Monday, November 17, 2014

Darren Quach & James Paick workshop at Brainstorm

Yesterday, I attended a Darren Quach + James Paick workshop hosted by Brainstorm school. It was located at James's studio - Scribble Pad studios in Glendale. There were 30 students. And it was a very very small and cozy environment - felt like a Starbucks or coffee shop. The popularity of Brainstorm can be attributed to it's Facebook group - which boasts 15,000+ members, and has recently become popular because of the "Batman" challenge. Brainstorm's first workshop sold out within a couple of days. The Facebook marketing was brilliant - although I don't know if it was done on purpose (if is was... genius!) Facebook marketing is unstable though- groups such as "Daily Spitpaint" or "Viritual Plein Air" seem to be cool for about 1-2 months, but then quickly lose "coolness" as the group loses it's "intimacy" due to too many members. (Or people just get bored)

Signing up for class + Price + Format
Brainstorm School uses the platform Storenvy - which is really easy. You just click and pay online. Very simple. This seems to be the standard nowadays - no more writing checks!
The class was $185 - which is on the higher end of art workshops. CDA has 5 hr workshops for $120. Inland Empire Art Institute offers them fore FREE! However, Brainstorm offered 2 instructors instead of 1 - to justify it's price. Darren did a 3 hour demo. Followed by a 1 hour lunch break. And then James did another 5 hour demo. Followed by a 1 hour Q+A session.

Darren Quach

- Quick sketch. loose
- used free transform tool for about 30 minutes fiddling with proportions.
- Line art
- Colored it in. Add photo bash towards the end.

Notice how the proportions changed dramatcially

Space to Detail Ratio
Cluster your detail, instead of having detail all over the place.
Think about your space to detail ratio. 90:10, 80:20, 70: 30?
Generally larger objects (space shuttles), have a lot of space, and have detail clustered together.
Generally smaller objects (children's toy), have a lot of detail uniformly all over, and little empty space. (exception would be high tech devices such as iPhone/ apple products)

In the demo, Darren clustered his detail around the cockpit - which is where he wants the viewer to look. There is a lot of empty space on the "wing" - where he doesn't want the view to look. Don't have detail uniformly all over the object.

This principle  also applies to environments. A large space to detail ratio gives a scene that EPIC feeling. Currently, I do a LOT of detail all over for my theme park illustrations, I want to move towards a better detail: space proportion.

Line weight trick
Duplicate the layer. Erase the interior lines - where you want lighter line weight. This gives you a line weight variation without haven't to retrace the image.

James Paick

- break workflow down into different parts. Focus only on one part at a time. Easier for brain. This is similar to the way John Park and Khang Le paints. 

- Graphic composition
- 3D space/ topographic layout
- Photobash
- Lighting Pass
- Vehicle/ People elements

graphic shapes

create a layout/ path

transform/ distort

Photo Texture

Lighting pass/ Add props/ Vehicles

What I realize is that James paintings, they don't look that awesome until he does that lighting pass - which is about 75% through his process. When he does the photo bashing, it's really not THAT cool or exciting. But he is patient and methodical, he just works patiently until the painting is ready for the lighting pass and BOOM it's awesome.

This process is almost the reverse of traditional painting. In traditional painting, you kind of do the lighting pass first, and then you work your way into the detail. However, for James' workshop, he does all the detail (photo texture) first, and then does the lighting pass in the finishing stages. 

This process kind of drove me crazy, and made me feel very impatient - but it was actually very efficient for James to work this way and he had a great product in the end. 

Why are you so fast James Paick?

James said he attributed efficient to his personality trait of breaking things down and categorizing things. He used to do martial arts as a kid, and you have to break down and practice the movements one by one, and then you link them together really fast. I guess how that relates is that James practices the individual components of creating a painting separately, and then links them together in the end so it's fluid. 

I can relate this - this is kind of similar to the way I practice popping and dancing. It's just muscle memory. Deconstructing and breaking down steps is also a process really encouraged by Tim Ferris - who is is a master as meta learning. 

How to master any skill by deconstructing it

Other Notes
- Another thing worth mentioning is that James has a strong background of games and always like blueprints as a kid. You may notice above in the "layout" phase - he created a topographic map and free transformed it onto his painting - it was like creating a  blueprint. 
- When deconstructing your workflow - remember to practice all the step. If you have 10 steps, you need to practice and review all of them. Not just the ones you like the most. 

Q + A Session

One of the unique attributes of Brainstorm School is it's smaller size. At the end of the workshop -  we took all the chairs and formed a circle. Then we had an informal discussion where we could ask questions to Darren, James and John. I haven't seen this format done before at other workshop and it felt very valuable. They also did a raffle in the end with some free sketchbooks, prints and hard drives. 

Informal Portfolio Review
After the Q+A session there was an informal portfolio review where students could show the instructors work. I think stuff like Portfolio Reviews could use more formal structure such as lines and time limits and stuff. This part was kind of hectic and unorganized - hence they called it "informal." 


On the contrary - One of the most organized portfolio reviews I've ever seen was hosted by Shaddy Safadi at the Massive Black workshop - he allowed each student to choose only ONE work to critique - and he set a timer of 1 minute on his iPhone. Students could get back in line if they wanted more pieces reviewed - but everyone had the same "1 minute" of critique time. I felt something like that is really effective - and I hope more studios/ schools pick up on that.  

Overall Experience - "House Party not a Club"
The school advertised that lunch would be provided for all students - but that wasn't really true. I asked if there was a vegetarian lunch option - and even though they told me "yes"  TWICE - mind you - lunch was just a platter of turkey wraps from Costco. The staff was pretty helpful and directed me to a Trader Joes which was only about 2 blocks away - and I walked their with a friend who - like me - ALSO had dietary restrictions. Vegetarians are really common nowadays - ESPECIALLY - in the art field. C'mon - keep up with the times Brainstorm. 

This was probably an honest mistake - especially for their first workshop. While James and Darren are very experienced instructors, what they lack is a dedicated admin staff like CDA. It's probably not that big of a deal - especially if you like the fact that James is operating his own art school. This is more like "house" party rather than going to "club" in LA. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

John Park Workshop at Art Institute - Notes


John started the workshop by asking us "what makes a good image"? The students said things like.. design, detail, composition, value, color etc... lots of stuff. John's point was that there SO many things to juggle at one time. His approach was to isolate one element and work on it one at a time.. -> composition -> design -> props etc... Because he kind of works on this artistic principle one at a time - I found his approach to be really improvisational - he was really creating his piece as he goes along - instead of sketch out the rough idea and fleshing it out. This was a very fast and direct approach - he finished his piece in a 2 hours with full detail and polish - with another 1.5 hrs left of the workshop to spare!


I didn't take photos of this segment. But basically John take a cool image, posterized it. 
- duplicate, rotate, scale it -> to make his graphic black and white composition. 
This is similar to method that James Paick & Charles Lee uses for the initial part of his composition. 

UNIQUE VISUAL LANGUAGE - make textures from photos and stuff. 

John recommends creating your own visual library so you aren’t regurgitating the same thing over and over again. Basically, he took a T-rex skull, and made patterns of it so that it became a floor plan, tower, pillar etc...

I can see lots of applications for abstract, sci-fi, fantasy for this technique. In John's line of work - he needs to create a lot of designs for his art director. With this method, he is able to create a visual language that is unique and completely original - cuz he JUST CREATED IT!


John taught us to make props THEN  make the environment.** (Kill 2-3 birds with one stone)
I think this was a valuable lesson - because I feel like it makes the painting feel more authentic then just "stock image" props. In a production environment - you are able to accomplish multiple tasks this way as well!

Other tricks and notes

- John does mostly key frame and mood pieces. 

- do the photo textures, then make a mask for the lighting. 

Soft Shadow for people - dab it and then stretch it out. 
- paint on top of the person. add some stuff. 

- matte painting trick - copy layer gaussian blur and lighten layer. mimic photography. 

- unsharpened mask, and mask out the focal point

This was the demo that John completed for the workshop in 2 hours. The uses of photo textures is really clever. He makes his own photo textures through his unique compositing method. The person in the white has suit is cut out from a photo - but he painted on top of it to add interest. My favorite part of the workshop was when he added that person.  Once he added the guy in - I could understand why John had to do prep work with the environment and made those design choices. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Shading Techniques Class

Hey guys! My friend Chris Legaspi just released his new course in shading and rendering. 
It's called Shading Techniques in Photoshop:

Mr. Legaspi is a good friend and very talented artist and experienced teacher. He teaches at some of the top schools in L.A. including Gnomon of School of Visual FX. He's also written several instructional articles for Imagine FX magazine.

I took a painting class with Mr. Legaspi and he is a cool guy and very generous when it comes to helping people. He's given away free tutorials, videos and articles on his for years.

I just checked out the course today. It's pretty good so far. Very professional.

Check it out. Support a fellow hard working artist. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Figure Invention taught by Lucas Graciano - Notes and Review

Figure Invention at Watts Atelier - taught by Lucas Graciano

"Really great, innovative and fresh drawing exercises!" - reviewed by Chris Chien

This was a special 5- week course at Watts Atelier. It was only $220! What a steal compared to the $600-$700 price tag of CDA. The scenic drive from Irvine to San Diego was beautiful and almost NEVER had any traffic. The students there were very talented and it was a great energy.

That's student work you see on the walls. And...any instructors at the school were also previously students. 

Week 1: Drawing Mannequins

At first I thought this was pretty basic. But I found the exercise very helpful. I'm glad the instructor had us draw from photographs instead of the live model (I find that it's very easy to get distracted by all the details on the live model) It was much easier to concentrate on the task at hand with a simple photograph. You could take your time and really focus on simplifying the form. 

Teacher's Demo

The teacher gave us handouts, and we turned them into mannequin drawings. 

Week 2: Change the pose

In this week's lesson, we mannequin training really paid off. We copied a photo from a photograph and we had to rotate the pose - like it was on a turntable. It was a some guesswork - but if you understood the form correctly - you could do it. It was a great challenge. 

The left and right drawings are different. The left one is drawn according to the drawing. The right one - I reversed the pose (if you look carefully - the legs are different.)

In the left drawing - I drew it according to the model. And the the instructor had us draw the same drawing, but in a slightly higher perspective. 

Week 3: Face. Mastercopy + application

At first - I wasn't sure the purpose of this exercise - but this ended up being my favorite lesson! We did a master copy. And then we stylized the photograph as if that artist did it! Really helped me internalize things and STEAL techniques so it's my own - rather than just copy. 

 Instructor Demo: doing a "Mucha" master copy. During the master copy - he really stressed the importance of going slow and taking your time. Most people rush their master copies and just go for the big picture. But this instructor really instructed us to get the structure down but find the small subtleties as well!

(Left Top) That was my Mucha master copy. 
(Left Bottom) This was a copy of the photographed STYLIZED with what I learned from doing the master copy. This was a SUPER helpful exercise. And really helped me digest what I learned from doing the master copy and put it in use!

Week 4: Drapery from Model

Instructor's Demos: In this lesson - he taught us the 7 different types of folds. He really broke it down. Then when he was teaching us that the folds should really help explain the form. DO NOT COPY WHAT YOU SEE. Sometimes the folds go against the form, or the fold changes as the model moves. But if you understand the different 7 types of folds, you can make it up and it will look realistic. 



Above are my drawings. The lesson was super helpful. Later that week - I drew a cute cosplay girl with a nice dress. I think that week's lesson REALLY helped me make the drawing look so much better. I learned to not just copy the photograph, but interpret in a way that shows the information more clearly. 

Week 5: Draw Model from Memory + Change the Pose

Instructor's demo: This was a GANGSTA lesson. So the model would pose for 5 minutes. And you would just memorize the pose. Then for the next 5 minutes you would draw FROM MEMORY! It was so crazy.  And then to take it even further - you would take the drawing you created, and draw the model from an alternate angel view! Then the model would pose from the back view and you can check to see if you were correct/ make any changes! 

(above) These drawings were created from memory. Afterwards, the model would get back in the pose, and you could make any necessary corrections. This really challenges your brain and pushes your comfort zone!

(above) These were drawings I created. We had to recreate them from memory after staring at the model from 5 minutes. And then translate the drawing to a different angel! In the drawing on the right, the instructor told us to draw the model from a higher up angel! This was really challenging - cuz there was no way to check if you were right or not! 

 Class Pros & Cons/ Observations

- Only $220! Great Deal for 5 weeks. I don't feel like a 5 week course is inferior to a 10 week course  you probably will learn the most important essentials anyways.

- Class is not reoccurring. The school constantly changes it's course schedule from term to term. So you won't be able to get the same deal/ take the same class I did.

- Small class size - about 10 students.

- Great Handouts every class! The class was well structured and the teacher was very organized.

- No homework/ critique. Is this a good thing or bad thing? You decide. You can show the teacher some of your work during the breaks - but there really isn't a formal time for it.

- Very solid classes. Each lesson had a different theme and lesson - so you were learning something NEW each week - with practical exercises that you could do at home.

- I was a little annoyed that people kept asking me how many classes I was taking. The culture at Watts is that students take 3-5 classes a term. And students don't have any homework. I come from a culture where you do a minimum of 3+ hours of homework for every 1 hour of class (at least that's the expectation at Art Center and Carnegie Mellon). It seems strange to me that students and instructors glorify the class hours - and skimp on the homework hours. But whatever - it's just very their school's culture. You can always do extra homework on your own time.

- Despite what I just said previously, most of the students have very exceptional skill from taking lots of classes.  In my opinion, the collective technique skill of the students (in terms of figure drawing) is superior to that Concept Design Academy, Kazone, 3 Kicks Art Studio and LAAFA. You can easily reason that it's their primary focus and hence their strength.  The advantage is that you are surrounded that a higher level of talent and that pushes you more. I would definitely go to Watts to learn figure drawing - and go to another school to learn perspective, digital illustration, concept art and stuff.

Had a great time with the class. I take classes at Watts every once so often. While the San Diego drive is scenic - it's still long 60 minute drive from my house. I think these fine art classes are good for refreshing your art muscles - but there will always be a jump between academic drawing and commercial illustration - and it's up to the student to make that jump. Instructors who tell you that landscape painting and figure drawing will directly help you get a job are... probably just trying to get you to take more classes with them. lol

 I really enjoyed the class and I had a lot of fun. I would recommend you taking the class - except it's not offered next term - and there is no way of predicting when it will be offered. lol. :) Good luck.