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Jim Harvey reviews Illustrator Illuminated

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Jim Harvey reviews Illustrator Illuminated
A Creative COW "Real World" Book Review


Jim Harvey reviews Illustrator Illuminated by Obermeier

Jim Harvey Jim Harvey
JHV Digital
New York, USA

© 2003 Jim Harvey and CreativeCOW.net. All rights are reserved.


Article Focus:
Jim Harvey takes a look at Adobe Master Class: Illustrator Illuminated by Ted Padova, Barbara Obermeier . ~ This book is published by Peachpit Press and each chapter presents the work of a single illustrator, accompanied by detailed, step by step drawings and images of real assignments as they took shape. Read on to find out if this book should be on your book shelf.. .


It had to happen sooner or later. I've been reviewing for the Cow for a while now, and I've been pretty amazed at the quality of content in the books and programs that have crossed my desk. I was beginning to wonder if I was being too easy on the authors as virtually everything that has come my way I've found to be a "should buy".

Sadly, this is one book that falls into the "take a pass" category.

Illustrator Illuminated is a 300+ page book that showcases work from 15 illustrators who "share their secrets" according to the cover. While all the people showcased are certainly talented. The choices of illustrations to feature left me cold.

The illustrations themselves are, for the most part basic 2d compositions in the "poster" vein. But with the power that Illustrator possess, I can't for the life of me figure out why anyone would fill a book this size with cartoon work.

There are "tutorials" included for each artist featured, but even they fall short. Compared to most tut's that are out there, these don't somehow "feel" right. They are written in the third person and flip flop between explaining a procedure and the artist telling you how they work. I simply found them to be kind of self serving and difficult to follow.

The first chapter "The Illustrator way of thinking" left me with a "what the heck was that all about?" feeling. Giving me two paragraphs on it, with the main point being that "The Ubiquitous Pen Tool is used by Master Artists who have developed great skill in using it" tells me absolutely nothing. It took me a dog's age to get over my fear of the pen tool, and then I found out that the dog had no teeth.. I'd really like to see a book come out and give a concise explanation of working with the pen tool. It's NOT the monster that I once thought it was, but it's still so shrouded in "mystery" that many newcomers to Illustrator (and Photoshop for that matter) are terrified to use it at all.

Chapter two got me to sit up and pay attention. The authors were wise to choose Alan Raine as their first featured artist. Raine's technical illustrations are some of the finest in the world and although you won't learn anything about his process (regardless of what the book claims), just looking at his work can be an inspiration. Raine's illustrations are classic technical illustration at its best. This is a person who understands the power of Illustrator and utilizes it to create frighteningly complex illustrations of everything from industrial equipment to Sci-fi renderings. I'd like to see a book devoted to HIS techniques!

Chapter 3 is Children's Illustration and it too shows some of Illustrator's potential. Russell Benefanti has a unique style and his creatures are reminiscent of "Pixar" characters. Unfortunately, the illustrations remind me of nothing so much as the first try's at using an airbrush with friskets.

At this point, the book goes flat. Each successive work looks just like the one preceding it, and it all looks like Grandma Moses did it. (Not to denigrate Grandma Moses' work, she was a phenom in folk art), but when you have the power of Illustrator behind you and all your examples look like folk art, there's something wrong.

You have to really dig through the book to find some differences. The explanations are again, "This is how they did it" or "This is how I did it" with little or no real explanation or step by step instruction. If you are going to say that the book "covers a broad range of what can be done in Illustrator" then why do all the examples look alike?




COW Rating: When you look at the amazing work that is done in Illustrator and compare it to Illustrator Illuminated, it makes me wonder what everyone was thinking. This is NOT the best of the best. This is more reminiscent of the work done by first year students. That may sound harsh, and I suppose it is, but Illustrator is so powerful, that to show anything less than the absolute best does the reader a disservice.




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