Saturday, October 19, 2013

Anthony Jones Workshop Notes

Today I attended a free 4-hour Anthony Jones workshop hosted by Thomas Brillante of the Art Institute of San Bernidino. Anthony is a very engaging, thought provoking and inspiring speaker. Anyone who has seen his work knows that Anthony is super badass - so I'm not going to go into what his credits are. During the workshop, he shared his insights on hard work, the concept art industry and did a couple of demos to show how he works.

Anthony started out as a plumber and quit to go make computer games. He went to the Art Institue to study computer programming, but then switched to game art.

What is really interesting about Anthony is that he is a really passionate gamer. He is a really elite and competitive gamer... apparently. Not only dose this hobby influence his aesthetic taste and art style, Anthony seems to use a lot of the strategies and skills he gained from getting good at video games to get good at concept art.

Anthony and I are acquaintances and have a lot of mutual friends.  I remember one of his friends jokingly said about Anthony "He treats photoshop like an Korean Starcraft player treats his build order." It was meant to be some sort of a derogatory comment (even though Anthony IS half Korean). However, that description very aptly summarizes why Anthony is so good at art. Anthony wants to get better at concept art like a gamer wants to be better at competitive gaming. He seeks ways to improve himself and beat out the competition, whether it be in the quality of his artwork, the mastery of his tools, and the speed he is able to pump out designs.

Master your tools 
The first tip Anthony told us in the workshop was to "master your tools." There are many people who say that they are good at pencil and paper but not at digital (I am experienced that struggle firsthand). Anthony says the reason why is that pencil and paper is super simple, and photoshop is super duper complicated. Photoshop is a thousand dollar program with a billion different functions, where as pencil and paper is a lot more simpler. Driving is a car is a lot more complicated than riding a bike.

Anthony spent a good deal telling us how important it is for us as student to really understand Photoshop and it's functions. He emphasized that the screen should only contain menus and windows that we usually use, and that actions that we regularly use should all be converted into hotkeys to lessen the interruption of "flow" when we are creating artwork.

If you have ever played a competitive game like Starcraft, you understand how important it is for a good player to memorize all the hot keys and convert them into muscle memory. Speed is essential fast paced competitive games such as Starcraft. You can assume that Anthony embraces that level of speed and proficiency in his utilization of Photoshop as well.

Good AND Fast 
Anthony has a reputation for being a very fast concept artist. Anthony's teacher once told him: "If you want to get paid a lot as an artist, you got to be good OR fast". Anthony said to himself... "What if you are good AND fast?"

Anthony talked about having an defining experience dring a Steve Huston workshop - a world renowned fine art painter. He experienced his epiphany moment when Steven created a fully rendered torso painting in 20 minutes. "Wow - I need to be like that" - Anthony said to himself.

Anthony says that speed comes from an understanding of fundamentals. When Steve was painting, every stroke and line was intentional and deliberate. Another artist Anthony praises is Bob Ross, who he thinks is a phenomenal traditional speed painter.

Juggling the 3 balls
Anthony compares painting to juggling. There are many things that he is thinking about. The basic tools of drawing: anatomy, form, perspective etc... are like breathing to him. Those are things that he internalizes and does subconsciously. On top of that are the 3 challenge in concept art.

1) Design: One of the most raw forms that design lives in is lineart.
2) Value:  black and white rendering
3) Color

These are three distinct realms, but you can sometimes can juggle 2 or 3 balls at a time to save time. Anthony combines the design/ value phase together so he designs and does the greyscale rendering at the same time. The color stage is secondary and does it after the value is completed.

Of course, it is perfectly okay to just juggle one ball at the time and do the 3 challenges one step at a time. Anthony says that how it started out. Currently, I'm juggling one ball at a time when I'm doing my illustrations as well.

So I asked Anthony, what is his biggest struggle as a concept artist? He said he struggled most with "complacency." Because he has a full-time job and a family, he says that it's sometimes hard to set aside time to keep on learning.

Anthony is a great artist. And I can see how tempting it is for someone that good to kick back and get complacent.

Which leads me to a more spiritual question... What is the different between Contentment vs Complacency? You want "contentment" (which is basically gratitude and happiness in life), but you don't want complacency (which is smug satisfaction with ones achievements). It's kind of similar to the question... what is the difference between confidence (which is believe in what you do) and arrogance (thinking you are better than others).


  1. Thanks for sharing some of your notes from this workshop. I took one of Anthony's classes on Schoolism, he is really awesome!

  2. no problem Johan. Thanks for stopping by. :)