Book Review: Digital Horror Art – Author Martin McKenna

DIGITAL HORROR ART: CREATING CHILLING HORROR AND MACABRE IMAGES

Written by Martin McKenna
Published by Course Technology PTR; 1 edition
Publication Date: 2006
Format: Color – 160 pages
Price: $29.99

It’s not very often you see books published on the subject. But it doesn’t change the fact that Horror Art is an extremely popular field that crosses over into film, music, advertising, games, design, books, covers, concept art, and just about every other media. So it was great to see that someone had devoted some effort to featuring a few of the artists out there doing it. Rather than a portfolio book, we have a “technique” book and that’s even better news.

Martin Mckenna saw that need and so the book “Digital Horror Art” was created. Upon viewing, you’ll instantly be barraged with A smattering of killer creatures designs and ghastly creations. The brunt of the book and the heart for that matter though is in the instructional aspects. Using mainly Photoshop, Painter and a handful of other occasional programs, each artist featured was asked to demonstrate the creation of one of there pieces. Now I will say off the bat, that most of the artists are from the gaming industry of some respect, so you are certainly not getting the full spectrum of dark horror artists on the market. You also are not getting many of the most noted ones….nowever that isn’t to take anything away from the great creations that fill the pages of this book. What is most valuable is that almost everyone has there own take on achieving the means to an end. The bad part for newbies is alot of these artist come to the table with great drawing skills. So even though you may get the breakdown, you may not have the training to do a great sketch on screen.

The greatest value I found was getting a chance to look behind the curtains, so to speak. Each of these artists are working individuals who deal with daily deadlines, requests and needs. From a scratchy sketch into a finished piece takes alot of planning and that mystery is revealed to some extent. A few artists even go as far as to use perspective lines to aid in the keeping the compositions tight and true to the right angles. Others produce pieces and let nature provide texturing though scanned photos of distressed surfaces to give a finished piece a touch of realism. Design issues are mentioned that are also pertinent to the products. Future placement of book cover mast heads, usage of the work, purpose, framing, or even a composition that will provide a base for another artist’s future work. As expected, preparation nd planning are essential to where you want to take it.

The book also features break away gallery sections. These don’t include instruction but make for a nice inclusion to view other finished works. Each work of art lesson includes many notes by the artist in mapping out there process. While some start with sketches, others use 3D programs or atmosphere generators to begin. Clay statues are used to photograph and manipulate digitally later, others simply start with a photograph which gets textured, layered and re-worked with the programs tools. I think the message here is there are several means to an end. The choice of process is really up to you and what method you feel comfortable with.

My take away was that the artistic merits of an individual have to be achieved on there own. The book is here to show you “how” these artists achieved their creations looks, styles and building process. Anyone serious about getting in this field owe themselves a look and purchase into adding this to there library. Why? because simply it will short cut some of the process, so you are on the right track. It still doesn’t even make a dent into the plethora of styles and approaches used, though it does cover some. The book itself is in full color and printed on nice semi gloss stock. I’ve also noticed that you can usually find a copy at your local Barnes and Noble if online ordering isn’t an option. I’m glad to see this book on the market and “really” hope that many more like editions surface!

Available at CoursePTR
Available at Amazon

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