15 - New Painting Journey This Summer

General / 09 July 2021

After creating many oil painting artworks in Adobe Fresco for the past five months, I'm trying new painting experience with Rebelle 4.

As an active subscriber at New Masters Academy, I got a wonderful 40% discount bonus for purchasing Rebelle 4. That's how I started to learn how to use this cool new painting software. I painted this female portrait based on an online course taught by Amy Florence to figure out how oils work in Rebelle.

So far, I'm doing digital oil painting assignments from Digital Portraits After the Masters, an 8-week live class taught by Iliya Mirochnik. This class is motivating me to try mixer brushes in Photoshop, oils in Rebelle and even digital watercolor to do portrait painting. How cool is that! I did a master copy of "Smoking Man" (1961) by Oleg Lomankin with digital oils in Rebelle 4 as part of the painting assignments from Iliya's live class.

Oils are brand new in Rebelle version 4, and they feel even better than Live Oils in Adobe Fresco. Since I don't seem to get along well with soft round, hard round, and lasso painting in Photoshop, I've been looking for better and closer simulations of real watercolors and oils for a long time. Therefore, I was super thankful to Adobe Fresco for helping me get used to how digital oils work for the past five months. That's why I can now understand how oils work in Rebelle 4 faster.

There are five painting modes to switch back and forth when I do oil paintings in Rebelle 4:

  1. Paint - Press or hold "1"
  2. Paint & Mix - Press or hold "2"
  3. Paint & Blend - Press or hold "3"
  4. Blend - Press or hold "4"
  5. Erase - Press or hold "5"

This is fun, like pressing QWER keys to use different hero's abilities in MOBA games!

These modes really help make my oil painting look better since they provide more ways to manipulate paints than ever. If I press & hold "4" I will be using "blend mode" temporarily. After lifting my finger off the "4" key, it will go back the previously selected mode, like the "Paint & Mix mode", for example. What an addictive and helpful feature here, guys!

There is new way to mix paint as well. Besides the good old friend "Alt" key for Color Picking in most software, Rebelle 4 gives us a new button "x" to Mix paints. This makes mixing digital colors more convenient as I don't really have to paint two colors on top of each other, and then, pick the overlapped color like I would normally do. This is strangely exciting! The whole color palette below was created by "Alt" click the first color (Blue, for instance) then "x" click the second color (Red, Yellow, or White) to mix paints. Super neat, you guys should try this out someday in Rebelle 4!

I guess that's all for this month. Thanks for reading, my dear readers! If you want to see me on social media, I'm mostly active on Instagram (khang_ta_art), but you can find me on Twitter and ArtStation too.

I'll keep learning new painting skills and playing more with this software. See you guys around the start of the next month!

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

14 - Five Months of Oil Painting Experience with Adobe Fresco on Windows

General / 07 June 2021

It has been about five months since I first attempted oil painting in Adobe Fresco using Live Oils. It has been a fun ride to learn digital painting from traditional oil painters. What have I discovered so far?

Mixing paint with Live Oils and Mixer Brushes

Live Oils are the best for mixing color because they stay wet forever unlike real oils. I can even control how thick or thin (Flow), how well the paint will mix (Mix), and only paint with dry brush (Secondary brush mode).

The color wheel on the top right corner was mixed by Live Oils. Mixers Brushes, on the other hand, help add more natural and textured looks to my brush strokes.

Notes: You can buy paper or canvas textures as png or jpeg files online to use as a background for your painting. This is way less boring than looking at a bright white computer screen.

Essential Shortcut Keys for my Fresco + Photoshop workflow

The cool thing about using Fresco on Windows is that I can use an external Wacom Remote control for shortcut keys to speed up my workflow.

My current Shortcuts for Wacom ExpressKey Remote Control have been updated so that I can go back and forth between Adobe Fresco and Photoshop. That's why I even changed the shortcuts in Photoshop to match ones in Fresco. These shortcuts have worked well for me. You may want to change them to suit your own workflow.

Fresco is saved in the Adobe Creative Cloud as a PSDC file. You cannot see it on your Windows files, but it appears in Cloud Documents in Photoshop. That is why I can paint in Fresco, then go to Photoshop to paint or adjust something, and then go back to Fresco to continue painting there again.

Notes:

  • Fresco doesn't allow to change shortcut keys at the time I wrote this blog post (June 07, 2021).
  • These Fresco shortcuts for Flip V, Flip H and Quick Export does not work in Photoshop. Since I work in Fresco 90% of the time, this works for me.
  • Fresco doesn't have a shortcut for Smudge. Luckily, I can assign (N) as the key for Smudge Tool in Photoshop.
  • Live Brushes (H) in Fresco is also the key I assigned for Mixer Brush in Photoshop.
  • Brush Tool in Photoshop is replaced with the key for Pixel Brushes (P) in Fresco. Now, I just press (P) to use Pixel Brushes in both apps.
  • The tilde key (`) is very handy in Fresco. Pressing and hold it to go to secondary brush mode which allows you to Paint with Dry brush in Live Oils, or Add water in Live Watercolors, or Erase with brush in Pixel Brushes. In Photoshop, pressing and hold this tilde button while using a Brush Tool will allow you to erase with that very brush! This is super cool feature that you guys should get used to.

Oil Painting Practice

Let's have a look at some of my recent Oil Painting Practice so far! It felt great when I combined all the power of Live Oils, Mixer Brushes, Smudge in Fresco with Mixer Brushes and Editing Tools in Photoshop to improve the quality of my painting.

I hope that if you want to try oil painting digitally someday, then Live Oils and Mixer Brushes in Adobe Fresco may be a great start for you too. If you need help, Kyle T. Webster has a clear instruction about Live Oils and how it works in the YouTube video below.

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day, everyone!

13 - Dealing with Back Pain

General / 10 May 2021

After studying how to draw for more than 2 years from online courses at home, I've figured out some practical setups to ease my back and shoulder pains. It has worked nicely for me, so I hope it will help you to put an end to your suffering too. Let's go!

Chairs!

I used to think that a simple wooden chair like this one below was more than enough to start my artist life in 2018, but I was wrong.

'Thanked' to this wooden chair, my back pain appeared one year after I started my drawing journey. Besides, I got shoulder pain as a bonus as well. The pain was so unbearable that I didn't want to sit down to draw for a few weeks.

Then, I thought that "what if I can lower all the stresses my poor back is carrying, will the pain go away?". That was when I started hunting for comfortable chairs by visiting online and local stores. Through sitting on many and many chairs to test their comfortable level, adjustable armrest, and headrest, I had found a wonderful candidate. It is this one in the picture below that I've been using till now.

As I thought, my body weight is now supported by the headrest, two armrests, backrest, and chair cushion. It felt like heaven the moment I first sat on this chair to draw, really, because I was in great pain back then. So, the chair was just like a miracle to me!

Therefore, a comfortable chair with adjustable heights, armrest, and headrest is super important for my daily drawing sessions. 

Keyboard tray

I tried to take advantage of the adjustable armrest of my chair, so I asked a local furniture store to build a keyboard tray that is wide enough for my armrest, keyboard, and mouse. Now, it's at the right height for me to start writing blogs and pressing Photoshop shortcut keys for days.

Inclined Drawing Surface

I learned to draw on paper one year before drawing on a 13-inch Cintiq. Thus, a wooden drawing board, to create an inclined surface to put my sketchbook, drawing paper or Cintiq on, has been super important too. This works great with the comfortable chair I bought too. The drawing surface is now inclined, so that I can just sit back and rest peacefully on the chair to draw. This combination is helping me sitting longer with way less suffering.

Remote Control + Wireless keyboard + Easel

The Wacom Express Key Remote control (an extra add-on that I bought this January 2021) works beautifully with my 13-inch Cintiq resting on the wooden drawing board. I put it on the left of my Cintiq in the image below. It has given me the closest feeling to traditional drawing experience whenever I'm drawing in Adobe Fresco (a rather new drawing app from Adobe) using my Cintiq and Wacom Remote Control. I only need to hold the Wacom pen and press customized shortcuts assigned on the remote to create artworks. I love this minimalist experience! The wireless keyboard, resting on an easel on my left-hand side, is for typing file names and pressing some less commonly used shortcuts.

Monitors

After reading online advice and being suffered from neck pain even I was sitting on such a comfortable chair, I have realized that my eyes need to be higher than the center of my monitor a bit. If I put it even higher or lower than that I will suffer! It's like a sweet spot that I must, through many trials and errors, find out. A monitor with adjustable height is, therefore, a really nice feature to have. Otherwise, I must use a stack of books or A4 office papers to make the screen higher, but still, I can't make it lower. 

LED Desk Lamp + Screen Brightness

When the sky gets dark or at night, I turn this lamp on. If it is higher than 5W, it hurts my eyes. Therefore, 5W LED lamp is working nicely with 3% brightness and 50% contrast of my DELL U2417H monitor. I love having warm light at night, it just feels great to me.

Workouts

I've been using an app called Sworkit (it works for both Android and iOS) for more than three years. It's super convenient for my artist life, and especially, during COVID period like these days. I can work out with my own bodyweight, from home, for a very affordable yearly subscription, to strengthen my body to keep drawing and painting for many years to come.

Have fun drawing and keep finding better ways to get rid of the pain, everyone!

12 - Evolution of My Art

General / 12 April 2021

Do I have an art style? I don't know. As I am learning, my drawing and painting quality improve slowly over time, and it shows in my artwork. Thus, I have arranged my drawing journey into stages when the way I draw changed accordingly to whom I was learning from.

Stage 01 - Jake Parker

It was super hard to start learning how to draw from scratch for me. Luckily, I saw a post on Twitter from Jake Parker where a craft knife accidentally dropped and cut in his thigh. It was not a post that I expected to see when I was looking for a clue to start my drawing journey. I, then, read more of his Twitter posts and started to like his inking art style. That was how my whole drawing journey began, my dear readers.

Stage 02 - Kirsty Patridge

I was looking for a way to learn watercolor and I saw a video from Kirsty Patridge on YouTube. I really enjoyed the way she explained how to create different effects with watercolor by using stuff like salt, napkins and food wrap and started to learn from her. I also learned to do charcoal rendering from her as well.

Stage 03 - Aaron Blaise

Drawing human is a tough subject since any mistakes will be super obvious. That was why I wanted to learn how to draw some Disney style characters and hoped that it would somehow be "easy". Haha, it was not easy as I thought but I got a chance to learn from Aaron Blaise. I was impressed by his clear explanation on how to do art digitally in Photoshop. Before learning from him, I was still very clueless about this industry standard software.

Stage 04 - Trent Kaniuga

I was super impressed by his strong voice and interesting personality of Trent on his YouTube videos. I was addicted to his way of saying things that I watched like five videos per day at the time I found him, around May 2020. I've been watching his videos weekly ever since,

Stage 05 - Kyle Webster & Proko

Lots of people say that you can do lots of things with hard round, soft round brushes and lasso tools in Photoshop. However, it did not work out well for me. I almost gave up digital drawing because I was too tired of their mechanical look and feel. Then, coincidently, I saw a "Draw along with Kyle Webster" on YouTube and his digital brush strokes looked so real, so organic in Photoshop. I was given hope by simply seeing that video and started to follow him on Twitter and download every single brush he had made for the Adobe Subscription Plan at that time (July 2020). I've intensively used Charcoal brushes of Kyle to study many Proko's drawing lessons.

Stage 06 - New Masters Academy

After running wild with my art, I wanted to learn more art fundamentals from traditional artists. I found a 3-hour Head Drawing video from Steve Huston on YouTube this time. His clear explanation of how to construct a head from different angles was an eye-opening moment for me! That was the reason I paid a subscription of New Masters Academy to continue learning from him. After that, I've discovered other talented artists on the website like Joseph Todorovitch and Mark Westermoe to further improve my portrait painting skills. I am following along their lessons using Live Oil and Live Watercolor brushes in Adobe Fresco.

What a journey it has been! I don't know if I will have an "art style" one day, but I do know that I am enjoying the process of growing both my software skills and art knowledge little by little each day.

Have a wonderful time with your drawing journey too, everyone!

11 - Learning Digital Painting from Traditional Artists

General / 12 March 2021

I have focused on portrait painting for about a month since my previous blog post. It has been a great journey. I can control the digital brushes better and get to know how to mix paint as well. It was a strange yet interesting feeling when I decided to follow traditional art masters with my own way using Live Oil and Live Watercolor in Fresco (all these Live brushes are free even in the free version of Adobe Fresco). Gladly, it's working well for me and I want to share results of my learning effort to you, my dear readers.

[Portrait in Oil with Joseph Todorovitch]

I organize my digital oil painting and watercolor painting in the Study section of my website (Khang Ta Art - Digital Painting Study). I also let my viewers see the name of the masters I'm learning from as well. If you like the result of my study, you can go study with them too. I'm not sponsored by anyone, but still, I'm sharing hints to keep you going with your art journey. Quite a few of my friends have quit learning art even though they learned like about two to four years ahead of me. They continuously felt their lack of skills or talents (but guess what, I can get this far after two years of learning online by discipline and persistence).

[Portrait in Watercolor with Mark Westermoe]

I'm posting my practice, study, and fan art on Instagram quite often every week to motivate myself and celebrate small success or progress. I can see that if I want to be professional artist and making artwork for the rest of my life, I need to find a way to enjoy my drawing journey. It can be in form of a blog post to share my learning experience, a website to display and organize all my work nicely over the years, an Instagram post to engage with the art lover's community, or a YouTube video just to know how it feels to be on camera.

[My third YouTube video https://youtu.be/XiHSYghCDVg]

I recently created the fan art below by using what I've learned from figure drawing courses and some color mixing knowledge from Portrait Painting in Watercolor and playing around with cool brushes in Adobe Fresco. So, it has been a bit of learning and a bit of playing to keep the fire burning in my heart.

[Ishstar Fan Art - Fate Grand Order anime on Netflix]

Thanks for reading till here, my dear readers. I'll try to post once every month. Have a great journey, everyone!

10 - Oil Painting practice using Adobe Fresco on Windows desktop

General / 14 February 2021

I started to learn digital oil painting, online, since beginning of 2021, online, from traditional painters. I have tried my best to replicate oil on canvas texture, feeling and technique using digital oil brushes in Adobe Fresco. It has been a fun ride for me, and I hope you're going to like the experience too. So, let's have a nice sip of coffee, relax, and enjoy the story.

(Notes: I'm not sponsored by Adobe or New Masters Academy at all. I'm writing this blog post because I think it will be useful for other fellow artists who would like to learn digital oil painting skills but do not know where and how to get started. I'm currently very happy with the result of my training, and I hope you, my dear readers, may eventually find satisfying results with your drawing journey too!)

"Was it hard to learn digital oil painting?", you may ask. For me, I had never thought about learning oil painting traditionally or digitally at all in Photoshop. Everything changed when I gave a free app on Windows called Adobe Fresco a try because of its Live brushes. In the app, it was tricky to know which Live Oil brush would do the job in Fresco at first. There are seven of them, and I did not even know how to do traditional oil painting at all. So, i thought it was about time for me to look for a real oil painting master to learn from, So, I started my oil painting training on January 2021 on New Masters Academy (https://www.nma.art/) (this felt kinda like a New Year Resolution).

I started with Introduction to Painting with Steve Huston on NMA. I thought it would be better to understand digital oil brushes when I could see how real oil brushes and real oil paint work. Yes, guess what. this thinking worked for me because I could at least know how to mix Black and White paint to create monochromatic painting. The fun part was to see wet paint smudge or blend with subsequent brush strokes in Adobe Fresco. I also discovered that the Oilpaint short brush in Fresco would lose its strength over the length of my stroke. This helped me create gradient effect on the box in the image below where light lost its intensive as it travelled down the lit side the box. The Oilpaint chunky is great for covering large areas quickly while the Oilpaint detail is better for tight corners.

After knowing how these seven brushes worked, I then tried portrait painting from Joseph Todorovitch on NMA to see how far I could go with these Live brushes. He is a great traditional oil painter in Los Angeles. His oil paintings feel so lively that I just want to learn from him to improve my digital oil painting workflow. The knowledge I learned before from Steve Huston's Constructive Head Drawing, has combined magically with this portrait painting course from Joseph Todorovitch. This led to my first portrait made by Live Oil brushes in the digital canvas below.

I'm really impressed with Joseph's teaching methods. He clearly explains how to approach a painting from a blank white scary canvas. I only need to start grouping light and dark areas and paint with big brushes at the beginning. Then, go with small brushes for intricate areas like the eyes. So, big to small, loose to tight and only with the mixture of black and white oil paint can really create wonderful portrait painting. I'm very pleased with his calm voice and logical approach. Following him along his oil demonstrations has really helped me get better at portrait painting digitally using Live Oil brushes.

I'm still learning and improving my digital oil painting now. Today is Sunday, February 14, 2021 which is the third day of Tet holiday in Vietnam (Lunar New Year), so I wish you all, my dear readers, a Prosperous, Productive, and Youthful New Year. Hopefully, COVID-19 pandemic will be soon over, and we can all enjoy a brighter future ahead.

09 - Maximizing my Adobe Fresco experience on Windows

General / 22 January 2021

Hello fellow artists, since August 2020. I've been playing around with Adobe Fresco brushes, and I've found a whole new exciting way to enjoy this app on my Windows desktop.

As you can see on the picture above, I have:

  • a 13-inch Cintiq weighing on two sheet metal screws on a wooden drawing board,
  • Wacom Express Key Remote with (17 buttons and one touch ring) on the left side (I'm right-handed),
  • a wireless Logitech keyboard on the top left corner is resting on an easel in case I need to press some extra keys,
  • Five 25-mm binder clips to keep the drawing board and the remote stay in place,
  • I have just switched to the Microsoft SideWinder x6 with 30 programmable keys (it will be fun when I figure out how to deal with all of them), and surprisingly, the numpad key can be attached to the left side of the keyboard. Can you believe that? It's awesome!!!)

I have made a video showing briefly how I use them here (https://youtu.be/K3Fl8-sQF90):

Here is how I usually layout panels of Brushes, Brush Settings, Color Wheel and the Touch Shortcut on my left-hand side. I love drawing on a square canvas and position it to my right-hand side.

For the Wacom Express Key Remote, I assign as shown in the image below based on what I usually press during my drawing process in Fresco. In future software updates, I hope to see shortcuts for Smudge and Mixer brushes or I will be allowed to assign customed keys to each of them right in Fresco. I still have three empty slots on my Remote for that reason.

I think that's it, for now, and I hope it's useful for you. If you like it, feel free to apply these tips to make your drawing experience with Adobe Fresco using a Cintiq on your Windows desktops/laptops more comfortable.

You can connect with me on social media as well via @khang_ta_art on Instagram.

Thanks for reading this blog and have fun with your art journey, my fellow artists!

08 - How did I start my Drawing Journey

General / 23 December 2020

Christmas Eve is near and the year 2020 (haunted by Covid-19) is ending soon. So, I want to take this opportunity to reflect upon what I have achieved during my drawing journey.

Everyone has a start, and for me, that was just before the start of Inktober 2018. I decided to learn how to draw with Jake Parker on Society of Visual Storytelling (svslearn.com) as children book art seemed less frightful to get started.

I haven't drawn daily since childhood, and never thought about doing art professionally someday. However, before my 30th birthday, I decided to give it a try, and get started with a cheap sketchbook I found at a local store. Then, it all started with an upside-down skull chaser with the instruction from Jake Parker. He said that by doing this upside-down, it would eliminate my fear, and I then just only need to draw contours without knowing what the actually subject was. It worked. I had successfully tricked my mind.

That was just the beginning. Other hardship came in with each following lessons. I could quickly realize that it was not easy to learn to draw at all when you know absolutely nothing. Even holding a pencil to make a decent straight line without any shakiness was a big struggle. How hard should I press my pencil tip, how to draw using my shoulder like I was told, and a bunch of other things to worry about. I had to spend like 15 minutes each day just to draw straight lines, curves, and ellipses to control my hand better before jumping to any new drawing lessons. Then, 24 days later, I could draw this guy using a vermillion color pencil and black ink over the top. It was a mind-blowing experience for me, for a guy who was at the age of thirty and had not drawn day and night since childhood could possibly achieve.

Then I discovered Aaron Blaise through Proko's Youtube Channel. He has, since then. become a major influence on me. I really like the way he renders light and shadow in his animal drawing artworks. The lion below was the result of a Pen and Ink Drawing tutorial from Aaron. I just simply enjoyed every second of it.

Later I bought a 13-inch Cintiq to step into the magical digital realm. At this point, it had been almost a year since I started my drawing journey, and yet, learning to draw digitally was still as hard. I had to learn to control my Wacom Pen and navigate my way around the mess of the mighty Photoshop (sorry guys, it was just that confusing at the start, so many buttons and functions to remember and I didn't know how to use this software either).

The donkey above is my first digitally painting artwork done with the instruction of Tim Hodge on Art of Aaron Blaise - Animation Lessons, Tutorials & Digital Painting Courses (creatureartteacher.com) 

Then, it got better over the time, and I could manage to follow harder drawing instructions like this artwork below by Aaron Blaise. Aaron had so many useful things to teach on his website that even one year was not enough for me to learn everything he had offered in his annual subscription. The little guy below was from a lesson called Hidden Creatures of the Forest course on his website.

I started to learn to draw human this year. It is just as hard as any subjects before, probably the hardest subject so far, but I'm having fun learning it. I'm learning from Proko (Proko - Learn How to Draw with Fun Tutorials), Chris Petrocchi (you can read about him in my previous blog posts) and Steve Huston.

This man below is Nicolai, from a portrait drawing lesson from Proko. The portrait was created using charcoal, but I decided to experiment with Photoshop charcoal digital brushes from Kyle Webster at Adobe to achieve a traditional look and feel to my digital artwork.

Beside learning how to draw portraits, I'm also learning constructive figure drawing from Steve Huston as well. Even though I'm only learning from him more than one month, but I have gained better understanding about how to draw the human body. Steve can be considered my best online instructor now. His teaching method works so well for me somehow. This model below is Amy, from Long Poses in Charcoal lesson at New Masters Academy (https://www.nma.art/).

I know there are still billion things ahead to learn for the rest of my life, and that makes me feel great knowing that I will never feel bored with art. I hope you are enjoying your very own artistic journey as well. I will keep learning something new, even bit by bit each day, so that someday, we can be even collaborating with art projects, learning from each other, and passing knowledge on the next generations of artists.

I wish you, fellow artists, and art lovers around the world a very Merry Christmas and a Hopeful New Year!

07 - Using Reilly Rhythms and Asaro Head for better portrait drawing

General / 26 October 2020

I have been practicing a lot of Reilly Rhythms and Asaro Head for drawing better portraits recently.

Here is my summary.  These drawing that I did may be far from being great, but it certainly helped improve my portrait drawing a lot.

I used myself as the model to review what I have learned so far. Somehow, this works for me as I can validate and consolidate my knowledge with a face that I'm far too familiar with. I hope these reviews will be helpful to you in your drawing journey.

I would like to thank Chris Petrocchi, my mentor from https://www.drawjuice.com/ for his wonderful portrait art instructions. I'm improving my portrait drawing skills way faster with his guidance and feedbacks.

Thanks for reading this blog and have fun with your art journey, my fellow artists!

06 - Practice Seeing Like An Artist

General / 10 October 2020

I tried to limit what I saw in reference photos within light or dark only to simplify and see better as an artist. I skipped intricate details and only focus on the big shapes of light and dark.

I tried a different background effect with the image below to spice things up.

Photo references for my drawing practice are from Cyberpunk Girl Reference from Graffit Studio (https://www.artstation.com/grafit/store) and Pritham Dsouza (https://www.behance.net/themetalfarmer).

I'm studying Portrait Drawing with Chris Petrocchi now, he's a great mentor (https://www.chrispetrocchi.com/).

Have fun with your art journey, my fellow artists!