Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Book Review: Views by Roger Dean, Carla Capalbo, and Donny Hamilton

Written by T. Michael Testi

Roger Dean is an English artist, designer, architect, and publisher. His work is wide ranging, from his design of the Sea Urchin chair and the Retreat Pod chair, to his best known work stemming from the album cover designs that he began designing in the 1960s.

The most recognized album cover work is that of the English progressive rock band Yes. Dean first started creating Yes covers with the 1971 album Fragile. Along with the cover art he also developed their bubble logo, which appeared on the 1972 album Close to the Edge. He has also worked on video game art beginning in 1985, has done architectural pieces, and is currently working on a film project that will feature 3D renderings of his classic images, using music by Yes.

Views is a re-release of Dean's bestselling classic book from 1975. When first released, it went straight to number one on the Sunday Times bestseller list and would go on to sell over a million copies. This book surveys the first seven years of Dean's professional career. It is 160 full color pages and is divided into an introduction and five chapters.

Views begins with an introduction by Donald Lehmkuhl who, along with Carla Capalbo wrote the text to go along with Dean's images. Here he tries to put into perspective who Roger Dean is: a describer, and a creator; it is the vision that matters most to Dean. Next there is a discussion on Roger Dean's technique and how it gives his work its distinct style. Finally there is a biographical outline of Dean.

"Furniture" looks at the design concepts that he developed while he was in art school (1961-1968) and the concepts of design within the constraints of the environment. One of his ideas was that of a chair that one could do anything with. One that was adaptable in shape and use. This led to the Sea Urchin chair.

"Album Covers" explores how Dean got involved with album covers. It actually started in 1968 with the cover of an album for a band named Gun. This section looks at album covers from bands other than Yes. These include Budgie, Uriah Heep, Badger, Greenslade, and McKendree Spring.

"Yes" focuses on the body of work that Roger Dean is most known for. From late 1971 onward, he has had a relationship that even Steve Howe said "There is a pretty tight bond between our sound and Roger's art." This chapter looks at the covers for several Yes albums as well as the set designs that were created by Roger and his brother Martyn Dean.

"Retreat Pod" looks at another project done with Martyn Dean which was designed to be a piece of equipment that is to allow one to free their minds. It is an environment that contains speakers and specialized lighting. It was first demonstrated at the Maples-Telegraph exhibition. It was soon after this that it made an appearance in A Clockwork Orange.

"Architecture" examines the fact that while working in the school of furniture design at the Royal College of Art in London, Dean was struck by the extent that furniture was made to compensate for inadequate architecture. During this time he found himself questioning the very nature of domestic architecture and the role of the house itself. Here, his thoughts on architecture are explored.

When it was first released Views was a groundbreaking book that encompassed the work of Roger Dean. Today, while the topic of the Sea Urchin chair seem a bit dated, the thought behind it is still interesting. The rest of the book is just fascinating. The book is sized to that of an album cover, and the full color images are high quality.

Views was more than ready for a re-release. I have always loved Dean's work as he set the stage for a new generation in fantasy art. If you want to understand the work of the early Roger Dean better then Views will give you that insight. I highly recommend this book.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Book Review: Adobe Photoshop CS4 For Photographers: A Professional Image Editor's Guide To The Creative Use Of Photoshop For The Macintosh And PC By Martin Evening

Written by T. Michael Testi

If you want to learn how to use Photoshop to improve your photos, then who better to learn it from than a professional photographer who not only uses Adobe Photoshop, but is in on the ground floor as an alph/beta tester for the product? Because of the complexities of updating a book like this every time that Adobe comes out with a new version, and with the fact that Adobe rarely takes anything out of Photoshop, but always adds new features makes it that more complex.

To this end, Martin Evening has focused on the essential information that you need to know about Photoshop Camera Raw, Bridge, and all of the new features in Photoshop CS4. To do this there are some things that have been removed and others that been reworked with the help of Jeff Schewe and have been put into a book called Photoshop for Photographers: The Ultimate Workshop.

While Adobe Photoshop CS4 For Photographers is not a beginner's guide, over the years, the content has been adapted for a broader readership. Even so, it is still a reference book for all things Photoshop and working with photographs. There is a reason the subtitle begins with "A Professional Image Editor's Guide…"

Adobe Photoshop CS4 For Photographers is really a reference book for both advanced amateur and professional photographers. It is a listing of every conceivable technique that a photographer may need to implement in the pursuit of creating digital photographic images using Adobe Photoshop. It contains 15 chapters covering over 700 pages.

Chapters 1-2 are more of an introduction to the changes and new features that come with Adobe Photoshop CS4 as well as a guide to the physical layout of Photoshop interface. You will also see how to configure Photoshop to optimize your computer as well as what accessories you may want to help you in your work.

Chapter 3, "Camera Raw Image Processing," has really grown and taken on a life of its own. Because you can process your JPEG and TIFF files, as well as your RAW images this has become a significantly larger chapter is focusing much more on the subject than ever before. Chapter 4, "Sharpening and Noise Reduction," examines pre-sharpening your photos in Photoshop. This topic was all but untouched in previous versions, but now with the advances in Camera Raw, it has become much more important.

Chapter 5, "Image Editing Essentials," gets into specifics about editing a photograph outside of Camera Raw. There are some techniques that overlap with information in previous chapters, but now include images that have never been near to Camera Raw. Here you will learn about the fundamentals of image editing. Chapter 6, "Black and White" will show you how to create black and white images from original color images. It also explores cross processing, infrared effects, and other darkroom-related techniques.

Chapter 7, "Extending the Dynamic Range," is all about capturing the greatest range of tones from the minimum shadows to the brightest highlights. In this chapter you will look at various techniques for getting the most from your images. Chapter 8, "Image Retouching," examines the basic techniques for modifying an image and giving it a more professional look. These include working with the Clone Stamp tool, the Healing brush, the Patch tool, Liquefy tool, and many more.

Chapter 9, "Layers, Selections, and Masking," looks into what it takes to make composite images. Here you will use different image elements to create something totally new. This all begins with making selections, and working with channels. Chapter 10, "Essential Filters for Photoshop Editing," gets into one of the more powerful features of Photoshop; the plug-in filters. Instead of trying to look at all of the 100 or so filters that in Photoshop, you will focus on the 15 or so that are useful for photographic work.

Chapter 11, "Image Management," is all about the use of Adobe Bridge to allow you to preview images, choose the one you want to open in Photoshop, perform ranking, add metadata, and other basic file management tasks. Chapter 12, "Color Management," will introduce you to the basic concepts of color management and look at the color management interface of Photoshop.

Chapter 13, "Print Output," is the printer version of color management. Here you will look at what it takes to get images to print so that they more truly represent what you see on the screen. Chapter 14, "Output for the Web," shows that unlike the printer, when dealing with sending your images to the Web, you really have no control of who will see your work on the Web, and therefore, no control over how the image is viewed on their system. Here you will learn how to get the best output for online distribution. Chapter 15, "Automating Photoshop," looks at how you can speed your work by using keyboard shortcuts, creating actions, and how to use scripts to automate Photoshop.

One point to note, there is a DVD that comes with the book. On the DVD, comes many of the images you see in the book. Not all of the images are included. In the introduction the author explains that some of the images in the book; especially the ones with the models, are of restricted use and can not be given away. There are also movie tutorials, additional tips, and a keyboard reference guide.

To me Adobe Photoshop CS4 For Photographers is just about the most important reference book I have. It covers just about all aspects of Photoshop and presents them with an eye toward the photographer. It is written by a professional photographer for professional photographers. It covers both the Mac and Windows in a clear and concise manner. For intermediate and advanced Photoshop users, it is the definitive word on Photoshop. Now, even for the beginner, it will make you that advanced user. For anyone who is serious about Photoshop, Adobe Photoshop CS4 For Photographers is a must have.


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Friday, April 03, 2009

Book Review - Digital Painting In Photoshop By Susan Ruddick Bloom

Written by T. Michael Testi

Most people tend to think of Adobe Photoshop as a program to edit and enhance photographs or make Web graphics, but there is a whole other side to Photoshop that can bring out your inner artist. Whether it is the pigments of the cave dwellers, the materials of the Renaissance, or the pixels of the digital artists humans have felt a need to express themselves through painting.

The goal of Digital Painting in Photoshop is to offer you techniques for working in the new world of digital painting. You will learn how to push pixels instead of pigment. Your monitor will be your canvas. And when all said and done, a printer will apply the pigments. Digital Painting in Photoshop is 248 pages divided into 8 chapters.

Chapter 1, "Introduction to the Concept of Digital Painting," begins by giving a brief overview of painting and its relationship to technology. This is a short chapter wherein the author describes workflow, techniques, and a general outline of the rest of the book.

Chapter 2, "The Basic Tools for Painting in Photoshop," examines the tools that Photoshop gives you for digital painting, most notably its brushes. After examining the brushes that are available, will see how you can make your own brushes, how to work with texture libraries, patterns, and how to apply a pattern texture. This is a detailed chapter and gives you an arsenal to use in the rest of the book.

Chapter 3, "Charcoal Drawings in Photoshop," starts off with a history of the use of charcoal to create drawings. You learn about the traditional materials, and how they are created. Then you will see the techniques used to create charcoal drawings. Finally you look at specific techniques for portraits, landscapes, and a conte brownish-red look.

Chapter 4, "Pastel Drawing in Photoshop," examines the techniques associated with artists like Degas. In this chapter you start off by looking at what constitutes pastel drawings and some of the techniques that are used. Next you will see how to create a pastel brush, look at some issues for when you want to print pastels, and look at some examples of the pastel style.

Chapter 5, "Painting with Watercolors in Photoshop," now turns our attention to replicating watercolor techniques and an overview of the medium. In this chapter you look at a landscape scene and work with the techniques for rendering the image. You will see how to use the appropriate brushes, how to use Pattern Stamp tool and working with a simple two-layer watercolor technique.

Chapter 6, "Painting with Oil Paints in Photoshop," begins with a brief history of oil painting. It then moves to working with an Impasto Technique to recreate the painting that is used on the cover of this book. Next you will work with a Bevel and Emboss Layer style of oil painting. Again you will examine printing considerations with regard to oil painting.

Chapter 7, "Illustration Techniques in Photoshop," now looks at techniques that might be used for illustrative purposes within Photoshop. These include stylization, Faux HDR, pen and ink mixed with aquatinting, a soft focus effect, and a cut out effect.

Chapter 8, "Effects Using Third-Party Software as Photoshop Plug-ins," finally examines some plug-ins for Photoshop that can be used to enhance colors, contrast, and mood. These include Nik Color Efex Pro, Ailen Skin's Snap Art, and Ben Vista's PhotoArtist 2.

Overall, I liked Digital Painting in Photoshop. While I am not much into pastels and charcoal, I realize that since this is an overview book it is meant to expose you to all of the different styles. While it does not go into depth on any given style, it does give you a solid introduction to of them all.

If I had one problem with the book it is that in the second chapter, the author prints out images of all of the brushes as a reference. My thinking is that this should have been located in an appendix with only specific brush information located in the immediate chapter.

Digital Painting in Photoshop is well thought out, well explained, and provides a good look at how digital painting can be accomplished from within Photoshop. If you are familiar with Photoshop, and are willing to explore and experiment, then this book will provide a good foundation into the realm of digital painting and I therefore recommend this book.


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