Thursday, June 9, 2016

Mastering Fantasy Art (John Stanko)

Mastering Fantasy Art
John Stanko
Nonfiction, Art
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: Wizards, warriors, elves, dwarves, unicorns, dragons... the best fantasy art makes us believe in the impossible. To do this, an artist has to render the unreal as realistically as possible - a task that requires a marriage of imagination and real-life reference. Artist John Stanko demonstrates how to effectively use reference material to render a variety of subjects.

REVIEW: This book is mostly a guide to taking and using reference photos of models (and some props, including costumes and clay sculptures) for fantasy art. Stanko discusses lighting and equipment for photo shoots, also touching on copyright issues, (very briefly) digital programs, and related topics. Oddly enough, after finishing a lengthy explanation for why the memory can't be trusted and reference is absolutely essential even for the most seasoned artist, he then, at several points, encourages improvisation and elaboration, exhorting artists not to be a slave to reality... then not offering much help in deviating from reality. I know both are essential to art, especially speculative art, but it still seems like a paradox, and may well confuse some. But, I digress...
Stanko demonstrates the use of reference photos in art creation with several step-by-step projects; artists trying to follow along may want to scan and reprint his reference photos, which may not be easy with the book's stiff spine. though the pictures themselves tend to be on the outer edges of the pages. Perspective, anatomy, and so forth are not covered in any depth here, this being geared more for intermediate artists than raw beginners. The cover mentions "creatures," but only two (a unicorn and dragon) are actually included, and those restricted to mere portraits. As for scenery, only one demonstration covers that, a wizard's tower based on a clay sculpture. To be honest, I think Stanko should've devoted this one fully to humans and humanoids, maybe using the extra space for costuming and other considerations, and reserved creatures and scenery for another book. Overall, it's a decent exploration of the subject, even if some of what was promised on the cover was not well discussed inside.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Drawing and Painting Fantasy Figures (Finlay Cowan) - My Review
Anatomy for Fantasy Artists (Glenn Fabry) - My Review
Figure Drawing Without a Model (Ron Tiner) - My Review

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