Maxx Burman: Trading in Blockbusters for Personal Creative Satisfaction

How one visual artist had to fall out of love with his work to find his own style.

If Maxx Burman does his job right, you won’t even notice his work because it not only blends into the background – it is the background. The Los Angeles-based matte painter and VFX supervisor has digitally painted frozen tundras, alien environments, and other wild virtual landscapes for some of the world’s most prominent films. His matte paintings have served as the backdrops for Hollywood blockbusters (Godzillaand Iron Man 3), popular shows (Game Of Thrones and The Walking Dead), and video games (Call of Duty and League of Legends).

However, two years ago Burman realized he was consciously disowning the directorial changes made to his work. While working on blockbusters, he had to let his work go and allow someone else to tinker, shape, or even overhaul what he designed. So for the time being, he has made the choice to step away from focusing on the big titles and to find projects with clients who let him inject his personal style into the work.

After leaving his art director role at Elastic Pictures in June, Burman is committing more hours to personal projects, including his game One More Night and his first solo art show, Disconnect.

We talked with Burman about how he established himself as a go-to matte painter for Hollywood, why he has shelved those gigs at the moment, and how that led him to appreciate his art in a whole new way. 

How did your background, both your skills and education, lead you to matte painting?

I fell in love with Photoshop and painting at a young age, so I put a lot of hours into trying new things and teaching myself new tools. I didn’t even realize that there was a career around this at first. When I was 18, after high school, I cold-called every visual effects studio I could find online and just said, “I need to be in the studio, on that side of things. I don’t care if I have to make the coffee!” That’s how I got my first job as an intern at Zoic.

At Zoic, you worked for renowned matte painter Syd Dutton. What did you learn from him?

There is so much that I still use today. He would give me art history classes, and taught me how artists like French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme would use composition to tell a story in a painting, or how the Hudson River School painters used color and light to move your eye around a canvas. One of the big non-art lessons he taught me was about taking pride in my craft and how to present myself. A lot of people in Vfx studios wear shorts and sandals, but when I started working with Syd, that ended. With him, I had to wear a dress shirt, dress shoes, and nice jeans or slacks. He would tell me, “It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, it’s your responsibility to maintain the respect of matte painting, and that means presenting yourself in a professional way.” That never left me....more 

PHOTOGRAPHY: Camila Falquez

This 'Snuggling Cinema' Brings Netflix & Chill to the Big Screen

Movie theaters have modernized in many ways, from being one of the first spaces to be air
conditioned to offering food and beverage service during a show. One theatre in Slovakia is upping the cozy factor—by replacing seats with cushy bean bags.

Tulikino, or "snuggling cinema," was designed by Michal Staško for the X-Bionic Sphere resort and multiplex in Šamorín, Slovakia. Aside from the big screen and stadium-style tiers, the similarities to your neighborhood theater end there. Instead of traditional seating, there are brightly colored Tuli beanbags that—unlike the wildly-varying comfort level of your average cinema seat—conform to your body, "creating ideal support while you sit or lie down."...more 

There's a new magazine for little girls who care more about lichens than lip gloss

Have you ever browsed the magazine aisle of your favorite bookstore with a little girl? It's depressing. Whereas magazines for boys include articles about future career choices, adventure and outdoor activities, magazine offerings for girls are loaded with articles on hair, lip gloss and manners — not to mention the heavily made-up and often Photoshopped young female models.

Condé Nast editor Erin Bried had this experience last spring while book shopping with her 5-year-old daughter. She left the store with nothing and wondered why there weren't better choices out there for little girls. That's when she decided that maybe it was up to her to change that.

Bried created Kazoo, a quarterly magazine for young girls "that inspires them to be strong, smart, fierce and, above all, true to themselves," according to the magazine's website. Bried launched Kazoo via Kickstarter to gauge interest and secure funding. In less than one month, Kazoo's Kickstarter campaign raised $171,215 and closed as site's highest funded journalism campaign ever....more 

Could California's Gridlock Generate Electricty for the Grid?

California is testing whether its heavy traffic can produce not just emissions and air pollution, but electricity.

 The state’s Energy Commission says it will spend $2 million to examine the potential of using piezoelectric crystals embedded under asphalt as a way to send the energy created by moving cars to the grid. The crystals generate energy when compressed by the weight of moving cars, but tests of the technology at larger scales have failed or been canceled in Tokyo, Italy, and Israel, according to the Associated Press. California, therefore, “needs to figure out whether it can produce high returns without costing too much,” the AP writes. If successful, the technology could help the state reach its goal to generate 50 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. California is expected to hit a 25 percent renewables target by the end of this year....via

MUSIC: Leonard Cohen - You Want It Darker

MUSIC: Flying Ibex - Could Have Gone Your Way

MUSIC: Temples - Certainty