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Video Training Review: A Celebration Of Art! Wild About Animals With Fay Sirkis From NAPP

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A Celebration Of Art! Wild About Animals is the latest in the video training series from Fay Sirkis. This series of DVDs is for those who want to take their digital painting techniques to the next level. This video builds off of the instructor's prior DVDs , Paint Like A Master, and Weddings Portraits and Faces.

Wild About Animals continues your education in using Painter X and Adobe Photoshop CS4 for creating digital artwork. This time you will learn techniques for painting animals, ranging from dogs, lions, tigers, horses, dolphins, bears, and cats.

A Celebration Of Art! Wild About Animals is contained on two DVDs that run 233 minutes (3.9 hours) and can only be used on a computer-based system. The author goes over the material in 32 lessons that are divided into seven sections and two bonus lessons.

 Wild About AnimalsSection 1, "Retouching and Resizing" (five movies), begins by showing you how to set up your images to get the most out of your pictures. These techniques are all done in Photoshop and in this section the instructor examines how to handle various image resolutions and sizes as well as how to make the most of what you have, even a small image taken from a camera phone.

Next you will learn about the workflow of cropping and setting up your borders as well as the differences between setup if it is watercolor or an oil style painting. You will see how to remove things like tags from the animal as well as how to manipulate the background to make your animal stand out. You will also see how to work with the new CS4 Mask Panel to better enhance your image.

Section 2, "Painting in Photoshop" (four movies), focuses on painting entirely in Photoshop. You begin by setting up your brushes and you will learn how the shape dynamics and other dynamics affect your painting. Next you will take an image of a lion and create a painting in Photoshop. You begin by making some image adjustments to get a more 3D look to the image and other techniques that you will do to most of the images that you will work with.

Normally at this point the instructor would take the image in to Corel Painter to finish it up, but this time she shows you how to apply painterly strokes within Photoshop CS4. Here you will begin to use those brushes that you set up earlier to give the lion a painterly feel. She also talks about creating a definitive foreground, background, and main subject for creating a truly dynamic image.

Section 3, "The Eyes Have It" (four movies), is all about creating the "windows to the soul" of an image. As with previous DVDs, the instructor goes over the painting of the eye. In prior training, she focused on human eyes. Here she looks at animal eyes. She looks at the differences between the eyes of dogs, fish, cats, alligators, and elephants. Then she looks at more difficult situations such as when there is hair over the eyes, a dog with blue eyes, and the eye of a horse, which has more parts to it, and, of course, the eyes of a lion.

The bonus section "Vibrance" is an additional movie that will show you how to add more of a colorful painterly look. You will see how to give the image more saturation, vibrancy, and acrylic look. This is using the new CS4 Vibrance adjustment features. Here you will use the sponge tool to paint vibrance into your image

 Wild About AnimalsSection 4, "Painting Wildlife" (four movies), begins with a refresher in using Corel Painter X for transforming photos to painting. Included is working with brushes, cloning, and working with the interface. In this section you will work with an image of some tigers and you will see how to transform them into a painting. The instructor shows you how to work with her nature brushes (which are included with the DVD) to paint some of the background trees and to pull off a watercolor look to the image boarders.

There are other new brushes that are introduced such as the "cloud blender" that smooths out the background and the "paint trees leaf" brushes that give your trees more enhanced leaves. Finally you will work with "Wild Life Hair" brushes to bring out the unique styles of hair that animals have. These include the Master Wild Blender, Single Hair Brush, Thin Strands Blender, Short Vertical Hair Brush, and the Add Hair Color brush.

Section 5, "Man's Best Friend" (three movies), goes back to the image that was looked at in the first section within Photoshop and now you will look taking the image into Painter X and see how to make that image into a watercolor. You will also see how to add coloring effects for the background of the image. Then you will learn how to use brush strokes to bring out the hair painting effects in the image using her dog hair brushes. These include Add Multiple Hair, Add Fur Color, Fur Bristle Blender, Master Pet Hair Blender, Shaggy Dog!, and Long Single Hairs.

Section 6, "Painting Horses" (seven movies), is a more complex topic because of all the different styles of horses as well as the fact that you also want to maintain the other dimensions of the horse such as their muscles, the equipment that they may be wearing such as bridles, as well as the complexity of their different types of hair. There are a lot of methods taught here including how to get more of an acrylic/oil looking painting as opposed to some of the photorealistic look that have been presented earlier. There are also more brushes for painting horses that are used including the magic fur blender brush.

Section 7, "Sea World" (three movies), now examines animals without fur. First you will work with the saturation controls to bring out colors in grey-colored dolphins. Here you will see which brushes to use in which order to bring out the best look. Then you will also see how to bring out the environment around the animals like the waves in the water and foam sprays. Finally you will work with dolphins underwater. Again, there are special brushes for working with smooth skinned water animals.

The bonus section "Bears & Cats" will take you through what to do when you want to work with animals that are not covered in this set. This bonus explains how you would go about deciding what to use in different situations as well as how best to use what you have already learned.

 Wild About AnimalsA Celebration Of Art! Wild About Animals is another wonderful DVD that works in a very systematic fashion and logical manner. It is filled with a lot of tips and techniques that will totally enhance your ability to use Painter. It is clear that the instructor, Fay Sirkis, is very knowledgeable about both painting in Photoshop and Painter X.

The only issues that I have with A Celebration Of Art! Wild About Animals is that they have changed the format of the DVD player. In prior DVDs, if you missed a word or two, you could slide the timeline back a nudge and replay a segment. Now you must go back to the previous section and listen to the whole section again. I found this a bit cumbersome when trying to learn a technique.

The retail price of A Celebration Of Art! Wild About Animals is $199.99 USD and you can get it from KelbyTraining. But for NAPP members it is only $179.99. You should also check out the online training available at KelbyTraining as well.

When you consider that you get all of the images to work with and all of the brushes, this makes for a very complete package. If you want to take your digital painting skills to the next level, then I highly recommend A Celebration Of Art! Wild About Animals.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.