French-born artist Nicholas ‘Sparth’ Bouvier has provided concept art for games such as Assassin’s Creed, RAGE and the upcoming Halo 4, as well as covers for Frank Herbert’s Dune and Christian de Montella’s Les Rêves du temps novels. As you may have guessed, his work concerns sci-fi on an epic scale.
If you want to see delightfully stylised Photoshop paintings of spaceships, Structura 2 is the place to look. Sparth draws all kinds of spaceships: big ones, little ones, angular ones, curvy ones, combat ones and transport ones. The variation is impressive – some bring to mind bombers from World War II, while others look like giant beetles.
Away from these fantastical flying machines, the artist creates concept landscapes that range from medieval to post-apocalyptic. His visions are dark and brooding; Sparth’s a definite subscriber to the ‘dirty’ aesthetic pioneered by the likes of Star Wars and Alien. However, it’s not clear if his work is either consciously inspired by late-70s works or if it’s just the preferred look of modern sci-fi.
The majority of the work covered in Structura 2 are Sparth’s personal creations. His covers for Halo tie-in novels receive a mere four pages, with other commercial work scattered through the book. His abilities as a concept artist shine in his non-commercial work, though, and each image is packed with enough ideas to fuel many game franchises.
Sparth works exclusively in Photoshop, saying in his introduction that the program enables you to “literally invent a process of your own; borrow from tools and layers, and rearranging parameters in a way nobody had thought of.” The artist includes demonstrations of his technique at the end of the book, which include his unconventional approach to scene building.If there’s a problem with Structura 2 it’s the size. The small images can’t do justice to the awe-inspiring scale and intense detail of Sparth’s work, and there’s a lack of information or context for many of his paintings. Although the glossy finish means that colours stand out, it also means that darker features are lost in the murky blacks. Publisher Design Studio Press will hate us for saying this (especially considering the number of 5* books they've released in recent years) but in some cases, Sparth’s paintings look better when viewed through the lens of a web browser. However, this remains a great introduction to the artist's work, and a good companion to the first Structura.
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