An Appreciation of Alberto Mielgo’s Background Paintings

Alberto Mielgo

I try not to fall into the trap of choosing artistic favorites–different works deserve appreciation for different reasons–but if asked to choose a favorite background painter today, I wouldn’t hesitate to nominate Spanish-born artist Alberto Mielgo, and if asked to provide an example, I’d point to this stunning pan background he drew for the Beatles Rock Band trailer (the project is from last year, but he just posted the background on his blog).

At first glance, his original style, with its high level of detail, might not seem like a natural match for animation. He’s been lucky though to work with smart directors like Pete Candeland who understand how to use his paintings in the context of animation production. The paintings, with their smooth blend of photorealism and abstraction sometimes remind me of the Precisionist paintings of Charles Sheeler, while some of his work also recalls Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings which have similarly vibrant colors and clean sense of light. Whatever his actual influences, he pushes far beyond them, and brings a fresh and beautiful sensibility to animation.

The thing that I find most exciting about his work is how he reveals the abstract patterns of landscapes through simple color and shape. Zoom close into one of his paintings and it becomes mesmerizing in an entirely different way:

Alberto Mielgo

While there’s nothing wrong with trying to recreate the look of traditional techniques like gouache, oil, and watercolor within the computer, I get far more excited when I see work like Alberto’s which doesn’t attempt to mask its digital footprint. For example, note the fascinating effect of how his clean lines and shapes break down as objects recede in the distance and the scenery begins to look like digital artifacting (example here). His work feels well suited to the digital medium and takes advantages of its possibilities while applying solid artistic principles that a painter using more traditional techniques would use.

For those in LA, take note that Mielgo will be speaking at the CTN Expo later this month.


  • http://www.rauchbrothers.com Tim Rauch

    That Rockband trailer had always blown me away, it’s great to have a chance to see these BGs by themselves. Really stunning work.

  • http://gabrielepennacchioli.blogspot.com/ gabriele

    Alberto is not just a great background artist he is also a tremendous animator and fantastic illustrator. I had the pleasure of working with him in London on Sinbad and the honor of looking at his “spicy” sketch books.

  • DonaldC

    Vector based art does have a clean charm to it.

  • Dave

    I’d love to see this guy to Hellboy or Batman.

  • Scarabim

    Oh GOD I love the Beatles Rock Band trailer.

    Note to Robert Zemeckis: for the love of God, man, if you MUST remake “Yellow Submarine”, dump the motion capture and look to that trailer for your model.