"Be brave, learn and try new things, and more importantly, live life with no regrets. This I did."
At the start of June 2013 I arrived to California to live with
and his family for a while before moving to the heart of San Francisco downtown to prepare my first semester (and first ever experience studying at an art school at university level). Jason and his family are considered my second family, that's how special they are. At the same time I caught up with
and Evan's family for a rafting trip for week long stay in Santa Cruz. I feel privileged to have known those two better and in person, especially when they are passionately driven and talented artists in their own right. Then I went to Mexico for a short trip, it was there that I've been able to appreciate the beautiful heritage, cultures, food, and landscapes, at the same time it was also a time when I got to appreciate my morality more-so than ever since I had two occasions where I could have potentially died.
Fall classes began in September and it was definitely an exciting time for me (despite the Student VISA application and ridiculous administrative paperwork to be resolved), it was time to prove that I had what it takes to show great potentially in my artistic talent and technique.
3 months later I've learnt how color works, how to draw figures, how to sculpt with clay and how to render with better precision in any illustrative works. In those three months I've been able to appreciate the level of talent in the school, admire the professional reputation my school upholds and most important of all, I got to know some of the most amazing instructors (more on them later)
Fast forward the winter break and we hit semester two at the Academy. Once again I had an incredible time learning from my classmates, the curriculum and from my amazing instructors. During Spring I've learnt how to paint still life with traditional wet mediums (ala oil and acrylic), learnt how to draw figures in clothing and the dynamics behind it, learnt more about the human anatomy - bones, muscle structure and function and the important parts and planes that we use to help improve our understanding of the people we see everyday, and last but not least, I've learnt how to significantly push my knowledge on perspective and creating an invigorating atmosphere within any given scene and setting.
I want to get back my instuctors - to me they are more than just mentors and artists who teach to better the craft of the curious and dedicated student, they are considered people I can respect as human beings, as friends, and I know that they will be a part of me for a lifetime. I will be in touch with them in future visits. Semester 01: (FOUNDATIONS)
(click here for their full profile
(click here to view photos of final week, Facebook required
)Semester 02: (FOUNDATIONS, FINE ART, & ILLUSTRATION)
(click here for their full profile
(click here to view photos of final week, Facebook required
I've made a strong decision to go back to Australia and you can find out my reasons why here
I want people to be clear about something, of all these years as Elson Wong or Darkspeeds, I've put in ALOT of time and effort to perfect my craft and at the same time indicated how I'd like to give a shot at making a career out of the arts/entertainment industry one day. At the same time I've constantly made a strong point about how I treat art as an important aspect to my life because of what the joys of creativity can do for others and personally.
After all these years I haven't thought about how it may impact on some people who look up to me for what I've done. I can see clearly now that I have been drawing a very fine line between PROFESSIONALISM and RECREATION when it comes down to the things I've done with art.
Please do know that I've treated my art seriously over the years, however I can also say that there are times where I may have slipped and treated my art just for the fun of it, and this may have offend some people because art can be a highly sensitive subject. For that I apologise, and if you don't like how I'm treating my art and how it may influence others then you'll just have to deal with it. I'm going to put this down for the record just in case there are people out there who feel this way and need an explanation on my behalf.
From my point of view I've done art because I really enjoyed doing it (and there is no denying that Sonic the Hedgehog had be a huge influence on that part). As I evolved on my art I continued doing it because: a) I help inspire others, b) I teach others, c) do it because I feel the health benefits of self expression. And so far I've had a lot of support from all walks of life. You guys have taught me to see things from many different perspectives and I will do what I can do honor those perspectives the best I can, however the reality is in the art world I'm not exactly a good example to follow, I'm a very unique case where I can have the option of making art like a professional but at the same time, make art where I am able to still live life happy without financial burden, responsibility, or stress that come from expectations of the commercial world. So having said that I am not going change who I am and my decision to live a life where art can be treated both from a professional and recreational standpoint.
Nevertheless let me break down what I've learnt from each of my instructors this very important year in my lifetime at the Academy of Art university. I'm also going to share a few things that I remember them for personally, no matter how trivial or odd it sounds, what mattered is that what they said or taught me had created something I will never forget and it will help me on my artwork significantly (and this is where the benefit of going to school is, you can't learn these things on your own or online, because such a unique experience may help you speed up the process of an important technique that may very well improve the way you problem solve and create something more efficiently and productively)
Jasper taught me how to RENDER any kind of illustration and breath life in that illustration with a given light source and 3D space. The technique I've learnt was the 5-Value system. Ever since learning this it made me think twice about where and what to shade, tone and lighten for any subject matter."Light and mid tones, core shadow, reflected light and cast shadow"
"Treat your art with care"
Carla was the first to teach me how to draw the human figure using charcoal and with a Fine Arts approach. She also pointed out techniques that masters have used over the centuries and also things that she's learnt from her own personal journey in pursuing a successful and meaningful career in the Fine Arts.
"Check for tilts"
"Check proportions and compare to other parts"
"There's no such as talent, it's all about how strong your willingness to work is - your dedication."
"There is no set path in life, your fate will eventually figure it out on its own"
Michele blew me away on how warm light creates cool shadows and cool light creates warm shadows - she did a live demonstration with a fluorescent light and color plastic discs. Also she is the first to teach me about ATMOSPHERIC PERSPECTIVE, something that needed improvement in my detailed drawings."Warm and cool colors"
"Mutes and compliments"
"Consider the design principles when approaching your art - short or tall, pattern or simple, high contrast or low contrast, straight or curvy etc..."
Carol showed us how fun it can be to model your own creation using clay, some tools & your imagination. We started with basics like body parts of the human figure & ended up with our own unique portrait sculpture of a character. The thing I can take away from her class is having a strong appreciation for all things 3D."Check for plane changes"
"Trapezius, deltoid, latissimus dorsi, sternum, clavicle, flank pad or love handles..."
Valerie reinforced out understanding of the human body, from bones, muscles to the tendons. She made me think about how to create a more convincing pose by ensuring that I was made aware of the structures and parts of the body visually. She also made me appreciate how the body and body parts move and functions individually and as a whole unit.
"It's important to know not just the placement, shapes and planes of parts in human anatomy but also how they function (e.g. how does one bend their arm? Twist their waist?)"
"Skeleton, Muscles and tendons"
Sheldon made Still Life Painting fun and a whole lot more. It was my first time every painting in the style of the fine arts. I've a new found appreciation for oil painting - not just creating the artwork but also appreciating other paintings in galleries. My proudest moment is on my final project, I finally learnt how to mix colors and make them work on the canvas."Number one rule: start with the big shapes and then work on the details later"
"Big brush first, small brush later "
"Don't be tempted! Just block in the bigger shapes first"
"Sneak up on it"
"Warm to cool, cool to warm"
"Make sure you got your values down solid, it you don't then your painting won't look as convincing with the local colors of your subject that's being painted"
"Check your ellipses guys..."
"Elson you're strongest with low key and a limited palette"
Thomas showed the importance of creating a strong impact to the viewer on the characters you'll be illustrating for whatever purpose it may be. To be able to do that you need to know how to draw a solid pose, convincing folds, emphasis on the face and focal points & add details that will help accentuate the likableness of your character."Watch out for those ellipses"
"Follow the forms, don't render unnecessary with additional information that won't make sense"
"That foot... Bad!"
"Take your time and slow down on those details"
"Check those proportions on the face, one third, one third, one third"
"Your eyes, curve it in a little more, and the mouth, don't show the line that indicates the plane, fade it out like this..."
Leandro acknowledge my talent and knew of my potential but I will never forget that he was the one who not only taught me the various kinds of perspectives used in story-boarding and comics, but most important of all, he helped me enhance my understanding of ATMOSPHERIC PERSPECTIVE in any line art illustration.
[Atmospheric perspective - enhanced by showing me how much detail I should put in areas, line quality of inks and how much I should fade as we move ourselves into the background]
"It's all about the mileage"
"So it's the end of the semester, what's the first thing you do tomorrow...? .... Sleep. Hibernate for at least a week. Forget about the parties, get some rest and then enjoy yourself!"
Now that I've explained to you about what I've learnt at the Academy of Art university (majoring in Illustration) what have I achieved in terms of grading?
Here's the following results:Semester 01: (FOUNDATIONS)
Semester 02: (FOUNDATIONS, FINE ART, & ILLUSTRATION)
- FND 110: Analysis of Form [+B]
- FND 112: Figure Drawing [+B]
- FND 125: Color and Design [B]
- FND 131: Figure Modeling [-B]
I also got three entries into the SPRING SHOW
- FA 213: Introduction to Anatomy [A]
- FA 110: Still Life Painting 1 [-B]
- ILL 120: Clothed Figure Drawing 1 [+B]
- FND 116: Perspective [-A]
(a prestigious event that celebrates and showcases A level work from students of all departments at the Academy of the Art. Industry professionals, special guests, instructors and students alike congregate to admire, do business and enjoy the red carpet atmosphere. It is also a gallery that will be open to the public for the coming weeks and possible the whole month.
According to the statistics of my instructor Leandro (who is also the Head of FOUNDATIONS department), he told me that 25% of all students will submit one entry to the Spring Show, but those who submit more than 3 are considered to be the top 5-10% of the entire school. Hearing that further justifies that I have very strong potential to do well in the arts/entertainment industry but I am still content
on living the good life with family back home in Australia. Furthermore knowing personally that I'm a strong contender within the competition is very satisfying, I'm humbled, proud and will take this as a motivator to continue learning the arts at a recreational pace. I mean, why not? Why not have both: the satisfaction of living life to the fullest knowing that you'll be paid a very fair wage working at another industry other than the arts, use that money to pay the bills, travel the world, and entertain yourself, your family and friends, you don't need to be stressed about low pay, deadlines, and long hours that can potentially to kill your love for art, and be close to family who will help you out in times of need and in times when they need it you help them. It's almost like a family/love affair. Anyways I digress and will point out that not all art jobs are low paying and long hours with little satisfaction from the effort put into it, it's just a common thing I've seen so often in my lifetime analyzing the industry (through conventions, instructors, professionals, friends who are freelancers or who have been laid off, first party business like the comic book stores, etc...) that it's very difficult to get to the top of the pie and make a happy living out of it.
Here are some photos to share of the event (and group photos of my class taken on my last week of school, before the event). If you'd like to see the FULL RANGE OF STUDENT/PROFESSIONAL WORK at the the Spring Show, and you have a Facebook account, check them out here
- seriously they got some really AWESOME stuff down there. Blows my mind at what we all achieved in school.
So, any more thoughts or advice I can share with you on this journey of mine...?
Regarding grades for those who are studying at an art school right now (and I continue to stress this anyone who are in currently in a program) that grades are one of the least important thing in art school (unless you are studying from overseas - you do need a C average to pass or you go home and have your VISA revoked!), it's all about your portfolio
, your networking skills
(be sure to know ALL of your instructors and faculty at your department, and also students who are supportive, honest and competitive enough to push you to the best of your abilities) and your interpersonal skill
(i.e. your confidence to make an impression, you ability to managed yourself, stick to a regime, stay disciplined in what you do, and set yourself up for initiatives and opportunities).
Art school is worth the investment only if you're seriously motivated, willing to spend the extra time into your drawings after class, attend all workshops, and rarely have an instance where you'll find an assignment boring or not useful. EVERY assignment, no matter how trivial, is important and worth your time. The students who succeed are highly disciplined in their work, have good time management, are solid on their presentation and be
If you don't tick any of the boxes above, there is no point giving shouldering the burden of a 5-10 year debt of $150,000 to $200,000 USD in your lifetime, it just ain't worth.
And yes, don't worry, it's a fact, that art school is tough, can be frustrating and it will burn you out. Everyone goes through that, even the best students at school who eventually make it to the top.
Desperate and lacking the finances to pay such astronomical tuition fees? Check these alternatives out - besides going to an ATELIER styled studio setting and building your foundations there lately there have been an up-rise on online art schools conducted by industry professionals who will set you up with a curriculum that requires a lot of self initiative to make it work. The advantage? You're learning quality stuff for a fraction of the price when compared to attending art school and learning hands on, in person, with an instructor like I did at the Academy. Here are some sources (Noah Bradley
and Tom Brancroft
) you can check out to make a more rationale decision at any point in your life should you plan to go to art university.
As a closing I'll leave you with some advice from my instructors.
Like Carla says there is no such thing as talent in this world
, those who succeed are the ones who are truly motivated and persistent in what they do,
and like Leandro says, it is all about the mileage, if you put in the hours you will get the results
That's how it works in the art world. Hope you'll enjoy it and show us how far you've come in your journeys!