Archive for category Subject: Fantasy art

Dragons (Ready to Paint) || Marc Potts

Fantasy art seems to pervade everything, or at least every series that Search Press manages to come up with, so I suppose it’s inevitable that the Ready to Paint series, with its pre-printed tracings and more than usually detailed step by step demonstrations would get round to it eventually. It even has its own logo, in a font that can only have sprung from someone’s fevered imagination. I doubt it’s been used elsewhere, so nice to see all that work not going to waste.

So far, so unfair and, now I’ve had my fun, I can say that if you want to paint dragons but are having a hard time with the drawing and the shapes, this is the book you’ve been looking for. Given the popularity of fantasy art, my guess is that it’ll have quite a wide appeal and I don’t think it’ll disappoint, either. Although the title doesn’t specify it, Marc has used acrylics throughout.

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How to Draw and Paint Vampires || Ian Daniels

I often don’t review fantasy art books because it’s a field I really don’t feel at home with. However, it’s worth noting that, if this is what you want, it’s about the only book on the subject. And one to get your teeth into. (OK, I only wrote it up so I could say that. Sorry.)

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How to Draw … Style

How to Draw Tattoo Style || Andy Fish & Veronica Hebard
How to Draw Graphic Novel Style || Andy Fish
How to Draw Manga Style || Ilya-San & Yahya El-Droubie
How to Draw Fantasy Style || Scott Altmann

I’m going to review these as a series because they’re all from the same stable (the packager Quintet, who generally specialise in quite elementary books) and have a broadly similar approach.

The cover blurbs imply that each of them is pretty much the complete guide to their subject and that they’re all you need to master drawing in the style covered. Well, yes, up to a point. The problem is that, although they all give some useful background material and ideas, this is about where the good bit leaves off. The “how to do it” sections are more or less reduced to a description of the sort of things that are possible and some sample illustrations. True, there are a few step-by-steps, but they hardly amount to any kind of coherent progression and certainly wouldn’t form a complete guide that would enable you to master the subject.

If you were buying a book for someone else, perhaps someone who had expressed a mild interest, you might think that these were good value. However, if you have a serious interest and you’re looking for something to get you started or to give you a reasonable amount of ideas, look elsewhere. “Superficial”, that’s the word I’m looking for.

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Fantasy Art in Watercolour || Paul Bryn Davies, Rebecca Balchin & Elaine Hamer

I don’t normally review bind-ups; after all, I’ve been there and done it already and, in theory at least, I’ve said all I have to say.

However, they’ve caught me on the hop here because, although there are four books that have appeared previously, they’ve added 8 tracings in the manner of the Ready to Paint series and that adds something. Admittedly, without that context of the step-by-step guides that go with the dedicated series, this is somewhat limited, but does mean that you get rather more than you did with the original separate titles.

As a guide to four of the main subjects of fantasy art, this sits well and covers a lot of ground. I’m sure that, without the tracings, it’d have come in at £12.99, which would be an unbeatable price. At £14.99 it’s still good value, but it’s just dipping a toe into the maybe-a-bit-pricey.

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How to Draw and Paint Fantasy Art Architecture || Rob Alexander

On a first flick-through, my initial impression of this is that it might be trying a bit too hard. I don’t get a sensation of a progression, but rather of a lot of rather small and slightly confusing illustrations. There’s no doubt that some of the pages are well laid-out and packed with good ideas, but I constantly seem to be tripping over a lot of small and very similar details, many of which are rather murky, and then pages of brushes and colours. I see there’s also a chapter on using computers. Like I said, there’s a difference between being packed with information and overloaded with it.

Some, indeed most, of this may well be down to the fact that I don’t really understand the language of fantasy art; I’m afraid it’s all geek to me, so I’m probably just not picking up the gems that may be on offer. However, if this were something more in my comfort zone, I can’t help thinking I’d still feel the same, so my advice would be to have a good look at it before you buy. If it’s for you, I’m sure you’d get a lot out of it, but if you feel the same way as me, that’s thirteen quid I’ve saved you.

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How to Draw and Paint Dragons || Tom Kidd

Gosh, I had no idea just how many different types of dragons there are out there, and they’re big scary things, too! Yes, I know, but fantasy art isn’t really my thing. However, if it’s yours and you want to know about dragons, then there’s no doubt that this book is admirably comprehensive both in its coverage and the detail of its instruction.

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Fantasy Landscapes in Watercolour || Stuart Littlejohn

This introduction to fantasy art has the great benefit of simplicity on its side. Stuart Littlejohn has taken what can be a huge subject and distilled it into three very thoroughly illustrated demonstrations that will set you firmly on the right road if you’re just starting out. If you need a little help with the practicalities of the medium, there’s a useful introduction to materials, colour and composition at the beginning, but even more experienced artists will find that the real meat is in the demonstrations.

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The Fairy Artist’s Figure Drawing Bible || Linda Ravenscroft

The number of books that has appeared recently on fantasy and fairy painting suggests a strong interest and this latest addition to the Artists’ Bible series deserves to do well.

A catalogue of the many characters from fairyland, it includes descriptions of how to draw and paint them as well as offering suggestions for costumes and facial expressions. My own aversion to the subject is on record, but there’s no doubt that this is well done and presented in a way that makes it easy to find what you want and then to follow the really quite detailed instructions. That the author is a respected artist in the field only adds to the book’s authority and value.

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Draw Faeries || Melanie Phillips

I have to admit that I’m in two minds about this book. One the one hand, I don’t like it, but that has more to do with the fact that fantasy art tends to bring me out in a rash. On the other hand, I admire it enormously.

So, what’s going on? Well, there’s my acknowledged problem with the whole faerie thing, but I also find some of the finished results unattractive: these are not creations it’s always easy to like. But then I can also see that, if you want to draw young faces and figures, this is a book that really can’t be bettered. Melanie Philips is a professional natural history artist, so she clearly knows her stuff. Fantasy art is her hobby, a busman’s holiday if you will.

There’s a lot of good, basic stuff included, with charts and diagrams showing you how to get the shapes and proportions right as well as examples of the main features – eyes, noses, ears, etc. What Melanie is particularly good on is capturing expressions and she does this with the eye of an illustrator so that, if you want worry, boredom or fear, you get that as well as happy, smiling and the more usual ones. As well as drawing, there’s a certain amount on painting too and this is where, I think, things perhaps get a bit insipid. However, you can’t fault the draughtsmanship and these are figures that really do look right, with the correct proportions and the clothes well rendered. There’s an old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but in this case, I think you can. The picture in the illustration pretty much sums up everything I’ve said, both for and against.

So, if you want to paint fairies, I can’t advise you; you’ll have to make up your own mind. But, if you’re struggling with figure drawing, give this a try. At just under a tenner, it’s excellent value and, even if it turns out not to be exactly what you want, I don’t think you’ll feel you’ve wasted your money. Is that faint praise? I hope not.

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The Magic of Drawing || Cliff Wright

This is a rare treat, because it’s not often you get a book on drawing by someone who is themselves a successful published illustrator.

Cliff Wright’s biggest claim to fame is a couple of Harry Potter covers (and you can bet the competition for those is pretty stiff), but he has also written some delightful children’s books himself such as Bear and Kite and The Star That Fell that are characterised by beautiful and sensitive watercolours that stop well short of being cutesy.

What this almost modest-looking paperback offers is a positive masterclass in drawing animals, people and natural history subjects, albeit slightly dressed-up as fantasy art. Cliff conveys more in a few words and drawings than many books don’t even manage in a whole chapter and this is a thoroughly practical guide as well as an absolute eye-opener to the many possibilities available to you. There’s also a good degree of humour – I just love the drawing of a Hippogriff wrapped in a blanket against the snow – and the spread where a self portrait turns into a horse eating a cake (yes, really) is in fact a masterpiece of character development and the use of line.

If you’re an aspiring illustrator, this has to be compulsory reading, but there’s so much more to it as well. It’ll show you how to develop characters, how to draw with absolute economy and how to work from life to art.

David & Charles

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