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Video Training Review: A Celebration of Art! Impressions of Nature with Fay Sirkis from NAPP

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

Impressions Of Nature continues your education in using Painter X and Adobe Photoshop CS4 for creating digital artwork. In this video you will learn techniques on how to paint landscapes, seascapes, clouds, trees, rivers, flowers, and more.

A Celebration Of Art! Impressions Of Nature is contained on two DVDs that run 466 minutes (over 7.75 hours) and can only be used on a computer system. The author goes over the material in 51 lessons which can be divided into 16 topics of concentration.

 Impressions Of NatureTopic 1, "Landscape History" (two movies), begins with a short background on the painting of landscapes. Here you will see how it was done in the past as well as how it is changing for the digital age. You will see a breakdown of the steps that it takes to create a digital landscape painting. You will also look at the styles of Monet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Kandinsky, Derain, Fauvist, Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Gris, and Hopper.

Topic 2, "Brush Dynamics and Resolution" (two movies), will show you how to set up your Wacom Tablet (something that is really a must for digital painting) and the options for setting up your brushes so that you can work efficiently. With resolution you will see how best to set up your images for output for a large size painting. That includes taking a smaller image size to where you can make it larger without losing quality.

Topic 3, "HDR Sandwich" and "Bonus Material" (five movies), examines how to convert your image to a higher dynamic range so you can bring out all of the shadow qualities. These techniques will show you how to bring balance to the colors throughout without having to do selections or other complex techniques. There is even a bonus image that you can use to work with your HDR Sandwich.

Topic 4, "Painter Interface" (one movie), will now introduce you to the digital art studio known as Painter X. Here you will get a tour of the interface and see where everything is that you will need.

Topic 5, "Custom Palettes" (three movies), are what you will use to paint your images. Before you get started you will need to set yours up. Here you will see how to do this so that everything that you need is in its own custom palette. These include brushes as well as commands. Then you will organize them into layouts and save them as well.

Topic 6, "Custom Workspace" (two movies), will show you how to import the instructor's custom brush library. Then you will see how to set up your total workspace so that your entire working environment is ready for you to use each and every time that you load up Painter.

Topic 7, "Brushes" (five movies), begins by looking at brush properties. Here the instructor shows you all of the custom brushes that she provided with the DVD. She breaks it down by category and properties for the brush. She then moves into Blender brushes and how they work to blend colors. She also looks at the Cloning brush in Painter and cloning in general. This is done both for individual elements as well as the entire document. Finally she looks at Brush tracking and Bleed. Here you will see how to set up your tracking to get the best effects in blending.

Topic 8, "Basic Photo Realism" (three movies), now begins some actual painting. You should have everything setup so now you will begin to learn how to paint with oils. Here you will learn about workflow in painting as well as how to proceed through a painting.

 Impressions Of Nature

Topic 9, "Rich Oils" (five movies), now moves from photo-realistic paintings to more traditional oily paintings. Here you will take one of the images you worked with earlier and learn techniques for painting with oils. By using a master layer and blender layer you open up your ability for using all styles of brushes. These techniques will show you how to work with rust, greenery, wood, water, sky, as well as techniques for bringing out detail.

Topic 10, "Auto Photo Painting" (seven movies), examines how to create an image that is more automatic. These are automated tasks that use cloning techniques to create paintings. Here you will work with Underpainting, Auto-painting, and Restoration. You will work with a lot of techniques to achieve dramatic results.

Topic 11, "Painting Smarter" (three movies), shows you how to use more tools and achieve better results with your painting. Here you will put together both the manual techniques and the auto-painting techniques to work smarter.

Topic 12, "Rain Rain" (two movies), examines how to add rain to a painting. This takes the brush category "Four Seasons" and uses the brush "Rain" to create the illusion of rain in your painting. You will also turn a previous painting into more of a cloudy rainy day.

Topic 13, "Snow and Mountains" (three movies), now looks at the concepts behind working with mountain and snow scenes. Here you will learn about working shadows and blending edges in your image. You will see how to add punch to your image as well as learning manual brush techniques to bring out detail where you need and soften items that you want to soften.

Topic 14, "Watercolor" (one movie), will show you the types of technique that you need to use for creating a watercolor. You will see how to set it up, and use blending techniques to create a watercolor of a flower.

Topic 15, "Final Output" (five movies), here you will learn techniques for optimizing your painting to create final output for printing. This now takes it back into Photoshop for finalization. You need to do some layers adjustments, work with sharpening to direct focus, create a signature for your paintings, as well as resize for larger than the basic size.

Topic 16, "New Brushes" (two movies) are now examined in these last two videos. In these focused videos, you will see how to use these additional brushes. These include the palm tree brush, fan blender, smooth and rusty blender, flowers brushes, and much more.

A Celebration Of Art! Impressions Of Nature 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.

 Impressions Of NatureThe issue that I had with A Celebration Of Art! Wild About Animals where you had to re-listen to a whole video if you wanted to hear something again has been addressed, so I am very pleased with this video interface. There was one problem I had with the first video in the Rich Oils topic. I contacted KelbyTraining and they were already aware of it so hopefully the DVD you get will be error free. But in case it is not, here is a link that you can download it to view. In fact, you should download it anyway to check out the style and quality of the training.

Not that it was a problem in prior videos, but what has improved in this one is that I like how the instructor walks you through all of the potential mistakes that you could make. That is, she points out situations and alerts you that if behavior "X" is happening, it is because you forgot to set a particular setting and she gives you all of the needed information to adjust the problem.

The retail price of A Celebration Of Art! Impressions Of Nature is $199.99 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! Impressions Of Nature.

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About T. Michael Testi

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