Sunday, October 18, 2015

How I "magically" improved my 3 pointers / Growth Hacking

Today I made 10 3-pointers in 2 minutes 3 seconds!! I don't keep track of my percentage, I just timed myself how long it takes because it is easier. Just 4 weeks ago, it took me 10min 40sec to hit 10 3-pointers. Next week, it was 9 minutes. Then 7 minutes. Then 6 minutes. Now it is 2 minutes.

This is my blog post about how I methodically and deliberately practiced to get this 5x improvement. I used techniques I learned from learning piano and dance (and a little body building).. Harnessing muscle memory, technique and incrementally building speed.

Drills - hitting the edge of the backboard to practice accuracy/ alignment

good form - cock that wrist for good spin

Practicing "perfect" form 
(form is VERY important in dance and especially TENNIS)
Even though I kind of suck at basketball, my friends say that I have good "form."  It's a habit for me. I think form is super important because form is super important in Tennis - hitting top spin, back spin, different types of serves. When I was practice piano - my piano teacher made me spend 8 weeks doing boring exercises - to properly "reset" my form into my muscle memory. I want to start with good form, cuz it's harder to correct bad habits.

In basketball, somethings I exercise I did to get form include...
- hitting the side of the backboard. Making sure your alignment is correct.
- also.. standing beneath the basketball, and spinning the ball up to get good arc.
- also.. cocking your wrist. (Similar to tennis.) By doing so you get more spin.
Tim Ferris 3 pointer video

Practice fine motor control + power separately
(Spartan Run spear throwing video - )
I wasn't just practicing good form, I also wanted to get power. When I was learning how to throw spears in spartan run - I practiced power and control separately.  After I got the hang of both - I combined them together.

In basketball - I originally wanted to shoot 3-pointers, so I could shoot better free-throws. I honestly had trouble making free throws - believe it or not. lol  I thought -  if I practiced using my legs and having explosive power with my long distance shots - that would also translate into my mid-range shots.  (The idea is also to over practice - like in cross country. My coach would have us train 8-mile runs, even though our races were only 3 miles.)

Video Documentation
(youtube and dance)
Sometimes, you think you are doing great. but when you look at the video - you realize you are shit.
you can use videos to track yourself and and make progress. This is a video of my shooting free-throws. It took me 7 minutes to make 10 shots. I wasn't that good. I was still working on my "sweep and sway" technique to generate power, and I wasn't squaring up my shoulders. By recording yourself - you can see what you form looks like. Good technique is important to me.

Incremental Gains
(Body Building)
When I was reading Tim Ferris's book - 4 hour body. I was able to increase my max bench press by 50 pounds! (110 - > 160lb), by only working out 1 time a week - for about 30-45 each time. I used a really structured system, where I only increased my weight by 5-10% each week (the difference was sometimes so minute, I was using 2.5 lbs). And I have very specific sets and reps to do.

I knew that if I simply practiced 3 pointers very week. Mathematically, I could increase my percentage of making shots. The first week it took me 10 minutes. The next week it took me 9 minutes. So I knew this theory was correct. However,  I had no idea I was going to improve to the point of making 10 3-pointers in 2 minutes. That is a 500% improvement in accuracy/ time.

For course - I practiced very methodically and every weekend.

Start slow and increase slowly. 
(dance and piano)
In piano, if you want to play a fast piece (presto 160 bps)
What my piano teach taught me.. you use the metronome, and you start slow. First you do at maybe 80 bps - and get all the notes right. When you get it perfect slow, then you move it up one notch maybe to 90 bps. And when you get all the notes right and make no mistakes playing through.. then you go to 100 bps. All the way until you finally get to 160 bps.
In dance, learning isolation, it's the same thing. You start super slow. When you eventually dance with music, it looks good. Also choreography - you start very slow when learning the routine. And eventually go faster until you can dance with music.

so with BASKETBALL... I started right under the basketball hoop - super EASY shot. And I would time myself how long it would take to make 10 shots. 5 minutes. 4 minutes. 3 minutes. 2 minutes. Good! Then I take a step back. 4 minutes. 3 minutes. Good! Take a step farther back until at the 3 point line. 7 minutes! 5 minutes. 4 minutes... Slow slow and methodical practice. To practice 3 pointers, I didn't start by practice 3-pointers. I started by practice right underneath the basket.

Doing a lot of research on youtube
I realized that "basketball" is a very popular sport - lol - and there are many many tutorials out there to teach you how to get better at shooting. Here are some techniques I thought were helpful...
"Sweep and sway" - technique
"one motion shot" vs "two motion shot"
This week, I was able to improve my 3 pointers, because I think I was finally also to integrate getting spin on my ball, using legs to generate power, and the "one-motion shot" technique. Typically when I shoot close to the basketball hoop, I do a 2 motion shot. However, when I shoot a 3-pointer, I have to do a 1-motion shot to get more power. It doesn't make sense to shoot the ball differently when you are at different parts of the court. It makes more sense to just have one type of shot.

Because I was practicing a specific drill today -  the between the legs, step-back jump shot, I accidentally forced myself to practice a 1 motion shot at close-range. I was doing this while drilling good form - good alignment, cocking my wrist, following through. And then when I went to do 3-pointers, and finally got my rhythm down.. and then I timed it.. and my 3-pointers got super good super fast!  I made 10 shots in 2 minutes! crazy.

Good Motivation
One of my motivations to get good was simply so I good beat my friend at basketball.  Having someone to play against (or keep you accountable) really helped keep me focused. Tim Ferris calls this "stakes." If there is nothing at "stake" - you don't really have motivation to practice.

So anyways... when you are playing 1 vs 1 - a "3-pointer" is worth 2 points, and a lay-up is worth 1 point. So basically - if you are able to make 3-pointers - it's like capitalizing on something that is super overpowered! lol It's worth double of a normal short. So I felt like it would be a really worthwhile goal to be able to learn how to make 3-pointers.

Having Fun
dance, video editing
I really practiced a lot because I was having fun. I think it's because there is a social element going on - and there is a competitive element. A lot of times when I draw - I kind of isolate myself - so I don't improve much. But with dance, basketball and video editing - there is a community and it really helps make it fun. I don't feel like I am working when I am playing basketball. But I feel like I am "working" when I am drawing - why the fuck is that?


The point of this post
So this blogpost isn't so much about basketball -it's more about learning and growth hacking.
I didn't have a "plan" when I was trying to get good at basketball. But when I learning -  I was utilizing a lot of other learning "methods" from other disciplines and applying it to basketball. I have 10+ years in piano. 4+ years in art. 4+ years in tennis. So I'm not saying there is one way to learn something. But I would try to use a method of learning that has WORKED FOR YOU THE PAST.

I'm a really methodical person, so I used a really methodical way. One of my favorite artist - Anthony Jones  - was really good at video games before he was good at art. And he basically used the techniques he got good from playing videos games and treated art like a "game."

For me - I didn't relate to his way of practicing - because I suck at video games! So I don't get a lot of his analogies and techniques. What I'm saying here for basketball - might not work for you - because my background is in piano, tennis, dance - a lot of former training involved. You might not get it.

On the other hand - on the reasons why I struggle with art - is because I've always had a teacher guiding me and giving me homework. My method to get good was to just.. listen to what the teacher had to say, and do double the amount of homework he gave me. And I would excel at the class. However, if I'm doing something where I don't have a teacher (theme park illustration) - then I have to figure stuff out on my own - and use a new learning method - which I'm experimenting with now.

This is good blog post for me.  :)

Monday, September 14, 2015

My Background Story

So tomorrow I'll be doing a 2 hour presentation at Carnegie Mellon. I'm a little bit apprehensive because I didn't really get along with a lot of my classmates during school (socially - yes, but academically - not really). I was a bit of an odd-ball, and one of my reasons of going back is to talk to the other "oddballs" and tell them it's going to be okay. lol

Not the Typical Artist
I've gone to a lot of presentations by really great artists - and typically the presentation is about how 1) how they got bad grades in school. 2) they worked really hard at work and became successful. 3) do what you love. Believe in yourself and follow your dreams.

I Got Good Grades 
My story is a little bit different, because first of all - I got really good grades in school.  I would get mostly all A's - with one B. I was pretty smart, but I wasn't the smartest in class.  By 3rd grade - I developed my strategy. I knew I could get a 92% on a math test, but there was always 2-3 students who got 100%, 97%, 95%. I felt that if I couldn't be the #1 in academic subjects, I could become the #1 in Art. That was my strategy.

Art Competitions
I was really lucky to train in art at a very young age. I started taking art classes when I was 6 years old.  You know how Chinese kids like to compete at everything? I started competing in Art competitions when I was in 1st grade. At first - I didn't do really well because I was so young. But around 5th grade I a 1st place in a X-mas card competition and won $50.

I was very serious about these competitions. There was this one art contest that was pretty hardcore. It was a regional poster art contest for all Chinese Schools in Southern California. It was intense because they give you the theme beforehand. You go into the competition room - and you have 2 hours to execute the poster during that time. You had to be fast and efficient. The first time I did that competition, I didn't finish in time because I was too slow. I remember my parents were outside the competition window telling me to hurry up - but I took my time - thinking I would be okay. The next year, I rehearsed the poster and practiced at home about 2-3 times. Maximizing the efficiency of the artwork.

My Art Teacher Closes down his Studio... how that affected me
Around 10 years old, my first art teacher - Able - shut down his art studio. He wasn't making enough money because he was not keeping track of accounting and couldn't pay the studio rent. His wife used to take care of all of that - but since he had a son - she wasn't able to do accounting for him At that time, I knew that I wanted to be good at art, but also good at math, money, accounting and business.

Why I became aggressive in marketing my art
When I was in 6th grade, the principle announced to the entire school at an assembly, that a girl in my class - Grace - would be drawing the back cover of the yearbook. She was a pretty good artist - we were about the same level. But I was jealous. I remember seeing her work on the drawing, and I was thinking.. I can probably do better than that. From then on, I knew I couldn't just be GOOD at art, but I would need to make an effort to publicize my talent and let people know I was good - aka marketing.

I continued to win art competitions all throughout middle school and high school. Honestly, although my parents supported me, they were very weary on my economic viability as an artist. My father was an engineer, my mom an accountant - you get the gist. I wanted to prove to them that it was a economic viable career by simply winning competitions. I won about $10,000 in scholarships + competition money by high school. And another $70,000 for Carnegie Mellon.  But honestly, winning these art competitions when the age group is 12-18 years old, when you are the oldest in the category. It's easy and not very fair. It got much challenging when I entered college.

High School Years were the toughest
High school years were very very rigorous. AP courses, SAT I & SAT II classes, Track/ Field, Piano, Community Service, Art Club, Chinese School, Art Center Saturday high classes. I was working 14-20 hour days. (This is important, I will explain why later) I would go to sleep around 11pm, and wake up around 4 am to do homework. My weekends were harder than my weekdays because of my Art Center Saturday High, Chinese School, Community service combo. And my summer/ winter breaks, were more rigorous than my school year because of SAT boot camp. In case you are wondering, I scored 2010 on my SATs (which was disappointing because I invested so much time and effort into that shit. My best SAT "practice" score was 2200 or something, guess that was a fluke). I had a 4.0 weighted GPA - which was good, but nothing really special if you are applying to a school like UCLA (I didn't get it).  Again, I wasn't the best at academics, but in terms of art - I was one badass mother-fucker. I was mediocre in  academics and I took out my frustration by dominating art competitions. I would get pissed off when I didn't get 1st place.

$70k Scholarship to Carnegie Mellon
I had a portfolio set for Art Center - arguably one of the best art colleges in the world. It was format designed by my instructors to impress admission counselors and get big scholarship money. All of my friends were getting in WITH scholarship.

I didn't wanted to go to Art Center. Reason #1 - I was already there for 4 years during high school. I got the gist of it - work so hard you almost die. *check*  I wanted something more. Reason #2 - I spent so much time on academics and SAT scores during high school. Art Center didn't care about my academics. I didn't want my high  to go to waste. Reason #3 - Carnegie Mellon seemed really fun and it was a school that seemed to appreciate my skills in leadership, community service, and interdisciplinary activity. They also gave me a lot in scholarships.

Overall, I really enjoyed my years at Carnegie Mellon. I've never had so much fun in my life with friends, girls and parties. Compared to a stereotypical white frat boy - I probably am nothing in terms of parties - but for me - it was 1000x the social life I had during high school!

Bad Grades
In terms of school... I was okay during drawing class during the first year. But I had a hard time with "design class." Most of the time, I didn't understand what the teachers were saying. This one project, I got a D because I didn't understand the assignment at all. But all the other students liked my work.
Bad grades during first semester at Carnegie Mellon. 

I worked hard enough to pass the classes and stuff. But I sought to use my creativity elsewhere. I joined a dance crew and learned popping and I got really good at it. I also did this thing called "Booth" - where I built this carnival installations. It was really dope.

During college, I didn't work AS hard as I did in high school. But it was still very stressful. I occasionally had 14-20 hour days, but I don't think as often. The weather and environment was more  stressful than living at home as a highschooler. After senior year - I had insomnia for an entire year - it was like PTSD!  haha (but I'm sure much less severe) But still.. it was rough.

My Journey as a Freelance Artist in Video Games and Movies
Here are some freelance stuff I did for videos games after college. I thought I was going to be an environment artist, because my friends Kalen and Jason were both environment artists. People said it would be easier to get a job as a environment artist than a character artist. Funny thing is.. most of the jobs I got as a concept artists were for character. Not everything people say will be true for you.

Crime Noir - $15/ illustration
1st freelance job. It was about $150 for these 10 illustrations. Lineart was already made - so just colorist. Super low pay ($5/ hour?) - but I was happy just to get the experience. I didn't really like the art style though.

Army of One - $30/ illustration
2nd freelance job. Much better quality of work.  $120 for 4 illustrations. $30/ illustration (Still like.. maybe $5/ hour or less?) Was working on these pieces in conjunction for a class though. 

Games That Work - $128/ character
My third freelance job was better. Feeling more confident. $128/ character. But many many iterations... I did about 9 iterations per character.  (So my rate was still like less than $10/ hour?) 

Birds of Prey - $30/ character
My 4th freelance job. I billed at $15/ hour - which might seem low - but it was really good for me when you compare the other work I was getting paid for.

Squilty - $300 
Movie poster thing. I felt like I got paid decently for this!

SASE Animatic Commercial -  $500
My friend animated the project. I felt like I made pretty good money on this. The company had a budget of about $1000. My friend and I split it. I kind of feel like she deserved more of the money though - because the animation was probably harder.

No Shame in FREE WORK - for the experience

friend's animated film

friend's movie

another friend's movie
Dance Studio's booth

Another Dance Studio's Booth
Working at Disney for minimum wage + commission ($50-$120/ day)
During this time, I was working at Disneyland as a name painter. It was nice to have a steady job - because freelance is unsteady. And I was using this job to further my education at the time.

Eventually I started working in theme parks after I created a specialized portfolio.
1st theme park job - $1300 
- wow! more than I've ever done. 
12 illustrations. (worked about to about $27/ hour)

2nd theme park job - $2250 wow!
$300/ day rate.. 7.5 days
11 sketches, color, and graphic design. Best so far!

3rd theme park job -  6.5 days. $1950! great!
$300/ day rate. Only did 3 illustrations.
$650/ illustration. Sounds good to me!

4th theme park job - $400/ illustration
(started to charge a flat rate for illustration. Worked out to be $16/ hour)

Did a bunch of flat rate stuff. $100 sketches. $800 -$1200 deluxe color renderings
Now I just do $400 day rate for my company.
Recently doubled my experience, expanded to $500/ day.

I can do a LOT of sketches, and create a lot of good work very fast. So yeah..

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Quick Theme Park Ideations!

Hey guys! This was a super fun series to do! This is just personal work - please excuse the super cheesy names! haha. Each one of these took about 1-1.5 hours. I spent about 1 hour sketching all the concepts. I spent about 30 minutes on research and image gathering, and another 30 minutes to an hour on the actual rendering portion. Because I'm doing a lot of photo textures - it's pretty quick in terms of execution. Nothing too tight.

One of the favorite parts were the logos! I spent a lot of time gather references, the fonts and the color effects. :)

Below is a video of my process!

New Artwork - Journey to the West Theme Park

Hey guys! It's rare that I get a chance to show my professional work - so I'm happy to post this today. Here is a concept piece I did for a "Journey to the West" theme park. This concept was for the children's play area of the park. It includes a "Fung Fu Training" area, a Ball Pit, and a "Meet and Greet" with the Peach Fairies. 

I did this back in 2014 when I was using a much more "traditional" workflow. This illustration took me about 2 weeks. Now - I use a workflow where I might get this done in... I'm not sure.. a lot quicker! lol I haven't done one of these Deluxe color illustrations in a while. :)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Theme Park Concept Art - Breakdown and Analysis

I've studied a lot of "meta-learning." Tim Ferris (super learner) says that you gotta deconstruct and break thing downs in order to learn it quickly and effectively.

Contrary to popular belief - theme parks are not all about RIDES! It is only one category of illustrations. In my current portfolio - my illustrations and sketches currently consist of rides. This is a research exercise to discover the gaps and develop work that I'm missing...
Here are categories of Theme Park Illustrations...
(Most of these images I've taken during the D23 Expo - they are property of Disney. This blogpost is for academic purpose only. Please don't sue me.)

Food & Beverage / Retail / Hospitality (Hotel)
Store Concept By Chris Turner

Restaurant Concept by Chris Turner

Retail and Entertainment Space by Unknown

Restaurant Concept by Unknown

Cafe Concept by Jim Shull

Restaurant Concept by Unknown
Hotel Concepts for Disney Shanghai
Harry Potter Store Concept (artist unknown)
Notice the realistic rendering style. The artist probably used a 3D model as a base, used photos for the props, and photos of people with cut out filter - to accomplish more of this illustration.
There is much artistic skill required in making it look engaging and lively. 

Next there are Shows

There are 4d shows (Artist Unknown)

Terminator 4D show by Gary Goddard Entertainment (Artist Unknown)
There are Parades... (artist unknown)
Parade Concept (Artist Unknown)
Even firework shows!

Some rides are part show as well! Artist: Greg Pro

And THEN there are rides... Notice there some are drawn very cartoony, while others look very photorealistic. Some have a very light-hearted mood - while others are very serious. There is no right "style" - it just depends on what artistic style is best suited for the ride.

Most of the concept art for rides don't show an "accurate" portrayal of the ride - it is kind of impossible to show that and still make it look cool. Instead they show the feeling of the ride and the best moments all collaged together in one image. It is usually not "realistic" - but idealistic.

This show a top down view of the entire ride track. 

This concept art by Greg Pro is a more painterly approach. 

This concept art by Busch Garden aims for a more realistic approach. 

This art by Scot Drake is very video game like - fitting for a interactive shooting ride. 

Seaworld typically uses a more "realistic" (less stylized) approach to its concept art.

This is a photorealistic - but highly stylized. 


Next we have Aerial or Birds-eye view

This is probably the most lucrative and important view because it is used in marketing - and companies will only hire the best illustrators to do this job. Disney usually hires illustrators with a painterly style - like Greg Pro or Eric Heschong. However, some projects will use an architectural rendering style created in either 3D or 2D sketch style.

In terms of view - the view an just be a couple buildings, an entire "land," or an entire theme park!
Of course - subject matter isn't just limited to theme parks.. it can also be a casino, resort, shopping aerial etc...!

Greg Pro's New Fantasyland Illustration
Greg Pro's Paramount Illustration
Eric Heschong's tomorrowland illustration
(this painterly style is the benchmark of this aerial view illustrations) 

Fox's theme park illustration (artist unknown)

Architectural Rendering - 3D
Architectural Rendering style - 2D
Architectural Rendering - 2D by Artist Kirk Fromm

And there is also Storyboards for the shows and rides!

Madagascar ride by Thinkwell (Artist unknown)
Jurassic Park Storyboard by Greg Pro (gouache study by Chris Chien)
Storyboard by Kevin Farrell

There is also production artwork - which is done in the "schematic design" phase of the project. These drawings are supplied to the 3D modelers to be created in real life!

Toon Town Buildings by Don Carson 
Schematic design for hotel pool from D23 (Artist Larry Nikolai)

Schematic Design for props from D23 (Artist Larry Nikolai)

So as you can see.. there are many categories of artwork with their respective functions! It's not just about rides! :)

In terms of styles - you can see it ranges from very cartoony, to very painterly, to very photo realistic! The mood can range from being very lighthearted - to very dark and scary! :)

Well - that's a wrap! Hopefully - I'll keep updating this as I learn more and more about the industry.