27 - Summer Activities (Part 2)

General / 31 July 2022

Welcome back, my dear readers, here comes the latest updates of my artistic activities this July!

Every quarter, there is an exciting release of new brushes from Kyle T. Webster. That's also the time I will be having fun with them. I usually apply them right on a current art project or assignment that I will be doing at that time.

Using Summer 2022 brushes of Kyle T. Webster in Photoshop to do an old assignment from Iliya Mirochnik at New Masters Academy.

I've just watched this podcast called Kyle Webster: The Accidental Expert on YouTube. It's cool to know more about the man behind the quarterly released Photoshop brushes through his high and low of his artistic journey since 2003. If you've used his brushes or just want to hear an interesting story from another fellow artist, you can listen to the podcast while drawing like I did.

Throughout this month, I continued to have fun doing 'Figure in Environment' assignments from Renae Wang at New Masters Academy. Each week, I painted Eve, the model, under different lighting conditions. So far, I've painted portraits in indoor cool light, candlelight, window light and two light sources. Super excited for what's coming next!

Portrait of Eve in indoor cool light using Rebelle 5 Pro and Photoshop

Portrait of Eve in Candlelight using Rebelle 5 Pro and Photoshop 

Portrait of Eve in Window Light using Rebelle 5 Pro and Photoshop 

I don't know why I've enjoyed playing with different software on my Windows PC lately. Two years ago, I was like 'everything' Photoshop, then Fresco came in to play for the following six months. After that, I painted a lot using Rebelle 4 watercolors & oils before moving on to the abstract painting in HeavyPaint. A couple of months later, I did ink drawing in Clip Studio Paint, and later, painted with oils and express oils in Rebelle 5 Pro. Now, I'm painting with Thick Paints, Oil Bravura and Fluid Paint in Corel Painter 2023 within its 15-day trial period.

Portrait of Eve in Warnm and Cool Lights, painted in Corel Painter 2023

I guess after feeling a bit 'ok' with my art fundamentals, I just wanted to explore more unusual or creative ways to paint. At first, I thought I was simply weird because I assumed that sticking to a particular software or app like Photoshop or Procreate would be the norm these days. Later, I discovered another artist called Georg Ireland, who also love playing with different painting software to get exciting results too. He may start an artwork in Rebelle, then bring it to ArtRage to do palette knife painting and finish off in Corel Painter. Fantastic inspiration, indeed!

Image captured from Georg Ireland website https://www.georg-ireland.de/

I can clearly see the benefit of using various software as it has drastically affected the quality of my painting. For instance, If I paint in Photoshop, I will think how to make it colorful like I did in Corel Painter or abstract like HeavyPaint. Using 'Hardcore' mode in HeavyPaint also helps boost my confidence as I undo/redo way less now in other software. 'Just put it down and leave it' is gradually becoming the way to go now. This helps me paint way faster and create 'happy accidents' more easily in any software I'm using right now.

That's it for this month, my dear readers. Until the end of next month, take care and have fun with your journey!

26 - Summer Activities (Part 1)

General / 30 June 2022

Hello, my dear readers, another month has passed and here comes another update on my artistic journey!

It's summer and there are a lot of online art related sales going on like software, brushes, and lessons. It really took me a long while just to look at them each day. They were all so tempting though. Besides, there were art challenges too. I just couldn't find enough time, and of course money, to play with them all!

Firstly, I was honored to be among the winners of Escape Motion Speed Painting Challenge Vol.2 at the beginning of June 2022. It was so much fun to combine my love for Age of Empires II over the past 20 years (yes, I started to play this game in 2000) and my painting abilities to create artwork related to the game setting. I really wish to help make the game someday!

Thank you, Escape Motions, for featuring my artwork on their Instagram story on June 27, 2022!

Meanwhile, I keep horning my portrait painting skills with 'old but gold' digital painting lessons of Iliya Mirochnik at New Masters Academy. I still find it enjoyable to listen to him talking about art and life while I'm painting somehow.

It was fun to paint this portrait using the Zorn palette and the default hard/soft round brushes in Adobe Photoshop.

Taking advantage of this year's summer sale, I'm exploring the inking world with True Grit Texture Supply (TGTS) brushes in Clip Studio Paint. Exploring different software and tools has been like switching to strange new painting materials. This has truly been a big motivation for me to keep venturing deeper into the art world.

My inking practice using Rusty Nibs from TGTS in Clip Studio Paint

Besides playing with new brushes and functionalities of Clip Studio Paint version 1.12 (10th Year Anniversary update), I'm also expanding my knowledge by learning how to do Landscape Painting with Ben Fenske. I had wanted to learn from him for months ago but got to focus on my portrait and figure painting skills first. So, finally, here I go!

My landscape painting practice using oils in Rebelle 5 Pro.
At this point, I prefer to change the default layout of my frequently used painting software to suit my workflow better.

The Landscape Painting training with Ben is also to better prepare me for the massive 15-week long Live class called "Figure in Environment" with Renae Wang. It started two weeks ago, so I still have 13 weeks of excitement ahead. I can't wait to see how this party of 'colors and lights' turns out!

Week 2 Assignment of "Figure in Environment" done with oils in Rebelle 5 Pro.
My portrait underpainting is on the left side. Cool light and Warm light study are on the right side.

For those of you who are taking Live classes at New Masters Academy, I painted a "creative" portrait of Stem, a nickname of a very cheerful classmate who is currently studying in the same 15-week long Figure in Environment class too.

Portrait of Stem, painted in HeavyPaint with joy as this app is so unique, unlike anything I've tried before!

As you can see, I love playing with various painting techniques and different software while improving my fine art fundamentals. It's just more fun for me to do art that way!

Thanks for reading my quick June update. I'll keep you posted at the end of next month. Until then, have fun with your journeys, my dear readers!

25 - Facing New Challenges

General / 31 May 2022

Hi, my dear readers, it's the end of May and I'm back with a new monthly blog post.

These are what I've done for this month:

  • Painting Cloths (hell yes, finally, it feels so great to paint a costumed figure)
  • Participated in Community Challenges (one for Escape Motions and another one for Grafit Studio)
  • Studying past Live lessons from Iliya Mirochnik

After spending a couple of months on human anatomy, it's about time to spice things up by learning about various kinds of folds and how to analyze and apply those folds on a real model. 

The top image was painted with oils in Rebelle 5 Pro. The bottom one was my study in Photoshop

This time, I'm learning from Aaron Blaise, a teacher I used to learn from during my early artistic journey. It's great to come back to learn new things from him again with all the powerful fine art knowledge I've picked up from the past two years.

2-min, 5-min and 10-min drawing sessions

It's so interesting that I'm no longer a slave to any software Blend modes. I, now, can even paint on only one layer without relying on them thanks to the solid color mixing skills I've got from traditional oil painters from New Masters Academy.

I painted my own digital oils version of this painting based on a lesson of Aaron Blaise

Back in the day, I had to pause countless times within each video lesson just to type a color code to get an exact color that Aaron Blaise only took a few seconds to pick up. I felt super pathetic back then. That's why I'm so thankful for my fine art training even though the academic subjects can be super boring most of the time. "It's bitter but it's good for you", I guess!

I, now, can unleash my creativity and add my own colors and design instead of mindlessly copying my instructors

I finally decided to participate in two community challenges which coincidently happened about the same time this May. As I kept thinking "Nah, I'm not good enough yet, maybe next time", I have missed quite a lot of learning opportunities before.

I painted this portrait with digital oils in Rebelle 5 Pro

This is my Speed Painting Video submission for Escape Motions, the creator of Rebelle 5 app.

Here is my submission for Grafit Studio - Mermay Mashup 2022 
(I selected a White Flower, a Female model, and a Chess Piece for this challenge)

Now, I do believe that each competition is a learning opportunity too. It forces me to challenge myself with different themes, subjects, and techniques. After a contest, I will know what I like to do or not to do. Then I can focus on levelling up relevant skills to have a better chance next time.

Finally, it never hurts to revisit some good old lessons. I'm watching and relearning from the previous Live class of my dear instructor, Iliya Mirochnik. I really like how he constrains the tools used for each painting. This helps me deeply understand how a particular tool like Soft Round brushes work, for instance.

This portrait was painted with only the default Soft Round brushes in Photoshop.

Portrait with only the Hard Round brush in HeavyPaint app.

That's it for this month, my dear readers. As I've painted lots of things with various apps this month, I'm so exhausted now. That is why writing a blog at the end of each month is a wonderful way to stay away from usual activities and self-reflect upon my artistic development regularly.

Have fun with your journeys and I'll see you around at the end of next month!

24 - Wild Painting Experiments

General / 30 April 2022

I'm keeping a regular schedule to learn and review the human anatomy I've learned from Mr. Rey (Rey Bustos) since this January. I've been listening to his video lectures on New Masters Academy, and then double checked with the handy hardcover book "Rey's Anatomy: Figurative Art Lessons from the Classroom" that I ordered from Amazon recently.

Here is an example of my daily muscle analysis:

Muscle analysis of a masterful drawing of Raphael (1483 -1520)

Besides learning muscles and bones, I'm also exploring new art styles too. By trying different digital brushes in Photoshop and painting apps like HeavyPaint, I've found a new liking for abstract shapes somehow.

Two abstract figures were painted with Spring 2022 brushes from Kyle T. Webster in Photoshop.

30-minute painting practices without undoing, redoing, or color-picking in HeavyPaint (Hardcore Mode)!

The left portrait was painted with Bill Robison brushes in Photoshop, and the pose was based on Carla Cordelia on Instagram. 
The right one was done in HeavyPaint inspired by a cheerful classmate of mine.

I've recently got excited with Chromagraph digital pencils and pastels from True Grit Texture Supply in Photoshop!

It's strangely interesting that I started with pen & ink on paper, then went after digital oil painting. Now I'm playing with abstract or shape paintings! I don't know what I will prefer months later, but for now, I'll keep having fun painting interesting human figures for sure.

Thank you for reading my blog at the end of each month. I'm in Vietnam (at GMT+7 time zone) so my end of month may be a day earlier than those of you from the United States for example. Until next time, have fun with your own journey and keep exploring new possibilities!

23 - Applying Human Anatomy

General / 31 March 2022

After the 8-week Human Anatomy Live Class with Rey Bustos (aka Mr. Rey as he prefers to be called) at New Masters Academy (NMA) finished about 3 weeks ago, I took a few days off to relax before coming back with some figure drawing and painting practice to finish off this month.

My creative master copy of a drawing by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (1758 – 1823)

The above image is a female figure painting I submitted in Week 8 (final week) to receive critics from Mr. Rey. I carefully tried not to forcefully apply every muscle that I've learned onto this lovely lady.

Friday Figure Drawing with Glenn Vilppu

Since knowing more about human anatomy makes figure drawing less frightening, I decided to follow lessons from Glenn Vilppu from previous Live classes at NMA to see the improvements I can make on each figure drawing.

Female Figure Painting with Charles Hu using Zorn Limited Palette in Rebelle 5 Pro Oils pigments

In this female figure painting, I tried to paint a female figure with the color mixing knowledge that I gathered from Oil painting class from Joseph Todorovitch, Digital painting knowledge from Iliya Mirochnik and Human Anatomy from Mr. Rey. All of these have made the painting process so enjoyable and relaxing for me!

A rough muscle drawing over an anonymous master of the past to quickly review my anatomical knowledge

The time I spent learning from Mr. Rey was so helpful that even after the class is over, I'm still revisiting his lessons whenever I can. I've also ordered a hardcover book called Rey's Anatomy: Figurative Art Lessons from the Classroom on Amazon to explore this topic even further.

10-minute figure painting sessions have turned out abstractly pleasing with all this anatomical stuff in my head

I think that's all for this month, my dear readers. It has been fun to write monthly blog posts since August 2020. Thank you for coming back and reading about my humble artistic development from back then till now.

Until the end of next month, take care and have fun with your journeys!

22 - Human Anatomy with Rey Bustos - Part 2

General / 28 February 2022

After my previous post about studying the lower parts of the body, here comes the rest of it, unless Mr. Rey will come up with something else to finish off this 8-week Live class. What an intense month with all these strange new anatomical terms and painting work to do!

The Back

I used to learn a bit about the muscles of the back a while ago, but until now, it has finally made sense to me thanks to Mr. Rey.

The Torso

After learning the back, the front muscles start to make sense even more. Everything is connected beautifully in the human body.


Arms and Hands

This is the most mysterious part of the human body after the thigh muscles (in my opinion). It's really mind-twisting to learn all the necessary muscles in the upper arm, and especially, the forearm.

The Head

This was tricky as I was asked to do four portraits of myself. Keeping the likeness and proportions across these portraits is quite a challenging yet interesting experience though.

This is Week 6 when I'm writing this blog. So, only two more weeks of Live class with Mr. Rey on New Masters Academy. Here are some of my thoughts:

  • After what I've been through this class, I can say that learning anatomy can surely help me make better sense of the lumps and bumps on a model and on my own body.
  • However, knowing names of muscles and how they're connected will not make me a masterful artist necessarily. Learning how to control shapes (big/medium/small), colors (warms/cools), edges (hard/firm/soft/lost) and how to compose a painting can vastly affect the artistic quality of my artwork. Anatomy, then, is like the final piece of the puzzle to help finish off my artwork in the most believable or realistic way.

That's it for this month, my dear readers. Thanks for coming back and reading my thoughts each month. Writing a blog may not be as attractive as an Instagram post, for example, but I like its quietness. It gives me time to reflect upon what I've gathered along my artistic journey and to see what to explore next.

Until next time, have fun with your own journey, my dear readers!

21 - Human Anatomy with Rey Bustos - Part 1

General / 31 January 2022

I've decided to get better at Figure Drawing and Human Anatomy at the beginning of this year, 2022. Thus, since January 17, I've joined an online Live class with Rey Bustos at New Masters Academy to kickstart, and hopefully, achieve my goal.

To my surprise, besides nicely labeling muscles, tendons and bones, Mr. Rey even asked his students to re-draw old masters or modern Russian or French academic drawings to better understand how other master artists have applied anatomical knowledge to their own artworks.

I'm also studying anatomy drawing with Iliya Mirochnik via his Russian Academic Drawing Approach to understand this tough subject better. I've found out that Steve Huston constructive drawing methods are working nicely with Mr. Rey's course too. As an artist, remembering strange names of muscles and bones is not enough. I need to be able to draw those stuff too. Thus, drawing lessons from Iliya and Steve are helping me out a lot here.

Since this anatomical knowledge is brand new to me and this Live class is just 8 weeks long, I must study like crazy from both three above teachers and even skimming through my "Anatomy for 3D Artist" book from 3DTotal Publishing too.

So far, I've been through two weeks of this anatomy Live class. I can't wait to see Week 2 critics from Mr. Rey on my submitted work. It's so thrilling to see what is going to unfold till Week 8 of this intensive anatomy class.

Tomorrow, February 01, 2022, will be Tet holiday (Lunar New Year) in Vietnam. This will be the first time I have ever celebrated this special holiday with drawing assignments. I will somehow try to work on his assignments and enjoy a bit of Tet holiday too.

I will try to keep posting new blogs at the end of each month from now on. Until next time, take care and have fun with your journey, my dear readers!

20 - Having fun with HeavyPaint

General / 24 December 2021

Here comes another blog post even though I thought I would need two months to have something interesting to share!

Portrait of Iliya Mirochnik - My NMA Instructor

Iliya, my beloved art instructor at New Masters Academy (NMA) for the past six months, has introduced a cool new way to play with digital painting once again. Welcome to "HeavyPaint".

The remarkable thing about this little app is that it allows me to paint truly with shapes in an abstract interesting way. At this time, I've learned how to mix colors and do oil painting digitally with traditional artists for a year. Therefore, this is a perfect time for me to test out the "Hardcore Mode" which does not allow me to Undo, Redo and Color-Picking in HeavyPaint trial version on my Windows PC.

Here all my learning effort paid off nicely. After playing around with the new app and testing out how each of the features works, I then painted this female portrait via mostly Fill, Line, Rect tools and choosing colors via HSV sliders only. What a strange powerful feeling as for the first time ever, digital painting felt so risky as I had to be decisive with each color choice and stroke placement.

Portrait of Mather in Heavy Paint

Thus, after the painting in 2 hours 18 minutes, I felt like I was on another planet and decided to purchase HeavyPaint Pro to continue to enjoy all the newly weird ways to create more fun and powerful illusions. It's that magical! Here is the timelapse of the above painting to celebrate this fantastic moment!

I'm looking forward to seeing how this lovely simple-looking app is growing and having more amazing abilities to create and play with even crazier shapes.

Today, at my place, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, it's December 24, 2021. So, Merry Christmas to you all, my dear readers! Thank you for coming back and reading what I'm sharing each month.

Keep learning, stay motivated, have fun, take it slow and enjoy your journey!

19 - Welcome to my Playground

General / 27 November 2021

I've been practicing digital fine art for more than a year at New Masters Academy (NMA), but I've been playing video games and watching anime/animation series much longer.

I think it's time to have fun with the skills I'm gradually building! If I keep waiting until I've mastered everything that I can think of, like color theories, human anatomy, figure drawing, gesture drawing, composition ..., then I would never allow myself to have fun at all.

Thus, I've set up a Play Time section on my Website to explore the art of Arcane with my growing fine art knowledge. Because to be fair, it's the animation or game arts that triggered my inner child and have been leading me to pursue a professional art career. So, with that in mind, welcome to my playground!

[Young Ekko fan art - Netflix's animation series "Arcane"]

Fine art, nevertheless, is surely gonna take me a long time to learn, yet it's extremely rewarding. Studying from the old masters or sculptures from NMA online learning library has enabled me to create fan art in my spare time much faster, about 1-2 hours each painting. My old self a year ago would need a week and still not be able to make a decent-looking fan art. Let's face it my dear readers, the fact that the so-called "boring" fine art is building a rock-solid foundation for my art career.

[My portrait painting of Jonathan - a model from New Masters Academy]

The ability to turn a model from a reference photo into a classical look-and-feel artwork is totally a mind-blowing experience for me. I never thought that there could be a day when I was able to create such artwork by myself. Fine art training has helped me see colors and shapes so much better. This, in turn, is helping my fun-time fan art a lot.

If you're hesitating from learning fine art knowledge to create better artwork, I hope that my story here can convince you to give it a go.

I will try to post a blog once every two months from now, as I certainly need more time to learn, grow, explore, and experiment with new things.

Thanks for reading and have a fabulous day, everyone!

18 - Third Year Anniversary

General / 30 September 2021

Hi, I'm Khang, from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This September 30, 2021, marks exactly three years of my self-directed artistic journey! I want to take this opportunity to share some major lessons I've learned so far.

1) Life is full of surprises

I first discovered Jake Parker via just a random Twitter post, but strangely enough, his interesting inking art style had awakened my inner child. Thus, my artistic journey began even though I got a bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering.

I still feel thankful to his drawing instructions at this very initial stage of my new journey. I would have given up drawing entirely without his easy and clear instruction. I was very fragile at this beginning stage as I had not drawn any fan arts or even thought about a career in art at all.

I'm glad I chose him and his How to Draw Everything course on September 20, 2018. The inverted Skull Chaser drawing successfully tricked my mind to make my first sketchbook drawing. After two months, I could draw the dinosaur holding a sword and a shield from his How to Ink 2.0 course in the same sketchbook. This was such a special memory that after this cheap first sketchbook broke apart due to its weak binding glue, I turned it into a spiral-bound one. I even customed made its cover with an imaginative self-motivated message: "Khang, keep drawing because I'm here!".

My first sketchbook a special customed cover to honor its service.

After learning the How to Draw Everything course, his Skull Chaser character has become an iconic symbol throughout my artistic journey. I even attached a Skull Chaser sticker to my Cintiq drawing board so that I can always remember how I started my art career.

I got this cute sticker as a Kickstarter for Drawings 5 Artbook of Jake Parker in 2020.

2) Everything was so confused at first

In February 2019, I started to mess around with watercolor for the first time with Gonzalo Carcamo. However, I could not comprehend the concept of muted colors back then. So, I decided to stop at monochromatic studies only.

This is me holding my first watercolor artwork using only two brushes and Burnt Sienna student-grade pigments.

Later in August 2019, I could somewhat combine inking and watercolor in a Drawing Cartoon Animals course taught by Tim Hodge. I was not aware of color temperature, saturation, and value at all. Everything looked so flat due to that lack of understanding. Furthermore, I didn't know that I should have used more pigments to get to the saturation level I wanted with student grade watercolors. Regardless, it was fun to finally have colors in my sketchbook!

I did this ink and watercolor washes in a Hahnemuhle watercolor sketchbook in 2019.
It was super nervous though as I didn't want to waste such a nice sketchbook.

3) Digital Painting works for me

My 13-inch Cintiq and digital painting software have removed any limitations I have with traditional painting materials. I can paint freely without worrying about wasting my precious Arches watercolor papers and Daniel Smith watercolor pigments. Better yet, I can even learn to do oil painting the digital way without using any harmful substances to thin out my paints and clean my brushes. Nevertheless, I still love the feeling of holding different physical brushes though.

My master copy of the Helga Pictures of Andrew Wyeth using digital watercolors in Rebelle 4.

Thank to digital painting, I've realized that I can learn much faster by painting than drawing. Painting positive and negative shapes work for me nicely. I've used digital oils and watercolors to learn from traditional artists like Mark Westermoe and Joseph Todorovitch. It works magically, and I can paint the above lady on my own. It's my master copy of a watercolor artwork from the Helga Pictures of Andrew Wyeth.

4) Fine Art Fundamentals are powerful

Portraits, human figures and still life were frightening subjects for me, but not after classes I'm taking at New Masters Academy (NMA). I only discovered NMA in November 2020 but my painting and drawing skills have improved clearly. I've realized that boring fundamentals that learners like me who often want to ignore at first sight are super helpful and crucial for artistic development in later stages. It's possible to learn these hard-to-swallow stuff, it's just that I have not learned much about them yet. Getting out of my comfort zone steadily with proper artistic instructions feels so rewarding!

I'm still impressed at the look-and-feel of this digital oil painting artwork done in Rebelle 4 in this early September 2021.

5) Keep exploring

First two years were such an exploration for me. From pencils, inks, brushes, papers, sketchbooks to navigating around the mess of Photoshop (I can clearly see that the whole app interface is not artist-oriented when it was created), As my drawing and painting fundamentals have been getting better, I can bravely explore other choices from the beginning of this year (2021). I can follow instructions from traditional painters while using digital oils and watercolors in new software like Adobe Fresco and Rebelle 4. I've also tried Lasso Fill in Clip Studio Paint to create a whole painting this way. It's so satisfying for me, it's freedom I would say because I can finally learn new things my own way. Hurray!

Master copy of a portrait of Joseph Pulitzer by John Singer Sargent.
Painted in Adobe Fresco using Live Oils.

Still Life Painting in Rebelle 4 using Oils.

I can block in major shapes in Clip Studio Paint using Lasso Fill ...

... and then finish the Lasso Fill painting above in Photoshop.

Thanks for reading till here guys! It has been a journey full of self-doubts, frustrations at first, but as soon as I could control my hands to do what I think in my head and got some key fundamentals down, it has gradually become so satisfying and magical. Conquering a blank digital canvas to create a decent or an artistic looking artwork is such a thrill whenever I start a new painting session.

Have fun learning and enjoy every small win along your great journey ahead!