional media." Even though Crabb prefers digital tools, every now and then he will pick up a paintbrush and work in oils.

Currently, Crabb works as a freelance artist from his studio on Bainbridge Island, Washington. His virtual gallery can be seen at

A smaller selection of Crabb's works is featured on these two pages. Additional imagery and information about the artist can be found on Computer Graphics World's Web site at --Karen Moltenbrey

Tree Houses
A personal piece-and one of the artist’s favorites-this picture comprises 100 percent original imagery. “It’s sort of Ewok meets elves meets childhood imaginings of the ultimate tree house."

Ford, Germany
This selection, from a recent TV commercial Crabb did for Ring of Fire, offers a romanticized take on the German autobahn. The artist added cloud and shadow elements to the multi-plane image.

Western Town
For this scene, the artist used an old vintage photograph that he selected from a book, and then he re-created and expanded it as a test for generating historical film-style backdrops.