Friday, November 25, 2011

Workshop SF Review

This past weekend, I attended the Massive Black Workshop SF up in San Francisco. This was my first art related workshop I have been to, and boy, was it a doozy! Four days of high quality art, artists, and lectures, including one day strictly for portfolio reviews. At least 250 people attended, and there was always something interesting going on. Never has there been a prime time that human cloning should be allowed... I wish I could have been at everything at once!

One rule I made myself do is at the workshop to not draw. It seems odd, attending an art workshop and not drawing. In reality, I am grateful that I spent my time writing down as many notes as I can instead of getting lost in my own world, then realizing how much I've missed out on the present demo or lecture. In total, I have taken 30 pages of notes, but I won't be posting up every single note. Instead, allow me (along with the use of photos) post up a summary of the workshop. This is where I'll highlight on some key points that have stuck with me.

Full entry can be viewed after the jump.

Day One:

The instructors at the workshop are bearers of the kindest hearts I have ever met. Not one of them ever put anyone or their artwork down, as each of them had their own humble beginnings. The opening ceremony of the workshop showcased an old art piece by each instructor. Some of them were shocking including this one by Coro:

Soon after - the workshop kicked off with lectures, demonstrations, and a live model to draw or paint from. The first event I attended was the presentation put on by SIXMOREVODKA

Marko Djurdjevic and two members of his team (Jana Schirmer and the newest attention, Ville Kinnunen) talked about the work that their team does, which currently specializes in characters. The only way his company could create such great character art is by having good teamwork. Each member of the team is highly skilled in either rendering, research, or even sketching. Marko emphasizes that "the passion to create such high quality art comes from the need to do art," a theme that will be repeated throughout this workshop. 

The next feature I sured to attend was Wesley Burt's demo. To his right, Noxismad was also painting and on the opposite wall was HPX (and I didn't get a photo of either of them, sigh). It's one thing to watch someone talk about their work and painting process, and it's another to actually sit down and watch them do it. 

Photo by Carmen Cianelli

Day one came to a close too soon, as I sat in the demo screens with Ville, Jana and Kekai Kotaki. Ville gave a great lecture on including cultural references into work 0as his previous work at Bioware focused mainly on medieval characters. Jana painted a still life (pictured above), despite how dark the demo room was. Kekai's lecture interfered with Ville's lecture, so I did not get to listen in as much as I would have liked to. I did look back occasionally to see what he was up to, and he did nothing short of amazing. 

Day two started off with wandering the premises, including the life drawing area. Here is a photo of the most brilliant use of binoculars I have ever seen: 

He stated that having accurate shadows and highlights require accurate viewing. I was blown away. 

I settled down to view DanielC, Wes and an impromptu Dave Rapoza demo. Once again, it was truly interesting to see the work flow of each artist. 

Next up, I sat through Mathias Verhasselt's presentation on Lighting in Digital Painting. 

Mathias had a way of breaking down how light works without having to dive too deep into physic terms. Included in his lecture was how materials reflected light, as each material has a different microsophic make-up to affect the way the lighting appears on it. He also did a walk through on how he works, which includes the accuracy of light that he lectures upon. 

The last part of my day was spent viewing Jana doing a demo. I remember there were no chairs because everyone was viewing the Steambot storytelling demo, so I sat on the floor somewhat close to Jana herself. A gentlemen behind me, also viewing Jana's demo, commented on how he wished that she would talk about her process. I turned to him and told him to simply ask her any questions, to which soon afterwards I went up to sit right (or rather, left) by her. Soon after, many of the other instructors came up to keep her company, and being that close to her made it easier to talk to her about any questions I had. She was super friendly and nice, regardless of how dumb my questions were.

Day Three was my birthday! And what a better way than to spend it by learning more about the art field I want to get into. First off was perspective with Carl Dobsky.

Carl went into deep detail about perspective. He whole-heartedly covered the theoretical aspects of perspective. Never have in my life have I heard of a ground plane, anchor point, or even the cone of vision. Watching him draw up a basic perspective scene really helped putting those terms to use, and his demo alone made me realize how much more I have to learn about perspective. 

I have never in my life been able to draw mecha designs, but after sitting through Sam Brown's demo, it's very plausible in my future! He empathizes the purpose of the design in his quick sketches. To the side, I was able to view Kemp Remillard's demo as he used Google Sketchup to create a mech then bring it to photoshop to paint. It's not considered cheating, just simple working more effectively. 

The last demo of the day featured Jana painting over a part of Kemp's picture. The two of them have a lot of fun with their art and it truly showed at the end... When the theme of Baywatch was played on loop and made a makeshift video by parading their collaboration across the screen.

Photo by Carmen Cianelli, featuring Aleksi Briclot and J.S. Rossbach

Day Four consisted of portfolio reviews and feedback. Like I've said before, all the instructors were genuinely amicable and gave feedback to help out to those who seek improvement. At the end of the workshop, most of the instructors were brought up on stage and asked to talk about what got them started on art, and what their career has been like. It was nice to once again be reminded, that no matter how far any of the instructors are in their career, they all had humble beginnings. Every one of them has a beginning, and decided to work hard at becoming a professional artist. 

The most important lessons I can take away from this workshop is: 
1. Art comes from the need to do it, not the client or anyone else. Every chance you can, make art for yourself and inject yourself into client work. Do the work you want and like to do.
2. Time is the most valuable resource. Art is about using time efficiently to communicate a thought, a feeling, whatever. 
3.  Surround yourself with artists, and it will push you do to more art. 
4. Never say you can't. 

I cannot thank Massive Black enough for putting an event like this together. I'm in utter disbelief that it went by as fast as it did. I spoke to the instructors any chance I got, and they are easier to approach once I remembered that they're also human like me. My inspiration and motivation has been through the roof ever since returning home, and it's all because of those damn four days. I cannot wait to attend the next one! 


  1. Sounds like you had quite a lot of fun! I hope to see some of what you learned in your art now. :)

  2. It was cool meeting you and Daniel! Looking forward to seeing your new work in the coming months.

  3. Thanks for the write-up! Sounds like it was inspiring! :)

  4. This sounds amazing Stace, inspiring me to pick up my stylus again (or maybe even a pencil lol). Hope you had a great birthday too! Sounds like a perfect present ;)


  5. Also it's good to see you writing this -

    1. Art comes from the need to do it, not the client or anyone else. Every chance you can, make art for yourself and inject yourself into client work. Do the work you want and like to do.

    Really important to remember this, it's so easy to forget. Whenever i get art block i find this the best way to get going again, just draw what you want :D makes sense really but sometimes i am dumb...

  6. Absolutely golden. Thanks for the review!!