Saturday, February 22, 2014

Khang Le Workshop and Notes

Today - I've had the privilege of attending a Khang Le workshop. He is a very famous concept artist and I've been following his artwork since high school.

The Current Situation of the Concept Artist 
Khang starts off the workshop by discussing today's current concept artists. He says that the modern concept artist is more like a music DJ. DJ's don't create the music themselves, they know the feeling and mix and mash different music together. Similarly, today's concept artist use photos and 3D models to create the illustration. They do not paint the illustration from scratch.

Concept art is slowly becoming more like production work. Concept artists now need to do motion graphics and use 3D programs like zBrush. I've been hearing the same thing from many different industry artists at the Massive Black workshop. The bottom-line is painting in Photoshop isn't going to cut it anymore.

Abstract Painting Method Demo
1) create an abstract composition with simple greyscale values and GRAPHIC shapes.
 2) Overlay with a finished painting he previously did until you get something you like.
- This is a method that surprises you. Even you don't know where it's going.

This workflow helps with a couple of things:
a) You don't have to sit around and do thumbnails/ color studies
b) There is already "free"photo texture in your painting before you start.  In addition, using photos will push you to design in directions you didn't think about before.
c) You can use the "noise" to inspire you in your image. Keep what works, and paint over what doesn't work. In my opinion, this method saves you a lot of brain power. Assuming appropriate style and subject matter.

Abstract shapes with overlay of Khang's previously done sci-fi painting

Khang does a lot of what some people might call "cheating."He will paint something one time, and then duplicate it over and over with different sizes and values. Even the "people" of the image were created using a "people" brush with "size jitter. This method allowed him to create multiple people of different sizes. He just erased and adjusted some limbs to give the illusion of variety. He will also use the same part of the image, and use it as texture for other parts of the images.

This method accomplishes multiple things:
1) establishes perspective
2) saves time and energy
3) helps created a unified form language and color pallets
3) Most importantly… it feels less "precious." By not investing as much time into each part of the painting, he is that he would free to paint over, delete, or cover up any part of the painting without feeling too bad. He is willing to sacrifice a small part of the painting for the greater good of the illustration. This is easier when not much time were invested in a single part of the painting.

Khang said "The most important thing is that you are willing to lose any part of your painting. It's not precious. If it doesn't work - just take it out. Work smart. Don't' work too hard." 

Khang repeats elements of his paint. This saves time and energy. In addition, it create unity of form language and color within the illustration.
People respond to polish, not innovation. 
Khang has a really refreshing insight on the matter of execution. He recommend that when taking on a task - don't be overly ambitious. Have it be about 70% of what you max capability is. This way you can finish the job, and not be too mentally exhausted. Use the other 30% of the time to polish the painting.

For example, a game studio might have a time budget of 4 weeks to build a mech. The designers might spend 3 weeks designing the mech, and give the 3D modeler 1 week to build it. This turns out a shitty mech.

Khang asserts that an alternate method is to spend only 3 days designing the mech, and give the rest of the 4 weeks to the 3D modeler to build it! Wow!

I really want to give this method a try. When I was majoring in Design at Carnegie Mellon, they really emphasized the importance of design and innovation. We spent the entire semester doing a bunch of stupid iterations. And by the time to build the model, I would always end up rushing it and doing a shitty job. Perhaps, I should try focusing more of my energy on execution rather than design. This feels like a more practical approach.

Khang Le recommends using tumblr or Pinterest for reference images. People spend years gathering interesting photos and niche subject matter that you won't see on google images.

New Tools I learned
- *select color range* - like selection tool but more custom
-  hue/saturation - isolate specific color channels in drop down menu
- unsharpen mask filter - Craig Mullins uses it to give the illusion of even more detail.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2013 Recap + Reflection

Hey guys. Doing a February recap on 2013.  Late is better than never.

1) Theme Park Design
This year I focused on getting a job at a Theme Park Design company. I worked as a freelance illustrator at three theme park Design firms: Thinkwell Group, Goddard Group and Mousetrappe.

Strategy: I attribute part of my success to being very focused and direct with my portfolio.  I researched dozens of theme park design firms, interviewed people who worked in that industry, and marketed myself effectively by creating industry specific illustrations.

Getting Help:  I only took one art class this year -  with Gary Meyer - an art center  professor who has experience with theme parks illustration. I also sought help from Greg Pro - another theme park professional who was very generous with his time and help. I joined the TEA - a network of theme park professionals - paid $50 in dues. I enrolled in an online class about theme park rides that cost around $75. I paid $700 to attend a theme park design conference in Georgia.

Theme Park Design Conference

Summary: I was strategically investing in my career. I would spend money and time on things that I KNEW would get me one step closer to that job. The decisions I made - such as attending that conference - were very focused and deliberate.

Focus on what's important: I think a lot of students (including myself) waste a lot of time NEEDLESSLY improving their artistic foundation. I think the importance of figure drawing and landscape painting is overvalued in art classes, and overglorified by art instructors. In years prior - I was creating generic concept art that was for games and  movies - which was not relevant for the themed entertainment industry.  I was spending a lot of time with figure drawing, painting, landscape painting, sketching etc… not relevant to the industry.  It's important to focus on the entree, spend less time on side dishes.

2013 Theme Park Portfolio
The last image is for a movie poster illustration. 
**All other images were created specifically to target theme park companies**

2) Legendbrush Name Paintings
Another thing that was a huge part of 2013 was my name painting company. I started the company in Nov 2012, quit my Disneyland job in May 2013 to focus on my own company as well as my Theme Park Illustration portfolio.

As of 2-20-14, I have 82 sales on Etsy, 529 fans on Facebook, and 138 followers on Instagram. I've set up Booth at Orange Country Great Park, Huntington Pier Plaza, Santa Ana Art Walk, Anaheim Art Crawl, Anime Los Angeles, Long Beach Horror and Comic Con + others. I've also did name painting and caricature parties with Party Karacters and Face n Body Art and even Citibank!

I've spent a lot of time growing this company and it's paid off. I no longer regularly set up Booths at Boutiques and farmers markets (while it was really fun, and I got to spend time with friends and family, the income was not predicable and it was physically exhausting). Currently, I almost exclusively sell artwork on Etsy.

My original goal for my company was to go to an Anime/ Comic Con as an artist alley - and I've fulfilled that wish already. I also wanted expand my artistic horizons by familiarizing myself with many different randoms and genres, as well as gain experience in marketing, accounting and running a business.

3) Books
I spent a lot of 2013 reading a LOT of books. It's mostly self-help, psychology, business, and spirituality. My relationship with my ex-girlfriend ended in March, and much of the rest of that year was spent soul searching and understanding life.

Book on Empathy and Love
I Thought It Was Just Me by Brene Brown
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
The Heart of Love by Dr John F. Demartini
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson

Books on Achievement
The Charge by Brendon Buchard
Life's Golden Ticket by Brendon Buchard
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J Ratey, MD
Blue Ocean Strategy W. Chan Kim , Renee Mauborgne
Magic of Thinking Big by Dr. David J Schwartz
The Magic by Rhonda Byrne 
4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris
4 Hour Chef by Tim Ferris

Books on Happiness and Contentment
Ruling Your World by Sakyoung Miphram Ripoche
Power of Now by Eckart Tolle
Soul of Money by Lynne Twist

Holy crap! I've read a LOT of books. I post a lot of my notes and reflection on my other blog: Practicing Humility

4) Other Notable Mentions

I co-founded a weekly art blog with Erik Ly called "Every Sunday Post." We currently have 330 posts,  around 5-10 active members and we have been active for almost a year! 

Massive Black Art Workshop 2013 in LA with some dope art instructors.

Ran 10 miles at Tough Mudder with my friend Eder. Lake Tahoe and SF visit. During training I also increased my max bench press by 20 lbs (135lb -> 155lb).

Yeah it's been a very great year!  A lot of people have helped me. It hasn't been all easy, but I've certainly learned a lot. 

For theme park illustration, I want to focus on speed and getting more work. I really hope to work a full-time position at a studio - where I would have fun and really enjoy my job. I would like to create 30-50 new illustration by the end of this year. I will need to develop a plan to get to that level. :)

For Legendbrush, it's been a really successful year. I want to do a line of positive affirmation name paintings because I feel like that could have a big impact on other people's lives. I have Anime Expo coming up in July - which will be fun.  But ultimately, I want my theme park gigs to bring in more money so I don't have to worry about doing so many name paintings. :)

For books, I've read and absorbed so much knowledge. I want to take time to digest and really apply that information into my daily life. I also want to write a book this year, compile, analyze and create meaning connections with the information that will help other people.