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Parka (Singapore)
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Big Eyes: The Film, The Art
Big Eyes: The Film, The Art
by Leah Gallo
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 25.73
37 used & new from CDN$ 22.59

4.0 out of 5 stars The Making of Big Eyes, The Art of Margaret Keane, Jan. 29 2015
Length:: 2:12 Mins

Big Eyes: The Film, The Art is actually a making-of book rather than a full fledged artbook.

It's a large hardcover with 192 pages and 109 are devoted to talking about the production of the film. This is a film eleven years in the making before it was finally picked up and directed by Tim Burton. The original masterminds of the film are writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. And the main star, Margaret Keane.

I didn't know what to expect when I bought the book. Big eyes. Isn't that from Japanese anime and manga show? Margaret Keane's paintings are different, more haunting, at least to me.

I finished reading the book in one sitting. The writeup is intriguing, covering how the story was first conceived, the repeated failures to get funding to finally landing Tim Burton, production stories and how the life of Margaret Keane was adapted for screen. Ultimately, it's the story about Margaret Keane vs Walter Keane that really got my attention. There's just so much dynamics and politics going on in their relationship. Who would know that behind the paintings of big-eyed characters, there would be such a complicated story.

Lots of behind-the-scenes photographs are included. They nothing too out of the ordinary though, certainly not those you would use in film magazines.

The remaining pages feature a selection of over 40 paintings by Margaret Keane. These are mostly from 1959 to 1963, with two from the 80s, one in 2011 and one in 1956 where the big eye effect is not as obvious yet. They are not arranged in chronological order though for some reason. And there's no mention whether if these are the paintings used in the film although I think they are because I saw a few in the photographs.

It's a nice companion for the movie. Treat it as a making-of book and you won't be disappointed. There aren't many pieces of Keane's art to make this a complete collection so the book feels neither here nor there in that sense.

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

The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series Book Three: Change
The Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series Book Three: Change
by Konietzko Dimartino
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.93
28 used & new from CDN$ 19.47

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic artbook for the fans, Jan. 27 2015
Length:: 1:59 Mins

Once again, I'm blown away (no pun intended) by the production value of not just the animation but also the art and direction. All the Avatar companion artbooks have been fabulous, from the original series with Aang, to Book 1 and Book 2 of Korra.

The presentation of this artbook is similar to the earlier two books with the artworks still arranged in chronological order.

The book's filled with lots of character designs, just like the animation is populated with people. There are the main characters, the villains especially and the plenty of town people. Occasionally there are the Studio Ghibli inspired spirits and other creature designs.

There are quite a few storyboard sequences included. Some are the comedic scenes while most of them are action fight scenes. You may have seen some animated line art sequence of Korra online, well, one of them is in the book showing Korra doing a whirlwind kick. The art is amazing in simplicity and clarity. I just love the anime style art.

Also included are the many beautiful environment paintings and layout sketches.

The Avatar world is rich in detail and stories and once again the creators Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino and director Joaquim Dos Santos have provided insightful commentary that delve more into the characters and interesting story arcs.

This is a fantastic artbook. Highly recommended to fans who can't get enough of the animation.

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

Inkworks: Darren Quach Sketchbook Vol. 01
Inkworks: Darren Quach Sketchbook Vol. 01
by Darren Quach
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 16.27
28 used & new from CDN$ 13.62

5.0 out of 5 stars Cool mecha sketchbook, Jan. 26 2015
Length:: 0:57 Mins

Darren Quach is a concept designer good at mechanical stuff. Actually if you check out his blog, you'll see that he's great at environment art too.

Inkworks is a 128-page hardcover, about landscape A5 size. It collects the mecha designs that Darren Quach sketches in his actual sketchbooks. So this book is designed like a sketchbook itself. All the sketches have been nicely cleaned up to remove the impressions of drawings from the opposite page picked up while scanning. I know that because there's a 18 minute Youtube video showing his original sketchbooks.

There are lots of wonderful mecha sketches included of all shapes and sizes. The style is drawn loose but the shapes and silhouettes are clear. One thing I like is there aren't any of those those Gundam or Transformer type mechas. Quach's designs are less blocky and more organic, although there are still a lot of mechanical parts involved. The mechas also look grounded with a good sense of weight and balance. There's a good mix between piloted and auto piloted ones. There are also a handful of sketches of other vehicles and spaceships.

Also included in the book are several QR codes that you can scan to bring up a video showing the drawing process. The same videos are also on the publisher Design Studio Press website. There are six and each 10 minutes long.

It's a good book for those who want to gain insight into what concept art can be when it's developing, evolving.

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

The Art of Total War
The Art of Total War
by Martin Robinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 28.84
35 used & new from CDN$ 27.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice artbook for the fans, Jan. 25 2015
This review is from: The Art of Total War (Hardcover)
Length:: 2:00 Mins

The Art of Total War is the companion artbook to the Total War series of games released over the years.

Also included are artworks for the upcoming games such as Total War: Attila which is scheduled for a February 2015 release, and Total War: Arena that is still in the testing phase. Those titles have considerably less pages devoted.

For Total War fans who have been following the series since 2000, this artbook will be a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

The full list of games included as arranged on the contents page are

Shogun (2000)
Shogun 2 (2011)
Medieval (2002)
Medieval 2 (2006)
Empire (2009)
Napoleon (2010)
Rome (2004)
Rome II (2013)
Attila (2015)
Total War Battles: Kingdom
Total War Battles: Shogun (2012)
Total War: Arena

The artworks consist concept art for the characters, locations, buildings and several battles scenes and miscellaneous stuff like maps, ships. The style is a mixture of computer generated art, painted works and 3D renders. For what I see, a big portion are computer generated art. Quality is generally good, but it gets progressively better with the newer games. The early games clearly have the low polygon characters.

The more unusual artworks would be those Japanese woodblock art-inspired ones used in Shogun 2. Those are the illustrative style as compared to the more realistic style that the game is trying to portray. The Total War Battles series also have their own style that's different from the main series, especially for Total War Battles: Shogun. Some of the more beautiful scene paintings were used as loading screens.

The highlight of the book besides the art would be the commentary that talks about how the games have evolved under developer The Creative Assembly over the years. It's interesting to read about the history of game development and how battle mechanics, gameplay and art are all woven into one. Since the games are based on history, there's also some writeup on the historic accuracy of the games and the compromises made.

As there are so many games featured, it's not possible to cover each in detail. Only selected pieces of artworks from each title are featured. I do feel that more could be included.

Overall, it's a good artbook for fans of the Total War series.

4 out of 5 stars.

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

Street View
Street View
by Pascal Rabaté
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 33.99
32 used & new from CDN$ 23.20

4.0 out of 5 stars A play unfolds in this book literally and figuratively, Jan. 16 2015
This review is from: Street View (Hardcover)
Length:: 1:48 Mins

Street View by Pascal Rabate is a comic book that presents a theatric play. The presentation however is unlike typical comic books with panels and dialogue. Street View only has one set, the facade of European style buildings. In the buildings and on the streets are the characters going about with their daily routine.

What's interesting is the play with time. You get to see what happens on the street and characters as time passes from morning to the evening and nighttime. Ten scenes happen from the morning and ten at night. You can follow the activity in each apartment, or follow what a character is doing. There are mundane moments like a lady who watches TV all day, and more cheeky moments between couples. I shall not mention too many as spoilers but the fun is to discover them yourself.

It's also like a game of spotting the difference. I find myself going back and forth to see what has changed during each timing, sometimes to understand the story, or to see the relationships characters have with one another.

One unusual thing about the book is its physical presentation. It's a hardcover book with accordion pages. You can flip through the scenes easily, or stretch out all the ten scenes and look at them all at the time same. It has a nice cover art that shows the back of the buildings, as if it's a real set, with actors getting in position before acting.

Overall, it's an interesting comic worth checking out.

Momentary
Momentary
by Sage Vaughn
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 26.95
44 used & new from CDN$ 15.30

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Like butterflies?, Jan. 15 2015
This review is from: Momentary (Hardcover)
Length:: 0:56 Mins

Momentary is a series of paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Sage Vaughn. He's a studio artist and I feel that his works belong more on display rather than inside a book. There's a photo in the book that shows him painting on a big canvas.

There are lots of butterflies drawn in the book. A huge number of them appear in what looks to me like wreaths, with them flying in circles. In other paintings, they fly randomly across the canvas. Many paintings have the wreaths with just changes to the colour theme, or design of the wreaths (but always circular).

For some reason, the butterflies have trails of coloured paint dripping downwards. The butterfly wreaths are sometimes on white, sometimes on black and sometimes juxtaposed with other painted images, such as a rock band, a man looking at a painting, groups of people, a man using his phone.

I don't know the meaning or symbolism behind the dripping paint and there's no explanation. My review is definitely more boring than the beautiful description that's used to sell the book.

You know how you can look at a piece of work and somehow it just doesn't resonate with you. This book does that to me. But hey, that's just me.

The only thing I enjoyed more is the interview with Sage Vaughn that appears at the beginning where he talks about his interesting life stories, and the string of events that lead to him becoming an artist.

The Art of Penguins of Madagascar
The Art of Penguins of Madagascar
by Barbara Robertson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 38.21
38 used & new from CDN$ 34.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful companion for Penguins' debut movie, Jan. 13 2015
Length:: 2:14 Mins

I didn't expect this artbook coming and only got to know of it a month after it was released.

It's a delightful companion featuring concept art for the film. The style of art is similar to that of Madagascar. Everything is very stylized, the shapes are simple and strong, characters are cartoony and funny looking.

The main character designs are for mutant penguins, Dave and the 31 octopus henchmen, Dr. Octavius Brine, the "elite undercover interspecies task force" North Wind and other unused amusing looking spy members. The mutant penguins look really funny. The other thing I like are the beautiful patterns on the octopus henchmen.

For the set locations we have the Antarctica, Fort Knox, Venice, Shanghai, the Aquarium, the sophisticated look of North Wind jet and headquarters, Dave's submarine's exterior and interiors and 4 pages of unused locations. The whole feel and vibe is different from the other Madagascar movies because the penguins are in sort of more urban landscapes.

Other artworks included are the coloured storyboards, sketches of Dave's backstory, snow globes, octopus inspired interior designs and the technical breakdown of how they created the Venice chase sequence. Author Barbara Robertson has included a good amount of commentary by the artists and staff talking about the designs and characters, delving into the origins and motivations of all those weird and cute but serious acting animals.

It's a beautiful artbook, a delightful companion to the Penguin's first movie, or as Benedict Cumberbatch refers to them as "Pengwings".

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

Inateck Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with Dual-Driver, Portable Stand for Tablets Smartphones, Black
Inateck Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with Dual-Driver, Portable Stand for Tablets Smartphones, Black
Offered by InateckOfficial
Price: CDN$ 35.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good quality speaker with just two downsides, Jan. 11 2015
Disclaimer first. Inateck offered me this Inateck BP2001 Bluetooth Speaker for review.

This is my first wireless speaker and I'm really impressed by the sound quality coming out of it.

Inateck BP2001 is a Bluetooth speaker that you can pair with any of your devices running Bluetooth V2.1. So far I've tried it on my Mac, Android phone and iPad. It works flawlessly with each one.

Just turn on the Bluetooth of your device and the speaker gets discovered and connected within seconds. The speaker powers with a tone. After it gets connected via Bluetooth, it will make another tone.

At no time did it break connection during use. The distance at which it can connect is about 15 walking steps away.

The power is inbuilt and you can charge it with a USB cable provided. There's also a 3.5mm audio jack provided if you want to plug in but the wire is a rather short.

Design of the speaker is simple and beautiful. The left right, actually all edges are rounded off. Right in the centre is the Play/Pause button that you can use to pause when a phone call is coming in.

On the top is a long slot that you can use to put your iPad. Since the iPad is rather big, you need to extend the bracket behind the speaker for support. It's very stable. The speaker supports the iPad in both upright and landscape position.

The audio quality is impressive. For such a small speaker, it has nice clarity. There's a little stereo thing going on too but it's of course not as good as the two speakers inside are still quite close together. The volume can go quite loud. I usually listen to it at just 3 out of the 16 volume levels on the Mac. It can go very loud while retaining its clarity but near maximum volume you'll start to hear faint static buzzing.

One downside is the auto-power off feature. It powers off by itself after 5 minutes of inactivity when nothing is playing. The only way to wake it up is the power it off and on again. It's quite inconvenient because you might not be listening all the time, and the next time you want to listen, you have to power it on again.

The other downside is there's a milli-second lag if you're watching a Youtube video and listening. The music does not sync perfectly with the lips. It's an issue to note if you're watching a video, but a non-issue if you're just playing music and not watching anything.

It's a quality speaker despite the downside. I enjoyed using it. It's extremely portable so it's a great choice to bright it outdoors or around.

I'll rate it 4 out of 5 stars.

[ Apple Style ] Inateck Mini Wireless Bluetooth 3.0 Keyboard for iPad Air / iPad Mini 2 / iPad Mini / New iPad 3 / iPad 2 / Nexus 7 / Galaxy Tab and Other Tablets- White
[ Apple Style ] Inateck Mini Wireless Bluetooth 3.0 Keyboard for iPad Air / iPad Mini 2 / iPad Mini / New iPad 3 / iPad 2 / Nexus 7 / Galaxy Tab and Other Tablets- White

5.0 out of 5 stars BK1002E is designed specially for iOS, not as suitable for a Mac, Jan. 11 2015
This keyboard was sent to me for review by Inateck. I've not heard of the company before. From what I can see on their website, they sell mainly electronic accessories for computers. Actually, I thought this was a normal keyboard which is why I accepted this offer to review. But it's not quite normal because it's designed for use on iOS devices. I was looking for a keyboard for use with my computer.

--- DESIGN ---

This particular keyboard BK1002E is a Bluetooth keyboard designed specially for iOS users, basically those using the iPads and iPhones. I'll talk specifically about its use on iOS devices first, but you can also use it on a Mac which I'll talk about further down.

It's a very compact keyboard about the size of the Apple wired keyboard without the number pad on the right. It's about 2 inches wider than an iPad Air and 2.5 inches shorter. Using a physical keyboard is definitely more productive than an on-screen keyboard because you have all the buttons visible and not hidden on a second keyboard page.

This keyboard uses the Mac keyboard layout, so it has the Cmd keys by the side of the Spacebar.

Typing on the keyboard feels nice. The keys have a nice spring, similar to those on the official Apple aluminium keyboards. The Inateck keyboard is may look like it's aluminium but it's actually some sort of plastic. I don't mind as long as it's durable. It's a pretty light keyboard, comparable to the Apple wireless aluminium keyboard that I also have.

The keyboard uses two AAA batteries. A battery indicator is above the F11 button. It starts blinking when you hit the Connect button, or lights up when battery is low. Battery life is fine after a month or so but I would keep spare batteries around.

In short, it's a compact and lightweight option for anyone who needs a portable physical keyboard to use with your phone or iPad.

--- On iOS devices ---

I'm using this with my iPad Air 2. Paring the keyboard with the iPad is quick. First power on the keyboard and press the Connect button on the back. Then under your Settings in iPad, select to pair with the keyboard.

There's no lag when it comes to typing.

The top rows of buttons have dual functionality and are programmed as shortcuts for iOS use. Here's the list:

Home button
F1 - Decrease brightness
F2 - Increase brightness
F3 - Show/Hide keyboard
F4 - Copy
F5 - Paste
F6 - Cut
F7 - Select All
F8 - Rewind
F9 - Play/Pause
F10 - Forward
F11 - Decrease volume
F12 - Increase volume
Del - Power button

A Home button has replaced the Escape button on the top left. Pressing this button, just like on your iOS device, will get you to the home screen. Double clicking it will lay out all the apps that are opened but there's no way to navigate using the keyboard so you have to switch apps using your fingers.

Several function keys are programmed with text editing functionality such as Copy, Paste, Cut, Select All. By the way, you can still use the usual keyboard shortcuts such as Cmd+C for copy, Cmd+A for selecting all, etc.

The main advantage of using the keyboard is you can edit your text much faster because the arrow keys provide a very quick way to select text. Here are some shortcuts if you don't already know.

1. Using the arrow keys alone - You can move letter by letter, much faster than having to use your fingers to create an insertion point
2. Holding the Alt - Use the arrows to jump word by word
3. Holding the Cmd or Control - Use the arrows to jump from front to end of a sentences.
4. Hold Shift with the combination of Cmd or Alt - Select either letters or words or whole sentences

You can power your iOS device on or off using the power button on the top right. Yes, you can power on your device even when its sleeping. When you power it on, you can't use the numeral buttons on your keyboard to unlock the screen. You have to use your fingers.

There's this language icon on the Spacebar. Hit the Fn button with Spacebar to switch between different languages.

As for the arrow keys, you can use the Fn button to engage the Page Up, Page Down, Home and End functionality.

--- FOR USE ON A MAC ---

You can actually use the keyboard on a Mac, but you won't be able to use that the full features of the keyboard.

First thing to note is there's no Escape button, something I use often. That has been replaced by the Home button. Nothing happens when you press it on a Mac.

Another thing is you cannot use Fn+Delete to delete stuff behind the insertion point. You can delete from the back to front, but you can't delete from the front to back. This is also a move that I use very often.

Somehow, I also felt that it's not as responsive on my Mac as compared to the iPad. There's this split milli-second lag.

The Copy, Paste and other special functions are still in use. However, you can turn that off using System Preferences to set to use the F1, F2, etc as standard function keys.

--- CONCLUSION ---

If you need a good keyboard for your iPad or iPhone, Inateck's BK1002E Bluetooth Keyboard is a good one.

Just note the absence of the Escape key and about the Delete key if you intend to also use the same keyboard on your Mac.

Note that Inateck have other keyboards for Windows so do not buy the wrong keyboard.

The Urban Sketching Handbook: People and Motion: Tips and Techniques for Drawing on Location
The Urban Sketching Handbook: People and Motion: Tips and Techniques for Drawing on Location
by Gabriel Campanario
Edition: Flexibound
Price: CDN$ 15.15
35 used & new from CDN$ 9.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice collection of handy tips on sketching people, Jan. 2 2015
Length:: 1:47 Mins

There are two publishers for this book as far as I know. One's Quarry Books and the other Basheer Graphic Books.

This book on people and motion is the second in the Urban Sketching Handbook series. The first one is on architecture and cityscape. The version I bought was from Quarry Books and the book's construction quality is exactly the same as Basheer's version.

Just like the first book, it's still a compact size 112-page paperback.

The book features a bunch of tips on sketching people and figures. These are quite useful tips curated by author and sketcher Gabriel Campanario from various artists. Some tips I use often and some are new ones I can't wait to try. It's nice to see how other artists tackle sketching figures.

There are tips on how you can draw proportional figures, contour drawing, capture gesture, liveliness and action. The book talks about basic proportion for the head and body. What I felt lacking is perhaps there should have been a few more pages on observational drawing techniques such as how to draw a tilting head as you see it. For that, I suggest getting the book Keys to Drawing.

The last section is a gallery of sketches grouped by the type of media they were drawn with.

There's even a list of etiquette tips that talks about how you should react or behave in public, and a helpful list of online links that point to Urban Sketchers, SketchCrawl, The Sketching Forum and Portraits Without Mercy. Check them out.

This book's for beginners with basic drawing skills. The tips provided are easy to follow so it makes figure drawing less daunting and more fun.

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

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