Art of Noah by Kuang Hong

Friday, November 18, 2016


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 and also as his manager.

A few years ago we caught up at New York Comic Con. He told me he intended to stop doing digital paintings. It came as a shock because he was doing very well. But Noah had always been a non-conformist, so as much as I was surprised, I also understood. As he explained his intentions, I sat there in awe and envy—I fervently wish I could do the same about my own work. He wanted to relearn how to paint altogether, and went and did it. When I visited Beijing this June, he had made hundreds upon hundreds of new drawings and paintings; experimented with nearly every type of traditional medium available. To say I was inspired is an understatement.

Since that talk at NYCC, I have worked towards cutting back on fashion work so I could do other things that interest me as well. As an artist I always hope that we can keep evolving and growing and never stop. But it's hard, and sometimes it takes someone else doing something to make us realize that we can do it too. So thank you Noah for continuing to be an inspiration. Congratulations on the book. ❤️


Foreword:

It's been well over a decade since I first met Noah on a private art forum called Cloud 9. I was instantly drawn to the post-apocalyptic fantasy style of his work. From his early pieces like "The Hornet" and "Butterfly", it was already evident, even at such a young age, that Noah was going to be a once-in-a-generation kind of artist—unique, unorthodox, and spectacular.

When you look at Noah's works, there is fantasy, post-apocalyptic science fiction, myths and legends, surrealism, and occasionally, even social commentary and comics. It’s a strange mix of intricately detailed drawings, bizarre concept art, and fantastical illustrations. And between all of these is an unbelievable breadth of themes and styles for any single artist. Sometimes, I feel that even as fans of his work, it would be easy to miss the amount of deep thought and design it would take to create these pieces.

In Noah's world, often, it's as if canvases simply serve to be extended. If you let him, it's almost as if an image could go on and on with stories sprawling into epics and details that never cease.

Early on in my career, before I became a photographer, I managed Noah's work as his agent for nearly five years. In this time, I had interacted with many individuals who were drawn intrinsically to his pieces just as I was. It was often held with awe, inspiration, and a touch of personal resonance that a breed of individuals similar to ourselves seemed to find echoing.

Noah is not a conformist.

I remember when we first met in Shanghai in 2003, Noah had just arrived in his first big city. He had left home not less than a year ago, with just a backpack over his shoulder and aspirations of a typical teenager raised in the country. He wanted to make his own path and become an artist. He didn't mind being ostracized or misunderstood in an especially traditional environment where the arts was not a real job to be pursued or taken seriously.

During this time, I grew used to Noah's natural propensity for change. As most artists will agree, the more established a person is, the more difficult it is to make any kind of changes in style, medium, and subject matters, especially ones that an individual is known for. Noah never shied away from proactive change. In fact, he pursued it.

In a very specific way that Noah was known for his work and style for using Corel Painter, and painting on a single layer with a single type of brush, he one day decided to switch to Photoshop and braved through the criticisms of fans and viewers who found his new style lacking, while he learned how to wield his new tools.

Over time, his new art matured into works even more spectacular than before, but for most artists, many would never have even tried. They most certainly would not have continued trying if the changes were met with strong resistance. It was only when I became older, that I appreciated how brave this was.

In 2013, Noah and I met at New York Comic Con. It had been years since we last saw each other in person. We sat in a quiet coffee shop to catch up. I was lacking in sleep and worrying about a film set I had to be on in a few hours. He told me that he was going to quit CG. It was a moment of shock and confusion as I tried to process the information in my sleep-deprived mind.

Noah said that he had wanted to explore traditional mediums and fine art work. That he wanted to do something completely, entirely different. When the initial shock wore off, more than anything, I felt a deep sense of respect.

Humans are afraid of change, some of us are better at adapting than others. But most of us are afraid to proactively change what works for us, much less abandon it altogether. Often, we would live in a trap of our own making, because safety feels better than the unknown. To push and push, not just do a piece as an experiment to test the waters, but to keep pushing, that power of will and commitment is not easy to muster and sustain.

For this fearlessness and resoluteness, Noah continues to be someone who astonishes and inspires me both as an artist and as a person.

This book holds a collection of over 15 years of works from a daring, creative, and artistic mind. As you observe the evolution of Noah’s style, themes, and subject matters, perhaps, with these words in mind, you will perceive them just a little differently than at their face values. I hope that just as it were for me to follow along on his journey, it would be for you, also, an inspirational, breathtaking, and magical experience.





















Not in the books, but examples of new work that he's doing:





       

Artistic Portrait Photography - Course Information

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Final demo image from the Artistic Portrait Photography course
Hey guys, it's been a while since my last blog post. A number of you have written in to ask for more details regarding the course I am teaching at Learn Squared. With a new mentorship class coming up, I thought it would be a good time as any to give a rundown and answer some of your most frequently asked questions. Hope those who are considering signing up will find this helpful! :D

Course Scope

There are 8 lessons in this course. I will cover a wide range of topics from the basics of photography, to putting a shoot together, photoshoot day, and my retouching process when doing one of my fine art portrait photos.

I focus a lot on the fundamentals and essentials that I find important to my photography. The idea is that after this course you will have a structured way of putting a shoot together, that you can do anything you wish to and it doesn’t have to apply to fine art portraits only.

Difficulty Level

I’d say photographers of all levels can learn from this course including those who have never touched a camera. However, I think most beneficial would probably be for beginners and intermediate photographers.

Beginner: It’s fine if you are completely new to photography. I go over the camera and lighting basics which would help you get started. When it comes to Photoshop, I may go over some basic functions rather quickly. But if you have any questions you can always post in the Learn Squared forums or chats, there are usually other students or staff around who are happy to answer.

Intermediate/Hobbyist: The course is probably most beneficial for those that find themselves falling within this bracket. I go over a lot of essential fundamentals that I find important in my photography workflow. So if you have already played around with a camera, Photoshop, and have some vague idea on what you want to do but don’t really know how to get started, this course will help you. The process will teach you learn how to structure, put a shoot together, and polish your final image.

Advanced/Professional: For advanced/professional photographers, I think the course is a good benchmark to check against for your own personal workflow. In general, my offline workshops are attended by professionals, but as there is no time limit for this online course, I've made it more detailed and covered more basics which I don’t usually teach in regular advanced classes.

Package Breakdown

The Learn Squared website sells 3 different packages for the course:


Basic: This include over 5 hours of video content and access to the private student community on Learn Squared.

Learn Squared: This includes over 20 hours of video content—video tutorials from the course, my homework review with my apprentice, Maciej Kuciara, as well as recordings with past mentorship students on their homework reviews and Q&As. 

Professional: This includes everything in the Learn Squared package plus weekly live mentorships sessions. This is where I will mentor and give feedback to students and answer questions individually. We take a small class for each batch, so everyone has the chance and time to have their questions answered and work reviewed.

Lesson Breakdown


1. Photography Basics


Lesson 1 - Photography Basics
We begin with fundamentals which spans across 2 lessons. In lesson 1, I cover equipment basics, camera basics, as well as key points of photography that I believe are the foundation to creating good photography and artwork.

Students are assigned to create images around design elements and principles:

Gilchan Oh, Lesson 1 Homework
Alena Kazakevich, Lesson 1 Homework
Alex Chua, Lesson 1 Homework


2. Equipment and Lighting


Lesson 2 - Equipment and Lighting

In lesson 2, I discuss a list of all the basic studio tools and lighting equipment that I use.

Lighting examples are also given for various modifiers, environments, ambient lighting, etc, in how they create different types of lights and moods:

Lesson 2 - Equipment and Lighting

Student homework was to execute on what was covered in the lesson, and experiment with various lighting modifiers:

Melvin Wong, Lesson 2 Homework
Zanelli Caldas, Lesson 2 Homework
Henrik Bengtsson, Lesson 2 Homework


3. Concepts and Casting


Lesson 3 - Concept and Casting
In the next two lessons, I cover the production process on how to come up with a concept and execute it. I decided to teach this by doing a walkthrough of how I produce an actual fine art portrait photoshoot myself. So two parts happen concurrently in these lessons: 1) the general framework and steps I follow when I put a shoot together, and 2) the details of how I apply all of it in practice depending on the situation.

For this lesson, I cover the initial concept creation process as well as how to cast and search for models. Students are taught how to put a concept board together and things to watch out for in casting:

Alex Chua, Lesson 3 Homework
Melvin Wong, Lesson 3 Homework

4. Team Building and Planning


Lesson 4 - Team Building and Planning
In part two of production, I talk about team-building and shoot planning.

I discuss what to do when things go wrong, break down the roles and what is expected of each member on a photoshoot crew, and how to plan your shoot day, schedule, and send out a call sheet. I also go into more details on a photographer's roles and responsibilities, so that you will be well-equipped and understand the expectations for your shoot day.

For this class, students are tasked with finding their crew, revising their concept board, doing a light test, and finalizing shoot details.

5. Photoshoot


Lesson 5 - Photoshoot
In this lesson, I cover the full process of a photoshoot day from beginning to end.

I start with the various workstation setups, both for the hair and makeup artists and for the photographer. Then, I cover the process in working with the model and team. This lesson goes into detail on each point because every factor is important.

6. Post-production


Lesson 6 - Post Production
The post-production process spans across the next two lessons. This first session is focused on workstation setups, image selection and color processing. It may be a bit dry compared to other lessons, especially after the big shoot, but this part of the process is one of the most vital and determining factors in producing a good final image.

Youssra Fawzy, Lesson 6 Homework


7. Retouching

Lesson 7 - Retouching
In part two of post-production I go over retouching. Here, I explain some essential tools and functions in Photoshop for those who are new to the program. I will also teach a basic and simplistic approach that I take to retouching without using filters, presets, and complicated plug-ins.

"Germaine III", retouched image from course demo.

8. Branding and Marketing


Lesson 8 - Marketing and Branding
Whether you take the course as enrichment for your existing photo career or as a hobby, I think every individual will benefit from having an awareness for building a strong personal brand. I decided to do a fine art course because I felt that to have a successful creative career, you have to focus on the fundamentals and your individual artistic vision to set you apart.

So while this course is more abstract than specific subjects such as fashion or beauty, I wanted to cover some avenues to follow up on what you have done. In this lesson, I go over some of the key points in branding and marketing, and I hope that you guys will find it useful.

Student Homework


Below are some images from students who have shared their final work:

Germaine Persinger, Final Work
Victoria Chan
Peter Phung, Final Work
Samantha Ong
Melvin Wong, Final Work
Alex Chua
Shadow Wong, Final Work

Student Experiences


". . . incredibly inspiring. I’ve made so many adjustments based on what you’ve shared and I will keep refining my process until I internalize at least a small portion of the effort and quality that you infuse all your work with. Thank you!" - Volen CK, Learn Squared Term 2 – Big Notes and Insights

"I really enjoyed this course by Jingna . . . This course helped me to refine my approach to artistic portrait photography." - Peter Phung, Lesson 7 Homework

"Thanks so much for sharing your workflow . . . watching the video on how you use photoshop tools and how it is being applied is very useful and broadened my knowledge on the functions." - Zantz Han, Lesson 7 Homework

Blog entry from my apprentice, Maciej Kuciara, on his experience doing his very first photoshoot: http://www.kuciara.com/#/tearsinrain/

Wrap-up


This is going to sound trite, but one of the most rewarding part of doing this course has been watching everyone's progress. Even though I spent an average of over 40 hours putting each lesson together, I'll be the first to say that I don't think the pacing for the course is perfect—some parts may have been too advanced for beginners, and some parts may have been too basic for professionals—but being able to see a wide range of work from students of all levels, that's been incredibly inspiring and humbling. So to everyone who took the course despite these shortcomings, and especially to those who took the time to share some of the results of what they have done, thank you all so much. 

New Mentorship Sessions


Professional mentorship sessions are weekly live calls with students where I go over tips, critiques and answer any individual-specific questions.

New mentorship sessions will begin Friday September 9th. Sign up here.