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Fantasy Workshop: Mastering Painting Techniques

01/06/2009. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy Fantasy Workshop Mastering Painting Techniques in the USA - or Buy Fantasy Workshop Mastering Painting Techniques in the UK

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pub: Collins &Brown/Anova. 108 page horizontal illustrated softcover. Price: 17.99 (UK), $24.95 (US), $26.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-84340-472-9.

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'Fantasy Workshop' is a compilation of material from the magazine 'ImagineFX' giving guidelines in how to tackle some of the problems with creating art digitally. My own painting medium is acrylics but I have kept a half-eye on this subject with a view to take it more seriously when I have time.

They both have a lot in common and a lot of the pointers are good for both mediums. Which is sensible. After all, art technique is art technique and if you're switching mediums you're not going to throw away something you know works but would need to know how to apply them. This book goes a long way towards doing that.

Realistically, you need to have some artistic talent if you are going to do anything in this line. The software is only another tool in your box, it won't do the work for you. Indeed, you have to be software savvy and prepared to experiment with the controls and do a lot of self-learning to get it doing what you want to do. I was totting up the expense of buying some of this soft and hardware, which included a digital tablet board to draw on screen, and you seriously need to know what you're doing if you're going to take this route than simply to play around with it.

From the looks of things, the 'digital tablet board' (I use those words because it'll make it easier to track down if you're trying to find out how much they cost) is more flexible than a mouse but you need at least a medium size one if you want to get the best resolution. Always check that your software can work with whatever you choose.

One thing I did find very interesting is how many of the artists in this book actually drew their designs on paper and scanned them in to be used with the software rather than do it by using the drawing tablet. Only one of the artists showed how he worked on doing a speed painting. If anything, I wish they'd all said how long they took to work this way just in case anyone thought it was a quick process.

You certainly need all the normal artistic skills in understanding chiaroscuro (light and shade), colours and contrasts as well as a general feel for what is right in bringing a painting to life. One thing working digitally is you can work in layers on the painting and if a colour isn't working out, it can be replaced with another one. Erasing mistakes would be a lot easier too, providing you remember to layer your pictures.

Interestingly, I saw a lot of proper painting techniques being employed and some that wouldn't be possible outside of a computer monitor. When I'm checking one of my own paintings, I look at it in a mirror because it provides not only an image flip but a bit more distance to see if something is working or not. The mirror switch with zoom in art software readily makes this available plus changing the picture to grey enables you to see if the contrasts are working without letting the colour do all the speaking. Something that would be difficult in the non-digital world.

Where there are demonstrations of complete paintings, it was rather odd seeing the final product first rather than the way the work built up to it. There are a lot of useful tips and with various websites of the various creators noted so if you want to see what else they've done you can find it on the Net.

Learning how these digital artists work doesn't mean you have to copy them but understanding their approaches to getting texture and size will certainly sink in. This book is not for beginners. If anything, I wish there was more books out guiding those who fancy leaning the basics out there so they have a better grounding. No doubt there are some, just none that I've seen for review. Granted there is a likelihood that it would become too software specific, mostly because most artists stick with what works for them but getting the right push can either deter or get more people interested, even if they are already painting.

I should also point out that there is an excellent gallery of paintings included with this book which you can no doubt study and learn how the various artists applied their know-how.

GF Willmetts

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