A New Life & lunch with Katon (Senior 3D Character Artist from “God of War III”)!

Wow, it’s been a while since I updated this thing. As I am often wont to do, let’s return with a big bang (which is a good show).

I recently moved from my wonderful Chinese town of Yangshuo back to the States! I’m now living in Santa Monica, which for those of you who are geographically challenged, is an iconic city on the coast of the Los Angeles area, just west of Hollywood and the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

I moved here to take my career to the next level. As a contract concept artist and illustrator for the entertainment industries, the LA area is where all the action is. My illustration career was going okay in China, but it wasn’t taking me in the right direction – games. Also, it forced me to be in this bubble. No real networking, no peers, no classes to drop in on, no events or parties full of colleagues, no conventions, and the list goes on. I find that location is very key in finding work in this industry, and improving. It isn’t necessary by any means to live in a place like LA, but it does make things easier. No amount of browsing the web and telecommuting can replace the random opportunities that come from being in a place where over 125 game development studios call home.

For example, just today I had lunch with Katon Calloway, a Senior Character Artist at Sony’s Santa Monica Studios – he’s the guy that brought you a lot of the monsters and such from “The God of War III”. His 3D work is mind-blowing.

God of War III Satyr by Kayton Calloway

God of War III Satyr by Kayton Calloway

And through chance and networking, I got to talk with him for a couple of hours, pick his brain, get advice, show my portfolio, and he was kind enough to take my portfolio and resume back to his office to give his office’s recruiter! I mean, that would never have happened to me in China. Nor would being able to have a landlord who is an accomplished actress and director (Jill Jaress), whose son is a producer at Gazillion Games.

So I’m pretty pleased at my decision to come here, though it does have me temporarily separated from my long-term girlfriend and our dog. I’m here to get a job, and since the economy seems to finally be picking up, things are looking more hopeful. Freelance work is coming in, I’ve gotten the chance to go to CTN-Expo (Animation Expo in Burbank) where I got to talk and network with a lot of concept artists, such as the guys from Section Studios. I’ve had lunch with a producer from Neversoft/Activision (Modern Warfare), who introduced me to a producer at Zynga. Lots of key advice and help from them. Lunch today with an amazing senior artist. I absolutely loved China, and miss it very much – but if a career is what I’m looking for, then LA will beat dumplings and incense-stained temples every time.

Well, that’s enough time I that I have to waste today, ha. Time to get back to making environments and assets for a new client (mobile developer).

Chinese New Years – Spring Festival

3/20/2011
It’s been a busy Spring over here in the Far East, what with Chinese New Years Festival, new teacher orientation groups, vacations, and constant rain. I’ve also rebuilt this website, as well as my new pro-site. Check it out. Anywho, here’s the rundown on how my Spring has gone:

Chinese New Years & Lantern Festival

This year I was invited by my girlfriend Pippi’s family to join them for Spring Festival – also known as the Chinese New Year. This year, it started on Groundhog’s Day, and lasted for 14 days, ending with the Lantern Festival. I spent one week in her parents’ house, seeing how a real Chinese family lives and celebrates their biggest holiday.

On the left, you can see the big dinner – fish, duck, sausage, eggs, veggies, intestines, etc. Pippi’s dad was the chef for the week (everyday is a big meal for the holiday), and he’s awesome. The other 3 pictures are from Yangshuo during Lantern Festival after I got home. That dragon lights up at night, as do 1000 other lanterns hung up throughout the park. They were taking it down when I took that top-right shot.

On the big night (Feb. 2nd – the New Year’s Eve for China) we had the traditional big family meal which was really amazing.  You eat until you’re totally  stuffed, and then they make you eat more. And after dinner, they make you continue eating snacks like nuts and candy while watching the special TV programs. During dinner, Pippi’s mom brought out a huge jug of her homemade red wine – she grows her own grapes, and does the whole process of making it herself – and it was really good as well.

After dinner and snacks at around midnight, the world exploded. Every family in China began shooting off fireworks. And I’m not talking about little whizzes and bangs. I’m talking about the big KABOOM rockets. It was non-stop fireworks in every direction for hours. The neighbors across the street, to the side, above, and even the nearby temple were setting off everything from parachuters to UFOs to bazooka blasts that rained ash all over my head. We had our own arsenal (which I bought the day before) and we got to set off our own big rockets – bazooka style. They let me light them all off, with Pippi’s 4-year-old nephew Wang Wang cheering me on the whole time. They gave me this funky medicinal cigar to light them off with. It was one of the coolest evenings of my life. I have never seen so many fireworks, nor so close before – not even at the Washington Monument in D.C. on the 4th of July. And this was just an average town, and one neighborhood. Imagine being in Beijing.

On the left is Pippi’s parent’s home – it’s like a town house, with its own front and back yard. That little guy with the camera is Wang Wang (Wang Jun Jie), Pippi’s 4-year-old nephew, who has ‘little emperor syndrome’ – that means he’s over-parented and spoiled. But he’s cool, most of the time. He’s obsessed with me whenever I come over. I teach him how to draw, and build little miniature farms in the backyard and stuff like that. On the left is their living room, and in front of the couch is a big wooden box that provides toasty heat for the feet. They use this because most Chinese people don’t use much central heating in their homes. The walls lack insulation, and the heat just dissipates and gets expensive. So they roast their sweaty little toes instead, which works out alright, actually. Pippi’s mom designed the layout and such, and that’s the GuanYin Buddha nestled in the dining room alcove. Her family is semi-atheist, semi-Buddhist. They are like Christmas christians – the ones who go to Mass once a year. But they don’t even go that often. On the bottom you can see their yard – and yes, that is a temple on the hill behind their house! You can hear the Taoist chanting and blaring pop music (Yeah, I know – pop music in a temple is pretty odd) all the time. On the bottom right is the grape vines that the mom uses to make her red wine.

While I was there for the week, I got to see pretty much all of Pippi’s hometown of Huai Hua, which is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Mao’s hometown. It’s also nearby the national park where they filmed Avatar. I got to see her old schools (that’s Pip’s old high school shown below), play with bb guns in the park, and walk all around the streets of the most average Chinese city I’ve ever seen. It’s the Chinese equivalent of ‘Main Street America’.

It was fairly clean in most places, but polluted in some as well – especially deep in one of the older neighborhoods by the local neighborhood market. But it was great. I got to see all the settings of Pippi’s historical tales that I’ve heard so many times.

Also pictured above is the local walking streets, the big downtown markets, and the mountaintop park where Pippi used to hike as a kid. We walked around for hours, waiting while her mom window shopped for a new winter coat. She still has yet to find a good one, and Spring is now upon us. The mountain park was very interesting, with bamboo forests, tombs, lakes filled with rental swan boats, and even a ‘horror house’ – Halloween style. At the very top there’s tons of BBQ pits, where we sat down for a snack of Twix equivalents, oranges, dragon’s eyes, and nuts. That little boy is not Wang Wang, but he is wielding a bamboo staff. That cauldron is full of something delicious, I suspect. Probably soup, made with guts and bones.

Pictured below is some of Pippi’s old photos. I asked her mom if they had any pictures of Pippi as a child. Within a couple of seconds, her mom came back with 6 albums full of the good stuff. Here’s just a sample.

Those funny pictures of Pippi are of her performing – she used to be a local star performer/dancer in her younger days, and always was at the center of the stage. In the rest of these photos she’s with her parents, and her older brother as well. The one where’s she’s wearing a pink jacket is a high school photo, and the one with the fan is middle school.

Pictured below is February 2nd at the temple across the street from Pip’s place. They were holding a ceremony to honor the Taoist Gods for the New Year. It was really cool – the guy in the red leads it, and at one point starts doing a funny dance with one of his legs in a circle, holding out some golden treats for the immortals. Everyone else chants, hums, and rings gongs and bells, or bangs drums.

They also burned a pyre of God money, and gave them a feast of fruit, pig head, and other delicacies. Yes, pig head is a delicacy, as it is sweet, succulent, tender, and generally delicious. Eating the head of the beast in China is an honor, of which I enjoy partaking of sometimes. Tongue is great, as are cheek jowls. The top of the neck is good too, just below the brain. The brain is just so-so, too livery and grainy for my taste. Like Solvent Green pudding mixed with powdery sludge of cement. Yum.

Changsha
After Spring Festival, we went back to Yangshuo, and did our Orientation(s) for Buckland, the teaching agency that I work for. Basically, we put all of our new foreign teacher recruits through a week-long crash course in teaching and culture. Pippi recruits, deals with schools, school/teacher placement, and teaches them about Chinese students, Chinese education systems, and about ESL theories. I teach the nuts and bolts of teaching – classroom management, student disciplining, lesson planning, activities, and what NOT to do (like don’t flush the paper down the toilet). We had 3 or 4 batches of teachers (coming to around a total of 40-50 teachers from places like America, Ireland, New Zealand, England, Australia, Poland, France, etc), which technically just ended yesterday – woot woot!

After the main groups, we took a mini vacation to Changsha – the capital of Hunan and Pippi’s college town. Changsha is great, with tons of things to do and plenty of amazing food – the food in Guangxi compared to Hunan is absolute crap. They have a great flavor in Hunan, which is very spicy. I love it. I can eat more spice than Pippi. Anyways, while we were there, I found that Papa John’s – Changsha is now closed, permanently. Sadness! Depression! I rent my shirt and tore at my hair, and then proceeded down the sidewalk to Pizza Hut, with my head hanging low. While we were there, we went to the beautiful island park in the midst of the central Xiang Jiang River. The island is a cultivated paradise of green lawns, flowering peach blossoms, roses, and 1920’s American architecture.

At the tip of the 4 km island is a Mount Rushmore style bust of good ol’ Mao during his handsome youth. There were some really funky statues as well, like that little boy bending over to help hold up the bench. What’s up with that? I love the signs they put up to keep everyone off of the grass – it says “Tiny grass is smiling at you and asking you to keep on the road.”

The park was very lovely, and we walked all the way down and back again amidst spring-time orchards, bamboo gardens, lakes, fountains, and pagodas. Very cool. Highly recommended if you’re ever in Changsha.

We went to another park while we were there, on the other side of the city. It had tons of pagodas, bridges over its several lakes (clean ones!), and it even had a theme park! The theme park was more like an American town fair, with rides like the slingshot, gravitron types, Ferris wheels, the swinging boat that goes upside down, and a horror house, amidst many others. The rides were awesome, with no lines to wait in, and each ticket just costs $2, or 15 RMB. The horror house was actually quite cool. They stick you around a long table in a scary room, turn off the lights, and proceed to scare the snickers out of you.

The photos down below aren’t from Changsha per se, but are interesting nonetheless. That girl with Pippi is one of her old high school friends that we bumped into in Huai Hua. That box is the board game “Settlers of Catan”, in Chinese! I of course bought it, and it turns out that it includes the expansion, the original, and Seafarers as well, I believe. A bargain at 65 RMB – 10 bucks! Then those romantic photos are of Pippi and I’s 1.5 year anniversary (March 1st), so I had to bust out my big romantic guns. Candles, rose petals, bath & body works scented candles from the homeland, drinks, desserts, massage oil, Ella Fitzgerald, and a movie filled with man-eating aliens.

And now, we’re back home, and relaxing. Whenever there’s a sunny day (it’s monsoon season, so that’s rare. It’s also butt-numbingly cold right now) we escape our home offices and go to the park and take our beastly Himo dog (who is so popular that friends call us up and ask if they can take our dog for a walk, lol). We’ll start rock climbing again really soon, as well as restarting our jogging sessions – lately it’s been too wet to run (imagine streets that are more like muddy creeks, filled with obstacle courses of fruit baskets, rocks, flowers, and motorbike taxis – hard to navigate without falling, not to mention staying clean).

 

 

That’s all the news from Lake Woebegone. See you next time!
~ P.A. Thompson, 白龙

Wake up…

Spinning complacently in the darkness,
Covered and blinded by a blanket of little lives,
False security has lulled the madness of this world into a slumber.
Wake up…
An eye is upon you, staring straight down and keenly through,
Seeing all that you are and everything that you can never be.
Yes, an eye is upon you, an eye ready to blink.
So face forward, with arms wide open and mind reeling.
Your future has arrived… Are you ready to go?

Hello! It seems as though I am back at the helm of this blog, perchance once and for all, Mr. Frodo. With the assistance of a subscription VPN service, I am now free to surf, blog, etc.

With that in mind, I now have 3 blogs – one here, one at google sites, and one at wordpress. Now comes the gladiator games. Which service is smoother? Faster? Let me know what you think, which blogs you prefer.

Here are the addresses for my other blogs, in case you didn’t know and want to look at the other sides of the prism of moi.
http://adventuresofpatrickthompson.blogspot.com/
https://sites.google.com/site/adventuresofpatrick/

Update on my novel

Recently I finished this painting for my novel. As my query letter crafting comes to a close and the volleys start flying to agent inboxes, I’ll be doing a lot more artwork uploads on this site and my as of yet unveiled professional site. Next up will be creatures and characters. I’ll also be posting my query letter up soon as well.

“Map of Avana” by Patrick Thompson. Copyright 2010. Oil on Canvas. Text & such added using Gimp.

This map shows the main area of activity on the world of Avana, which is in actuality a small part of a much larger globe. It is here that the story of “The Pantheon Project” and its sequels takes place.

Hobbit Cast shaping up with Arthur Dent as Bilbo – woot!

Alright guys – Chip the glasses, crack the plates – that’s what Bilbo Baggins hates. After all the fuss and drama surrounding the fate of Hobbiton, we can now rest easy that the world is going to once again be given a window into Middle-Earth. Personally, I’m quite pleased with the choice of Bilbo. Arthur Dent will make a fun little Bilbo. Check out this article from EW:

P.S. – think they’ll have Beorn the bear-man? Or will it stick to the cartoon? As Jackson previously based his LOTRs films off of the old-school cartoons, perhaps we shall yet another live-action straight up adaptation? Shall we then hope for the warbles of our favorite Hobbit singer Glenn Yarbrough?

‘The Hobbit’: Martin Freeman to play Bilbo Baggins; other roles also cast

Movie fans, nerds of all stripes, and aficionados of small, furry-footed hominids, take heed! The cast of director Peter Jackson’s long-awaited, much-delayed, crazily anticipated adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic The Hobbit is finally officially taking shape! As EW predicted, English actor Martin Freeman, best known for his deadpan portrayal of cubicle drone Tim Canterbury in the original BBC version of The Office as well as the films Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Hot Fuzz, will play the Hobbit hero Bilbo Baggins, who is reluctantly recruited by Gandalf the Wizard and a company of Dwarves to join in a dangerous quest for a dragon’s treasure. “Despite the various rumors and speculation surrounding this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us,” Jackson said in a statement, calling Freeman “intelligent, funny, surprising, and brave — exactly like Bilbo.” Jackson also announced that Richard Armitage, who has starred in the British TV series MI-5, will play the leader of the company of Dwarves, Thorin Oakenshield,

Richard Armitage - Thorin Oakenshield

Richard Armitage - Thorin Oakenshield

Rob Kazinsky - Fili & Kili

Rob Kazinsky - Fili & Kili

Aidan Turner - Kili & Fili

Aidan Turner - Kili & Fili

graham mctavish - Dwalin

graham mctavish - Dwalin

while Irish actor Aidan Turner  and English actor Rob Kazinsky will play the Dwarves Fili and Kili. Rounding out the cohort of Dwarves thus far will be Graham McTavish (24) as Dwalin;John Callen (TV’s Power Rangers Jungle Fury) as Oin; Stephen Hunter (TV’s All Saints) as Bombur; Mark Hadlow (King Kong) as Dori; and Peter Hambleton (TV’s The Strip) as Gloin.

There you have it, Middle-earthlings. Now Jackson just needs to get past the sticky labor-union issues and start shooting this thing. (Well, after casting Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Ori, Nori, Balin, Beorn, Bard, and all the other roles, of course.) What do you think? After all these endless months of build-up, can you get any more amped for The Hobbit? Is Freeman the Bilbo of your dreams? Or did you imagine someone else putting on the ring?

Article by: Josh Rottenburg – http://popwatch.ew.com/2010/10/21/the-hobbit-martin-freeman-to-play-bilbo/

Vietnam – Same Same, but Different

Hello Everyone!

Now that I have another blog up (#3 after Blogger and Google Sites, both of which are now blocked and inactive here in China), let’s hit the ground running with a post about Vietnam.

Below you’ll find a gallery of photos from Pippi and I’s latest adventure, complete with captions. Click on a photo to see it in more detail as well as to read a longer description.

But to summarize it up – Vietnam was fun, fantastic, and cool, but ended up being rather touristy and not as unique as I would have hoped. Imagine if Thailand and China had an uglier, commie baby – it’d be Vietnam. Vietnam and China have essentially the same culture, and it almost feels just like a tropical province, like Hainan. China actually ruled over the area for nearly one thousand years in the past as though it were the southernmost kingdom in the Celestial Empire (literal translation of the name of the old kingdom of China).

China and Vietnam’s flags are similar, as are their official uniforms, their beliefs, and ideology. Their founder Ho Chi Minh has been deified, and adorns nearly everything along with his sayings. The main difference between China and Vietnam was in the tropical atmosphere, the darker skin, and the constant attempts at ripping me off (although they also do this in China, just mostly in the south, especially in my touristy hometown of Yangshuo – it’s just that they have perfected it in Vietnam). And those differences are basically just the Thailand influence. I felt that there was truly not anything all that different about it. That being said, it was still a cool place to go and visit, if just to check it off of the list of places to go and for its interesting (albeit tragic) history as well.

Perhaps the coolest thing about Vietnam (for me – for Pippi it was the 36 Streets district of Hanoi) was the western influence (especially in Saigon) via the massive influx of  white tourists (mostly French). This causes the country to carry more western goods, like A&W Rootbeer, Welches Grape Juice, and KitKats – as well as having Mexican restaurants, candied yams, and a much higher percentage of English speakers. But still, I wouldn’t want to live in Vietnam. The ghosts of the past are still too close in my opinion. But the root beer floats and Thailand style mangos were quite nice while they lasted. I’ve saved one last can of A&W, and it’s in my fridge now, awaiting a special day for the savored consumption of such a rare delicacy here in the East.

The French influence on the country was rather interesting as well – in nearly every town you could see French architecture in the yellow buildings complete with white trellises and columns. Most of those buildings are aging now, slowly turning green with mold. Also, everyone eats baguettes for breakfast. The pho (noodles) were pretty good, but most of the food was okay – not as good as Thailand or China, but then, it wasn’t too bad, especially when you consider how small Vietnam is. It’s like comparing English food against the dishes of the rest of Europe. And no one can top Thailand’s food. Except maybe India. We’ll see about that when I get there, eventually.

Tạm biệt & Cám ơn

PK 白龙