Book Review

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  • By: Martin McKenna
  • Publisher: Collins Design
  • Pages: 192
  • Price: $29.95


By Tim Janson     November 05, 2007

FANTASY ART NOW by Martin McKenna
© Collins Design
I have been a huge fan of fantasy art ever since I saw my first Frank Frazetta cover on one of those old Ace paperbacks Conan books. Today, fantasy art is as diverse as its ever been. What used to be a lot of warriors, wizards, faeries and dragons, now comprises so much more…lush landscapes of the bizarre and monolithic, dark creatures of the horrific, and beautiful females in a myriad of forms. Fantasy Art Now is a gorgeous, 192 page hardcover book presenting art from some of the hottest names in fantasy art as well as up and coming talents. While the book presents work finished in a variety of mediums, by far the majority has been produced digitally, usually in Adobe Photoshop or Corel Paint.
Digital art has come very far in the past 20 years from when I got my first copy of Digi-Paint to use on my old Amiga 500 computer. The multi-layering capability of today’s software makes digital work entirely indiscernible from work produced the old fashioned way on canvas or drawing board. In some ways you could argue that its maybe made art almost “too clean” as mistakes can be corrected more easily digitally than they could be before. But the ability to add effects of light and shading and various gradients and textures is something that is very welcome to all fantasy art fans. 
What I love about this book is how each of the artists have shared what mediums they’ve worked in and also added comments to each painting in the book, sometimes relating details about how the art was produced and sometimes just anecdotes about their inspiration. The art has been culled from a variety of sources including book covers, covers to gaming supplements and video games, gaming cards, and portfolio work. The book is divided up into eight distinct chapters that cover Brawny Barbarians and Hulky Heroes, Warrior Women and Fearless Females, Myths and Monsters, Sirens and Seductresses, Witches and Warlocks, Fairies and Fey Folk, Scenes and Settings, Brawls and Battles. It also features an artist index with each artist’s website and e-mail address.
There is currently a film in the works based on Robert E. Howards Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane. Greg Staples provides a painting he did of the character to promote the film at a film festival. Staples is also working as the concept artist on the film. Using Corel Draw, Staples’ Kane stands ready for battle with a long rapier and cutlass as a horde of enemies approach from behind.
Robert Chang used Photoshop to produce Scythe Wolf, a delightfully detailed painting showing a petite Asian female warrior surrounded by her wolf allies, sitting under a tree with a misty mountain range in the distance. Chang put his character in a shimmering, silver silk dress that even he admits to taking very long to produce to get the lighting and reflection effects just right.
In contrast is the extreme closeup of a goblin’s face in Martin McKenna’s Temple of Terror. Also produced in Photoshop, this striking painting shows every nick and flaw of the creatures terrifying face, right down to the pores on its bumpy, pointy nose. This is a painting that could not be produced other than in the digital format with this kind of detail. 
A favorite piece for me was Angel of Death by Abrar Ajmal, created in Photoshop as a design for a t-shirt and poster. This ominous and regal looking angel of death stands poised with a cruel sword on a mountain of tortured souls how claw at the bottom of his robes. It’s a spectacular piece.
Other artists whose work can be found inside the book are Melanie Delon, Patrick Reilly, Clint Langley, Uwe Jarling, and many more. This is one of the best fantasy art books that I have seen in a long time.


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