d'artiste: Character Design
Editors Daniel Wade | Publisher Ballistic Publishing| Price £59 | Web www.ballisticpublishing.com

Ballistic is renowned for producing a range of inspirational digital art titles, but of all the company’s series, d’artiste seems to be the most focused.

While Exotique offers the most ‘beautiful’ digital art, and Exposé the ‘finest’ (both featuring hundreds of pieces of art from as many artists), d’artiste narrows its scope to one subject and takes an in-depth look at a handful of masters. This enables the reader to pick over the approach of artists to their subject, and to get closer to their varied styles.

The ninth in the series moves away from previous themes of 3D modelling, matte painting and concept art to focus on character design. Anne Pogoda, Kekai Kotaki and this month’s ImagineFX cover artist, Gonzalo Ordóñez Arias, all vie for the spotlight, offering very different approaches to various character briefs in the form of succinct tutorials and galleries.

Anne is first, with her female character variations, anime-style individuals and a tutorial on how to rescue a character design by combining two images. If you enjoy the art of Mélanie Delon and Marta Dahlig, then you’ll love the simple compositions of enchanting women in which Anne specialises.

Kekai brings years of experience as a concept artist at ArenaNet to the party. Using his work for various Guild Wars titles as source material, there are 36 character designs in total from the Hawaiian artist.

Then there’s Gonzalo, and of all the tutorials, it’s the Chilean’s that offers the most detail and a greater sense of moving from sketch to finished piece.

As well as their tutorials, each artist offers a personal gallery and an invited gallery, where they can discuss the art that inspires them. This is a stroke of genius, because there’s something intrinsically fascinating about getting into the minds of artists – especially ones of this calibre – to find out what artists they rate and why.

However, the layout of Character Design is a little dry. Text blocks accompany images, with no visual leads guiding your eye around the page. This works fine for the galleries, but when applied to the tutorials it doesn’t allow the viewer to fully enter into the process of using software to achieve these images. This may not be a deal-breaker for fans of the d’artiste series, but when you consider the £59 price tag, it’s the one resounding weakness in an otherwise top-notch publication.