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.
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 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." :)
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!
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
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.
- 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? :)
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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. :)