Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Massive Black Workshop Review

In April 9-12 I attended the Massive Black workshop in San Francisco. I had a blast! I'm writing this review to inform other people what it's like, and for my own future reference.

It was for 4 days - costs around $400. What's really special about the workshop is that it's an immersive experience.  There were roughly around 300-400 people at the workshop. You go to about 4-5 classes everyday for 3 days, and there is a portfolio review on the last day. You are surrounded by other really hungry art students eager to learn and lots of art instructors ready to teach. The students and instructors come from all over the country, including Germany and France so - and there's a really strong and eager vibe among everybody.

I felt like I learned a lot by not learning very much. The instructors were doing very basic things such drawing, form, design, using lots of reference - stuff that I've already been taught. What's different is the conviction to which they do.

For example, in Yoahnn Schepacz workshop, he showed us that the design process is not always linear. He is like 90% done with the painting. In the last minute, he repaints half of the painting - which seems kind of sad, but in the end it looks 10x better than it did more.  It sounds like he wasted a lot of time, but he told us the mistakes he made earlier informed the final design. Sometimes you learn things a lot better and the lesson is much stronger when you make mistakes, rather than getting it right on the first try. 

Portfolio Review "There is no shame in spending 50 hrs on a piece."
During the portfolio review, I felt like I got torn to shreds. It was great because I felt like I was plateauing and needed somewhere to go. What made the review different from a classroom setting was that I felt like the professionals were bringing me up to their level, versus how a teacher treats you like a student.

A good piece of advice they gave me while looking at my work: "This is really good. How long did you take to finish this piece?" "50 hours." "This piece isn't so good, how long did you spend on it?" "Only 20 hours." "Dude, just spend more time on your pieces. There is no shame is spending 50 hours on a piece."

The feedback was very straightforward and constructive. They would point to a piece. Hey this piece is very good. Just do it like this more often. The underlying vibe was: "C'mon man, just don't do shitty work man. Get reference, spend more time of your work, and you'll get a good job."

Not everything was great though. The workshop was held at Art Academy University - which was a questionable venue. They had more than enough instructors, but the classrooms were way too small. There were 8 classes going on at same time (2 on basement, 3 on the first floor, and 3 more classes on the 3rd floor). Therefore, when you are attending 1 lecture, you kinda feel like you are missing out on the other 7. In addition, the classrooms were so small that they typically were filled to capacity. You had to line up 30 minutes beforehand to score a standing spot in the classroom. And since there were so many things going on at the same time, the schedule was absolutely confusing to look it. It was hard to tell who was teaching where and in what classroom. I did talk to the workshop organizer and gave her some of my feedback. She was really reasonable and listened to what I had to say. I'm looking forward to coming back next week and seeing what improvements have been made. 

Overall Experience
My overall stay in San Francisco was wonderful. There was lots of beautiful architecture and I did lots of little plein air paintings. I stayed at a hostel - and it was only $30/ night. It was called "Pacific Tradewinds Hostel." It was so fun. It was great meeting people of all different art styles and backgrounds. I definitely recommend going out and traveling.
The Jason Chan

The Wesley Burt
Kekai Kotaki
SF at night

Wed Burt Demo 
Jason Chan Demo
Chillin at the Hostel!


  1. Hi Chris, nice seeing your review up of the Massive Black Workshop, and it was great meeting you! Your blog is pretty awesome and it was great chatting with you, you're really inspiring you know. :) Good luck in everything and I'm looking forward to reading more of your reviews and tips!

  2. Hey Julianne! thanks for stopping by the blog. hey sorrry - i can't put a face to your name. were you the girl sitting in the back with me during the kekai workshop??

    1. No prob! Nah, we were chatting while waiting for Carl Dobsky's Perspective lecture but I think you left to go to another workshop.

    2. hey good seeing you at disneyland!! i hope u guys remembered to pick up your picture! how come there isn't an email on your website??