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Parka (Singapore)

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Push Start: The Art of Video Games
Push Start: The Art of Video Games
by Stephan Guenzel
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 67.78
19 used & new from CDN$ 43.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Has more on early games and pixel art, Jan. 1 2015
Length:: 2:26 Mins

Push Start: The Art of Video Games is a much larger and thicker book than I had expected. There are actually 380 pages rather than 220 pages as listed at some places.

The cover is nicely embossed with lots of squares to form a huge black square. A Space Invaders alien is formed like pixel art using white squares.

The content is arranged in chapters by the technological advances in the graphics, moving from early games to arcade, then 8-bit, 16-bit, 3D and finally to HD. Within those chapters, the games are arranged in chronologically. Each chapter has a paragraph or two talking about the evolution of technology.

The games featured come mostly with one screenshot each, either of an in-game scene or a closeup to the main characters. Some of the graphics are spread over two pages. Most of the included games are from the days before XBox and Playstation, so there are a lot of pixel art.

I felt that the book is somewhat lacking in depth. Other than the creator credits, there aren't any additional information talking about each game. The only substantial writeup appears at the back of the book in the form of an intellectual essay that tries to answer the question on whether video game is art. It involves tech talk on technology, the design of the gameplay, and what the developers are trying to achieve.

I bought the book without much expectation. After going through the book, I'm left without much impression and I felt like I didn't learn anything much about the art in or the art of video games.

Over the years, several books were released on video game art, such as The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect, The Art of the Video Game, Neoludica Art and Videogames 1966-2011 and the somewhat related An Illustrated History of 151 Video Games. Most are mixed bags.

Video games are very personal. You will like different games than me. The list of games included in this book works more like an index, a glorified index with huge splash pages of pixel art. Even for the screenshots included, I felt that some aren't truly representative of the games. But it's difficult to have one image represent the games well.

If you want to learn more about the art used in video games, I suggest checking out The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect instead, which is slightly better.

Lastly, this book includes a 10-inch vinyl and a download code to the songs included. There are eight remixed versions of the classic tunes from Super Mario, Castlevania, Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, Street Fighter, Puzzle Bobble, Space Harrier and Tetris. You can visit the publisher earBOOKS Youtube channel to search for "Big Twice Remix" to sample to the songs.

This is quite a pricey book so I definitely recommend flipping through before buying.

Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop Elements
Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop Elements
by David Smit
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 35.63
38 used & new from CDN$ 29.13

5.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful beginner's guide for beginners, Dec 16 2014
Length:: 2:45 Mins

Here's another beginner's guide from publisher 3DTotal. I've reviewed the earlier one Beginner's Guide to Digital Painting in Photoshop also and the presentation format is similar with this book. The plastic slipcase cover is gone and the book's also less expensive. Nice.

The content's split into four parts.

In the first section, there's Rich Tilbury introducing the interface and painting tools available for Photoshop Elements. It's for the beginners so it assumes no prior knowledge with the software. If you're new, you'll get up to speed quickly. The software version used in the book is Photoshop Elements 12 and at the time of this writing, version 13 is already out (and cheaper). Anyway, the interface should look more or less the same.

The next section there's Christopher Peters who talks about the basic techniques in art theory. He covers light and colour, composition, perspective and depth and other subjects. It's a very informative section that has steps that you can follow along. Again, the content is written in a simple and easy to gasp manner for beginners with no art knowledge.

The third section has several full length tutorials from contributing artists. The tutorials look at various art styles, such as landscapes, stylised illustration, speed-painting, working with traditional sketches or photos, cartoons, etc. You can easily follow along to learn the techniques and get yourself familiar with the painting tools used. It's helpful in the sense that you'll know what's the correct tool to use when you think of certain effects you want to create.

The next section has quick tips and steps to create common textures, such as clouds, water, rock, dirt, trees, rain, fire, smoke, hair, skin, and many more. It's very useful for beginners to get them started at creating their own textures. Takes a bit of guess work out but I like the quick tips.

Last section has step by step screenshots of artworks by several artists. No captions provided here though.

Great book overall. Recommended to beginners who wants to learn digital painting using Photoshop Elements.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

Oil Painting with the Masters: Essential Techniques from Today's Top Artists
Oil Painting with the Masters: Essential Techniques from Today's Top Artists
by Cindy Salaski
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 29.57
35 used & new from CDN$ 24.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding book that beginners and advanced oil painting artists, Dec 16 2014
Length:: 1:31 Mins

This is an outstanding book that beginners and advanced oil painting artists can enjoy.

The paintings featured in the book are really beautiful. I wish I could see them in their actual size. Author and artist Cindy Salaski has done a terrific job at finding the artists featured and curating the artworks. The artists included are Kevin Macpherson, Laurie Kersey, Richard McKinley, Camille Przewodek, Phil Starke, George Gallo, Marc Hanson, Susan Lyon, Jeffrey Watts and Robert Johnson.

There are 11 chapters in the book. The first 10 chapters each has an artist profile followed by text on a particular technique and a detailed step-by-step demonstration. The topics deal with the handling of mood & atmosphere, light & form, composition, lost & found edges, brushwork and many other useful fundamental techniques.

The writeup is incredibly insightful as the artists share in depth their techniques and tips, and even the specific colours used for each step in their demonstrations. The artists would explain what they are doing and why it's done that way. It's an illuminating look at the painting process from the start to finish.

Beginners should be able to learn what those master artists look out for when painting, and advanced paintings will get the insight from observing the painting process from various artists.

The last chapter has a gallery that showcases artworks from a few more artists. You can also check out more of their art from the websites provided.

Oil Painting with the Masters works well as an instructional book and is a great reference book to refer back to often. It's really an inspiring book. Highly recommended to oil painting artists.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

The Art of Destiny
The Art of Destiny
by Bungie
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 45.71
29 used & new from CDN$ 44.21

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Destiny, Dec 16 2014
This review is from: The Art of Destiny (Hardcover)
Length:: 2:06 Mins

The Art of Destiny is a nice companion art book for the game. It's quite a large 216-page hardcover with a non-glossy smooth surface dust jacket. The paper and printing quality are fantastic. Note that there are two publishers for this book, Insight Editions and Titan Books, selling at different regions and prices.

There's a generous amount of sci-fi environment art in the book from the Bungie artists. So if you like the sci-fi environment art from the recent Halo artbooks, you'll enjoy this book.

The landscapes from other planets are breathtaking to look at. It's quite cool to see how artists imagine civilization on other planets, in this case collapsed civilization, abandoned cities, space metropolis and other exotic locales. Some of the places do feel grandiose, epic.

The environment art are mostly printed gorgeously big but there are also many terrific pieces printed smaller. They are quite detailed and able to hold up to scrutiny even when they are printed across two pages.

Other artworks included are designs for the characters, ships, props like the weapons, crests, capes and finally some storyboards.

There's a good amount of character designs which includes the costume designs, turnarounds and there are also animation sequences for some attack moves. Spaceships look pretty refined, clean.

Finally, there are 14 pages of credits at the back so that just leaves the book with around 200 pages of artworks which is still quite a lot.

Overall, the art looks and feels very polished. Recommended for the fans and sci-fi & concept art lovers.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

Collage: Contemporary Artists Hunt and Gather, Cut and Paste, Mash Up and Transform
Collage: Contemporary Artists Hunt and Gather, Cut and Paste, Mash Up and Transform
by Danielle Krysa
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 28.45
42 used & new from CDN$ 21.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just cut and paste, Dec 10 2014
Length:: 1:01 Mins

Collage is authored by Danielle Krysa, the writer at popular art and design website The Jealous Curator. Krysa has also released another book earlier this year called Creative Block which I've also reviewed. Writing two books in a year is very productive.

This book features thirty contemporary artists together with a short profile of each and their collage artworks. There's a good diversity of work that are quite fun to look at. It's interesting to see what type of artwork people can come up with by cutting and pasting different photographs collected and mix them into some form of aesthetics using the interplay of shapes, negative space, textures and ideas.

Some of the works are very detailed, some amusing, and others capable of raising eyebrows. One artist Maria Aparicio Puentes used sewing threads for her work. Another artist Kathryn MacNaughton likes to use vintage porn magazines as source materials so there's some nudity in this book.

In addition to just featuring the artists, there was also a task assigned to each. The artists have to come up with a collage using a photograph of two mustache-clad cowboys where one's playing an accordion. The resulting collage is often unexpected and surprising.

It's a great book for those like collages as an art form. I certainly was entertained looking through all the works even though some left me scratching my head.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

Study Of Pose: 1,000 Poses By Coco Rocha
Study Of Pose: 1,000 Poses By Coco Rocha
by Coco Rocha
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 56.25
29 used & new from CDN$ 39.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars For a very specific audience and lousy production quality mars the overall experience., Dec 8 2014
Length:: 2:03 Mins

The book's title would probably mislead people to think that this book is about the study of poses when in fact it is just a book of poses, 1,000 examples of extreme poses to be specific.

Coco Rocha, if you don't know, is a Canadian model. Together with photographer Steven Sebring, they have produced a book of 1,000 poses.

The premise is interesting enough for me to get it. 1,000 poses! They could be good for reference. But there's a big caveat.

Let's talk about the book's physical aspect first. It's a 2032-page hardcover about 7 by 9 inches. It's very thick and heavy. Edges of the pages are printed black.

Majority of the pages stick together. By the time I peel off the pages from each other, reaching about hundred over pages, I was quite tired, at two hundred pages, I was irritated, and at three hundred pages I was reflecting on the production value of this book. Yes, you'll have a lot of time to think about things while peeling the pages. Those people who say this is a good book may not have peeled more pages than me yet.

And because the pages are so thin, it's easy to crease them when peeling them apart.

Production quality of the book is quite bad. For the price of the book, it's very bad. I should also note that publisher Harper Design is known for publishing illustrated books such as the The Hobbit film companions, 532-page Harry Potter Page to Screen and 464-page The Art of Film Magic which are all quality production. It's quite shocking to see a book of this production quality from them.

The binding is also questionable. The book uses stitch binding, thank goodness. However, the piece of cloth that sticks to the stitched binding does not seem to use particularly strong adhesive. I picked up the book the wrong way by holding the spine side and the pages pulled down causing the cloth to detach from the stitched binding. Not good. I've since pushed the cloth back to make it stick again and it looks alright for the time being. Having said that, for a book this thick you would expect to open it flat, and I've a feeling that the cloth will come off in the future (again for my case).

Alright, now about the content.

From a photography standpoint the photos look good enough, for me. Photos of Rocha are against black background. The lighting is nice. The form of the body is easily discernible except in a few occasions where the shadow side blends into the background like those chiaroscuro paintings of old masters. Half the number of pages are actually for the photos while the other half are white printed with the page number. The book could have easily been half the size if they chose to print the page number in white against the black background of the photos, and that would not have compromised anything artistically.

If you thought fashion poses are outrageous in real life, there are even more extreme so here. I meant that in a good and bad way. The good is there's a huge variety of poses to check out. The bad, depending on what you have been expecting, is most poses aren't from real life or anything resembling how you would pose in real life. Anyway. if you're really looking for fashion poses, check out 1000 Poses in Fashion and How to Draw Poses in Fashion.

The poses here are not those you see in typical fashion magazines. They are more expressive and exaggerated. Out of the 1,000 poses, there are probably less than 10 poses from real life. Out of those 10, most are sports poses. There many poses of her doing some uncommon version of bending, jumping, sitting and standing. I'm actually quite impressed by how many non-real life poses there are. Rocha really is "The Queen of Pose", but whether you can use those poses is a different matter. I see this book as an artistic project rather than a reference book that's meant to be helpful.

There aren't any poses where I think any artist, model or photographer would replicate for their own project. But that's just my opinion.

Another downside is that the poses are not grouped or categorised in any manner. So you can't find poses relating to criteria such as standing, squatting, twisting torso, hand raise, etc. And because they are not categorised, the page numbers are sort of useless on hindsight, which also means half the book is wasted to print them.

In the preface of the book, it was mentioned 100 cameras were used to photograph Rocha in different angles. I suppose there might be a tablet application coming soon to show all those poses. And indeed on Sebring's website, there's a mockup of the app showing one pose that you can turn around in 360. Perhaps that application will be a more worthwhile purchase because you really don't want to deal with the sticky pages of this book.

Pose number 1,000 is quite apt at describing how I feel at the end of the book. It shows Rocha clearly distressed and trying to tear her hair out. I wonder if there's a hidden joke somewhere.

This book is really marred by the lousy production quality and ultimately, whether the content will appeal to you will depend on your expectations.

2 out of 5 stars.

Star Wars Art: Concepts (Star Wars Art Series)
Star Wars Art: Concepts (Star Wars Art Series)
by Joe Johnston
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 35.15
31 used & new from CDN$ 29.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Star Wars art lacking some organisation, Dec 3 2014
Length:: 2:54 Mins

Star Wars Art: Concept continues the Star Wars series of large oversized hardcover artbooks from publisher Harry N. Abrams. The books before are Star Wars Art: Illustration, Star Wars Art: Comics and Star Wars Art: Visions.

I didn't know what to make of this book before buying. It's about concept art but there are already has dedicated artbooks for all their six movies.

Well, this book features a mixture of concept art in the style of fully painted pieces, such as those from Ralph McQuarrie, some comic style art with outlines and markers, the very textural grayscale scenes you see from Doug Chiang and digital paintings. You can really see the transition from using traditional to digital media for creating art somewhere in the middle of the book. I definitely prefer the traditional media art, even though the digital paintings are also good.

The paintings are beautiful, standard and varies, but mostly look great. The rougher ones are the digital concept art paintings.

There are portraits and character designs, locations and cool scenes. My favourites would be all the locations and background art as they are really beautiful and detailed. There are two paintings I thought are from military FPS video games until I spotted the Stormtroopers and AT-AT Walker.

Artworks are selected from the six films, animated TV series, video games (published and unpublished). Since there are so many Star Wars properties out there, only some can come from each. It's a mixed bag in the sense that you might actually want to see more of the art from the movies instead. While the art is good, the material selection or organisation feels haphazard.

Some Amazon reviewers expected a sizeable amount of Ralph McQuarrie paintings but there are only a handful. Well, this is not The Art of Ralph McQuarrie.

The highlight of this book is its large format. The paintings at huge sizes have more impact and it's wonderful looking at them. When looking at the large paintings, I feel that traditional media is better at handling the fade from detail to non-detailed areas. This is probably which I prefer the traditional media.

In terms of write-up, there's foreword by Joe Johnston, preface by Ryan Church, introduction by Dough Chiang and an interview with Erik Tiemens. The artworks are captioned with name, source and media. There's no explanation of the concept behind the art though.

It's a good artbook overall, with great art but If you want more concept art and read about conceptualisation, I would still recommended the dedicated Art of Star Wars series. Some of the artworks in this book are in those books.

(There are more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

Ender's Game: Inside the World of an Epic Adventure
Ender's Game: Inside the World of an Epic Adventure
by Jed Alger
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 36.93
45 used & new from CDN$ 13.38

4.0 out of 5 stars Good movie companion but photos lack the excitement, Dec 3 2014
Length:: 1:41 Mins

This is the making of movie companion for Ender's Game and it covers the movie production with plenty of photos, artworks and interviews with the crew.

The text is actually focused on the filming process with reference to the story. You'll read about the chemistry between the actors, how they create the zero gravity scenes, analysis into the characters, and things that are different or similar to the book. All images are captioned with interesting stuff to read.

There are lots of high resolution photos, mainly behind-the-scenes shots at the studio, and in front of the green screen, and a handful of fi. Many of the set design actually reminds me of Star Trek. In all seriousness, I won't be able to differentiate the space station interior here from those featured in Star Trek.

There are more photos than artworks though, but the the concept art that are included are quite nice, especially those that are more towards sci-fi, e.g. space stations, futuristic landscapes. However, the space station interiors I felt were a bit too clean and sterile, as if everything is brand new and just unwrapped from bubble wrap. It's a huge contrast from the photos of Ender's home where things are just thrown around. While there are many photos, the people look kind of static because they usually are not in any action poses - people are usually in upright standing poses - and can get uninspiring and dull.

Also included in the book are some stickers for the teams, so called Armies, the ID card for Ender Wiggin, and two slightly smaller than A3 sized propaganda posters.

So overall, the book could have been improved with better selection of photos, unless it really is a movie of people standing around. I've not watched the movie yet.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

(There are more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

CG Galaxy II: Top Chinese CG Artists and Their Works
CG Galaxy II: Top Chinese CG Artists and Their Works
by Huo Shen CG Workshop
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 30.64
21 used & new from CDN$ 30.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic artbook featuring Chinese artists, Dec 3 2014
Length:: 1:34 Mins

Seems like there are two publishers for this book. One's Gingko Press and the other's Basheer Graphic Books. Mine's the review copy provided by Basheer.

CG Galaxy II is similar in presentation style to the Fantasy+ series of artbooks that I've reviewed. The artbook is a big 192-page paperback. Inside, the artworks are all reproduced nicely in large high resolution prints.

This is an artist focused book, specifically on Chinese artists, featuring concept art. It's great to see a gallery of amazing artworks from the Chinese artists included. In many of the artworks, you can see the Chinese influence to design and characters.

The standard and quality of work featured is high. There are lots of cool character art and background paintings. Most are fantasy art, with only some sci-fi pieces. There are personal projects as well as those designed for games. The level of detail is great, and also the sense of colours and composition. Many pieces are printed to the edge of the page and those look really great at such huge sizes, and deserve closer and longer look.

There are 34 artists, and each has a short profile description and a two-question interview. They are too brief really. The artworks are titled but there are no additional commentary. The lack of text is not really much an issue as the artworks speak for themselves.

(See more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

Aphorismyth: A Collection of Art and Design
Aphorismyth: A Collection of Art and Design
by Ragnar
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.00
26 used & new from CDN$ 19.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Another wonderful collection of art from Ragnar, Dec 3 2014
Aphorismyth is the artbook Ragnar put out in 2013. It's 80 pages, paperback. He has put out some of these collections before. The more official book is The Art of Big City which is a 180-page hardcover.

This artbook collects his recent illustrations and some photos. There are some paintings, contemporary art, poster designs for Designer Con 2012, character designs, insects, pin-up girl art, and more. It's a mixture of painted stuff and the clean vector style.

The art is beautiful. For the posters, you can sense a strong graphic design principles at work. I also love how he uses colours. One of the highlights of his artworks is definitely the colour palette and usage. Sometimes the colours are pure and strong, other times they are dulled down by saturation. The colours are either in harmony or playful clash.

It's yet another wonderful collection of art from Ragnar.

(There are more pictures of the book on my blog. Just visit my Amazon profile for the link.)

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