art book review technical artist

Art Books

Something a little different today, I’m having a look at more art related books. I feel like I always want to use “both sides” of my brain and enjoy the artistic aspects and results of the tools and games I create. For me, it was always important to get technical, so that when I had a great idea for something, I could cover all aspects of it without having to worry about technical or art abilities really getting in the way. That being said, I should focus a bit more on the artistic side (hard with so much programming these days) but, I got a few books from the library and had a good read.

Webcomics: Tools and Techniques for Digital Cartooning
by Steven Withrow & John Barber is good at describing different artists workflows of a number of cartoonist. I was interested in how some of the artists used of Poser, and while I have played with some demos, I realize this is still quite a useful tool for rapid prototyping many different characters, clothes, poses etc. From what I remember it was one of those programs that may add up with add ons, but could be useful as virtual artist dummy for things like lighting on a character, proportions, foreshortening and composition. One of the other interesting aspects of the book is the focus on the business aspects, such as page rates from publishers in print, subscription services, micro payments and merchandise. There is still some Flash work, and I feel that while there are a lot of competitors (HTML 5, or some more of the 3D programs in the browser like Unity) it is still going to be a while before something really competes with Flash on the web.

Drawing and Painting Fantasy Worlds by Finlay Cowan was a good book to inspire young artists or those who need a bit more motivation. Some of the quotes from other disciplines such as Thomas Mann’s “Order and simplification are the first steps towards mastery of any subject” are sprinkled throughout the book (sidenote: for those that read Mann’s Death in Venice I also liked the quote: “It is most certainly a good thing that the world knows only the beautiful opus but not its origins, not the conditions of its creation”, and that is also a good warning quote for those looking at Death in Venice). Anyway, Cowan focuses on things like research and inspiration, using the internet, library, books, museums, mentors and other artists. I liked his idea of a focus on a “sacred space” that keeps you in the mindset for work and minimizes distractions (like the internet, or blog posts :P) There is a focus on figure drawing and life drawing (which I am a big fan of (here for some of my stuff)) and also work with 3D aspects using Poser. There are also more technical aspects such as digital painting starting in greys and and layers, importing different images to create depth in the work and collecting different things with unusual patterns like sun dollars, tree bark, poppyseed muffins etc. and incoprotating them in the work. There was also some of the necessary elements of one, two and three point perspectives and using grids for cities. I also really enjoyed the words “THERE ARE NO EXCUSES” (pg 118) adapt to whatever situation you have and try and be productive wherever you are. Be creative whenever and wherever you can.

Digital Manga Workshop: An Artists Guide to Creating Manga Illustrations on Your Computer by Jared Hodges and Lindsay Cibos deals with a number of elements in Photoshop and Corel Painter, with a few nods to Paint Shop Pro, openCanvas and GIMP. The tech for the book largely revolves around a wacom tablet, and has a few good tips here for some of the work. Choosing 300 DPI, dealing with transparent line art, digital inking for photoshop with a round hard brush, (5 pixel diameter, 0 angle, spacing
It was nice stepping away from the programming books, and while sometimes with art books the best part is looking at the artwork and getting ideas, it is still nice when some of the technique is mentioned on how to accomplish some of these visual results.

Until next time,
Michael Hubbard

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