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Exclusive: Tim Flattery Talks About His Organic Concept Art And The Batmobile That Almost Was

Tim Flattery is an amazing conceptual artist and took some time out to give me this exclusive interview.

His career spans two decades and has worked on some of Hollywood's biggest films from Back to the Future to Transformers.

What's it like for you being a concept artist?
It's rewarding creatively and a great way to make a living!

How would you describe your style and approach to your art?
The first half of my career was more traditional... using paint and markers. Now, my approach relies on the computer along with 2d and 3d software. I will still sketch with a pencil but all my painting and rendering is done in the computer now. As far as style, I generally rely on nature as my influence when it comes to design. I refer to everything from bugs to sea life to microscopic bacteria, etc.

Could you tell us the path you took to become a conceptual illustrator?
I went to art school and studied industrial design in Michigan but I knew I wanted to work in the film industry so I worked on a separate portfolio geared for that. Once I graduated I moved to California and started knocking on doors. I got a break when I met John Dykstra and he gave me my first job. From there it was a matter of doing good work and getting known in the Hollywood community.

You've done a lot of work at all types of concept design from clothing to vehicle and weapon design. Is there a type of design that you find most rewarding?
I love doing it all but I would have to say, coming from an Industrial design background, designing hardware fulfills the geek in me the most. Nothing like the challenge of a new spaceship or vehicle!

Your drawing of the Transformers aircraft character "Tidal Wave" took the Internet by storm. Do you think the fan support of the character will translate to the big screen?

"Tidal Wave" was great fun but was eventually cut out of the script. I have seen how the Internet can influence production in the past but I think in this case we would've seen him by now... but you never know.

Could you explain the design of the organic-looking Batmobile that you did for the 1995 Joel Schumacher film Batman Forever?
I initially did five designs and Joel picked a very faceted, stealth looking design. Here is a picture of the model not seen before.

After thinking thru it farther, he decided he wanted something more organic so it was back to the drawing board. The reference I used was everything from bats, bugs and crustaceans to Giger. Once the design was finalized, we did another scale model (see below) and from there began construction on the full-size vehicle.

You mentioned in an interview that the vehicle molds of the Batmobile were made of clay while the design of the Fantastic Four Fantasticar went closer to development. How do you see technology moving to bring designs to the screen?
It's a much more efficient process now. Until 10 years ago we were sculpting everything in clay and molding it from there. Now we mill the mold directly eliminating the clay stage. The hardware and software has changed how we go about everything now. From the design concept to the construction of the design is executed totally different now and dependent on computers. It's a great process but I miss the days of amazing talent sculpting by hand.

You graduated from the College for Creative Studies. How do you feel this education helped you in your industry?
It helped me considerably. I was taught key design theory along with many different techniques for rendering with different media like gauche and markers. I had to turn that into an appropriate portfolio for the film industry because there was no Entertainment Design curriculum in those days. From there I learned the rest in experience from the industry.

Are there any artists that inspired you in the past and today?
Oh yes, too many to mention all of them but some are Robert Taylor, Ralph Mcquarrie, Syd Mead and Raymond Loewy.

So, what can we look forward to from you in the future?
I just finished Real Steel (2011) [a film starring Hugh Jackman training a robot prize fighter] doing some of the robots and am currently working on Mission Impossible 4 (2011).

Check out his gallery at timflattery.com
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Write by: Arek - Tuesday, August 10, 2010

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