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Parka (Singapore)
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Visions of WAR: The Art of Wayne Reynolds
Visions of WAR: The Art of Wayne Reynolds
by Wayne Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 19.75
43 used & new from CDN$ 19.75

4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific fantasy art, reproduction could be better, Nov. 27 2014
Length:: 1:47 Mins

Wayne Reynolds is a terrific fantasy artist. The highlights of this artbook are his fantasy characters and action-packed scenes.

The fantasy art included comes from Warhammer, Reaper Miniatures, World of Warcraft TCG, Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder and other works, including personal ones. The bulk of work are from 2003 onwards. Also included are some yet-to-be-published artworks scheduled for 2014 release.

His illustrations and paintings are either printed one per page, or two per page. The book's a 256-page hardcover. So lots of artworks included. The character designs are amazing and there are so many of them. They are elaborate, detailed and look great. Creatures, warriors, spirits, etc, you name them, he has drawn them.

The action-packed scenes are quite epic. There's always the element of danger and suspense. You feel like you need to know what happens in the next scene. In that sense, the narrative and storytelling element is very well handled. I think there's a lot to be learned about dynamic composition and staging the scene with characters.

The letdown is the low resolution reproduction for many of the accompanying sketches, and some of the coloured artworks. You can really see some of the jaggedness that comes from the low resolution scans, especially for the pencil line sketches. Majority of the coloured pieces are alright but you can spot some that could be reproduced better. This book could be so much better.

Another possible downside is the lack of commentary. All the artworks are listed with title, source and year. But there not write-up on the actual work, or even the artist's career except for a one-page introduction by the publisher.

I'll still recommend this book because the art is great, reproduction's not the best, but the huge amount of art makes up for it.

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

Midori Foo's Book of Pictures
Midori Foo's Book of Pictures
by Midori Foo
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 29.78
23 used & new from CDN$ 29.78

5.0 out of 5 stars Colourful, beautiful, Nov. 27 2014
Length:: 1:37 Mins

Midori Foo's Book of Pictures is an impressive 320-page artbook of character art from Japanese artist Midori Foo.

It was originally published in Japan as 碧風羽画集 in 2011. This is the edition translated by Udon for the English readers. There really isn't any text except for the index of works at the back of the book. Speaking of the index, I don't know why they have it in the format where you have to flip the book 90 degrees anti clockwise, and the index does not come with pictures so you have to flip to the appropriate page to check out the artworks -- other Japanese artbooks have art thumbnails to go with the index. Not a big issue anyway.

This is in essence a character design book. Obviously the style is very Japanese so there's a strong dose of eastern oriental element to the costume designs. There are some very detailed costumes. Many you can tell are designed for video games. I suppose those characters without backgrounds are for video games. The rest are filled with elaborate beautiful backgrounds. Midori Foo has created art for Square Enix, Bandai Namco, Konami, SEGA and other companies.

Other than the warrior type, fighting game character illustrations, there are also the more flowery pieces, with the softer more feminine tones. Overall, the artworks are very colourful from the myriad use of colours. Most are female characters.

320 pages is a lot and the illustrations are printed at full page sizes with a handful at slightly smaller sizes. So this artbook is quite worth the money in that sense especially if you like Japanese character art with a preference to manga style.

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

20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry and 44 Other Elegant Edibles: A Sketchbook for Artists, Designers, and Doodlers
20 Ways to Draw a Strawberry and 44 Other Elegant Edibles: A Sketchbook for Artists, Designers, and Doodlers
by Zoe Ingram
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.87
29 used & new from CDN$ 10.86

5.0 out of 5 stars Pretty fun for kids and doodling fans, Nov. 25 2014
Length:: 0:41 Mins

Here's another book from the 20 Ways to Draw series. The series is quite popular judging by the number of reviews there are on Amazon.

If you don't already know, these are drawing books for kids. There aren't much instructions, so it's a look-copy-draw kind of book. The style is like simple caricature and cartoons.

The subject matter for this book is on food. So you get to draw more than just strawberries, but also things like other fruits, cakes, shellfish, mushroom and other edible stuff. There's none of those cooked dishes. So things to draw have simple shapes and easy to follow along and draw. For each subject, there are 20 drawn examples, so you either copy them or imagine your own and draw them.

The artist is Zoe Ingram, a freelance illustrator and designer and mum. You can check out more of her work on her website.

Just like other books in the series, this is pretty fun for kids and doodling fans

The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition
The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition
by Bioware
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 27.58
32 used & new from CDN$ 24.42

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful art companion to the game, Nov. 24 2014
Length:: 2:14 Mins

The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition is a large hardcover artbook that's much thicker than I expected. Although it's listed at 184 pages on Amazon and publisher Dark Horse's website, the book's actually 264 pages. That's an additional 80 pages!

Collected within is a huge amount of beautiful concept art created for the game. There are designs for characters, props, landscapes, storyboards and some story scene paintings.

More specifically, you'll see castles on hilltops, cavernous throne rooms and interiors, exquisite carvings that adorn the walls and ceilings, props such as thrones designed to reflect power of the rulers, faction banners, ancient ruins in deep jungles and other mysterious places imagined by the artists. Even the few screenshots of locations in the game looks great in terms of lighting and mood. The design is very cohesive.

Character designs are mainly influenced by medieval warriors in armour. The book includes many variations of costumes and characters. I prefer the environment and prop art to the character designs although they are pretty good as well. There are some creatures and dragons but not much. The captions that come with the artworks talking about the designs are quite insightful but too brief.

The style of art is mainly painterly, quite detailed at times to show off the architecture and history of the places. There are some rough pieces but for the most part they look wonderful in terms of textures, composition and invite you to marvel at the details.

The recent video game artbooks published by Dark Horse are all pretty good, including this one. Considering the extra pages, amount of content and quality of the art, this is certainly fantastic artbook for fans of the game and fantasy art. Good value for money.

The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio
The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio
by Jim Simon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 43.26
27 used & new from CDN$ 43.26

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic omnibus of Simon and Kirby comics, Nov. 23 2014
Length:: 1:43 Mins

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby needs no introduction as the powerhouse partners in comics that rose to prominence during the Golden Age of Comics. They are not just prolific but also a great influence on other artists.

The Art of the Simon and Kirby Studio is a huge 384-page hardcover that features selected work they have created over 30 years. It's not an artbook but sort of like an omnibus. Writer and historian Mark Evanier, who apprenticed with Jack Kirby, wrote the introduction and selected the comics included.

The bulk of comics included are in their entirety covering genres such as western, crime, war, romance and sci-fi. Noticeably missing are the superhero-related comics. You may remember another book called The Best of Simon and Kirby that was published in 2009 by Titan Books. That book features more famous creations, such as Captain America, while this book features the lesser known titles, many of which have never been published before.

The comics are actually photographed or scanned from the original comic pages. It's quite cool to actually see the corrections done, such as drawings over white-out areas, the faint lines used as reference for writing the text, portions of the panels being pasted over with bigger pieces of paper with bigger corrected drawings, the yellowing clear tape, etc.

The reproduction is quite well done with the raw pages reprinted in high resolution and huge. The comic art is fantastic of course.

For fans of Simon and Kirby, it's a very worthwhile purchase together with The Best of Simon and Kirby.

Tate Watercolor Manual
Tate Watercolor Manual
by Tony Smibert
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.26
29 used & new from CDN$ 16.26

2.0 out of 5 stars A peculiar watercolour book, Nov. 23 2014
This review is from: Tate Watercolor Manual (Paperback)
Length:: 1:25 Mins

The Tate Watercolour Manual is a watercolour instructional book quite unlike other in the sense that there's a lot of intellectual text going on. It's very academic style. I've several watercolour books and I really prefer the liveliness of the artists and authors in those.

The step-by-step tutorials are good with nice pictures and clear instructions. They are actually a series of tutorials designed to highlight specific techniques from greater watercolour masters in Europe, such as Claude Lorrain, Thomas Girtin, William Turner and others.

However, the techniques are often taught in isolation, meaning you may be taught how to create simple landscape, trees and clouds, but there's nothing about putting a piece of work together. Composition is a vague concept mentioned occasionally. Information on colour mixing is also almost non-existent, and the colours used for the tutorials consist just black, sepia demonstrations and the extremely toned down colour schemes of the example master paintings.

The subjects shown throughout are of landscapes with the exception of Turner's 1805 piece The Shipwreck. I don't feel that many of the pieces are very striking, or convey the message of watercolour as a vibrant and colourful medium. So for beginners, it's not that inspiring even though the tutorials are easy to follow along.

For beginners, I recommend getting more comprehensive books with complete lessons, such as The Watercolor Book by David Dewey, Watercolour for the Absolute Beginner, You Can Paint Vibrant Watercolors in Twelve Easy Lessons. And then you can move on to books that talk more about artistic expression.

For advanced artists, I suggest getting books dedicated to specific master artists instead.

The Art of Space: The History of Space Art, from the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era
The Art of Space: The History of Space Art, from the Earliest Visions to the Graphics of the Modern Era
by Ron Miller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.45
20 used & new from CDN$ 24.45

5.0 out of 5 stars Visual treat to fans of space and sci-fi art, Nov. 19 2014
Length:: 1:49 Mins

The Art of Space is a wonderful artbook collecting artworks that have been created about space by prominent artists of the past and present.

Author and artist Ron MIller has provided an in-depth and engaging writeup on the history of space art dating to the 19th century when artists were just starting to look to space for subjects to paint. Some of the early works include illustrations to accompany Jules Verne's novels.

Content of the book is arranged by subject matter, namely Planets & Moons, Stars & Galaxies, Spaceships & Space Stations, & Space Colonies & Cities and lastly Aliens. Throughout the book, there are special features on selected artists and space events, such as the Great Moon Hoax of 1835 and a few others.

The book's filled with beautiful artworks from over two centuries. You'll be able to see the beautiful paintings of Chesley Bonestell, Ron Miller himself, Chris Foss's stylish depictions, Pierre Mion's view of space colony, H.R. Giger's aliens and many other artists and their creations of planet terrain, astronauts, spaceships and stations and the nebula sky.

The artworks could be traditionally drawn with pen and ink, or pencils, woodcut, oil painted, or digital paintings that look almost photo-realistic. These are either standalone pieces or those created for book covers, posters and magazines. There are over 350 pieces of work included in this 224-page artbook. Each artwork comes with a brief description but unfortunately the date is not included.

Overall, the book's a fantastic visual treat to fans of space and sci-fi art, and there's interesting information on the history and pioneers of space art and evolution.

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

Marc Davis: Walt Disney's Renaissance Man
Marc Davis: Walt Disney's Renaissance Man
by Disney Book Group
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.08
35 used & new from CDN$ 25.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Good book, Nov. 17 2014
Length:: 1:55 Mins

Marc Davis is certainly one of the master animator and draftsman Disney has ever hired. He has worked on iconic characters such as Cinderella, Alice (in Wonderland), Tinker Bell, Maleficent and Cruella De Vil.

This book is a retrospect of his work and the influence he has over other artists. I was actually expecting some sort of biography but there's only a short two-page worth of text on his life and career written by veteran animation writer John Canemaker. The rest of the text are essays from Davis peers and those who know him, such as Andreas Deja, Glen Keane, Pete Docter, Charles Solomon, Don Hahn and others. Reading about Marc Davis through the account of other animators and artists is still every bit as engaging.

There's also a chapter written by Marc Davis himself based on excerpts of his notes for an unpublished books. This chapter talks about anatomy of motion and provides some drawing tips.

The pictures in the book is a mixture of photographs of Davis and his family, him at work, personal sketches, animation artworks from Disney and his paintings. His sketches are lively and the designs are always clear. The characters have their characteristic stance that really brings out their personalities.

Besides the pencil sketches, there are also coloured design drawings he did for Disney theme parks. The back portion of the book features his paintings which are not too animation-looking like, but gives us an idea of his personal expression. Last chapter is on his wife Alice Davis with some accompanying artworks from her as well.

This book has been getting some flak from other reviewers who commented on the lack of more pictures. I wasn't familiar with Marc Davis' work beforehand but after a quick search online, I can see many of his artworks, but I can also say that many of those in this book are not available online.

It's a good book.

The Art of Robert E McGinnis
The Art of Robert E McGinnis
by Robert E. McGinnis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.42
29 used & new from CDN$ 24.42

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic artbook for an amazing artist, Nov. 16 2014
Fans of Robert E McGinnis' art will be delighted with this book. And those who don't know who he is will be surprised by his stunning work.

Born in 1926, McGinnis started his career early in 1947. However he didn't start painting paperback covers until 1958. But after he started, he has painted over a thousand of them, on top of other illustrations he has created for movies and magazines. He is one of the great illustrations who is as inspiring as Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth, Coby Whitmore, Drew Struzan.

This 176-page hardcover features over six decades worth of splendid work. The paper quality used is low gloss and reproduction quality is fantastic. Bravo to publisher Titan Books.

Actually, there was another McGinnis artbook published in 2000 titled Tapestry: The Paintings of Robert E. McGinnis. There are some duplication of artworks but this book is still worth getting because it has included works from 2000 to 2014, Yes, McGinnis is still painting today.

The book starts of with a lengthy interview by author Art Scott with the artist and is followed by the galleries of artworks.

You'll get to see the cover art that has adorned paperback titles of the past, iconic movie posters such as for Breakfast at Tiffany's and James Bond, works for various magazines, his personal paintings of nudes, Western and contemporary landscapes. Among which you'll see the many stunning 'McGinnis women'. His style, sense of aesthetics and colours are amazing.

One cover was deemed to saucy and had a sticker pasted strategically over the offending bit.

The accompanying text has McGinnis sharing his creative process, insights from his career and some stories behind the selected pieces of works. He talks about elaborate wraparound art that require meticulous research and extensive model shoots, movie posters that require countless iterations, paintings for men's magazines where he did not want to be associated with, and other interesting stuff. Not only that, I also enjoyed reading the descriptions of those paperbacks, such as one that has "Man, she had a shape to make corpses kick open caskets - and she was dead set on giving me rigor mortis."

Most of the time, the artworks are reproduced in their raw form without the other forms of typography or designs. Even when actual book covers are used, the art is not obscured because McGinnis had taken into account the space for the book titles and other text elements.

This wonderful artbook will make a fine addition to the shelves of any art lovers.

Highly recommended.

One of my favourites for 2014.

Interstellar: Beyond Time and Space
Interstellar: Beyond Time and Space
by Mark Cotta Vaz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 32.60
27 used & new from CDN$ 29.65

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book marred by some printing issues, Nov. 16 2014
Length:: 1:44 Mins

This is a nice movie companion book for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar.

It's an insightful writeup on the making of the film with wonderful accompanying photographs and artworks. Nolan's directing philosophy is still the same as in previous films, such as in The Dark Knight Trilogy, preferring to use real sets over CGI graphics. So this book covers the different sets that he has to build, and the locations used for other planets.

There are lots of interesting details. You'll learn how they created the look of zero gravity, shooting in Iceland where winds can go up to 100mph, where the idea for the Tesseract came from and how they build the set, where they find the farm and got the farmer to actually plant acres of corn, Anne Hathaway's spacesuit had a zip not fully closed and soaked herself while jumping into the water, how dust was created and many other things that happen behind the scenes.

The book talks about the story quite a bit so you must definitely watch the film first.

They actually got Kip Thorne, a professor of theoretical physics, to be an associate producer for the film, and his equations provided some of the visual imagery represented on screen as the worm hole. Those equations on the chalkboard are from Thorne, not professor Brand or Murph.

However, if you know a bit of space and science, then you may be disappointed that the book does not cover the really technical and geeky parts, basically the possible plot holes, things like how space travel is possible with a ship like Endurance, how far it is before you get pulled in by the black hole, etc.

Overall, it's a well done film companion. Those who enjoyed the film should enjoy this book as well. I find it intriguing enough to finish reading in one sitting.

The only downside to this book is the problem with sticky pages. My copy has several pages that stick together. They can be pulled apart but sometimes the paint gets peeled off and leaves tiny white spots over the area. You might want to wait for a reprint or contact the publisher Running Press to get it sorted out.

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

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