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Parka (Singapore)
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The Art of Deception: Illusions to Challenge the Eye and the Mind
The Art of Deception: Illusions to Challenge the Eye and the Mind
by John Langdon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More tricks to fool your eye, 8 Oct 2014
Length:: 1:37 Mins

The Art of Deception is wonderful book of optical illusions and artworks curated by optical illusion enthusiast Brad Honeycutt. I've also reviewed the author's previous book The Art of the Illusion which I enjoyed as well.

The book's 224 pages, hardcover, and uses nice thick paper. 200 images are included.

The artworks featured are a mixture of paintings, photographs, occasional sculptures, 3D chalk painting and other creations. Some of the more prominent artists included are Erik Johansson, Ben Heine, Oscar Reutersvard, Tracy Lee Stum, Vladimir Kush, Rob Gonsalves and Bev Doolittle, to Istvan Orosz, John Langdon, Scott Kim and more.

I had fun going through the work, marvelling at the creativity involved in the conception and creation. There are simple optical illusions made of just line drawings to complicated staged photographs. Some pages have me staring at them for minutes trying to figure out the illusions involved or trying to see the images in a way to reveal other hidden images, e.g. finding an image in a painting of repeated patterns.

There is a lot of creativity involved and this is one book that will delight those who like images that play tricks on your eyes.

The author has a blog called An Optical Illusion where you can even check out more illusions.

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


Singapore Sketchbook
Singapore Sketchbook
by Graham Byfield
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nostaglic, 2 Oct 2014
This review is from: Singapore Sketchbook (Hardcover)
Length:: 0:55 Mins

This is the second edition of Singapore Sketchbook. The first was published in 1995 and the second was in 2001. I like this book more than the Oxford Sketchbook and London Sketchbook, both also by Graham Byfield. It could be I'm biased since I live in Singapore.

Featured in the sketchbook are the watercolour paintings capturing the older streets and buildings of Singapore. These are buildings of shophouses, houses and colonial buildings from the past, some dating to before World War II. For me, it's nostalgic looking at the buildings, some of which have undergone restorations. Many, if not all, the buildings in the book are still around.

There are captions for all the paintings the describe the sights and scenes.

I wanted to point out the publication dates earlier because this book only presents one side of Singapore, that from the past. Singapore has been developing at a tremendous rate for the last 10 years. You don't see the modern side which are represented by the high-rise housing blocks, glass covered offices, and the many recent attractions added, such as the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands and the new Financial Centre, Gardens by the Bay, Sentosa and many more. Perhaps there is a need for a updated and expanded edition.

Overall, it's a beautiful sketchbook recommended to watercolour and sketchbook lovers.

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


An Artist's Journey to Bali
An Artist's Journey to Bali
by Betty Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, 2 Oct 2014
Length:: 0:27 Mins

Here's Betty Reynold's of Bali. She's a consultant and art director who travels and draws a lot. You might have seen her other sketchbooks on Japan.

An Artist's Journey to Bali is a travelogue sketchbook that captures the culture and life on the Indonesian island of Bali.

The wonderful watercolour paintings highlight the interesting places and sights, such as the festivals, temples, performances, customs, food, people and the flora. All paintings come with description that are informative and fun to read. At the end of the book, you'll know a lot more about Bali.

Nice book for those who like sketchbooks and travelogues.

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


Sketch Workshop: Anatomy
Sketch Workshop: Anatomy
by 3DTotal
Edition: Spiral-bound
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not comprehensive but a nice drawing guide, 2 Oct 2014
Length:: 1:26 Mins

The Sketch Workshop series from 3DTotal Publishing is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign they launched in 2013. This particular book is actually part of a set of 5 books covering different subjects, namely anatomy, characters, creatures, cityscapes and robots & spaceships. In that Kickstarter campaign, the 5 books come in a leather-style folder. For those who did not back the project, 3DTotal has also made the books available separately at a more affordable price.

The books are spiral-bound vertical format workbooks. Each one features a few instructors and has 48 pages.

This particular book that covers Anatomy features instructors Ryan Lee, Ron Lemen and Matt Smith. They are all accomplished artists and you can tell from their art in this book and the portfolio on their websites.

For a book that has only 48 pages, it's not meant to be comprehensive. So the book instead covers only selected anatomy related areas. The chapters in the book includes:

- Learn to draw a male portrait
- Grasp the anatomy of hands
- Learn to capture expressions
- Draw a complete figure in a pose

Yeah. Just those four areas.

As the book is spiral and in vertical format, the tutorials are laid out in such a way that, when the book is on the table, the instructions appear at the top page and the drawing templates are at the bottom page. It's a smart design that lets you draw on the bottom page while at the same time allowing you to refer to the instructions.

There are many useful drawing tips throughout. Since you're expected to copy what you see, you can get a good idea of your progress by comparing it with the examples. The drawing templates are actually just faint outlines of the illustrated examples. Sometimes you'll be told to draw in the details, and sometimes to practice shading and lighting. If you run out of templates or space on the book to draw, you can download additional templates to print out at 3DTotal Publishing's website.

It's not a comprehensive book. But for the subjects that are taught, they are taught well. Considering the affordable price, it's a good deal. It's a fun hands-on book on learning.

I wish there could be more pages of content though.


Sketch Workshop: Characters
Sketch Workshop: Characters
by 3DTotal
Edition: Spiral-bound
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not comprehensive but a nice drawing guide, 2 Oct 2014
Length:: 1:26 Mins

The Sketch Workshop series from 3DTotal Publishing is the result of a successful Kickstarter campaign they launched in 2013. This particular book is actually part of a set of 5 books covering different subjects, namely anatomy, characters, creatures, cityscapes and robots & spaceships. In that Kickstarter campaign, the 5 books come in a leather-style folder. For those who did not back the project, 3DTotal has also made the books available separately at a more affordable price.

The books are spiral-bound vertical format workbooks. Each one features a few instructors and has 48 pages. For a book this thin, it's not meant to be comprehensive.

This particular book that covers Anatomy features instructors Wylie Beckert, John Staub, Marta Nael and Richard Anderson. They are all accomplished artists and you can tell from their art in this book and the portfolio on their websites.

The chapters in the book are:

Learn to draw fantasy characters
How to draw Viking warriors
Sketch a fantasy Goddess
Master a samurai warrior
The first chapter by Wylie Beckert looks at three fantasy characters focusing on only the head designs. You can guess easily the rest of the subjects from the chapters' titles.

As the book is spiral and in vertical format, the tutorials are laid out in such a way that, when the book is on the table, the instructions appear at the top page and the drawing templates are at the bottom page. It's a smart design that lets you draw on the bottom page while at the same time allowing you to refer to the instructions.

Basically, you look at the illustrated examples and then copy what you see with the help of instructions and drawing tips. The drawing templates are actually just faint outlines of the illustrated examples. You'll be told to draw in the facial features, expressions or accessories, and sometimes to practice shading and lighting, or just to practice getting the right form for the head.

If you run out of templates or space on the book to draw, you can download additional templates to print out at 3DTotal Publishing's website.

It's a fun hands-on book on learning. The book's not too expensive and so it's a nice starting point to learning how to draw some fantasy characters.

I wish there could be more pages of content though.

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


Spectrum 19 (Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art)
Spectrum 19 (Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art)
by Cathy Fenner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £20.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly inspirational. Highly recommended., 30 Sep 2014
Length:: 1:26 Mins

Spectrum has been an amazing artbook series, and we're so close to almost two decades of work now. Amazing.

The Grand Master Award in this series goes to James Gurney. I was wondering when. Beside him, you'll see a lot of new and familiar names in the world of art. The art is fantastic and wide ranging as usual.

This is a great deal for the price of the book, which comes in paperback and hardcover. 304 pages total.

Highly inspirational. Highly recommended.

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


THE ART OF JOURNEY
THE ART OF JOURNEY

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvelous even if it's a bit pricey, 30 Sep 2014
This review is from: THE ART OF JOURNEY (Hardcover)
Length:: 1:24 Mins

Journey is one of the most beautiful games this year, one that I really enjoyed playing. It's quite an experience journeying through the haunting landscape, ancient ruins while listening to the enchanting soundtrack.

This artbook is a great companion for the game. It's a 188-page hardcover with nice paper. The art and illustrations are created by Matthew Nava who's the art director at thatgamecompany. He's also the one who art directed the earlier game Flower.

Collected within the book are the concept art for the game with character and creature designs, environment paintings, architecture designs, and even a section on fan art. There's lots of commentary throughout.

The art is as beautiful as the game itself, of course. But with the book you get to see more such as the discarded concepts, e.g. the evolution of the main character design from a more realistic to a stylistic one, unused buildings, locations, etc. The architecture designs are wonderful, with influence from Greek, Islamic and Japanese blended with mystery and an otherworldly feeling. It's interesting to study the use of colours in the game which has a very limited palette and yet can look so good.

One unique feature of the book is its use of Augmented Reality (AR) technology. It's one where you scan the pages with your mobile phone or tablet camera and a virtual reality 3D image pops up into space. It's used to good effect here. For example, for the AR version of one tower in the game, you can turn your camera around it to see it from different perspective, and if you look closely through the windows you can see things moving inside. Very cool. Same with the page on the character designs where the characters will pop up and you can see them move.

Also included in the book is a coupon code to download the soundtrack of the game via the PlayStation Network. Journey: Official Game Soundtrack cost over ten dollars by itself.

This is a marvelous artbook, even if it is rather pricey.

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


The Art of the Boxtrolls
The Art of the Boxtrolls
by Phil Brotherton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice artbook companion to the film, 29 Sep 2014
Length:: 1:36 Mins

The Art of The Boxtrolls is a pleasing companion artbook to Laika's third stop-motion film. There are plenty of pre-production art for the characters, sets and a substantial amount of text talking about the film making process.

The film is actually adapted from Alan Snow's Here Be Monsters! children book. For those who've read the book before, you might find it a bit more interesting to see how the characters are designed and made into stop-motion characters.

Michel Breton's design of old Europe and the houses on the sloping streets of Cheesebridge are delightful to look at. Art direction is driven by production designer Paul Lasaine and art director Curt Enderle.

Those who enjoy finding out how stop-motion films are made should find the text quite insightful. It takes about the challenges during production, such as creating the puppets, armature, costumes and the sets. There are many details that a director has to take note of and the book reveals a bit of those. Designers also talk about the little details such as props that don't draw attention to themselves.

I had thought everything in the film was physically made but in fact several sets such as the buildings in the background are actually computer generated.

My only gripe is there should have been more photos of the puppets because they look terrific. Readers expecting more behind-the-scenes photos would be disappointed but I feel the plethora of concept art do make up for it. This is a 160-page hardcover.

Ultimately, it's a satisfactory companion and a book I can recommend to fans of the film.

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


Princess Mononoke - The Art of (Art of Princess Mononoke) (Studio Ghibli Library)
Princess Mononoke - The Art of (Art of Princess Mononoke) (Studio Ghibli Library)
by Hayao Miyazaki
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful companion art book, 28 Sep 2014
Length:: 2:05 Mins

This is a belated but welcome translation by publisher Viz Media of the original Japanese artbook The Art of The Princess Mononoke--もののけ姫. Princess Mononoke and and the accompanying artbook came out in 1997. By the way, that Japanese artbook is still being reprinted even after so many years.

I've reviewed the original Japanese artbook before, and also the other English edition by Miramax Books. There's no point getting those books now because one's in Japanese and the other is out of print. Viz Media's books are widely available.

The interior pages of this English edition is laid out exactly the same as the Japanese book, only the text have been replaced. One other difference is this book is a hardcover vs the textured dust jacket paperback Japanese edition. This 224-page hardcover has well reproduced pictures on low to no gloss paper. Very good.

The book starts off with a few poems and an introduction by Hayao Miyazaki before it goes into the concept art.

The concept art is a mixture of character designs, movie stills, environment art, storyboards and several computer animation screenshots. There are line drawings as well as the pencil and watercolour sketches of Hayao Miyazaki. There aren't many studios that still use watercolour sketches to create concept art nowadays so it's always refreshing to see the ones from Studio Ghibli. The sketches may look loose but they convey the action and settings clearly, and they look charming.

The environment art are by Kazuo Oga and some of his artworks have also appeared in 男鹿和雄画集II (Oga Kazuo Animation Artworks 2). There are a lot of background paintings and not one of them are credited so it's impossible to tell if they are all from Kazuo Oga.

Towards the back are three tutorials that look at how the film is made, such as the use of computers for compositing, colouring and backgrounds. That's followed by selected storyboards. Finally there's a 3-year production diary that records down the milestones and activities. Even things like Hayao Miyazaki going for his acupuncture sessions are also recorded. Amusing.

Just like other Studio Ghibli artbooks, this is a wonderful companion to the film. Highly recommended to fans of Princess Mononoke and Studio Ghibli.


Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series Book 2 (Art of the Animated 2)
Legend of Korra: The Art of the Animated Series Book 2 (Art of the Animated 2)
by Konietzko Dimartino
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.67

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful artbook, 27 Sep 2014
Length:: 1:52 Mins

Holding this book in hand makes me think back to how excited I was when I first watched the The Legend of Korra. I'm not sure why but this does not often happen with other animation art books. Perhaps it's because I really like the stories and ideas from the world of Avatar.

This is a large 184-page hardcover artbook, similar in size to the earlier two artbooks, namely The Legend of Korra: Book 1 - Air, The Art of the Animated Series and Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Art of the Animated Series. The reproduction of the art is excellent. Images are huge and sharp and printed on thick paper.

Content in the book is split into chapters each dedicated to an episode in Book 2: Spirits. So there are 14 chapters for those plus one extra chapter for ancillary art.

The concept art featured are wonderful and beautiful. They are a mixture of character designs, environment art and storyboards, all completed with insightful commentary from creators Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko and director Joaquin Dos Santos.

The characters appear in the book in chronological order as they appear in the animation. You get to see how they are updated in terms of costumes and also the many new characters that are introduced. Most are full coloured while there are also some sketches. Main characters have lots of expression sheets included.

There are several pages of storyboards included and they have good dynamism in terms of composition and direction. There's also this nice sense of liveliness when you see the characters move in the storyboard sequences.

Environment art are mainly concept paintings, not the final ones used in the animation. They are nice because there are several for each location and you get to see the places from different angles. I like the environment art used for the backgrounds that come from the origin story as they are created in the style inspired by Chinese ink wash painting and Japanese woodblock printing.

As usual, there are also many creature designs for the animals and spirits. Those are fun to look at, such as rabbits with dragonfly ears, walking radishes, etc and the lion turtle is shown again with more drawings. Some of these creatures you'll read from the commentary are inspired by those from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

Once in a while, you'll see art that will remind you of Avatar Aang, such as the family portrait photo of Aang with Katara and their kids. Those are quite nostalgic. The images of other Avatars sometimes also send me thinking about their possible back stories.

All in all, this is a truly wonderful artbook.

Most highly recommended.

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


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