Art of Noah by Kuang Hong

Had the honor of writing the foreword to Noah Kuang Hong's new artbook that's just been published in China. 2 volumes collecting over 15 years of his digital paintings, it's really something to behold.

We've known each other well over a decade now, some of my earliest experiences in learning about art, Photoshop, and defining my own colors and aesthetics as a photographer came from working together ...

 

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14 Steps on How to Improve Your Photography

If you have been shooting for a while, whether as a professional photographer or a hobbyist, how do you improve? This is one of the questions I am often asked when a photographer writes to me. With the last two articles, I covered commercial and personal photoshoot productions. For this one I want to turn things inward a little, and talk about how to improve ourselves and better our photography.

So, without further ado, here are my 14 steps to improve your photography! 

1. Never Be Satisfied

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Inspirational Reads 2012

When I'm interviewed and asked what inspires me, I usually simply say "travelling", or "art". It's hard to name specific works by someone that's not mainstream for it to mean anything to anyone, so I usually don't.

But if you'd ever been curious, here's a closer look -- a list of books comprising mainly of mangas, and then some novels, artbooks and photobooks that have been inspirational for me in 2012.

Omae ga Sekai o Kowashitai nara by Fujiwara Kaoru

I'm starting off with this manga because the last shoot I did in 2012 was inspired by the art in this series. 

Vampires! I like vampire stories. But I would love this story even if there weren't any vampires at all.

When I first read this many years ago, despite how I loved it, I was left confused by the ending. After a long series of readings, from Hagio Moto's The Heart of Thomas, to her interview mentioning Hermann Hesse's works, to reading Hesse's Demian, and then to finally end up somewhere with the demiurge, I finally realized that the child who created Kanna and Ren's imperfect destinies in this was actually an echo of the Demiurge creating an imperfect world. And suddenly everything clicked into place, it was like a mini epiphany of sort and left me in wonder. That echo, whether intentional or not, to have my readings come a full circle to explain an earlier unknown made it feel so... fateful. And for that reason alone this story is special to me. 

But well, I also love angsty, helpless, predestined sad stories.

My favourite thing though, is Fujiwara Kaoru's artwork, I love her style so so very intensely. I've yet to finish processing the shoot inspired by her work, but I'm really excited about them so keep an eye out for when I get around to posting the photos, I hope you guys will like it. :D

She also has an artbook titled "Tomei na iro shita Shojo no Tame ni" but I can't seem to find a link of it online.

Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura

Blade of the Immortal by Hiroaki Samura

One of my all time favourite artists. Intense fight scenes, kickass characters of both sexes, totally badass weapons, and... clear depiction of people losing their body parts.

I get such conflicting feelings reading his work because it's so gory and messed up and... wrong... but beautiful at the same time.

If you've no time for manga, there's this: The Art of Blade of the Immortal.

I really want to do a BotI shoot, something I'll perhaps attempt in 2013 if I can find the cosplayers. 

Warnings: Violence/gore/nudity

Warnings #2: If you decide to check out more of Samura's work, just a fair warning, he has some really really really messed up stuff (adult/torture/gore I can't even adequately express in words). Keep out of reach of children.

Genshin - Toshiaki Kato

Toshiaki Kato is so obscure I couldn't find a proper cover pic of Genshin on Amazon Japan. -_-

His work is kinda like an art nouveau version of Ayami Kojima's, I'm also often reminded of Suemi Jun (for the angels), Yoshitaka Amano and Gustav Klimt (I mean, gold, hello).

But it could just be because I like seeing artists I like in every other artist's work that I also like? Wish I could get my hands on more of his books, but alas there aren't many.

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

Kind of a really intense, fast-paced, focused, and homosexual version of Game of Thrones. (I might just be biased because GoT doesn't seem to know where it's going.)

A lot of plotting and tension and stunning characterizations which I'm super in love with. Reading Captive Prince makes me wish I could write.

Can't wait for the final book vol3 to be out soon.

Warnings: Violence/adult situations, read at your own peril for there be some boy on boy loving.

The Seventh Swan by Jaida Jones

No photo preview! So make do with my mug cover placeholder.  

It's a fairytale inspired by a bunch of fairytales. Starts off a little slow methinks, but builds up quickly, the rest reads like a dream.

Summary in author's words:

Based on a whole lot of fairy tales (including The Tinder Box and The Twelve Dancing Princesses, as well as the tale from which the title is taken). A tale of two brothers trying to fix a curse.

The Fairytales of Hermann Hesse

The Fairy Tales of Hermann Hesse

I saw this at one of Yale's bookstores when I was just getting into Hesse's works. At that time I had just read Demian and Siddhartha, and was attempting The Glass Bead Game.

This collection is a pleasant surprise for me, for that was a time when I have not read any fairytales in a while, and it made me curious what sort of stories someone like Hesse would spin. The stories gave me a lot of visuals and once in a while I find myself re-reading the book for inspirations.

Hikaru no Go

Hikaru No Go by Hotta Yumi / Obata Takeshi

Inspirational no matter how many times I re-read it, always!

Maybe because the path to becoming the best is something we can all relate to as we work hard in whatever we choose to do, love and are passionate about.

Alongside with Omae ga Sekai o Kowashitai nara, Hikaru no Go is one of those mangas I find myself re-reading every year. You can also watch the anime for free on Hulu if you're in the US.

Claymore by Yagi Norihiro

I saw the anime a few years ago, liked it, but put off attempting the manga because I really hate series that take forever to update. For some reason I finally caved in 2012 and checked it out, love it is all I can say really I guess.

Pretty lady monsters everywhere fought by badass pretty ladies, can't complain.

Warnings: Violence/gore/nudity

Liar Game by Kaitani Shinobu

Psychological, kinda like Death Note in some ways except Akiyama is always winning, but that's ok cuz he's hot badass.

Noblesse by Son Jae Ho / Lee Gwang Su

Vampires! Action! Pretty art!

I'm only bothered by how I keep thinking Rai is the main character but more often than not it feels like the focus is on Frankenstein. Not that I'm complaining because Franken's awesome anyway. Just feels like Rai should play a more active role. 

But regardless! Pretty boys, fantasy, action and sci-fi, all my favourite things rolled into one, I approve.

Also Tao reminds me of tobiee.

The Breaker series (Part I, Part II) by Jeon Geuk-jin / Park Jin-hwan

Action! Again! I don't know why but I just really like action stories in all sorts of mediums. I swear I'm not a violent person. ._.

This story is a bit interesting (almost amusing?) to me cuz it totally adopts Chinese wuxia stuff from Jin Yong into the modern world and it works.

Warning: Violence

Vinland Saga

Vinland Saga by Yukimura Makoto

Vikings! A little Berserk-ish but the story kinda spiraled out weirdly. I'm not sure how I feel about it yet cuz it hasn't been that many volumes, but, warriors! Fighting! I also really like the chapter cover arts, quite a number have gone into my inspirations folder. 

Warning: Violence

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

It's McQueen. Everyone buy a copy, go.

Miles Aldridge: Acid Candy

One of the things I don't do much is talk about my favourite photographers or films. Because try as I may, paintings and drawings just inspire me much more than photographs and movies can and I really don't know why.

But the colours and fantasy in Miles Aldrige's works is something I have always loved, this is one of my favourite photobooks in my collection.  Warning: Nudity

Not much photobooks at all I'm afraid. I do buy them, but impact on me in 2012 wise... not so much. Maybe there'll be more in 2013? Stay tuned for that post next year. :D

PS: For the curious, I certainly did re-read Gundam Wing's mangas lol.  

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Inspirations #2

My favourite people from CGHUB! <3

The Little Mermaid by jeffsimpsonkh (Jeff Simpson)
veil by tobiee (Tobias Kwan)
Lookout by flaptraps (Richard Anderson)
Vampyr by EmmanuelMalin (Emmanuel Malin)
Ten of Swords by davepalumbo (David Palumbo)
Stem by noah-kh (Kuang Hong)
so close by matayosi
Chaperon by Alexandre Day
Sunny November by NikYeliseyev
Epilogue by TomScholes (Thomas Scholes)

Aren't these amazing? I love everyone sooooo much. If you browse through their galleries you can definitely see where the vibrancy of my work has been coming in from as of late.

(I'll also shamelessly admit that I'd received birthday drawings from jeffsimpsonkh, noah-kh and tobiee. A copy of The Art of Guild Wars 2 from Rich Anderson with a personalized sketch, and a print from David Palumbo during Comic Con. I know, I'm so incredibly lucky to be spoiled by my favourite artists. ;_;)

Booked my ticket for Toronto. Will be there from the 16th of this month till Jan 21st.

To be honest I'm a little bit excited and a little bit scared. I'll get to meet up with my best friend, possibly visit Montreal, I pretty much love all the Canadians I know so I love Canada already, but I'm so afraid that I'll just freeze to death on the streets one day. It's getting too chilly for me even in L.A. these days, I really wish I had better tolerance for cold. ;_;

Inspirations

Spent the day catching up with my dose of CGHub that I'd been missing out on since the exhibition started.

Such an inspiring place, it makes me yearn to create new works (which I don't have time for, right now. gah~)

I love, love love his paintings. They're traditionals and go up to 60". Awesomeness.

Taron didn't post that much but he's like my new 3D hero. :D

Awesome is awesome.

Had dinner with Ray Toh, Gary and Wai Ming at Curry Flavor at City Hall. The taste was a little mild but the hazelnut chocolate was absolutely love.

Chatted about the most random stuff and found out from Gary that Lucasfilm Singapore is 300 people strong. Like woah. 300~!!!!! *_*

Wai Ming said if I'd like to join them I can start from working at the pantry.

After dinner we headed over to Mr Bean's for more drinks. Talked about random stuff like my experience/visit to Amano's house, anime, me getting called a nerd for all Gundam topics, the mentions of awesome young Singaporean concept artists, and a bit on Disney Animations, and Gary related his visit to Pixar.

His friends were loitering (wth?!) outside Pixar one fine day, a security guard saw that some of them were wearing the Lucasfilm's shirt and said like, "hey, I used to work in Lucas too!" And offered to bring the group of them in for a tour. =_=

It was fun. I haven't had such a kind of laughing session in a long time.

I'm going to be at the exhibition tomorrow and Sunday, drop by if you're free! Monday I'll be flying to Bangkok. Whee~~ :3