Monday, March 17, 2014

Eric Ryan Workshop - Color and Creature Design

Last week I attended a free Eric Ryan workshop at the Art Institute. Here are some notes. 

Color - 
Eric taught color in a really interesting way. He talked mostly about "local" color. He would overlay color on a separate layer so he could change it as he went. After he got a couple of layers in, he was able to quickly create multiple iterations. The choice of the local color helps 

Uses of color
- Conveys information about the type of creature: blue = aquatic, stripes = camouflage/ aggressive. Shows personality and the type of environment he lives in. 

-indicates different materials. Soft underbelly vs thick hide skin vs horns vs eyes - they are all different materials. Use color to indicate that information.

- show focal point such as eyes. Complementary colors help us achieve that (purple/ yellow, green/ red)

- use 60/30/10 rule (big/ medium/ small) to design color. Have a larger base color, a small secondary color, and a small accent color. Don't have the ratios of color be equal. 

He adds the stripes in white on a separate layer. Then he changes it to a different color. And adds some details to it. Pattern is a great way for something to look complex with really little effort.

 Creature Demo
In this demo, he designs a creature from thumbnail to a rendering. 


 Rim Light
- catches the form, like calligraphy, goes into the form - not just outline. 
- faces that are perpendicular to light are brightest
- shows texture
- rounded forms - more rim light

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Name Painting - Frozen, Disney Princess, Pixar, Monsters Inc, Stitch, Aladdin, Superheroes, My little Pony, Mickey, Winnie the Pooh

I don't usually post my name paintings (name art) on my blog - but these are some of my personal favorites. My style has really evolved and grown since I stopped working at Disneyland 1 year ago. It was nice to really grow and experiment with the "name painting" art form.  I owe my improvement to a lot of my customers (store link) - they give me the great ideas, and really push me to do my best work. I'm really grateful to all my customers - especially the really picky ones! They are the ones who drive me the most crazy - but are also the ones who are responsible for improving my art form! lol

Hailey - Disney Princesses with Boo and Sally
KAILYN - Disney Princesses, and Vanellope von Schweetz (I love that movie).
Classic Disneyland style Name Painting + Elsa + Anna from Frozen

Classic Disneyland style Name Painting + Meg and Hercules (they don't do that)
LOVE - frozen theme
Frozen Theme Name Paintings
Jacob Name Painting with Monsters Inc, Peter Pan, Stitch and Buzz Lightyear!
Mary Poppins, Wall-E, Winnie the Pooh, Up, and Alice!
Aladdin themed Name Painting

My Little Pony Name Painting - Fluttershy

Super hero name paintings! 
Disney - Mickey Mouse name painting
Winnie the Pooh Name painting!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Khang Le Workshop and Notes

Today - I've had the privilege of attending a Khang Le workshop. He is a very famous concept artist and I've been following his artwork since high school.

The Current Situation of the Concept Artist 
Khang starts off the workshop by discussing today's current concept artists. He says that the modern concept artist is more like a music DJ. DJ's don't create the music themselves, they know the feeling and mix and mash different music together. Similarly, today's concept artist use photos and 3D models to create the illustration. They do not paint the illustration from scratch.

Concept art is slowly becoming more like production work. Concept artists now need to do motion graphics and use 3D programs like zBrush. I've been hearing the same thing from many different industry artists at the Massive Black workshop. The bottom-line is painting in Photoshop isn't going to cut it anymore.

Abstract Painting Method Demo
1) create an abstract composition with simple greyscale values and GRAPHIC shapes.
 2) Overlay with a finished painting he previously did until you get something you like.
- This is a method that surprises you. Even you don't know where it's going.

This workflow helps with a couple of things:
a) You don't have to sit around and do thumbnails/ color studies
b) There is already "free"photo texture in your painting before you start.  In addition, using photos will push you to design in directions you didn't think about before.
c) You can use the "noise" to inspire you in your image. Keep what works, and paint over what doesn't work. In my opinion, this method saves you a lot of brain power. Assuming appropriate style and subject matter.

Abstract shapes with overlay of Khang's previously done sci-fi painting

Khang does a lot of what some people might call "cheating."He will paint something one time, and then duplicate it over and over with different sizes and values. Even the "people" of the image were created using a "people" brush with "size jitter. This method allowed him to create multiple people of different sizes. He just erased and adjusted some limbs to give the illusion of variety. He will also use the same part of the image, and use it as texture for other parts of the images.

This method accomplishes multiple things:
1) establishes perspective
2) saves time and energy
3) helps created a unified form language and color pallets
3) Most importantly… it feels less "precious." By not investing as much time into each part of the painting, he is that he would free to paint over, delete, or cover up any part of the painting without feeling too bad. He is willing to sacrifice a small part of the painting for the greater good of the illustration. This is easier when not much time were invested in a single part of the painting.

Khang said "The most important thing is that you are willing to lose any part of your painting. It's not precious. If it doesn't work - just take it out. Work smart. Don't' work too hard." 

Khang repeats elements of his paint. This saves time and energy. In addition, it create unity of form language and color within the illustration.
People respond to polish, not innovation. 
Khang has a really refreshing insight on the matter of execution. He recommend that when taking on a task - don't be overly ambitious. Have it be about 70% of what you max capability is. This way you can finish the job, and not be too mentally exhausted. Use the other 30% of the time to polish the painting.

For example, a game studio might have a time budget of 4 weeks to build a mech. The designers might spend 3 weeks designing the mech, and give the 3D modeler 1 week to build it. This turns out a shitty mech.

Khang asserts that an alternate method is to spend only 3 days designing the mech, and give the rest of the 4 weeks to the 3D modeler to build it! Wow!

I really want to give this method a try. When I was majoring in Design at Carnegie Mellon, they really emphasized the importance of design and innovation. We spent the entire semester doing a bunch of stupid iterations. And by the time to build the model, I would always end up rushing it and doing a shitty job. Perhaps, I should try focusing more of my energy on execution rather than design. This feels like a more practical approach.

Khang Le recommends using tumblr or Pinterest for reference images. People spend years gathering interesting photos and niche subject matter that you won't see on google images.

New Tools I learned
- *select color range* - like selection tool but more custom
-  hue/saturation - isolate specific color channels in drop down menu
- unsharpen mask filter - Craig Mullins uses it to give the illusion of even more detail.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2013 Recap + Reflection

Hey guys. Doing a February recap on 2013.  Late is better than never.

1) Theme Park Design
This year I focused on getting a job at a Theme Park Design company. I worked as a freelance illustrator at three theme park Design firms: Thinkwell Group, Goddard Group and Mousetrappe.

Strategy: I attribute part of my success to being very focused and direct with my portfolio.  I researched dozens of theme park design firms, interviewed people who worked in that industry, and marketed myself effectively by creating industry specific illustrations.

Getting Help:  I only took one art class this year -  with Gary Meyer - an art center  professor who has experience with theme parks illustration. I also sought help from Greg Pro - another theme park professional who was very generous with his time and help. I joined the TEA - a network of theme park professionals - paid $50 in dues. I enrolled in an online class about theme park rides that cost around $75. I paid $700 to attend a theme park design conference in Georgia.

Theme Park Design Conference

Summary: I was strategically investing in my career. I would spend money and time on things that I KNEW would get me one step closer to that job. The decisions I made - such as attending that conference - were very focused and deliberate.

Focus on what's important: I think a lot of students (including myself) waste a lot of time NEEDLESSLY improving their artistic foundation. I think the importance of figure drawing and landscape painting is overvalued in art classes, and overglorified by art instructors. In years prior - I was creating generic concept art that was for games and  movies - which was not relevant for the themed entertainment industry.  I was spending a lot of time with figure drawing, painting, landscape painting, sketching etc… not relevant to the industry.  It's important to focus on the entree, spend less time on side dishes.

2013 Theme Park Portfolio
The last image is for a movie poster illustration. 
**All other images were created specifically to target theme park companies**

2) Legendbrush Name Paintings
Another thing that was a huge part of 2013 was my name painting company. I started the company in Nov 2012, quit my Disneyland job in May 2013 to focus on my own company as well as my Theme Park Illustration portfolio.

As of 2-20-14, I have 82 sales on Etsy, 529 fans on Facebook, and 138 followers on Instagram. I've set up Booth at Orange Country Great Park, Huntington Pier Plaza, Santa Ana Art Walk, Anaheim Art Crawl, Anime Los Angeles, Long Beach Horror and Comic Con + others. I've also did name painting and caricature parties with Party Karacters and Face n Body Art and even Citibank!

I've spent a lot of time growing this company and it's paid off. I no longer regularly set up Booths at Boutiques and farmers markets (while it was really fun, and I got to spend time with friends and family, the income was not predicable and it was physically exhausting). Currently, I almost exclusively sell artwork on Etsy.

My original goal for my company was to go to an Anime/ Comic Con as an artist alley - and I've fulfilled that wish already. I also wanted expand my artistic horizons by familiarizing myself with many different randoms and genres, as well as gain experience in marketing, accounting and running a business.

3) Books
I spent a lot of 2013 reading a LOT of books. It's mostly self-help, psychology, business, and spirituality. My relationship with my ex-girlfriend ended in March, and much of the rest of that year was spent soul searching and understanding life.

Book on Empathy and Love
I Thought It Was Just Me by Brene Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Heart of Love by Dr John F. Demartini
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

Books on Achievement
The Charge by Brendon Buchard
Life's Golden Ticket by Brendon Buchard
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J Ratey, MD
Blue Ocean Strategy W. Chan Kim , Renee Mauborgne
Magic of Thinking Big by Dr. David J Schwartz
The Magic by Rhonda Byrne 
4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris
4 Hour Chef by Tim Ferris

Books on Happiness and Contentment
Ruling Your World by Sakyoung Miphram Ripoche
Power of Now by Eckart Tolle
Soul of Money by Lynne Twist

Holy crap! I've read a LOT of books. I post a lot of my notes and reflection on my other blog: Practicing Humility

4) Other Notable Mentions

I co-founded a weekly art blog with Erik Ly called "Every Sunday Post." We currently have 330 posts,  around 5-10 active members and we have been active for almost a year! 

Massive Black Art Workshop 2013 in LA with some dope art instructors.

Ran 10 miles at Tough Mudder with my friend Eder. Lake Tahoe and SF visit. During training I also increased my max bench press by 20 lbs (135lb -> 155lb).

Yeah it's been a very great year!  A lot of people have helped me. It hasn't been all easy, but I've certainly learned a lot. 

For theme park illustration, I want to focus on speed and getting more work. I really hope to work a full-time position at a studio - where I would have fun and really enjoy my job. I would like to create 30-50 new illustration by the end of this year. I will need to develop a plan to get to that level. :)

For Legendbrush, it's been a really successful year. I want to do a line of positive affirmation name paintings because I feel like that could have a big impact on other people's lives. I have Anime Expo coming up in July - which will be fun.  But ultimately, I want my theme park gigs to bring in more money so I don't have to worry about doing so many name paintings. :)

For books, I've read and absorbed so much knowledge. I want to take time to digest and really apply that information into my daily life. I also want to write a book this year, compile, analyze and create meaning connections with the information that will help other people. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Frozen and Star Wars Name Paintings

Hey guys - in case you didn't know, I have this thing going on called "Legendbrush" - it's the name for my name painting business. Here are some paintings for you guys to check out. I've uploaded my process and video onto youtube as well. :)

Frozen Name Painting

Star Wars name painting

I'm also doing a fundraiser. I'm going to Guatemala in January to paint a mural for an orphanage. This is the donation link:  Please check it out. :)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Massive Black Workshop LA 2013

Hello. Wow - I haven't written on this blog in a really long time. I haven't posted any concept artwork in an even LONGER time. I've kind of have been neglecting this blog. Instead of this blog, I've been posting my artwork on facebook for the comments and likes, and I've also been posting on this private sketchblog for something that avoids the public eye. I think I want to start posting my artwork on this blog again. I'm not sure why, but I feel like I want to come back.

Overall Event Experience
I just got back from the Massive Blackworkshop in LA. It took place at this studio lot in Manhattan Beach where they were filming movies. They rented out a big room and separated the room into 10 other rooms with black drapes. The workshop was a Las Vegas-quality buffet of elite designers and artists. They had 14 instructors teaching at the SAME time for 3 days + 1 day of portfolio reviews. There was a digital section where 6 artists were demoing at the same time on different screens. There was a tradition section where there were lives models and traditional oil painting demos. And there were 4 more private rooms where the instructors would talk.  a It was a magnificent deal to get all that instruction for $200! Because SO MUCH stuff was going on (90 classes over 3 days), it was very overwhelming.

Some suggestions for Massive Black:
- Have a host introduce each instructor to formally start/end each class. I feel like this is more respectful to the teachers, and it makes the workshop seem more professional and organized to the students.
- FEWER classes and fewer selections. Simple is good. So students don't have to sacrifice one class for another.
- Fewer rooms, but BIGGER rooms so more students don't have to stand or sit on the floor.
- Microphones for the teachers! So we can hear them and students can learn better!
- Have predictable and consistent start/end times of workshops. So it's rational and organized.
- Name badges w/ lanyards to improve networking!

I think the workshop was absolutely great! Again $200, Massive Black was very GENEROUS in providing such an enormous amount of instruction and education. I was told by the organizer that teachers were not paid at all for teaching the workshops, and they taught for FREE.

My Purpose
I came to the workshop to improve 3 things in my concept art. Speed, Stamina and Ideas. I typically can paint a really good illustration in about 50 hours. However, in a studio environment, I'm expected to complete an illustration in about 8 hours! (that's a 500% INCREASE in speed) If I try really hard, I amp up my speed and do it for one day. By the end of the week after going at breakneck speed, I'm exhausted and my stamina is depleted. My ability to generate good ideas is about gone as well. It feels very discouraging and not fun at all. I know creating illustrations in 1 day is definitely possible, and here are some advice and notes on what I gained from the instructors. 

James Paick
James did a digital painting demo and I got the chance to show him my portfolio . 
He told me that my stuff was good and my speed will definitely increase with practice and will more mileage. I told him sometimes I feel so discouraged to take on such a daunting task of creating an illustration. He encouraged me to break down the process in a little more manageable steps - eg) sketches and so on... "Pretend like you are the client." :)

Mathias Verhasselt
I didn't get a chance to show Mathias my portfolio, but I did get an opportunity to talk to him about my situation. His advice was to not be so attached to my work. Sometimes I get really attached and invested my ideas - which is a good and bad thing. But if you care so much about every little detail and want to spend time researching every little thing - you will never finish your painting... He said. I thought this was great advice, because I'm used to putting a lot of thought and energy into each of my designs - and it's getting to the point where it's holding me back from producing from work and gaining more mileage!

Shaddy Safadi
His presentation was exactly what I needed. I thought he was one of the BEST presenters. He had a powerpoint presentation and spoke in a way that was engaging, informative, entertaining and educational.  During his presentation Shaddy covered 4 things that a professional concept artist should have: Cheatyness, Sexiness, Classiness, and Storytelling

1) Cheatyness  

Environment Photo Reference
He shows us a picture of a magnificent water - and asks us if we can design a waterfall that is better than that. And the reality is.. you can't really design something that looks better than something that is created by Mother Nature. But we can use it as a starting point and grow from there. 

In Eytan Zana's demo - he doesn't use "photo textures." He just uses the photo in the painting! He says... Find a photo of EXACTLY what you are trying to paint, and use that photo in your painting.  Use smart blur and/or cutout filter to make it look more painterly.  Use warp tool, hue saturation, transform to disguise the photo. If necessary paint over the photo a little bit to make it sexier - you will usually need to do this. 

Figure Photo ReferenceShaddy doesn't recommend painting figures from photos. He recommends putting photos of the character in your painting and just painting on top of them. Always use photo reference. Take your own pictures. Spend 1-2 hours doing a photo shoot or finding one on the internet. It is faster than wasting 1-2 days painting a badly drawn figure. Sometimes, your reference can even INFORM your composition - instead of your composition informing what kind of reference you get! This is similar to industrial design - where you sometimes let the materials and manufacturing process inform how things are designed, instead of letting the design inform the materials. It's a nice balancing act - and that is where the design and artistry comes in. 

How to painting a dragon (by Eytan Zana)During portfolio reviews, this dude had a dragon in his painting. Obviously, dragons don't exist! Eytan recommend find a picture of a turtle/ or reptile that is suitable for the composition. Warp it. Scale down the texture. Make the eyes smaller. And there is a photo real dragon. 

3D Models
- Anything architectural, hard surface --> Model it in 3D. It's quicker and more accurate. When doing architecture, it's easier to get an accurate scale.
- Eytan downloads 3D models from Google warehouse. You can render and light it too. 

Other artists do cheat too!
Shawn Barber will "transfer" the photo onto his canvas. Basically print it out big, graphite on the back and trace it onto the canvas. 

Jaime Jones - will cut out a silhouette of the horse from a photo. Lock that layer. Paint that horse from reference. 

Karla Ortiz - paints the figure from the reference photo - pretty much exactly, but adding artistic flair and sexiness. The figure was not painted from IMAGINATION people! Use photo reference.

Work on the last 10%
These professional artists use photos so they are 90% done with the painting. And then they do the last 10% by hand and make it sexy. If you are doing 90% of the painting by hand, by the time you do the last 10% of the painting - you are already tired. Not to mention it takes a lot longer. It's basically unfair, and Shaddy is basically showing us the tools that help level the playing field. We should work on the last 10% - that's what separates the good from the great right? :)

2) Sexiness
Look at another artist who is better than you and have their artwork up on your computer so you can compare and make yours as good as theirs. Get inspired! Shaddy brings up people like Jaime Jones, and Macie Kuciara.  Since I do theme park work, I might look at people like Eric Heshong and Greg Pro. Theme park illustrations tend to look a bit more old school. But I have the feeling it's going to start to go towards a more cinematic photo-real style. 

- Shaddy recommends just copying ONE artists style. He doesn't recommend combining 2 different styles together and making it your own. He says that when you like an artist's style - it's because you like the entire style - not just part of it. I kind of disagree with Shaddy on this part. But I can see it being easier and more efficient to mimic one artist at a time. 

3) Classiness
- Don't have too many things in your composition - like normal concept art. Clients want too many things in a single painting.  But Shaddy recommends that we improve the state of concept art. Keep your composition simple and cinematic. 
- Eytan recommends using screengrabs from film/TV for that realistic classy cinematic feeling. 

4) Storytelling
 Use storytelling to inform decisions your piece. What is the focal point? Design your composition to point to your focal point. Make your read very simple and clear.

Other Words of Wisdom from Shaddy

Have an opinion. Tell me what looks good. I trust you. 
In art school, we are kind of taught to mindless do a large number of thumbnails for exploration. It's not necessary - Shaddy says. As a concept artist, you should be able to know what looks good, and present that to your client or your boss. You should have good taste - and that is what you are being paid for. 

You gotta climb back down to go high
Shaddy shows improving in art as a series of mountains. I really this analogy because artistic improvement is not a linear process. You don't always get better - sometimes you will need to be bad because you get good - repeatedly. When I transitioned from traditional to digital, it was a very difficult process because I felt like I had to climb down the mountain and give up my tricks to learn new techniques. And that's fine. Now, I'm going to need to learn 3D software to bring my artwork to the next level. And I'm going to be a beginner again.

- Work huge 6000 pixels then shrink it down. Then apply sharpen filter, so people can't see how you did the photobashing.
- make custom shape for vectorized textures.
- cartoony can be stylized but still be photorealisitc - pixar, disney, dreamworks movies and astonishing levels of detail in their models.
- to render, paint things in ambient light, and then curves/mask on another layer for sunlight effect.
- for better fog. airbrush. lock it and paint various colors without changing transparency. 

Alberto Mielgo
He is a badass. This was his first time doing a class/ demonstration. It was an honor to have him there. He talked a little about the importance of using photo reference. He paints everything by hand and uses Photoshop in a very low tech way. He doesn't even color pick from photos - he calls that "bullshit." His presentation was a very stark contrast to Shaddy's presentation. I respect both artists immensely. Alberto is mostly about learning and mastering that technique. He says that people hire him for his stylistic/ animation elements, so I guess the "handpaintedness" is a part of Alberto's brand. It just goes to show that people have a lot of different ways of working and they are all valid. 

Thomas Scholes
A funny dude - the Adam Sandler of concept art. Thomas showed us how to kind of have fun and play while doing concept art. He showed us a couple of improvisational and fun techniques for creating concepts.
- Use 3D in photoshop (available on extended or CC versions)
- rehashing a painting/ flipping it transforming it multiple times for a base for a new painting
- using a lego/ modular/ lincoln log technique to create stuff. 
- use clone stamp tool on a previous painting to create more paintings

Marko Djurovic
Super great designer. He thinks that the character design is about the story first. He just does one iteration of the character and draws it in pencil. That silhouette approach they teach at art school?...  he calls it "fancy masturbation." While that silhouette approach may work for robots or creatures, Marko says you gotta really understand, and research the materials, clothes, culture of the character you are designing. If you are letting the silhouette of the character and the accidental brushstrokes dictate your design - you don't really know what your story is until you make it up. 

Marko's process describes his rendering process similar to an inkjet printer. While someone like Thomas Scholes jumps from one section of the painting to the next, Marko works on one thing on a time until complete. Marko first done a rough sketch in photoshop, does a tight drawing on top of it, and renders it. He first lays in color flats, and then uses the overlay layer to show the form of the character. There is a lot of research and detail that goes into his designs. 

Another interesting thing about Marko is that likes working in a Studio environment. He thrives on the inspiration of other artists. In a group panel, some artists like Thomas Scholes prefers working at home where he can be more free, and other artists like Marko prefers working in a studio space. He just goes to show that there are many different preferences to how and who you work with. 

Loic Zimmerman
I actually sat in on his lecture by accident, but he is someone to watch out for. He showed us his post VFX for movies, 3D model, 2D concept art, fine art and photography! Holy shit - he knows everything. I thing the role of the commercial artists is constantly being redefined and evolving. Loic is a great example. During the portfolio review day, Loic gave me one of the best portfolio review of my life. He is keen in the study of materials, optics, physics - because he did 3D modeling. However, he also gave me a critique on the illustration picture making techniques at the SAME time - cuz he can do that as well. This just foreshadow that the level of knowledge and skill that a concept artists needs to know is just going to keep growing. Those who don't evolve are probably going to get left behind. 

Things to do
- redo portfolio with notes from workshop
- learn 3D (sketchup/ maya/ modo)
- have fun and do what you like. :)