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Parka (Singapore)
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BLAST: spaceship sketches and renderings
BLAST: spaceship sketches and renderings
by Scott Robertson
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 19.96
36 used & new from CDN$ 19.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful collection of sci-fi spaceship and flying craft art, July 11 2012
Length:: 0:45 Mins

This is another concept art book collaboration between Scott Robertson, Annis Naeem and Daniel Gardner.

The previous book they worked on was DRIVE: vehicle sketches and renderings which features ground vehicles. With BLAST, they take to the skies and design aircrafts and flying ships.

The 128-page book is filled with concept sketches and paintings. There are lots of aircrafts coming in all sorts of interesting shapes and designs. There are bulky ones, those that look like they have sails, vertically skewed ones, others, and one that I found the front to look like Iron Man. However, there are no gigantic deep space exploration crafts like those from Star Trek.

There is also an invited guest artist section featuring work from Harald Belker, Ian McQue, Thom Tenery, David Hobbins, Darren Bacon and Joon Ahn.

It's a great book recommend to those who like sci-fi flying ships and art. It's an inspiring collection if you're looking for ideas.

There are both hardcover and paperback editions.

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

Digital Art Masters: Volume 7
Digital Art Masters: Volume 7
by 3DTotal Team
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 34.64
27 used & new from CDN$ 34.64

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and inspiring, July 3 2012
Length:: 1:29 Mins

Another year, another volume of Digital Art Masters. I can see this series continue indefinitely.

Digital Art Masters Volume 7 features 50 artists in this 288-page paperback. Each features a project and comes with insightful commentary into the creation process. The categories are Sci-Fi, Scene, Fantasy, Character and Cartoon. The techniques taught are mainly on digital painting and 3D modeling. Software used are Photoshop, Maya, ZBrush, Mudbox and others.

It's difficult to pick out any outstanding pieces because they all fantastic. The variety is great. Gilles Beloeil talks about the marketplace he created for Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Borislav Kechashki explains how he creates his armor bear with 2D and 3D techniques, and many artists talking about their own way of creating character art.

It's an inspiring and insightful collection. Highly recommended to any digital artist.

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

Persona 3: Official Design Works
Persona 3: Official Design Works
by Atlus
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 28.97
7 used & new from CDN$ 26.13

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice book for fans of the game, June 26 2012
Length:: 0:54 Mins

This is the video game art book for the highly acclaimed Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3.

The Japanese edition of this book (ISBN 4757730942) was originally published in 2006. Udon does a great job at translation, as usual. The book only has 144 pages so that's quite thin compared to other Udon art books.

It collects the character designs, sketches, storyboards, backgrounds, miscellaneous in game items, and interviews with the creators, producer and director Katsura Hashino and Shigenori Soejima.

The character designs are from Shigenori Soejima who designs not just this but for other Persona games as well. The character designs are in the form of coloured illustrations, sketches, in-game screenshots of poses and costume changes. Chapter 2 covers Persona and Shadow. Initial and ultimate Persona are both included.

The background art consist of sketches and the coloured version. It's a short section with 6 pages. There are only 6 colour illustrations and each is printed smaller than quarter-page size. The sketches are larger but not all sketches have coloured versions included.

There are a few pages of splash art. Some you might have seen in Shigenori Soejima Artworks SC. Not much is duplicated.

It's a good book but I feel that fans of the game and the Persona series will enjoy it more.

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

Pixiv Almanac
Pixiv Almanac
by Various
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 26.30
36 used & new from CDN$ 26.30

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful art collection from Pixiv, June 26 2012
This review is from: Pixiv Almanac (Paperback)
Length:: 1:22 Mins

Pixiv is one of Japan's largest art community. It's somewhat like deviantART but their website looks totally different.

Pixiv have their own quarterly magazines and occasionally also publish art book collections.

Pixiv Almanac Volume 1 is the English edition of the original Japanese edition pixiv''2010 '''''''''. There is actually a 2009 edition but for some reason, the 2010 edition was chosen to be the volume 1 in English.

This paperback is 258 pages as compared to the 272 pages for the Japanese edition. I'm not sure if anything significant is missing.

There are almost close to 200 artists featured in the book. It's mainly character art in different anime, manga and CG style. The variety is great except that most are female characters. Hatsune Miku seems like the most popular character and there are many pieces with her. There's only a handful of background art. Most illustrations are quite elaborate and detailed, the simplified anime style is actually rare.

Each artist has only 1 to 2 pages of work featured. Some of them are printed smaller than quarter page size which makes it difficult to look at the details. The good thing is the artists' websites are provided so you can check out more of their art online.

I'm impressed by the quality of submissions. This book really makes me wonder why deviantART don't have anything similar.

It's a great book for those who like Japanese character art.

Character Mentor: Learn by Example to Use Expressions, Poses, and Staging to Bring Your Characters to Life
Character Mentor: Learn by Example to Use Expressions, Poses, and Staging to Bring Your Characters to Life
by Tom Bancroft
Edition: Paperback
43 used & new from CDN$ 18.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Good book on bringing your characters to life, June 18 2012
Length:: 1:01 Mins

Character Mentor is sort of an extension of Tom Bancroft's earlier book Creating Characters with Personality.

The first book focuses on the actual designing of characters. This book focuses on bringing the characters to life with body language, specifically by using expressions, poses and staging. In other words, this book is about acting using your characters.

It's filled with tips and insights, just like the first book. As the book title suggest, the teaching style here is one of mentoring. There are many assignments included, and Tom Bancroft has included his students' work, together with his mentor notes on the different ways to improve the result. You'll feel the years of experience seeping through the pages as he explains. It's all very simple and practical tips you can use to improve your characters instantly.

There are many wonderful illustrated examples in the book to show how important acting is to creating believability. One look at them and you'll be able to guess accurately how the character is feeling, who the character is or what the scene is about. These are all done without dialogue. The goal of the book is to impart the knowledge of getting to that level of clarity with your characters, the same sort of clarity you would expect from a masterful silent movie.

The book also includes a section on composition. It teaches you how to frame your scene with your characters to better tell a story. While this section is not technically character design, it's still useful knowledge. Several guest artists are also invited to have a go at an assignment. Artists such as Stephen Silver, Sean Galloway, Terry Dodson, etc. You get to see how their interpret the story scene in their own way.

This is an insightful book to character design. It's a great addition and supplements the first book well. Recommended to artists with some basic knowledge on character design, which is to say you should check out Creating Characters with Personality if you haven't done so.

Prometheus: The Art of the Film
Prometheus: The Art of the Film
by Mark Salisbury
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 29.47
39 used & new from CDN$ 19.94

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice visual companion, June 16 2012
Length:: 1:26 Mins

Prometheus: The Art of the Film is a nice movie visual companion. A large landscape hardcover with 192 pages.

It's not the usual art book where you'll see lots of concept art. Rather, the content consist of film stills, photographs, storyboards and of course the concept art.

There are more photos than concept art, not that it's bad thing. The photos are great actually, showing detailed look at the interiors of Prometheus, some of the sets built such as the Prometheus landing leg, the Pyramid, the head statue, the chamber with the Ampules, sculpted alien props and the landscape photos that were turned into alien environments.

The concept art featured are mainly the finalized versions. There aren't many variations for any particular design. For example, there's only one exterior design of Prometheus, a handful of designs for spacesuit, aliens, etc. That's perhaps the downside of this so called art book. I do like the concept art style and rendition which goes really well together with the photos to give the book a very singular unified look.

The commentary talks about the important scenes and locations. Those are interesting as they explain the design. The book doesn't dissect the story so whatever you find ambiguous in the movie will still be more or less ambiguous after reading the book.

I consider this as more of a production design book. It's not an art book in the strictest sense as there aren't a lot of drawn art. However, I would still recommend it because it's packed with visuals all the way.

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

The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect
The Art of Video Games: From Pac-Man to Mass Effect
by Chris Melissinos
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.22
37 used & new from CDN$ 22.03

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A missed opportunity, June 5 2012
Length:: 1:28 Mins

This is the companion book for the exhibition of the same name, held at the American Art Museum from 16 March 2012 to 30 September 2012.

The book title is quite broad, and maybe ambiguous. This isn't an art book with pretty pictures or concept art of video games. Rather, it's about the evolution of video game graphics, the artistry of making video games. All explained in a brief and simplified manner.

Since this is an exhibition companion book, it's not surprising it's not that technical. I get the idea that the target audience are probably exhibition goers first and then gamers.

I enjoy the sense of nostalgia from looking at the old games I used to play. As with any list that ranks games, there's always the surprise element when you see games you've never seen before. From the text, you get some brief insight into how the games came to be.

I've several issues with the book though. The first is the selection criteria. Author Melissinos selected an initial group of 240 games based on criteria that included visual effects, use of technologies and how world events and popular culture influenced the games. Then, voters online were invited to to choose the most popular games. Finally, 80 games are picked.

In general, I don't expect the gamers to know anything about how the graphics were created, nor the technologies used in the game making. The public voting element goes against the selection criteria. At times, it's difficult to tell whether the games are included because they are innovative or just fan favourites. There are peculiar inclusions as well as omissions. A search online for bestseller lists will yield results for fan favourites instantly.

The games are sorted by eras, starting from Atari's first game Combat in 1997 to 2009 with Flower developed by thatgamecompany. In each era, the games are strangely not ordered strictly to chronological order. The most recent game featured is actually Heavy Rain from 2010, before Flower as it appears in the book.

Each game has a writeup of around 3-4 paragraphs on one page. That is too brief to cover the game history, design concept, game play and technology. The criteria for the included titles are there, but they aren't justified in the text. Games released around the same time usually are similarly impressive in visuals. For example, not mentioned was Valkyria Chronicles which has an unique hand drawn art direction. Okami was included though. Because it sold better?

Screenshots are too few to give enough context on why each game is so visually spectacular. The included ones are not the best representatives of the games. The really old games are redrawn to look sharp, such as that on the book cover. New game graphics are still alright. It's those games in between that are bad as they cannot be redrawn, and don't have enough resolution to look good. I don't think it can be helped because of the nature of game graphics at that time but at least more should have printed at smaller sizes. If this book is about the art, I want to see more art from each game.

Also included are interviews with some game makers. Unless they introduce themselves, you won't know their role or the company they work for. A one-sentence short profile is missing. Sometimes I only get the context of what they are talking about after reading halfway in.

There are many other things I was expecting but not found in the book. There's no mention of games on handheld game devices, art direction taken by big games, newer ways of creating realistic animation like using motion capture such as in Uncharted 2, etc. Visual effects are limited by hardware but the book does not have any commentary on the systems that run these games. So there's no context on what's possible and impossible with each new hardware releases. There's also nothing about creating game music. But I guess we're talking about visual arts rather than the art form of games.

Gamers will expect more from the book. It lacks the breath and depth to cover a subject as vast as video games. It doesn't help when there are no compelling justification on why some game titles are included. Overall, a missed opportunity.

Valkyria Chronicles 2: World Artworks
Valkyria Chronicles 2: World Artworks
by Sega
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 32.92
32 used & new from CDN$ 32.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent companion to the game (again), June 3 2012
Length:: 1:24 Mins

Since I already have the Japanese edition of the book (ISBN 4047268577), I borrowed the English edition for this review.

Valkyria Chronicles 2: World Artworks is presented in a similar fashion as the first art book, Valkyria Chronicles Design Archive.

It's thinner at 304 pages which is still quite thick. The binding looks good enough. It doesn't have the dust jacket as the Japanese edition.

The video game Valkyria Chronicles II is only for the PlayStation Portable, which unfortunately I don't have so I can't comment on the completeness of the content.

Half the book is on the characters and the other half covers art for the tanks, weapons, backgrounds, storyboards and other miscellaneous art. What's missing is the narrated guide to the story. The artistic style is similar to the first book.

The character art section has the character profiles, their roles in the game, the designs including uniform changes. There are notes and little details relating to the game - basically things like how they relate to other game characters. There's even more character sketches at the back of the book.

The Weapons and Machines section covers the tanks, armed weapons and the soldier armor and equipment. The tanks beautifully designed and painted, as usual. As for the weapons, they are cool but aren't too many and the designs are minor iterations to those from the first game.

The background art are paintings and sketches with commentary. The places covered include the towns, buildings and various rooms. The architecture and set designs are beautiful. They are printed a bit small though.

It's a wonderful book but if you already have the first art book, everything feels awfully familiar. If you can only get one book, you should get the first one. Valkyria Chronicles fans should of course get both.

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

Compendium of Watercolour Techniques
Compendium of Watercolour Techniques
by Robin Berry
Edition: Paperback
19 used & new from CDN$ 12.93

5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and inspiring, June 2 2012
Length:: 1:07 Mins

This is a wonderful watercolour techniques book by Robin Berry.

It's packed with lots of insightful and concise tips. It's not just on watercolour tips but also on general drawing principles such as composition, using values, etc. One chapter features tips on dealing with different subjects, like landscape, water, flowers, people, buildings, animals, etc.

9 step-by-step demonstrations are included. They particularly good because they show and explain the techniques as they are used. The instructions are clear and they detail each painting process. There are beautiful paintings as examples throughout, from Robin Berry herself and other invited artists.

The last chapter covers techniques used to create effects, like spraying, glazing, removing colours. It's a short chapter but the examples are great.

It's an insightful and inspiring compendium suitable for beginners. Advanced artists might enjoy the examples and ideas suggested.

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

Art of George Perez
Art of George Perez
by George Perez
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 32.92
23 used & new from CDN$ 32.92

5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid retrospective of George Perez, May 29 2012
This review is from: Art of George Perez (Hardcover)
Length:: 1:28 Mins

This is yet another high quality humongous art book from IDW and Desperado Publishing. It's a splendid retrospective of iconic artist George Perez.

The book collects 4 decades of work from 1970 - 2010. There are comic panels, covers, sketches, commissions and an interesting chapter on theater posters (one of his other interests).

The amount and quality of the work is incredible, even from way back in the 70s. There are work he did for the popular titles like New Teen Titans, Wonder Woman, JLA/Avengers, etc, and also many lesser known titles, especially those he did for small independent publishers that he like. All the work are well credited, including the inkers.

George Perez provides first hand account on his drawing career throughout. He talks about everything really, like his career choices, how he conceptualizes pages and covers, and also explain why some things just don't work or don't make sense, such as producing creator-owned comics, in his case Crimson Plague.

This is a fine and insightful book for all fans of George Perez. There's also signed and limited edition available.

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