Imery Watson is a concept / previs artist from New Zealand who worked with Terry Gilliam on some initial artwork for the pitching of The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus. Now living and working in Los Angeles, he has developed a solid cv, working on The Lord of the Rings, Sweeney Todd, and Alice in Wonderland. Here, the artist talks to Dreams about his work on Dr Parnassus and shares his five remarkable paintings.
I have always been a fan of Terry Gilliam’s work, the mix of symbolism and surrealism really speaks to me. In fact I would say that Brazil is one of the reasons that I am working in the film industry today. I think we share the perspective that fables (like Brazil) have an important part to play in our imaginative life.
The job came about quite synergistically. I had always wanted to work with Terry and was just a case of the right time, place and introduction that kicked things off.
I had a great meeting with Terry where he spelled out his plan: to put together a beautiful book to “sell” the beauty and strangeness of the world inside the Imaginarium. The idea was to combine his sketches and composites with some pitch paintings (which is where I came in) as a way to stoke excitement and get funding to make the movie.
Our process was to look through the storyboard sequences that he had drawn up together to identity the ones with the most impact that could be worked up into something special in the time we had. In the end we settled on five paintings.
I really wanted to deliver more than just some pretty images that would have to be thrown out after, something that gave a tangible feeling as to how Terry wanted to film to look and feel, so I made sure there was a pretty rigorous approval process. I would send him a rough as soon as I could and get to work on the next one while I waited for feedback.
One of the great pleasures of the job was some of the great meetings we had that were half conversations and half work. It was satisfying to work as a peer with someone whose work so influenced my own philosophy and work.
The most challenging aspect for me as a concept artist was that rather than be views of the final film, the images I made were really going to be tools for Terry to clarify his vision for the look and feel of the film. Seeing the film, it’s really gratifying to see the impact of the work on the final look.