Red Engine Studios: Intro to Character Design


Towards the end of my classes at Gnomon, I asked my instructor Eric Ryan for suggestions on other workshops or academies that were available for me to explore. Of the few in the LA area, including CGMA, CDA, TAG3Kicks, he suggested Red Engine Studios in Downtown LA since he was planning to teach Creature Design in the summer term. I took his suggestion and visited the studio prior to enrolling into the class and decided to attend their 10-week workshops.

Introduction to Character Design class was one of the classes I signed up for that was taught by Steve Jung, who also turned out to be one of the founders of Red Engine Studios. His impressive list of work includes Thor, Transformers 2, Tron, Batteship, and Avengers. Since I had just finished up my Gnomon Class, I went into the class with a sense of confidence; however I soon found out how far I was from becoming a Concept Design Artist.

Before sharing my 10-week experience, I wanted to share my thoughts about Steve. He was soft-spoken in his demeanor, but was very cordial and easy to approach between breaks or at the end of class. He studied at Pasadena Art Center and graduated early to avoid having a large burden of student debt. How was it possible to graduate early when I’ve heard that it’s almost impossible to graduate in 4 years? He looked up his instructor’s class syllabus and completed the entire semester’s assignment prior to the first day of class, then demanded that the administrators allow him to skip ahead to the next class. He worked around the clock, literally sleeping on campus (even in the classroom between classes), to complete all of the assignments early. I found this extremely profound, since I’ve heard many stories about the grueling nature of Art Center, so from day one, Steve had earned my attention and my respect.

Week 1: We were given the task of drawing a basic head shape and lighting it in three different ways – from the top, side, and below. Steve’s basic one-hour demo and lecture included this seemingly simple illustration:


I found it pretty astonishing that you can teach, draw, and and field questions at the same time. Although this was a basic stylized drawing of a head, the upcoming demos over the upcoming weeks were truly impressive. Here was my take on the assignment:


I started with the top lighting version (on the left) – which took me about three days. I had a few different versions and had scrapped quite a few drawings since I wasn’t happy with them. I was studying my face in the mirror and pausing Battlestar Galactica (a show I got addicted to on Netflix) since there were many scenes with direct top-lighting on the actors. The bottom lit head on the right was an inverted version of the top lit head, which saved me some time, but thinking back now I should have done it from scratch for practice.

Immediately Steve knew that I had duplicated the left half of the face and flipped it over to the right side. Faces aren’t 100% symmetrical and when you make them perfectly symmetrical, it’s noticeable (at least to him). The side-lit head was not as successful since there were areas of shadow and highlight missing or inaccurate. I realized that painting from scratch (without an exact photographic reference) as Steve had suggested that we do, had exposed my weaknesses.

Steve also noted to make my shadow areas darker and add highlights in the appropriate areas to add pop and emphasis to the face.

Week 2: Although I missed this class, I had to work on a few renderings of a few different materials. Steve posted the demo onto the class blog:


Typically I find these types of assignments less-than-exciting, but I still learned a few things:


I used to do a lot of these exercises when I first began airbrushing, so I felt confident with these renderings. However Steve pointed out a few flaws with the glass renderings (the objects in the middle column); the edges of glass are usually more bevelled, so there needs to be a thicker line along the edges as well as brighter highlights.

Week 3: This was our first character assignment and Steve completed a basic leather-clad character demo in what I thought was a wtf-short-amount-of-time (less than an hour?):


He made a few thumbnails prior to the character demo:


Again, this was done in a matter of minutes which was mind-boggling to me at the time. He instructed us to create a few skeletal stick figure drawings, find a design language and repeat those shapes throughout the figure, and then break up shapes with different values (white, gray, and black). We were supposed to look for interesting shapes, instead of lines, and also keep an eye on the negative space (the blank areas surrounding the figure). Also he stressed the use of odd numbers of shapes/patterns/designs since those are more interesting than even, symmetric features.

Here is my first take (warning: it’s awful):


It’s pretty bad, and I can’t believe I’m posting this, but what’s worse is that I thought at one point that it was okay! Here are a few thumbnails and silhouettes I drew, which were equally embarrassing:



Just bad, bad, and bad. Steve was actually pretty nice about it, thinking back on it now. His main criticism was that I had not considered shapes over patterns. The hand proportions were too large, and the top of the arm further away from us was too big. The weight of the character should be resting on one leg with one of the knees locked or else the character stance seems too relaxed and thus looks weak. The chest should point upwards to depict a heroic character. Once again my darks needed to be darker and my light areas need more specular highlights. Here is Steve’s quick paintover illustrating his points:


Not only was I finding out how weak my drawing skills were, but I was also coming to the realization that I was a bad designer.

Week 4: I missed this class due to a pre-planned trip to Palm Springs, but was still able to complete the assignment since we used the Red Engine Studios’ class blog to keep connected to the class. That week Steve demo’d a knight in shining armor:


I really wished I had seen his demo and heard his lecture, because once again I made some terrible knight characters:




WTF … the first one looks like Boba Fett’s grandfather, the second one looks like some chicken suit, and the last one that I thought was the most ‘successful’ out of the bunch, has a strange mix of sci-fi and fantasy. Again, I thought these were actually okay at the time which is the sad part.

Steve’s comments mirrored his last crit – shapes over patterns! I had to keep focussing on big, medium, and small shapes throughout the design of the character. When I painted the third knight I remember adding those cut lines throughout the character just because I thought it was ‘cool’; I hadn’t thought about any reason for their being there. Steve again drew my attention to these basic design rules that I had never formally learned.

Week 5: This week we dove into creating a character with color. Steve was also allowing the use of photo textures, and I was excited to finally use photographic references since I had a very large library of photographs to choose from. Steve’s demo was even more impressive (albeit Tron- inspired) and mind-numbingly quick:


Steve used a several new techniques that I had yet to try; warping textures, flipping the character’s silhouette horizontally back and forth to ensure there weren’t any anatomical issues, using different blend modes in the layers to overlay the photo textures, using clipping masks to paint inside the silhouette, and on and on and on.

Here were my attempts (once again, nothing that I’m very proud of):



I chose some photos I had from a recent trip to Korea and Paris to use for the background plate. Prior to working on these I brushed up on my figure drawing using model poses from fashion blogs, including The Sartorialist:


While doing these studies certainly helped, there were still some issues with the pose and the anatomical structure in my paintings. Steve also pointed out that my costume design was too plain and simple – there wasn’t anything interesting to draw the eyes into the character. He stressed pushing and pulling the silhouette to achieve more interest. He also cautioned my use of  photographs without painting over them extensively; it could be a slippery slope towards mediocrity if I didn’t learn early on to limit my use of them. His paintover stressed these points:


I have to admit at this point in the class, I was getting very worried about my career choice. This was the first time I felt that I couldn’t draw – something I was told by many that I was great at. I also came to realization that I didn’t know how to design – another fact that surprised me since I felt that I had a high regard for design.

Week 6: This week we were diving into a genre that I wasn’t very familiar with: Steampunk. Apparently this genre involves characters from a post-apocalyptic, western world powered by steam engine technology. What? Steve’s demo helped illustrate these ideas:


Since I was unfamiliar with this genre, I spent a lot of time researching this theme and looking at steam engine train designs. I came up with this sniper-style character:


I tried to keep the painting looser and focused on the design elements. Steve commended my design of the wheel, but wanted more details in that area to show how it would actually work. He thought the shapes of the tubing were too uniform and needed to be more fluid. He also pointed out that the width of the fingers were similar to the widths of the other pipes in the gun.

Steve’s paintover:


He wanted me to have fun with the story of the character as well to push the design elements – maybe this character had to wear a giant mask because the steam engine that drives his leg pollutes too much…whatever. Go with it and make the character interesting.

Week 7: Our assignment for this week involved designing a mech-suit. Again, Steve did an amazing demo in a little over an hour:


For our assignment he wanted us to design a mech-suit that performed a mundane task as its function as opposed to the typical military application. Since I’m a photography enthusiast, I chose a photographer as my power-suited character:


And here are a few thumbs that I worked off of:


Since Steve had stressed the idea of pushing the envelope, I went all out on the silhouette of this character by arming him with tons of photographic gear I wished I had. In this case, however, Steve explained that the design did not meet the function. As a power-suit, the accessories should be able to be folded into the suit at certain points as opposed to being stuck on all over the place. The design was far too chaotic and the functional parts needed to be better integrated into the body. He did liked the design of the legs that had the tripod attachments, though.

Week 8: For the next two weeks, we were given the choice to redesign an existing character from any source. I decided on using my favorite comic character from my childhood – Calvin & Hobbes. I decided not to use Calvin himself, but one of his imaginary characters, Spaceman Spiff. I pulled up images to use as references:


I developed a few thumbnails with these references:


Not the greatest work here again, but I chose the third pose to get me started and ended up with this for my first go-around:


Steve suggested that I needed to use more realistic colors – a term he used was to make the colors look like they ‘weren’t taken straight out of the tube’. The hues needed to be altered by mixing colors together colors rather than adjusting the color saturation sliders. The background needed more contrast as well and the use of textures in this case was necessary to sell the painting. Steve once again illustrated this with his paintover:


I enjoyed working on this assignment since this was a character reminiscent of my childhood, so I went back and re-worked Spaceman Spiff with Steve’s suggestions:


I addressed the contrast issue by using the Overlay Blend mode and using a darker shade to emphasize the darker areas. Other major parts that were addressed were the feet which needed to be in the proper perspective. I also added more details and smaller shapes in the boots as well as the belt. I finished the gun and tightened up the overall painting, fixed the stance, and added the ship in the background.

Steve saw the improvements and added a few more details in his paintover:


Steve still wanted more contrast to draw the eyes into the painting. He also showed me how to mix the blue costume colors with the colors of the surrounding environment to add more realism to the scene. The head also needed to be tilted slightly so that the it didn’t feel disconnected from the body.

Take three:


I really pushed the dark levels to increase the contrast level to make the scene more eye-catchy. The gun was straightened out slightly and the colors were mixed in with the surrounding environment. The blue parts of the environment also received a healthy wash of orange to fit better into the scene. I added some mist and smoke coming out of the gun to make the scene seem more dynamic.

At the time I was very satisfied and proud of this piece. Alongside Spaceman Spiff’s development, I addressed the issues with the Steampunk Sniper character:


I exposed the arm to show more mechanical elements of the character. Also the mask was given a bigger upgrade, the piping in the gun varied in more places, and the engine and wheel were further developed to create a more plausible character.

Steve saw the improvements and pointed out the parts that didn’t quite work. The black part of the engine that looked like the front of the steam engine was not working – it looked like I had cut and pasted an image of a steam engine (which I admittedly did). The perspective of the wheel axis was slightly off, the gun piping could still use more variation, and the colors still felt as if they weren’t blending in with the background and foreground.

Take three:


I re-worked the engine component of the wheel to make it seem more convincing and addressed the issues with the wheel. I also a few more elements to the wheel after doing more research from my reference images.

I never received a final critique from Steve on what came to be my best work at the time, but I can see now the things I could work on to improve these two characters. The poses could be much better, and the structure of the anatomy could also be improved greatly.

Thinking back on my experience, I was probably in over my head going into this class with just one other digital painting class under my belt. However, I’ve found out that getting out of my comfort zone has helped me improve exponentially, and I’ve only yet begun.

The Gnomon Experience


Since I’ve committed myself to becoming a digital artist in the field of Entertainment Design, I found out quickly that the Gnomon School of Visual Effects was the place that was recommended by a few friends in the industry. I signed up for an Introduction to Maya class at the beginning of 2012 to learn how to use the highly complex 3d modeling suite that is commonly used in the movie and videogame industry. I also supplemented my digital art education by enrolling into the Introduction to Digital Painting with Eric Ryan. It turned out that my experience from the Digital Painting class opened up possibilities in that field that reflected my career goals as well as played to my strengths since I had a background in traditional art.

Since then I’ve decided to stick to 2D digital art using Photoshop even though it seems that everyone was trying to learn 3D with Maya. Maya is such a production machine that I soon realized that you simply cannot learn the entire program in a given amount of time. You have to decide on which part you want to specialize in (i.e. modeling, texture, lighting, animation, keyframing, setting up IK’s, rendering, etc.) to be an effective asset to any company.

In the Introduction to Digital Painting class, Eric Ryan pushed all of the students with the amount of homework assignments and the usual critiques (also known as ‘crits’) that followed. I picked up my first Wacom Intuos4 tablet (I had a Graphire tablet gifted to me that I used before), and off I went without having any experience actually using it. I felt pretty well-versed at Photoshop at the time since I’ve used the program since version 6 or 7, and being an avid photographer-hobbyist I was very familiar with its interface. Looking back, however, I realized now that I really didn’t know how to paint in it at all, let alone create anything from scratch.

Typically, the class structure is as follows: Eric does an hour demo of what our homework assignment will be, then fields questions and answers, then crits the student work and does a ‘paintover’ (which is exactly as it sounds – he takes your homework, brings it into photoshop, and paints over areas that needs attention) for the remainder of the class.

Week 1: Our assignment is to copy a photo of an alien head sculpture by Craig Mullins, a creature designer in the entertainment industry:


I spent a lot of hours getting familiar with my Intuos4, and came up with this:


I used about 6-7 separate layers and painted like I was painting in real life; the mid tones, shadows, and highlights were kept on separate layers, and few other layers for the texture and details. I got a decent crit from Eric, and in comparison to the other students in the class, I felt that I was in the upper tier in terms of skill level and having the eye to see values and tones between the light and dark areas. The major criticism from this piece was that the values were a bit close together and that there were no sharp, crisp, contrasty areas.

Week 2: Copy a more complex scene in black and white by seeing the proportions and negative space between all the different elements in the still life scene:


My version:


I soon found out what carpal tunnel feels like! I realized my drawing skills had lapsed since I usually traced over paintings that were to be airbrushed. I hadn’t drawn anything for a long time since I felt that there was no need to because of the availability of digital tools like cameras and scanners. I spent a few days on this assignment, and my wrists and forearms were screaming with pain.

Eric pointed out the inaccuracies in the proportions but also gave me a ‘good take’ on the scene. Again the lack of contrast between the dark and light areas was pointed out. My airbrushing brain was still telling me not to go too dark since in real life, you can’t ‘undo’ that action. But it’s photoshop and I needed to push that in the digital realm.

Week 4: Since I missed week 3, our next assignment was to do a color rendering of a screencap from any movie we liked, but it had to have interesting lighting. I chose a screencap from a short film called Reverie by photographer Vincent Laforet:


I spent about 4 days on this project (looking back now, I wasn’t nearly as efficient around Photshop as I am now):


Eric gave me a pretty positive review, once again emphasizing to darken my darks to boost up the contrast. To sharpen my drawing skills, I tried not to look at the source material as often and did not measure it with the ruler tool in Photoshop. That may be the reason my rendition isn’t as accurate to the original, but the proportions of the model are good enough that I think my version can stand up on its own.

Week 5: An animal portrait. I’ve done a few in the past, but never digitally, and since I just got a puppy at the end of January, Toffee was my subject:


Looking back, I can’t believe she was that small! Anyhow, my take:


I tried using some of the 3D brushes in Photoshop CS6 to render the fur. Eric pointed out to warm up the tones in the shirt by adding more reds, add more convincing fur details, and to darken the areas around the ear, neck, and body to create more ‘turn’ in the shape. I took those notes and did another take on Toffee:


Week 6: Paint a few color compositions of environments in different times of the day. Since I had a gigabytes of photographs in my own collection, I had plenty to choose from:




The left side are the photographs, and the right are my renditions. Eric pointed out to differentiate the warmer and cooler tones, watch out for over-saturation of the red sky, and to darken the foreground elements.

Week 7: Copy a painting from any of the Great Masters of painting from the Renaissance Era. Since Eric did a demo using Adolphe Bouguereau’s painting, I decided to try it myself:


I spent more than 4 days working on this rendering of Bouguereau’s ‘Lost Pleiad’. I felt confident in my rendering capabilities with this version, however Eric pointed out to desaturate the background and add more green tones in the shadows to neutralize the pinks in the skin.

For the last 2 weeks, we had the freedom to do a final project on whatever topic interested us. That actually cause more anxiety, as I found out that I get extremely nervous when given a blank canvas to stare at.

Ironically that’s exactly what ended up inspiring me to paint my final project: a modern take on Norman Rockwell’s ‘Artist Facing Blank Canvas’:


To update the painting, I added elements of my digital art supplies to replace the paints and canvas from Rockwell’s time – my Macbook Pro, Wacom Intuos4 tablet, 27″ Thunderbolt Display, and my Drobo external drives. I shot a few photographs of my office nook where I do all of my digital artwork to get me to a starting point:


I realized this composition was too flat, and I took another shot where added a few more personal elements to the scene:




My first rendition came out like this:


Since the beginning of the class, my speed had improved and I was able to paint this scene in about a day and a half. I also was proud of the elements I had created in this scene to spark interest to the viewers’ eyes; the pen pointing at my puppy, where there is also a red book pointing down towards her head to direct the eyes there. Then there were personal elements of mine such as the camera lens and the airbrush tool above my head in the nook area. The Drobo drives are also angles in such a way that the lines from the Drobos implicity points towards the puppy, who is also staring curiously at me.

Eric did a final paintover our final project, and there were a few areas he said that I could improve on in the painting:


The white screen caused too much contrast that drew too much attention away from the focal points of the painting. The head proportions were a bit off, and he wanted a few more elements on the desk. I took his crit and ran with it in my final version:


I added a screenshot of my actual screen to put into the monitor.


I fixed the proportions of my head, added the screenshot into the monitor, and also added more reflections into the black borders of the monitor and the Drobo drive covers. I didn’t add any elements to the desk since there really aren’t any other items spread over my real desk. Still, I felt that this was a successful painting and was extremely excited with my progress.

Next stop – Red Engine Studios

Going Di-gi-tal, Di-gi-tal…


As I’ve fully committed myself to pursuing a career in art, I’ve decided to pursue the field of Entertainment Design which would require an expertise with digital tools. That’s not to say there was anything wrong with trying to sell my airbrush artwork individually, but for me it seemed to be a long shot that would requires several years of pounding the pavement and knocking on doors so-to-speak.

After graduating UCLA I desperately wanted to go to Art Center and try my hand at design – maybe product or its renown transportation design program. Just graduating UCLA, however, I didn’t have the funds nor did I feel the absolute confidence that I could repay the six-figure loans after graduating Art Center.

In the back of my mind I wanted to do something in the videogame field – up to that point I had spent countless hours enjoying the interactive nature of the many immersive worlds brought to me by the original Atari, NES, Genesis, Gameboy, TurboGrafx, N64, and my all-time favorite, the Sega Dreamcast. I noticed that I began to critique the lacking features and the art styles of the games. But in 2003, I had no preparation to pursue that field after UCLA, although USC and UCI had barely began offering undergraduate and graduate programs for videogame design starting in 2004.

Fast-forward 9 years, after taking the road less traveled and building a life with a career in the family business as a hotelier, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing something. I’ve been told several times to use my talents to pursue a different career that was more fulfilling from friends and even family, but for 8+ years I kept ignoring that itch, drowning those thoughts with the preconception that eventually owning and running my own hotel business could lead me into a very fruitful life where I could disregard those notions with the promise of fairly stable wealth.

In 2007-2008 the bottom fell out of the economy, and the hospitality industry went into a tailspin. Needless to say those feelings of security quickly vanished and my father and I had to hustle to keep our heads above water. As the family business waned, tensions were higher between the parents and I, and I can’t blame them since their retirement was tied to the success of the hotel. To make a long story short, things wrapped up nicely a few years later and I have them to thank for the years of work-experience and the life I’ve been able to establish and sustain until this day (working as a onsite General Manager at a roadside hotel in the Inland Empire will expose you to a lot of things, for better or for worse…).

Back to the point – I was somewhat apprehensive about going digital. If you’ve seen some of the concept designers’ work, they are equally amazing and daunting thinking about how they can get from point A to Z. After taking a digital painting class with Eric Ryan at the Gnomon School of Visual Effects and currently finishing up classes with Steve Jung, Anthony Jones, and Aaron Limonick at Red Engine Studios, I’ve come to realize how important the fundamentals in traditional art are to any artist and designer, digital tools or not. The years of airbrushing have not been wasted as I had once worried about, and the more recent dabble into photography have also been a great supplement to my understanding of how the world is observed.

I will share with you all of the terrible drawings I’ve made from the beginning and the realization that although I may be good at rendering (i.e. copying), presently I may be a bad designer thus far (which, hopefully with more practice I can only get better).

But I think I’ve found my way and taken the first steps to something exciting.

I’m posing my digital work progress here. Individual postings to follow for each of the pieces.

*image copyrighted to Sulmo Kim

Joyce & Charles Wedding/Birthday Portrait


A few years ago, Joyce’s sister was getting married and she had asked me to paint a portrait for her and her future brother-in-law. Due to a few unforeseen circumstances and being that I was still working full-time, I was unable to get that project started in time.

Now that Joyce is soon approaching her wedding day, she commissioned me to paint her a wedding portrait that she could present to her fiance, Charles, as a surprise birthday gift as soon as they return from their Hawaiian wedding. I was more than honored to take on the task because I think Joyce gets why this is important; she wants something that she and her husband can look at for years to come.

I decided to create another Timelapse Video combined with footage I shot of my art studio, unmasking the finished art piece, and – my favorite part – the final reveal to Joyce.

-Sulmo Kim |

Captured Emotions

joyce-charles-portrait-007webI’ve known Mo for over a decade and over the years I’ve had the privilege to see some of his work. More recently, I saw his airbrush paintings of wedding portraits he had done for some of our friends (including his own).

When it came time to decide on a wedding/birthday gift for my fiance, the idea of asking Mo to create one of his timeless pieces was on the top of my list. Mo is truly talented and his ability to capture every fine detail and human emotion through the airbrush is amazing.

I gave Mo one of my favorite pictures of me and my fiance. It was one of those candid shots I thought would look sweet in a black and white painting. I was confident that Mo would do great work but I was in complete and utter awe when he revealed the final product. The painting looked like a replica of the actual picture, yet more beautiful and personal. He was somehow able to add so much depth to the picture. His attention to every tiny detail like how the sun reflected off our faces and my reflection in my fiance’s sunglasses was mind blowing.  

I am so excited to give the painting to my fiance and have it hanging in our place. Knowing that it was done by a dear friend will make it that much more special when we look at it everyday for the rest of our lives. Thanks Mo! – Joyce

Harrison & Annie’s Wedding Portrait

I was fortunate enough to be one of the groomsmen for Harrison Long’s wedding. He’s been a close friend of mine since we were in junior high, and his father, Gary, was even the officiant for my wedding. Harrison had started his own Harrison Long Photography a few years ago and spent his own precious time to shoot my engagement photos for my wedding without hesitation, and surprised my then fiance and I with our sign-in books filled with those photos.

I was honored to produce his wedding slideshow, and I knew I had to do something really special for his wedding portrait. Rather than take the same approach from my other paintings – editing a source image and rendering faithfully to that image – I made a portrait inside of another painting.

Harrison has an affinity for urban landscapes and graffiti, an interest we shared growing up. I also knew that he wanted to secretly hop trains and hitchhike across the country, that one of his favorite color is green, and that he loves Polaroids. I took that information and using a book he gifted me, Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents by Nicholas Ganz, I was inspired to create something … different, but I had a good feeling that they would like what I made.

The Reveal

I wanted to capture their reaction when I revealed their painting. Although the iPhone’s image quality was subpar due to the dimness outside of the restaurant, it still managed to capture their emotions from nervous anticipation to their elation with the final outcome.

-Sulmo Kim |

Timeless Memento

dsc_7978-edit“We were absolutely stunned when our piece by Sulmo was unveiled to us! The theme fit us so well and the work was so beautiful and detailed.  Our faces looked just like the photo!  It is hanging in our foyer now and everyone who sees it comments on how precise all of the details are.  It is more than just a portrait because Sulmo captured us and our spirit through his work.  It is a gorgeous piece that will be a timeless memento of an important time in our life.  We appreciate all of the thought and tireless work it took to create it!” - Annie

“The painting is amazing and we’re in pretty much awe of your skills. I’ve seen your work over the years and am familiar with your style and ability, but I was still pretty blown away by what you did.  I’ve always been impressed by what you do and your talents to capture detail, but it was different seeing our own faces on canvas. I think my initial feeling was shock at how much you were able to capture us. I’ve seen your portraiture work a lot, but it was really different this time seeing our faces on that canvas. It personalizes it to an even greater degree having your photo on canvas. There’s something very personal about canvas. It humanizes a photo more to see it painted on canvas. Out of all the work you’ve done, I’m really impressed by this piece. Maybe I’m biased because it’s us, but I think I’d feel this way if I saw this from an outside perspective. The way you drew in personal elements to incorporate personality lends the painting a lot of depth. Everything from color choice to background train elements to graf to the details of the date, it all gives direction and reinforces a lot of subtly and personality within the painting. The Polaroid is a pretty sweet touch because it’s like a picture within a picture. Honestly, I think this is some of your best work yet. I’m impressed!” - Harrison

The TILT from madMINDS


I produced a KICKSTARTER video for Spencer and Clinton Yee for their company, madMINDS, to introduce The TILT to the Apple community.

The TILT notebook stand embraces the philosophy of the Apple brand – simple, sleek, smart, and slim (the 4S if you will). While other notebook stands try to cater to every laptop, The TILT is specifically designed for the aluminum unibody Macbook Pro’s. From its patent-pending latch design, to its matching silver color, to its slim and sleek profile, The TILT will become one with your Macbook Pro as soon as it’s on.


The most exciting feature of The TILT for me is the metal tripod mount that’s built into the base. This can be very useful in many professional settings, i.e. for photographers tethered to their Macbook Pro’s, for DJ’s, and artists like myself that work off of their Macbook Pro’s in unconventional settings.

Assuming you have a basic professional tripod (in my case from Manfrotto), you can mount your Macbook Pro at any height and any angle to suit your needs.

I thank Spencer and madMINDS for the opportunity to be part of a project that I believe will be a big success. For more information, see their site.

The video production and photography was shot with my Nikon D7000, 50mm Nikkor f1.8G lens, 24-120mm Nikkor f4 lens, Manfrotto 190XDB tripod, and edited with Final Cut Pro X.

-Sulmo Kim |

See more lifestyle photos of The TILT…

My Wedding Portrait Timelapse

I’ve had a pretty good excuse as to why my site hasn’t been updated in 18 months – I got married! Being the creative type, I wanted to do something special to commemorate our special day, so I decided to stay up a few nights to make this piece that I later used in the slideshow that I also produced.


I had my Canon G9 setup on a Gorillapod in various positions to focus on the specific areas I was working on that night. I also used my Nikon D90 with a remote and shot photos throughout the painting process without my body intruding on the canvas.

Since I wasn’t visible in the photos, the resulting timelapse video appeared as if the painting, painted itself. You’ll know what I mean towards the second half of the video.

I used images from my engagement shoot by Harrison Long Photography. I converted the source photo into a sepia tone, adjusted some of the tones, and cropped the image to my liking. This is a piece for myself and my new wife.

-Sulmo Kim |

Bobo’s Portrait Timelapse Video

Here is the edited footage of the timelapse video I produced and edited during the making of Bobo’s Pet Portrait.

I had a Canon G9 set up on a Gorillapod and also on my Manfrotto 190XDB tripod to shoot one shot every minute using the intervalometer in the CHDK firmware. I changed the angle at the beginning of every session to change up the viewing angles to make the video have more visual appeal.

I also used my Nikon D90 with a 50mm f1.8 lens set up on the Manfrotto tripod to shoot the movies used in the introduction and towards the ending of the video.

I gave iMovie ’09 the benefit of the doubt to edit the footage I captured, however I had many nagging issues with its stability while I was editing. Rebooting proved to settle most of the issues, but what Macbook Pro owner reboots their Mac? Anyhow, the editing experience went smoothly after the rough start, and the learning curve was much smaller than I had anticipated (coming from a background using iMovie 06 HD, Adobe Premiere, and Final Cut).

I also used Aperture 3 to edit the photos. I was hoping to use A3 to edit this together using its new video feature, but I found it too lacking when it came down to editing the video clips from my Canon G9 or the Nikon D90.

I intend to do this for the more of my future art projects. While I usually enjoy watching  timelapse projects, I’ve also found that directing, editing, and piecing together videos and still images has been very rewarding.

-Sulmo Kim |

Bobo’s Pet Portrait



Some people love their pets enough to immortalize them in a painting. My mother is one of these people!


Bobo has been our family dog since 1998 when my mother found him at the local Petco after scouring for months for a suitable, household companion. This was the first small dog that we ever owned, and he’s been the best pet we’ve had since the first day.

I’ve done 3 other paintings of Bobo over the years, and none have made the cut in my mother’s eye, who can be my toughest critic (out of love of course). I took some photos with my Canon G9 a few years ago and assembled a book for her, and she chose this calm and sleepy photo of Bobo to be painted and hung over her fireplace.

-Sulmo Kim |

See what it takes to make the cut for mom…