Thursday, March 29, 2018

I've worked in over a hundred cafes by now, probably. One of the most beautiful I've seen is situated on the freeway between Saigon to Da Lat in Vietnam, the 2nd largest coffee-producing country in the world, next to Brazil. The condensed milk variation of Vietnamese coffee is well known around the world, but it's the coffee culture here that really captivates me. The cafe is awkwardly named "Cafe Photo Bike" (pictured top left), a peculiar juxtaposition of english letters, but it gets to the point and you can see why; the shop is decorated with antique bikes and the walls are covered with beautifully shot and framed photographs of Vietnamese landscapes. The balcony on the 2nd floor overlooks the rolling green hills of Bao Loc, a coffee export town in the Lam Dong province that stays cool all year round, a nice contrast to the humid heat of the capitol four hours west. The cafe is surrounded by large windows that opens to the green around and invites in the cool mountain breeze. Opposite this, cafe VCR(bottom left) in the city capitol now known as Ho Chi Minh City, is a cramped, small cafe hidden from plain sight in the small network of alleys in Japan town, but no less beautiful, albeit in an urbanized way. The 2nd floor overlooks just the adjacent walls of the buildings next to it, but for a design junkie like me there's no denying the abstract shapes of windows, torn paint, and symmetry of vents and aged ACs evokes a certain contentedness in my creative consciousness. The owner's passion for pop culture and figurines is made obvious with the shop's decor; action figures and video game memorabilia line the shelves, probably a large reason why I like it here. A corgi even hangs around here sometimes and invites you to pat him, which he'll then proceed to gently nibble on your hands playfully as you reach out. Can't beat that.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Missing Japan. I remember buying a ‘how to speak Japanese book’ 15 years ago in high school and always entertained the idea of going but ‘life always got in the way’. I finally bit the bullet and went in August 2017, with two 3 year old twins and my wife.

First morning I was so excited I was up at 5 am and ran a few miles around Asakusa to Akihabara, to absorb in the charm of the city right around sunrise before the famed bustling streets of Tokyo would occupy. It was a partly cloudy day. The street vendors at Nakamise market were slowly opening their garage storefronts and setting up shop, the locals diligently sweeping the alleys and getting ready for the day.

The only place open was a Don Quixote a few minutes west of Sensoji Temple, the equivalent of a Walgreens in the U.S., if Walgreens had 5 floors cramped with a chaotic but oddly well organized mixture of everyday items and useless, weird, but completely necessary Japanese stuff. Like these little bouncy gelatinous balls that had a nipple at the end, resembling boobs. Got one for my sister.

By the time I was finished I went back to my AirBnB and got the wife and kids ready to tour the nearby markets. We got them picture-perfect ice cream cones at Nakamise and slowly worked our way up Sensoji Temple. The quiet of the early morning had transformed completely to the bustling experience Tokyo was known for. It remained partly cloudy but was a beautiful day, reminded me of California weather.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Scott Eaton's digital sculpture course

After working in toys for a few years as a 2D concept artist/consultant I decided to take up 3D as well to better understand the entire toy production pipeline. I took up Scott Eaton's digital sculpture online course in early 2017 with the sole goal of deconstructing ZBrush's 'alien' software language, foolishly believing my anatomical knowledge was already adequate. After the class I now know how little I actually know. My perspective on anatomy has grown exponentially in regards to the body in motion and the behavior of a muscle/bone in consequence to the action around it. I've always been an advocate of learning but I think we confine ourselves when we believe that our curriculum is over after college, or that our training is done after getting our black belt, when they're in fact just warm-ups to a life-long course. "Every year your job is to be better and better and better, at being all you already are, this is not a cosmetic exercise, you're already different, your job is to figure out how and then to be more of that." "You know those people that told you they had 15 years experience when they mean one year 15 times? They literally repeat themselves year after year after year..." - Caroline McHugh

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Recently opened an Instagram this year... check it out!

Art of Tu's Instagram

Since 2015 I had been working with Gaming Heads to produce a 1:6 6-figurines diorama set for the Tomb Raider Anniversary. Since a few of these were finally released from the licensor I figured I'd show you guys a few of the earlier concepts to show my workflow and thought processes. The challenge here was to have each figurine be true to the in-game version of Lara Croft, low-poly pyramid boobs and all, but at the same time, still keeping it visually appealing as a figurine and something you would want on your shelf. The ultimate idea was to have them displayed together as a set, revealing all iterations of Lara Croft from 1996's Tomb Raider 1 to 2015's Rise of the Tomb Raider. In the end though, I decided against pyramid boobs.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

BJJ Adventures

Well, can't believe time has gone by so fast... one of the greatest luxuries of my 3 months adventure was I was able to still get my BJJ kicks in. It's amazing how BJJ has spread so religiously all over the world.

Axis BJJ @ Tokyo, Japan - Headed by Taka Watanabe A short walk from the Meidaimae Station going east from Tokyo on the Keio Lines. Very clear instructions with a lot of emphasis on the details. The gym seems to be highly rooted in BJJ fundamentals, appropriately so as Professor Watanabe is a black belt under no other than legendary Rickson Gracie. Special thanks to my friend Kei Keitaro for letting me train with him and showing me a bit around his part of town.

Chiang Mai BJJ @ Chiang Mai, Thailand - Headed by Bryan Garrison Top right corner of Old City's box-looking streets where Manee Nopparat Rd intersects with Chiayapoom. A good showing of students in a town where BJJ still seems to be relatively new. During some of my classes there Professor Garrison focused on a series of related techniques in each class and brought it all together in the end, demonstrating how each movement/technique flowed into the next. Very effective teaching, in my opinion.

Saigon Luta-Livre BJJ @ Saigon, Vietnam - Headed by Erik Keohne On the 3rd floor of what looks like a large school. The entrance into the building is on Ba Huyen Thanh Quan right next to MaxFit, there's a specific video on how to get there here: Professor Keohne is one of the most down to earth guys I've talked to. Very friendly and inviting. Highly knowledgable in all aspects of BJJ—specifically Luta Livre, which is from what I understand a mixture of catch wrestling and no-gi bjj.

Kimura BJJ @ Saigon, Vietnam - Headed by Tho Vu A bit hard to find as you have to journey deep within the alleys off of Tran Nao in District 2. It's on 9th street, but the only way to get there is off 12th on Tran Nao. Professor Vu's wisdom and depth of knowledge is apparent in his teachings and through his large body of students, which is remarkable considering A) BJJ is very new in Saigon, and B) the place is hard to find as hell. Kidding aside, I had some great, exhausting classes training in his studio which was unfortunately cut short by a bad case of strep throat (which I did not catch there).

Chiang Mai Muay Thai @ Chiang Mai, Thailand - ? Not BJJ but as they say, "when in Rome." Or Thailand, figured since Muay Thai is from Thailand, it'd be a shame to miss out the opportunity to train while I was there.

Of course, glad to be coming home to my resident BJJ gym @ Carlson Gracie Henderson, which has been a large part of my growth as a practitioner in the past few years. Professor Romulo Caiado, I'm coming home...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Finished Katarina

About to make some major updates to this blog so I figured I'd start where I left off, with the finished Katarina piece which was done for a Deviantart contest years ago.