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Parka (Singapore)
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Shodo: The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy; Learn the Wisdom of Zen Through Traditional Brush Painting
Shodo: The Quiet Art of Japanese Zen Calligraphy; Learn the Wisdom of Zen Through Traditional Brush Painting
by Shozo Sato
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.93
57 used & new from CDN$ 38.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful guide for zen calligraphy, Jan. 15 2016
Shodo is a wonderful guide and practice book on Japanese calligraphy. It's written by Shozu Sato, a renowned master of traditional Zen arts.

This book covers the shodo, which is the traditional Japanese art of brush calligraphy. It talks about the art of writing Kanji, the characters shared by Chinese and Japanese. There are techniques on how to how the brush and even details like how you should breath as the brush moves. There are a lot of subtleness when it comes to writing and many of which I'm not even aware of.

The later chapters are where you can practice your calligraphy skills. Presenting in various chapters are ideograms ranging from 1 to 8 characters. Each comes with with an explanation of the meaning behind the words and they are all zen sayings, e.g. "Everyday is a good day", "Wherever, become your own master" and many more. These practice chapters have the characters written in two styles, the Kaisho and Gyosho styles, complete with directions of the brush strokes so that you can follow along.

The last chapter takes a look at the work of several calligraphy students and you can see that each individual will have their own style, even when they are all taught the same way to write. There's certainly personality within each character and also the brush itself.

Learn the Wisdom of Zen Through Traditional Brush Painting. That's what this book is about.

Alternative Movie Posters II: More Film Art from the Underground
Alternative Movie Posters II: More Film Art from the Underground
by Matthew Chojnacki
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 41.17
30 used & new from CDN$ 39.34

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful reimagined movie poster collection, Jan. 6 2016
Length:: 1:51 Mins

All the good things I've said about the first volume of Alternative Movie Posters continue to apply here.

It's another wonderful collection of art in this 208-page hardcover. Close to 100 artists are featured and the variety of style is fantastic. I like those that shows off hand drawn illustrations and there are plenty of those in this volume. The quality of art is top notch. I really enjoy how the artists come up with their concepts and different interpretation of the same films. Each poster comes with a short profile on the artist.

As for the films that are featured, they are mostly the cult hits and Hollywood blockbusters from decades ago. Things like the classics, Jaws, Back to the Future, Godfather, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction I guess are still very popular. There aren't too many recent films, and the ones that are included are for films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, Planet of the Apes reboot, Hobbit and a few others.

I wish in the future they would have a volume dedicated to films released in the last 10 years, or have volumes that are restricted to a specific decade. That would be fun.

Overall, it's a great artbook. Highly recommended.

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

The Art of Kung Fu Panda 3
The Art of Kung Fu Panda 3
by Tracey Miller-Zarneke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 48.67
26 used & new from CDN$ 46.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome Art Volume 3, Dec 31 2015
Length:: 2:42 Mins

Oh, wow, they actually released the book before the film opens. It goes without saying that if you want to avoid spoilers, you should go through the book only after the film. And don't even order it first because it will tempt you to look at the awesome art. It's that good. Actually, as good as the first and second artbooks.

It's such a delight to see Po, Master Shifu and The Furious Five again. I love the mix of mundane and awesomeness in the series. In many of the concept paintings, we see Po in heroic poses and in many other, it's him in all sorts of funny gags. It's not just him, there's the serious Tigress who has to handle her warm and fuzzy students - imagine the juxtaposition. LOL.

As for character designs, you'll see some updated changes to the original cast, mainly costume changes. In addition, there are a lot more panda characters now, there's Po's father Li, Mei Mei, Bao, Lei Lei, Grandma Panda and a whole village of pandas. Master Dogway is back. Of course there are baddies too, like Kai and his many animal warriors.

The book has many highlights for me. First of course is Nicolas Marlet's wonderful character sketches. Second would be the beautiful scenes and environment paintings. I just love the stylised look and choice of colours. Third, the book has lots of interesting information to read and it's authored by Tracey Miller-Zarneke who has done a good job with earlier books. Fourth, I like the Chinese influence when it comes to designing the set, such as the Chinese temples, noodle shop with all the posters, training hall, scroll room and all the beautiful scrolls. Fifth, well, the book is packed with lots of wonderful artworks such as storyboards, colour scripts, character and environment designs.

By the way, the book's published by two publishers, Insight Editions and Titan Books. Both are hardcover with 168 pages. Content should be the same.

Most highly recommended. One of the best for 2015.

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

Covering Print: 75 Covers, 75 Years
Covering Print: 75 Covers, 75 Years
by Steven Heller
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 33.99
14 used & new from CDN$ 18.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Eclectic collection, Dec 29 2015
Length:: 2:00 Mins

Print magazine has been around since 1940 and apparently is still going strong.

Collected within this book are 75 out of the hundreds of covers that Print has published over the years. That's like one in six covers that are selected.

Looking back, many of the covers would probably be classified under contemporary art. The art can feature typography, illustrations, comics, collage, tattoos. I guess you can say that every cover is a little surprise.

Context for each cover art is not exactly clear and since it's not an editorial magazine like New Yorker, it can baffling to figure out that's the concept behind. Having said that, author Steven Heller has include brief text that talks about the context, aesthetic, history and the designer behind each cover.

I belong to the editorial print design group so as I'm looking at the art, I can't say for sure that the covers appeal to me. They definitely have their appeal, but as art is subjective, I would recommend you check out the pages before getting. One thing for sure is, the covers feel unrestrained by rules or convention.

If you have been a subscriber of the magazine, it should be easier to appreciate how the magazine has evolved over decades.

One minor quibble is the covers and accompanying text are not printed on facing pages. I find that weird. The way it is now, when you're looking at the spread, you see a cover but the text is actually for the cover from the earlier page before.

Funny!: Twenty-Five Years of Laughter from the Pixar Story Room
Funny!: Twenty-Five Years of Laughter from the Pixar Story Room
by John Lasseter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 31.75
39 used & new from CDN$ 15.16

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mixed bag of visual gags, Dec 24 2015
Funny! is a book of visual gags from Pixar's story room. With the exception of John Lasseter's foreword and Jason Katz's introduction, the whole book is on the funny ideas and jokes that never made it to the big screen. There are occasional brief commentary by the artists. The book includes all the films right up to Good Dinosaur.

I enjoyed going through the book looking at the drawings, which are actually more like quick sketches.

Humour is difficult to describe because everyone has a different sense of humour. Having said that, I feel that some of the gags would work better on screen than as standalone gags like they appear in this book. For me, this book's a mixed bag of funny and not so amusing cartoons. It's best that you have watched all the films so that you know the context behind some of the gags.

My favourites are those from A Bug's Life, Monsters Inc, Monsters University and Ratatouille. I just feel that they are funnier. The rest of the book are mostly visual gags, not the laugh-out-loud type. E.g. Frozone cools the beer with his breath, Mater with a missile coming out of his month, Wall.E poking at the captain's fat tummy, grumpy Carl holding a bunch of colourful balloons. Merida the bear being launched from a catapult. Spot eating ticks off Arlo's head. They are like those single panel newspaper comics designed to bring out a smile.

Overall, it's still an enjoyable collection of work from the story room. However, I don't see it as a book I might read again often.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

About Face: The Art of Jota
About Face: The Art of Jota
by James R. Cowan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 30.66
24 used & new from CDN$ 24.16

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful caricature art, Dec 24 2015
Jota Leal is an amazing fine artist, painter and caricaturist. He has a style that can stand on its own and it's pleasure to see his portraits.

About Face is a 80-page hardcover the collects Jota Leal's portrait paintings. The art is breathtaking. There's the caricature style that distorts the features and there's also the realism behind the brush strokes. The skin textures or even the sweat beads look so convincing, as if the character has life. Many of the figures are of movie stars and singers, such as the Rolling Stone, Elvis, Jack Nicholson, Michael Jordan, Walken. There are also other characters like Bazooka Betty, Dali, Joker, Godfather and many others I do not know.

Some paintings are drawn in the old masters style of chiaroscuro while others are more textural. The way the light and shadow is handled is fantastic. I mean, just look at the Dali painting on the cover.

The only downside of the book is it left out the sizes of the paintings. It would be awesome to see the original paintings in person when they are already so good in the book.

This is a fantastic artbook.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary
by Pablo Hidalgo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.26
39 used & new from CDN$ 10.71

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good but they should have included everything, Dec 21 2015
Length:: 1:22 Mins

I love these picture books, aka visual dictionary or encyclopedia. They give the film much more depth. Publisher DK is great at putting out such books and this one is no exception.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary is a 80-page hardcover book that covers the characters, set and props. While vehicles and spaceships are also included, you'll see them in more detail and huge in the other book Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections.

The pictures are laid out like infographics. Each main subject has lots of labels and descriptions attached. Main characters are all in like Rey, Finn, BB-8, Poe, Kylo Ren, Stormtroopers, Flametroopers, Han Solo, Chewbacca, and many more. The noticeably missing ones would be (Oops, spoilers!) Luke Skywalker and Supreme Leader Snoke. If they are in the movie, I don't know why they aren't in the book, not even a mere mention or small coverage, since there's no mystery behind them anymore for fans who have watched the film.

But overall, it's a fantastic book. It's so detailed. Such as for Kylo Ren, it also includes the interrogation chair, interrogation tools, vader's mask, Kylo Ren's helmet, and a close up cross-section of Kylo's lightsaber. I've always thought the lightsabers were powered by lithium batteries? Kidding. But it does show all the mechanism that make the lightsaber work.

If you're a fan of Rey, then you'll probably enjoy peeking into her bag and check out her survival gear. There's also Finn as well as his other persona Fn-2187.

All the other crew like Resistance, pilots, Finalizer crew and other alien lifeforms are also provided with lots of interesting bits of information.

It's really worth the money for a book with so much details.

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

The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens
by Phil Szostak
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 40.11
34 used & new from CDN$ 33.96

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great but a bit different from other Star Wars artbooks, Dec 21 2015
Length:: 3:11 Mins

Wow. This artbook is better than I expected, but it's also a bit different than the ones for Episodes I, II and III.

The content is interestingly arranged in chronologically in order of the film production, so you can follow along as the art and concepts are developed from January 2013 to January 2015. You'll be able to see the early concepts for Rey and Finn who in the beginning are drawn like they are for some teen movie, and then much later on when it makes more sense to cover up Rey in survival gear-like clothing.

So there's no specific section on character designs, environments or vehicles. Everything is just mixed together as and when they were being developed. It's an interesting approach that I'm not sure if it's good or bad.

The artworks are fantastic. Most of them are of scene paintings and environments. And these would be the highlight of the book. They are very detailed and beautiful. I think they capture the mood of the film well and the worlds created look really believable and beautiful. One good thing is the artworks feel like they are from Star Wars and not some first-person-shooter sci-fi video game. There's also insightful commentary from the art department.

I'm surprised there aren't more character and creature designs though. For example, you won't get to see the different variations of suits for Poe, Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren or other characters for that matter. Most characters and aliens when they do appear are in the scene paintings. Maybe more will be included in the making-of book.

If you want to learn more about the characters, then get Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary. Or for vehicles, get Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections. This artbook together with the two other books will make for a complete visual collection.

And because the book's arranged in chronological order by film production and not the storyline, it can be difficult to locate the information that you want. For example, Rey's art is scattered throughout. Overall, it's not a big deal, at least to me.

As a 256-page hardcover artbook, it's really worth the money. Highly recommended for the fans.

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

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Incredible Cross-Sections
by Jason Fry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.63
30 used & new from CDN$ 7.65

4.0 out of 5 stars The art is awesome, Dec 21 2015
Length:: 1:39 Mins

There has been a cross-section book for every Star Wars film so it's not surprising there's one for Star Wars: The Force Awakens too. Fans would love this.

Just like the earlier cross-section books, this is a large hardcover featuring the cross-section art of selected spaceships and vehicles from the new movie. Kemp Remillard's the artist for the artworks.

The art looks fantastic, painted and 3D at the same time. There are lots of details so printing them so big really helps. Parts of each vehicle are also labeled, just like an infographic. There are also descriptions explaining the mechanism and engineering aspects.

The vehicles featured are

Stormtrooper Transport
Poe's X-Wing
Command Shuttle
Finalizer
Rey's Speeder
Tie Fighter
SF Tie Fighter
Quadjumper
Millennium Falcon
Han's Freighter
Resistance Transport
Snow Speeder

It's really cool to be able to see the vehicles close up because their appearance on screen are fleeting. This book, together with Star Wars: The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary is a must-have for Star Wars fans who like learn more about every little detail from the movie.

If you have earlier books, you can compare how the X-Wings and Tie Fighters have been updated. Millennium Falcon is still included. Finalizer is on a 4-page gatefold. Kylo Ren's Command Shuttle is cool with the folded wings. The design sense is similar to other films, which can be a good or bad thing. Many of the vehicles do look and feel very familiar, but sometimes you wish they could have introduced more radical designs.

Not all the pages are filled with cross-sections. There are 7 double-page spreads of film stills. Yeah, they look good but I feel they are just there to increase the number of pages. If not, there would only be 30 over pages.

The quality of Kemp Remillard's art is fantastic. I just can't imagine how long he took to draw each piece with such astonishing amount of detail.

Overall, I would highly recommend this to the fans.

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

Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art of Darwyn Cooke
Graphic Ink: The DC Comics Art of Darwyn Cooke
by Darwyn Cooke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 35.73
15 used & new from CDN$ 32.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great selection of Darwyn Cooke comics, Dec 12 2015
Length:: 3:00 Mins

The first thing to note about DC Comics' Graphic Ink artist series is that it's more of a compilation of comics than an artbook. The same applies to the Frank Quitely book.

I love Darwyn Cooke's art. He has his own unique style that stands out from other comic artists. I like his stylised characters, line art and the way he uses colours, such as those where he has to work with a limited palette, e.g. Parker comics. I also like that Darwyn Cooke's attempt at other genres other than superheroes.

This book is a collection of selected comic stories that he has published with DC over the years. It includes The Private Eye which was a story sample he prepared for DC when he was just 20 years old. Oh wow, how time has passed. It's so cool to see how his work looked like back then compared to his more recent comics. With the exception of The Private Eye which was from 1985, the rest of the comics featured are from 2000 onwards up to 2015.

Since this book is put out by DC Comics, don't expect to see any Parker art or other non-DC Comics related work.

The full list of comics featured are

The Private Eye from Talent Showcase #19 (1985)
Toyman's Christmas List from Superman Adventures #41 (2000)
A Change in Climate from Legion Worlds #2 (2001)
Human Values from 9-11 (2002)
Here Be Monsters from Batman: Gotham Knights #23 (2002)
On the Street from Just Imagine Stan Lee with Chis Bachalo Creating Catwoman #1 (2001)
'n" is for Nasty Canasta! from Looney Tunes #100 (2003)
Doctor Fate from JSA All-Stars #3 (2003)
Introduction by Rip Hunger from Justice League: The New Frontier Special (2008)
The Greater Good from Justice League: The New Frontier Special (2008)
The Phantom Quarterback from DC Comics Presents: Superman #1 (2004)
World's Window/King of America/Funny Pages/Solo Dreamgirl/Everyday Madness/The Question/Deja Vu from SOLO #5
Flight from Green Lantern Secret Files and Origins (2005)
Cousin Walter the Scientist from American Splendor #3 (2008)
The Hunting Trip from Jonah Hex #33 (2008)
The Great Silence from Jonah Hex #50 (2010)
Armistice Night from Weird War Tales #1 (2010)
The Laws of Motion from House of Mystery #36 (2012)
Times Past: 1944 from Shade #4 (2012)
The Final Curtain from All-Star Western #34 (2014)
Page from Picky Sicky from Harley Quinn #0 (2014)
Killin' Time from Harley Quinn Holiday Special #1 (2015)

In addition to the comics, there are also several pages of full page splash art, such as for covers, the superheroes, Justice League, Batman and the ones I like best are The Spirit covers from 2007.

As for the binding, well, the book doesn't open flat. So it affects quite a number of double page spreads, especially the 40 pages of double page splash art that appears at the back of the book. Some of the character faces are sucked into the gutter and can't be seen. It's not a good way to present wonderful art.

Overall, it's a book that's value for money. My only quibble is the binding. I would still highly recommend it to Darwyn Cooke fans unless of course if you already have most of the stories featured.

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

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