The Flog

Fantastic Portfolios' Friendly Blog. Really!

Random Portfolio

Christine Griffin

Latest Entries

(Showing 10 entries at a time)

Book Review: 100 Ways to Create Fantasy Characters

posted by marrael 2012-01-24 22:36:47

100 Ways to Create Fantasy Figures 
Author/Artist: Francis Tsai
Publisher: Impact
Francis Tsai wasn't a name I immediately recognised picking up the book. But he is a talented concept artist and freelance illustrator who's worked for all the big companies, and who didn't start out in traditional art school. On that fact in the introduction alone, I was immediately intrigued and encouraged. He draws a distinction between design-based art education and illustration-based art education, and if concept art is an industry you're aiming for, he makes clear that it's beneficial to have the skills taught in both. (Design helps in effective visual communication and problem-solving, while illustration/fine-art training focuses on observation, documenting and reproducing visuals in various media.) Chances are, unless you're in a course specifically for concept art, you probably have a grounding in one field, and would need to be practice the other on your own. (Or if you're like me, you've got to work on both all on your own!)

It's practical, thought-provoking advice like this that makes clear this isn't just a book of examples and tutorials. It's a book that reveals, from experience, the art skills needed to become a concept artist, or a book, comic, or media illustrator, and how to go about getting and honing those skills. Observation and constant sketching is a must (which made me realise that joining the local urban sketchers wasn't as "useless" to me as I thought), as is gaining a visual vocabulary, learning the problem-solving approach to designing characters, places, AND the final art pieces. This book is not just for browsing through; Francis Tsai goes from the "big picture" advice and long-term strategies for a striving artist, before going into the 100 ways of creating fantasy figures.

So we come to the 100 ways, and if I hadn't already been impressed with the preceding stuff, the bulk of the book is packed with inspirational techniques and strategies to stretch and strengthen one's art. In many ways, I think the book should have been titled toward this end, as the 100 tips aren't JUST for fantasy figues, but artwork that balances figures and/or monsters in their environments and in the art. This book is a keeper: you can always open it randomly for a new technique, or use it more systematically, say, when you need to create a sympathetic character or conversely, a monster; and when you need inspiration, a "hook", or just to climb out of a rut.  

So, there are no walkthroughs in this book, but it's packed full of art examples, good tips and advice. It's not a style you're going to learn how to recreate, but it's a guidebook on how to develop your own style, and how to add to your drawing and design skills, and how to make art directors happy (or, happier, at least). Highly recommended.