Friday, April 27, 2012

Digital color study and figure painting

color study

gotta work on drawing profile views.. man it's hard.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Digital Quick sketch and head painting

Should've done this earlier. Not as bad as I thought. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sean Cheetham and Nathan Fowkes wk 4

5 hr figure painting pose. I was trying to focus on shapes.
Painting looked funny when I stood far away.
Gotta work on drawing and halftones.
The model looked liked Rose's fiance from Titanic.
What do yall think?

2 hr head drawing. Nathan helped me a bit on this one.
Was focusing on halftones. Gotta work more on modeling.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Accomplishments do not determine a person's value

Yesterday - 2 amazing things happened. 
1) ASA won first place in Booth.  Congratulations to 2012 ASA board on a great job! This was really good news - cuz we've got 2nd place the last two years. I wasn't in Pittsburgh this year, but I called them before and after the ceremony - so it kinda felt like I was there. 

2) Later that night - I attended the Art Center Grad Show in Pasadena. Couple of my friends were gradating - and I saw a lot of familiar faces from my ACCD Saturday High classes.

Booth and Art Center. Two of the most monumental times of my life on the same time. 
A lot of people asked me why I didn't go back to Pittsburgh this year. I'm not really sure what was the reason - but I really wanted to stay away. I've worked on Booth for the last 5 years - even when I went back as an alumni! I think I want to know that I can feel worthy and good about myself without "Booth," and having strangers acknowledging me "Booth God." Sure it feels great while you are there - but man, fame goes burns out quicker than a candle's flame. Booth was a great part of my past, but it's time that I move on.

When I was at the Art Center grad show - I was bombarded was all this positive energy and inspiration from all the great work. Seeing my friend's work on the wall reminded me that ... hey I can do it too. 

I'll cut to the point. In the next 2-3 months - you will see an explosion of work. My improvement is going to be unbelievable and the work I'll put out is going to be fucking amazing.  I've been holding back - thinking that I wasn't good enough. I know how to get good - it's not a question of if.. just a matter of when. By my 24th birthday - August 1st - I will be working a full-time studio job as a concept artist - or I will die trying (that's an expression). lol

Lastly, I want to keep in mind that my accomplishments do not determine my value as a person. I used to place a very heavy emphasis on that.  When I did Booth - I was happy and I felt like a winner if we got first place - but I would feel like a failure and sulked for the whole year if we got 2nd. Same thing at Art Center, I would judge people based on the quality of the work. That was the mentality I used to have. 

I am not currently working at a studio job right now, nor do I think my work is at a level that I consider "industry standard."  However, I accept where I am right now in my life. I have control over how hard I work, what my portfolio looks like and how many companies I send my portfolio to. I do NOT have control over whether or not a company will hire me. And I will NOT let someone else determine my value as a person. I will NOT let the quality of my work determine my value as a person. And... even if I do end up getting a great job and make a lot of money, I will NOT let myself be arrogant and think that I am better than other people whose work is not as good as mine. 

Signed - Chris Chien

Bill Perkins Figure Painting & Magenta Light Study

yes! (here click for original)

using my additional monitor as a light source. fucking hard.

Under the Old Sky

This was my entry for the Blue Canvas "New Beginnings" competition.

In a post-apocalyptic era, pollution and global warming have torn the earth to pieces. Mankind rebuilds civilization as an agricultural community. He humbles himself to the destructive power of mother nature and cherishes the earth as his ancestors once did. A new beginning but an old tradition.

This piece is definitely my most technically proficient digital illustration to date. It took me about 1 month to grab a good concept and composition - that's with teacher guidance. After I did a fully detailed line drawing, it took me another 50 or so hours to actually render it.

This probably isn't the most exciting piece of art - but I'm really satisfied with the way I used reference and layers to get a really clean look. I'm pretty happy with that.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Progress on goals

I think it's a very desirable and useful behavior to be able to set goals and actually accomplish them. These are some goals that I have set out to accomplish.

1) MORE JUICE Started 6.22.2011
My goal was to do art more. Last June, I was only drawing 10-15 hours/ week.  For about a year, I tracked the number of hours I've been drawing. Last week, I hit my personal record of 52 hours in a week. I currently average 40-50 hours of art in a week. That's 500% of what I started out. I'm proud to say that this project has been a tremendous success.

Changing my behavior was no simple task. I had to frequently readjust my plans and lifestyle, balance work, play, exercise and sleep. It was a mental and physical challenge. I'm very happy that I was able to keep at this goal for such an extended period of time. 

2) ART IS LIKE A SPORT Started 11.22.2011
This was a campaign to get some base mileage for my Production Painting class with Mathais. My goal was to get better at digital painting and specifically environment design. The idea was to create 72 environment paintings based on a set genre and location. I only was able to accomplish 1/3 of what I originally set out but I improved with the 24 paintings I did finish. I'm okay with not finishing this project, since I feel it is more important to get 10 extraordinary portfolio pieces rather than 72 adequate ones. I think that was the biggest lesson - I should take more time making something looking really good, rather than little time and make it mediocre.

3) 1000 ENVIRONMENT Started 3.19.2011
This was another campaign to get good at drawing and painting environments.  I think I created about 200 environments for this project and I had a great time with it. However, I want to work on more detailed, finished pieces than just creating 1-2 hour studies.

4) CONCEPT ART Started 3.23.12
I realized I had never set a goal to get good at "concept art," which is what I want to get a job in. So while I was getting good at figure drawing and landscape painting, that wasn't helping that much.
My new goal is to get really really good at concept art!! I want my work to look just as good or better than that stuff in those "Art of" books, and be featured on
Here I go!!

Sean Cheetham and Nathan Fowkes Wk 3

Week three of my Sean and Nathan combo at LAAFA.  Sean's long pose class focuses on likeness and accuracy, and Nathan class focuses on simplicity. A powerful combo targeting both ends of the spectrum.

5 hr pose

watercolor figure studies. 3-5 minutes

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Bill Perkins Color Workshop Notes

Hey just finished up a Bill Perkins workshop this weekend. 2 days - 14 hours - $295. I think it's basically like his CDA class condensed into 2 days. Not a bad deal since I've been trying to accelerate my education and get a concept art job ASAP.

1) Notan vs Form (Chiarscuro)
Bill started off the class by covering this topic. Many art students only learn chiarscuro (still life with a strong light source), so they struggle when they have to do a noton painting (local color on an overcast day). Notan is basically using local colors and blocking in shapes. Bill says that even Sargent was a notan painter. Of course everything is a combination of form and notan. Sometimes one is more dominant than the other - and it's good to keep in mind which one is dominant. Bill had us practice the two extremes first, and had us combine the two ways of thinking in the end.

2) Major Key, Minor Key
The Major Key of a painting describes if it is overall light or dark in value. A very dark painting is considered low key, while a very light painting is considered high key. In the middle is full value.
The Minor Key of a painting describes it's value contrast within the major key. A painting could be either high contrast or low contrast.

If you put it in a matrix - you basically have 4 combinations.
High key, high contrast: Happy and Bright. think Disney
High key, low contrast: Ethereal, think anime
Low key, high contrast: very sad and dark, think emo
Low key, low contrast: very stark and striking, think crime noir

3) Commitment and Mindset
Bill only mentioned this briefly - but I think this is worth a lot. This is a trick to alter your mind and improve your habits. When you mix any color, think: "I'm going to mix that beautiful red," or ""I'm going to mix that beautiful blue," or even "I'm going to mix that beautiful GREY." This way your colors will be beautiful.

I've studied many books on affirmation and the subconscious mind - and this technique have shown to be effective - if you truly believe in it. By have a verbal affirmation, you are triggering your brain to send out positive energy of your intent, and it's likely the color will be more beautiful.

When you are making a painting - write out what you are going to study. For example: I'm going to value to edges. (or value, or color). And SIGN it. I think this is a really good idea. And I'm going to do it every time from now on when I go figure drawing or plein air, or a concept piece. If you've read any articles on weight loss, or books on success - it's always good to have a clear focus of your goal and intent. Unfortunately, Bill have never had his students to actually agree to sign their own contract (losers lol). If you are gung-ho about improving your performance (no matter what you are doing), I'd try it out. :)

4) All day plein air

Bill does this thing where he would paint the same location multiple times in the same day under different light. He would do a 40 minutes color study in the morning that's all foggy, another one at noon when it's all bright, another one at sunset when it's all golden, and one more at night time when it's dark.

When it's dark, you can either take a picture of it and paint indoors, have a night time plein air set up, or use a labtop. I'll be trying this sometime soon. I'll try it next Tuesday. :)

value matrix demo

Bill talking about interlocking shapes.
Notan demo (ambient light)

form demo (direct light)
3 hr bonus demo that I missed cuz i left early.
I'm so sad that I missed out! I love painting asian girls.

workshop photo - bill recommends wearing hats indoors cuz it's gangsta. jk.
wearing hats  indoors cuts down on the glare and improves color perception.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sean Cheetham & Nathan Fowkes Notes Wk 1-2

I have the honor and privilege of studying with two very awesome painters at LAAFA: Sean Cheetham and Nathan Fowkes.  I'll be posting up class notes and homework.

WK 1 & 2 : Portrait Painting with Sean Cheetham
The first week was a demo. Some notes I took included:
- Sean draws using abstract shapes. Doesn't use construction. 
- As far as likeness, exaggerate rather than do generic. Otherwise it just looks more generic later on.
- He washes the shadows with thin paint, and paints the lights opaquely. It gives this "relief" effect.
- Don't stare at the shadows too long, stare at the light and find the value relationship. 
- Don't leave anything on the canvas that is wrong - or it will affect your judgement on other stuff.

My 5 hour painting for week 2.

WK 1 & 2 : Sketching from Life with Nathan Fowkes
This is class is a combination of figure quick sketch, head drawing, costume, animals, and nature. 
Nathan describes 4 challenges of drawing from life:
1) practice: sketchbook everyday
2) time limit: distill complexity to a simple read on the surface in short amount of time.
3) value limitations: cannot draw what you see. You have to edit it down. 
4) perception: simply the complexity. don't exaggerate detail.

Week 1: We first started with drawing basic shapes. Then, we turned them into basic simplified silhouettes. Nathan wanted us to simplify it as much as possible. Finally, we used contours to established a sense of form.
Week 2: We moved into using value. We created positive and negative shapes of the figure - again simplifying it as much as possible. Next, we used simple form shading and a negative black silhouette to accentuate the pose.

Sketching for Environment with Charles Lee - Review

Kazone is a new art school in Irvine, CA. It's kind of like Concept Design Academy in Pasadena, but a lot closer to my house. The teacher's name is Charles Lee - he is one of the owners of the studio. He is nice dude, very approachable and laid back.

Class size is small. There were only 3 students enrolled in the 10 week course, and 3-4 more students are enrolled in the ongoing portfolio prep program, so there are lots of time to ask questions.
Charles does brief demos and informal lectures during the class, but most of the instruction is when Charles works with you one-on-one. He looks at the homework you did and draws on it, demonstrating certain techniques.

This is one of my first class in entertainment design, having done only observational classes for the past year. When he was doing thumbnails, he encouraged me not to think so much about the function, but to just draw interesting shapes, focusing on the size relationships of big, medium and small. I'm used to doing environment sketches and plein air paintings in 2-3 hours, but we worked on detailed line drawings over the course of 3 weeks - which really helped me think in a different way. And because I was taking a production paint class simultaneously, I was able to apply this things I learned in this class with the painting one. 

Charles is the guy on the right.
I kind of wished the class size was bigger.  I felt a weak group energy because there were so few of us and we were all working on different projects. There's not that much peer pressure or competition to motivate you - so you need to be self-driven.

Overall, Charles is a very nice and capable teacher. He is generous in that he would do painting demos even though it's not a painting class. Charles is planning on teaching a speed paining class next semester and I plan on taking it for sure. Let me know if you do sign up so I can get the referral discount. :) Classes start in May.

Production Painting with Mathias Verhasselt - Review

Class work
Mathias is self-taught concept artist who used to do 3-D modeling. He has developed techniques unique to his own. He explains light, color, value not in terms of paint and pigment, but in terms of science and how light particles behave! It seems like he creating form and lighting as a substitute for a 3D program.The methodology in which he creates painting is very precise and intentional. He paints in a way that is unique to Photoshop and the digital medium - instead of treating Photoshop like a substitute for traditional paint.

In the class we creating production paintings - which are basically very detailed environment designs. We started with thumbnails, and worked our way to finished illustrations. His critiques are very solid and full of information.  He will explain exactly why he is doing this and why it's making the concept more interesting and/or read better.

The only thing is that the class is not for beginners. The concepts he teaches are pretty advanced in my opinion. So I would recommend having a pretty good foundation before taking it. Otherwise - it's pretty solid class and you will learn a lot.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Greek Sculpture Study

I'll be doing a series of masterstudies to familiarize myself more with photoshop.
This study is to learn to achieve hard vs soft edges in photoshop. 
My teacher's technique (Mathias Verhasselt) is to just use the soft round brush (opacity jitter on, size jitter off).  Bigger results in softer edges, smaller brush results in harder edges. No variation on the actual "hardness" setting of the brush.

just tracing - only takes 1-2 hours. making notes on where there are hard, soft, crisp, lost edges. riley style!! :D
I realize later my notes are almost useless. lol

this takes another 5 hours. very tedious. Values and color picking.

Refining edges is the hardest stage. the last stage took another 5 hours.  gained a lot of sensitivity on our to use the brush. Nothing can help you except.. perseverance.  Total took probably 10-12 hours.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Carlo Arelanno Workshop

Last week I attended another free workshop featuring Carlo Arelanno.  It was held at the Inland Empire Art Institute. Carlo is a fun guy - he told a lot of jokes. I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop. 

Carlo's approach to design was more on the intangible, innate side. He told us stuff like...
If you were to design a robot or a vehicle, you should want to pilot it yourself.
If you design a cute creature, people should wanna say "aw..." when they see it.
When you are designing a character, you should be able to hear the voice in your head.
Ask yourself, is the design "aspirational?" Is the character someone you want to be?

He uses the Millennium Falcoln as an example of good design. It is a saucer plus a World War II bomber. Obviously, the designer had those things in mind. By using those recognizable elements, you can imbue certain qualities into the design.

Carlos recommends drawing out design, rather than generating loose blobs of paint. He is against generating pages of random black marker silhouettes, an art technique that many schools center their design process around. Again, he suggests that you should have an intent in mind before designing. While blobs of paint can be instrumental for a mood piece (ie Craig Mullins), a modeler usually doesn't know what to do with it unless they are given spec sheets. At his office, concepts artists whose designs are loose and illegible are given the nickname "loose concept" - which has a negative connotation.

 These workshops are hosted by a cool dude named Thomas Brillante at the Inland Empire Art Institute. He hosts these free workshops all the time, like seriously ALL the time.  You will find updates on facebook or art blogs. You will paying at least $120 for a similar workshop at CDA or something. You are dumb if you don't take advantage of this opportunity. Go. 

Cool Youtube video (not from workshop)

LAAFA Workshop Review - Mike Butkus and Rey Bustos

Last March I attended LAAFA's open house. There were two 2hr complimentary demos by Mike Butkus and Rey Bustos. Not only were these presentations tres tres dope - the reception included cake, cookies, strawberries and whipped cream! I know this sounds crazy, but the deliciousness of these snacks rivaled the Porto pastries provided by Estelle at the CDA workshops. :) lol

Mike Butkus did a zombi demo with acrylic and airbrush (left). He also brought in stacks of his original sketches as well as many of his original illustrations. It was inspirational to see how prolific professionals are. One of his tips to young artists was to hang out with other really good artists and learn from them.

Rey Bustos studied from Burne Hogarth himself. He was super excited and share his passion with anatomy with us. He prepared handouts for each one of the students, drew some back muscles, and sculpted the muscles on this little skeleton he made. 

These workshops are easily worth lots of money. LAAFA hosts these free workshops once every quarter - so you should definitely go when you have the chance.