Category - Books

Movement & Form: The Youssef Drawing Syllabus Book Review

Movement and Form cover

When I decided to embark upon my Artistic Journey last year my first and biggest emphasis was on figure and life drawing. I spent the first half of 2015 using YouTube videos for figure reference (there are plenty of great ones like Croquis Cafe and New Masters Academy) and then in the second half of the year I began to regularly go to life studio sessions for the first time in well over a decade. While my figure drawing improved with time, I still felt a little lost. Then I heard about the book Movement & Form by Samantha Youssef. Youssef has amazingly beautiful drawings and years of experience teaching figure drawing. It did not take me long to make up my mind in that I needed to own this book.

I received my copy of the book at the end of December and have since read it cover to cover. Twice actually. Almost instantly I began to work the lessons from the book into my studies. The sessons here require a radical shift in thinking about the way I go about drafting my drawings, but I believe my drawings are starting to have a stronger foundation. I’m finding myself to have a greater understanding of how the body works, where the pieces fit together, and ultimately adding weight and believably to my work. This is of course a work in progress and without having a mentor telling me exactly where and how things work, my improvement comes down to me and my ability to recognize my mistakes.

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The Magazine Treasure Chest – Part 3 – Magazine Memories

Assorted Game Mags

While going through my “Magazine Treasure Chest” I started taking some pictures of pages that caught my attention. After sifting through my photos, it turns out most of them are from Electronic Gaming Monthly, but that’s probably because I already wrote about early Nintendo Power in a previous post. Then there is GamePro, but lets face it, GamePro has nothing memorable going on despite the fact that I own tons of them.

I’m going to handle this one as more of a slide show, just a bunch of photos with some captions under them. Enjoy.

Final Fantasy EGM covers

I loved these Final Fantasy covers that were supposedly drawn by Yoshitaka Amano just for EGM, though I’ve seen the art elsewhere since then. I still really like Amano’s art, but at the time I was rather infatuated with his work, so I snatched these issues up and put them away in a different and safer spot for years. I loved the one of Tidus and Yuna so much that I actually bit off of it big time in a school project I worked on. Mine of course was no where near as awesome.

EGM size differences

In the mid 90s EGM did a handful of huge issues of the magazine. The one I still have in great condition features Doom for the 32X on the front. It’s pretty amazing they were able to put something like that out at the time, that thing was just packed with games and info (and of course ads). I suppose I see how it was possible, we were at what was then a height for video games as a medium and the internet wasn’t quite what it is today. How else would companies be able to reach interested players? Compare that to the July 2007 issues of EGM at the bottom of the stack which is about a quarter of the size of that beast. In the middle is probably the last “huge” issues of EGM from November 2002, but even that is dwarfed compared to the 1994 issue. Also, please excuse my gross finger nail in that shot. I cut them the next day.

EGM Donkey Kong map

The beauty of that huge issue is that they were able to dedicate pages to large maps like this. I always loved when magazines, especially Nintendo Power, would have huge maps on the pages. I love looking at game maps laid out like that, they give you a sense of how the developers are thinking along with the scale and scope of stages in a game. Today you can find tons of maps like this on vgmaps.com, but in those days this was the only way to see stuff like this.

EGM Arcade Game Coverage

EGM used to have a two to four page spread on Arcade games, which I always enjoyed seeing. Usually with games I would never get to play, but that was always the fun of it.

They also used to do big import sections and previewed tons of games that would never see the light of day in the US. This was another section I used to love looking at, and I’d always hold out hope that some of these games would eventually make it stateside.

EGM Import Section

Magazines like EGM and GameFan would have crazy cool ads in the back for shops that carried import games, along with anime posters, toys, and videos. I never ordered anything from these because I never had the money, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t read their huge release lists and salivate over the prospects of owning a Dragon Ball Z or Sailor Moon game for the Super Famicom.

Mario EGM cover

I included this cover for the headline that reads “Is 1999 the year Nintendo gets it right?” See, people think that the media has only started to beat up Nintendo with the Wii, but the fact is that they always love beating up on Nintendo. I suspect that same headline will be on the cover of some game magazine after this years E3. Some things just never change.

Panzer Dragoon Saga Ad

I thought this Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn) ad was kind of funny, even though it’s a terrible ad. That game got a limit run of copies when Sega had already pulled the plug on the Saturn. This ad makes light of the limited quantities of the game and tells the person to cut out the mask and just pretend to be the character from the game to get your fix because chances are you’re not going to get it or play it.

First two years of Nintendo Power

I’m totally keeping these issues of Nintendo Power. You’re looking at almost the first two full years of Nintendo Power magazine (minus the issue that Simon’s Quest graced the cover of), which at the time was a bimonthly publication. These were the real reason I even started digging through all this stuff. You’ll see them in some capacity in ROM Vol 2.

First shot of TMNT in NP

There was a contest in the back of an early issue of NP where you could win tickets to see the upcoming TMNT movie. I took a shot of this image because it was the first shot I ever saw of the TMNT movie. I had heard the movie was coming but I didn’t know anything about it. In fact, I think I assumed that it was just going to be the cartoon. This single image was somewhat mind blowing to my young mind at the time. I just remembered staring at it for a long time wondering how that Leonardo worked and moved around. I was beyond pumped.

Assorted Game Mags

While NP, EGM and GamePro were my mains, I grabbed other mags here and there over the years. That’s the second to the last issue of the short lived Dreamcast magazine, along with a handful of Japanese mags, two from the N64 era that I bought from a shop in north Jersey that had a huge bookstore with lots of publications from Japan. The Weekly Famitsu I snagged on my honeymoon in Japan, because how could I not buy that week’s issue? And then there is the only issue I owned of Next Generation, can you guess why I bought that one?

So that’s just a couple things I noted while sorting through my magazines. I could probably find way more other odds and ends, but I thought this was enough for now.

Read the rest of the Magazine Treasure Chest

Part 1 – First Drawings of Jacquo
Part 2 – My work sort of in print
Part 3 – Magazine Memories
Part 4 – Old Drawings

Looking at Gamespite Quarterly

gamespite

gamespite

1up.com’s Jeremy Parish is probably one of the most intelligent game journalists around, so when he spread news that he was putting a book of works together from both himself and his staff, I knew it was something to keep my eye on. After all, Jeremy is one of the few professional game journalists that actually knows how to write well, and even when I disagree with the guy, his points are always valid. In addition, the rest of the team over at his personal website, Gamespite.net, are also a bunch of talented individuals. When Gamespite Quarterly was release about two weeks ago, I decided I’d order my own copy.

Quarterly is a compilation of articles and reviews from the staff at Gamespite, in which I gather each Quarterly issue will have a theme. In celebration of the Gameboy’s 20th Anniversary, the first issue is nothing but love for Nintendo’s little machine that could. Many of the features are actually straight off the website, while some of them are new to the book (though I believe even those new ones will end up on the site eventually). So what’s the point of buying a book where all the content will be available for free on the web at some point? Because I can’t help but downright respect a grassroots venture such as this. I love the idea of having a physical book encompassing all of the Gameboy’s rich history, and it helps that nearly all the reviews and columns are well written and thought out.

The book offers a brief history about the Gameboy itself, along with brief looks at its rivals like the Atari Lynx and the Sega Gamegear. There are plenty of reviews on well known Gameboy titles like Mario Land and Fall of the Footclan, as well as some more obscure titles like Gargoyle’s Quest. Staying somewhat current, the book even offers looks at the recent Casltevania title on the DS, along with a few other modern games. It all comes together quite nicely, and it makes for a great read in short bursts since most of the articles aren’t more than a page or two.

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The price is a little steep, as I paid around 20 dollars total (that includes shipping) for the paperback version of the book. This certainly isn’t for everyone, and it’s hard to recommend once you consider the price and the fact that this stuff is available through the Gamespite website. That said, this is stricly for the people that really appreciate great writing about classic gaming, and I imagine those people would know who they are.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this book so far, and I look forward to the next issue. This is an interesting venture that I hope goes well for the crew at Gamespite.

Still collecting TMNT stuff 20 something years later

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I guess my love for the Ninja Turtles will never truly fade. I’ve loved the Turtles since the second or third grade and while I didn’t really follow the comics, newer animated series, and the terrible live action series, I’ll always have a special spot for them.

As a grown adult, I still enjoy my fair share of TMNT merchandise. A buddy of mine handed me this super sweet “Artobiography” about the original TMNT comics that is full of all sorts of great content. The book is packed with tons of drawings, story boards, character designs, and behind the scenes insight all compiled by Kevin Eastman himself. It’s a great book, even if looking at it now shows me that Eastman and Laird weren’t exactly the greatest artists. That doesn’t matter because their idea was so solid, and their work ethic so dedicated that they were able to take TMNT from their small apartment and turn it into a world wide phenomenon that has become ingrained in culture as much as anything from Marvel or DC.

Second, I ordered a beat up copy of TMNT: Fall of the Footclan for the original Gameboy for a whole six cents off eBay. The thing looks like it’s been through a bomb blast, but I cleaned it up, threw some double A’s into the old green beast and played through the first stage of the game. I loved this game back when it came out, but it’s a rather average action game these days. Since I didn’t want to deal with the ancient Gameboy screen, I ended up playing through the whole game using Super Gameboy. There was some great TMNT fan service in here including lots of great stills right out of the pilot episode of the cartoon. Sure, it’s really dated now, but back then Gameboy games just didn’t have graphics that looked like the real deal.

tmnt_figures

On top of all that, I was also handed a cardboard box full of over 30 loose TMNT action figures. To be quite honest, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with these things. I was doing really well in my quest to sell or throw out all of my old action figures and now this comes along. I’ll likely pick through it and grab some of the figures I really want, like the original four Turtles, and Mecha Turtle. Mecha Turtle was the first TMNT figure I ever had when I was growing up, so that figure in particular means a little something to me, and even though I still have my original, he doesn’t have any limbs. It is kind of crazy that I had most of the figures that are in this box at some point in time, so it was actually worth the memories alone.

Being that this is the 25th Anniversary of TMNT, this year in particular is seeing the release of all sorts of cool TMNT stuff that I’m tempted to grab. There’s a bunch of new action figures, DVD releases, and even screenings of the original film at certain theaters. What I’m interested in however is the new Smash Brothers inspired TMNT game for Wii from Game Arts, which could be something worth looking into. Then there is the recent announcement of the Turtles in Time remake for Xbox 360 and PS3. While I’m pretty turned off by the artistic approach to the game (the game loses much of it’s charm with it’s new 3D graphics), I’ll probably get it and enjoy the hell out of it.

So yeah, I still love TMNT and at this point, I probably will for the rest of my life. Cowabunga dude.

Seaweed: A Cure For Mildew

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In this day and age, just about anyone can self publish a book. Many artists have taken up the title of authorship and have released their own books featuring sketchbooks, instructional guides, and an array of comic books. One of my favorite character designers, Ben Balistreri, recently finished up work on his comic book, “Seaweed”. According to Ben, it took him nearly six years to accomplish the task as he single handedly produced all the artwork found in this over-sized book. It measures a good 12×15 and all 64 pages are in glorious color.

The story is about a pirate, Seaweed, and his first mate, Poisson, who have a chance meeting with a bat named Mildew who is looking for The Devil’s Cookbook which can grant anyone who has it practically enternal life. As you can see, everyone here is an animal or fish of some sort. It reminds me a lot of the early Disney shorts where everyone is an animal, or like how in the Goofy shorts there’s an entire hockey rink of Goofies. There’s not a human in sight in Seaweed’s world and I think its all for the better.

As usual for Mr. Balestreri the art is top notch. The line work is stunning. I am constantly amazed by Ben’s pencil and ink work, and “Seaweed” shows it all off with positive flair. The second half of the book is a collection of sketches and some insight into Ben’s process. This part is printed on a different stock of paper and gives it the feeling of a second book. Most of all of drawings have been featured on his blog in the past, but they beautifully reproduced here and look fantastic.

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Ben’s apparent love of Star Wars is clearly on display. The scene where Mildew meets Seaweed is faintly reminiscent of Han and Chewie being hired to take Luke and Ben to Alderaan in Star Wars: A New Hope. Sharp eyes will also take notice of the dock number Seaweed has his boat, The Salty Sugar, moored at…

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This is the first volume of what appears to be two volumes total. There is no street date for the second one…maybe in a year or so? Regardless, comic book lovers and anyone who just loves looking at cool drawings will be pleased with “Seaweed”. The book is selling for 30 beans which in my book is money well spent. Head on over to Ben’s blog to order yours!

The Zombie Invasion Cometh

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I like stuff about zombies. Sure, vampires are cool and I guess werewolves have their moments (few and far between). There’s just something about zombies that gets me where it counts. I mean, is it so unthinkable that a virus exists that could turn humans into mindless, flesh-eating monsters? I’m sure there’s some military research program out there devoted to creating a biological “zombie bomb”, I mean look at all the other weird shit they come up with.

Anyway, since Halloween is right around the corner, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite zombie related movies, books and video games. I hope you enjoy it and maybe discover something new. In no particular order…

28 Days Later – DVD & Blu-Ray

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Directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, The Beach), 28 Days Later takes the old Zombie formula and turns it on it’s ear by rooting it in a more ‘realistic’ setting. Rather than a comet raising the dead from their graves, zombies are infected with a ‘Rage’ virus. The movie follows the story of a bike messenger who wakes up from a coma 28 days after the plague has wiped out most of England. He has to come to grips with what has happened while he was comatose while finding a way to survive. 28 Days Later also introduced the concept of “fast zombies”. These guys don’t sluggishly stumble towards you, they run… sometimes on all fours like a gorilla. If you’re looking for some stylish camera work and a fresh take on Zombie invasion, then you have to check out this movie. Also a sequel has been made called 28 Weeks Later, I’ll be checking that one out this weekend for Halloween.

World War Z – Novel / Audio book (This is in reference to the Audiobook)

World War Z is the Oral History of first Zombie War. Recorded 12 years after the end of the war, several survivors recount their experiences during the greatest conflict in human history. Max Brooks continues his budding legacy as the next great authority on zombie horror. The audio book features some of the finest voice performances I’ve ever heard. The cast includes Mark Hamill, Henry Rollins, Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Steve Park, among others. The stories span the entire 10 years of the war, from early cases of infection to the now-legendary “Battle of Yonkers, NY”, all the way to the final days of the war. There’s also a podcast available which features excerpts from the audio book. It should be noted that the audio book only features about 1/2 the stories from the novel, so if you’re hungry for more zombie action go pick up the book.

The Zombie Survival Guide – Instruction Manual

I’ve already covered this book in a previous Nerdlog post, so to avoid redundancy I will keep this one brief… Every person on the planet should read this book.

Dawn of the Dead (2004) – DVD

Now, I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for the original 70’s flick. I remember watching it several times at the video store I worked at in college. Still, the remake is a lot of fun and keeps the spirit of the original movie intact. It’s still as fun as ever to see what people would do if they had nothing to do but hang out in a mall for an extended period of time. Plus it features Richard Cheese’s rendition of “Down with the Sickness”. As zombie movies go, you could do a lot worse than this one. If you’re a purist, make it a double feature night and rent the original too.

Dead RisingXbox 360

While we’re on the topic of being trapped in a mall during a zombie invasion, it’s hard not to mention Capcom’s Dead Rising. This game is destined to go down as a classic misunderstood title, even though it wasn’t a runaway financial success. With a frantic timer countdown (72 hours) and a weird save system, Dead Rising created a feeling of dread as any mistake could derail your survival. Half the fun in this game is being able to use almost any item in the mall to kill zombies. You’ll probably want to play through it several times to experiment with various weapons and explore all the obscure nooks and crannies of the mall. I have to give Capcom a lot of credit for the scale and detail they used when creating the mall, it’s absolutely amazing to get immersed in. This one is a budget title now and can be found even cheaper in the pre-played rack at most game stores.

Resident EvilGamecube / Playstation

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While there have now been several games in the series, the original still stands as the greatest zombie game ever made (though some may argue that #4 is a close rival). The experience of being trapped in a giant mansion infested with zombies was the first time I ever jumped from fear while playing a video game. If you have a Gamecube, grab that version as it has superior re-vamped graphics and sound. If not, grab the original off eBay or the bargain bin, it will play in your PS2 or PS3 (if you no longer have a working PSOne).

Night of the Living Dead – DVD

“They’re coming to get you Barbara!”… This is the original, the grandfather of them all. If you haven’t seen this movie at least ten times, run (don’t walk) to your local DVD retailer and buy a copy. This movie is still amazing and stands as the definitive zombie experience. George Romero made history with this movie and even though Land of the Dead was terrible, he still holds the throne as the king of zombie horror. NOTE: Avoid the updated versions of this movie like the undead plague! Get the original 1968 B&W version of the film ONLY. There have been some terrible revisions made in the anniversary editions including new scenes and storylines that are absolutely horrible.

The Book of the Dead – Novel

John Skipp and Craig Spector have compiled a collection of short stories that take place in the post-zombie apocalyptic world created by George Romero. If you ever wondered what happened the day after the day of the dead, this is a great place to start.

Return of the Living Dead
– DVD

This is a pretty campy zombie movie left over from the 80’s. For some reason every time I see it on TV, I’m compelled to sit and watch it. Not the greatest flick, but it has a level of charm that made it impossible for me to exclude it from this list.

Shaun of the Dead - DVD

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Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright get Zombie horror 100%. Shaun of the Dead is a comedy set in the middle of a zombie invasion, but don’t write it off as a ‘Scary Movie’ parody. This movie will have you laughing hysterically one minute and jumping out of your seat the next. This could very well be my favorite zombie-related piece of work on this list. If you haven’t seen it… make sure you do.

So there you have it, my list of favorite zombie stuff. This list is in no way meant to be the definitive list of zombie-related works. I’m sure other zombie enthusiests will have their own favorite, and probably find some of these to be pretty “JV” compared to the more hardcore stuff out there. Take it for what it is, my favorites. Happy Halloween!

Read this Book: The Zombie Survival Guide

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If you’re like me, you have probably found yourself scowling at your back door around 2 AM, realizing that it would be very easy for a zombie to gain entry to your home. Maybe you’ve already spent sleepless nights lying in bed pondering how you could close your attic door from the inside, and figured out a method to survive up there over a long period of time. If you sleep with a Katana less than 5 feet away from you at all times, then “The Zombie Survival Guide” by Max Brooks is probably the book for you.

The title pretty much sums up exactly what this book is all about. Written in an instructional guide format it provides you with everything you need to know in the event of an outbreak of the undead. Ranging from practical knowledge about Zombie physiology and proper corpse disposal methods to weapons and home fortification, this book is an absolute asset. You may be saying to yourself “But Steve, a Zombie invasion? Ludicrous!”. Well… that’s the exact kind of mentality that gets motherfuckers killed. Worse than killed actually, you will become one of them: a mindless, automation bent only on the consumption of human flesh. Me? I’m not taking any chances for the well being of my family.

The book does an excellent job of breaking down many misconceptions Hollywood has given us of the proper way to handle a Zombie attack. For example, you may be familiar with the idea of the hero racing through a mob of zombies with a chainsaw, lobbing off heads and screaming like a madman. While this makes for good entertainment, The Zombie Survival Guide teaches us that weapons like Crowbars, Cross-bows, Bolt-action Rifles and the Japanese Katana are actually the best weapons to use against a Zombie.

I could go on and on about the topics covered in this book, but it would really only be a disservice to to you, my potential comrade in the battle for our lives. Everyone should read this book, four times if necessary. Because when the rise of the undead happens, I don’t want to be stuck on a roof with some jackass that’s gonna get me eaten because his stupid dog went running after a piece of meat.

After all, Halloween is right around the corner… it’s time to get prepared.

Purchase The Zombie Survival Guide on Amazon.com

Update: Like deathThrasher said, there is also another book by Max Brooks called “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War”. I picked up the audio book version from itunes,  it features voice work by Mark Hammil, Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Henry Rollins, Rob Reiner, and John Turturro. I’ll read the printed book later as it has more stories than the Audio Book. It should make for some nice listening at work.