Note: The images in this review do not do the book justice.
Don't let the headline fool you. EXPOSÉ 10 is an amazing book worth every penny, be it softcover, hardcover or that nice limited edition with its faux leather and those gold embossed letters and all that nonsense. However, EXPOSÉ 10 does have a singular flaw, which I'll cover in a moment. First, the obligatory introduction:
EXPOSÉ is a series of books which feature some of the "finest digital art in the known universe." Every year, Ballistic Publishing makes a call to artists from across the world to submit their entries - free of charge. It's like the county fair of digital art, but for the whole world and without the petting zoo. From the thousands of submissions (over 6,000 this year) a panel of industry experts selects what they believe to be the finest examples of the digital medium. In short - kind of a big deal.
This year, Ballistic Publishing celebrates its 10th anniversary with the release of EXPOSÉ 10. I remember receiving my limited edition of EXPOSÉ 1 when it first came out. Time flies. Though I ordered only a single copy of the enumerated printing, I received two sequential certificates of authenticity. I always wondered who was missing theirs (#774 are you out there?). This year, I received the EXPOSÉ 10 hard back.
EXPOSÉ 10 is a picture book. This made things a little more difficult to give it an unbiased review. Unlike software reviews, the experience is highly subjective. There is no inarguable "good" and "bad." There's no functionality to test, no new features to showcase, no performance benchmark to conduct - you either like the pretty pictures or you don't. A quantitative evaluation would be impossibly ridiculous:
I had no trouble turning each of the 288 pages. The binding did its job without fail. The cover, in its conquest to to be more planar, was an admirable success.
While important, such distinctions would be rather dull. Thus, the rest of what follows is merely what I thought when I flipped through the pages of EXPOSÉ 10. It's all my opinion, as I can give little else.
Everyone is inspired by something different. If I was ever asked, "What inspires you?," I'd have to reply with: "I'll know it when I see it." I don't have the foggiest idea what I find inspiring ahead of time. If I could premeditate inspiration, I'd be a hell of a lot more productive - maybe. Then again, I might find myself spending so much time being inspired, that I wouldn't get anything done... which is kind of how this review has been going.
EXPOSÉ 10, any of the EXPOSÉ books really, is cool because it's so diverse. The artists, which made the pretty pictures, all reside in different countries with different cultures, languages, ideologies - all of it different. Yet, they all produce equally inspiring and beautiful works of art. There's a different flavor to each of them, and they're all good. It's like being in a candy store where there's nothing you don't like. Art knows no bounds, and fortunately neither does EXPOSÉ 10. The map below is featured in the book. It illustrates the nations from which the artists' hail. EXPOSÉ 10 features artists from 65 countries:
This is cool in that, there's a smattering of everything from characters, portraits, architectural, matte paintings, story telling, etc. There's 20 image categories this year. It's a grab-bag of greatness. I liked being able to just flip the book open to a random page and - BAM! Something amazing shows up 99.4% of the time (Of 584 images, there were only 3 I found to be less than super-great. Of those three, three shall remain nameless).
Yes. Even with that compelling cliff-hanger flaw that I have yet to mention (you know, the one you're so curious about that you're still reading), the book is rock-solid awesome. More on that flaw later. If you figured the number of person-hours put into the book, i.e. the summation of the time artists put into their craft to create each of the 584 images, you're looking at years of work.
Having your work featured in EXPOSÉ is an honor and a triumph (unfortunately, I can't say this from personal experience - yet). For the 381 artists who were among the chosen ones (out of some 6,000+ entries for EXPOSÉ 10), it's like the ultimate stamp of peer and industry approval. It's something you put on your résumé that might actually land, an otherwise starving artist, a real job. That is, if they're not already an industry leader. Many of which are.
Everyone I showed the book to, both artists and non-artists alike, were immediately captivated by the inspiring patterns of pigment rendered on paper. Many of the images tell interesting stories - even those not in the Storytelling category. The only way the pages could have been better is if they were the originals and not reprints, alas we're talking digital - everything is a reprint (which is kind of a good thing, considering I don't want to mortgage my house for a book).
One word: Posters.
I want posters. Beneath each image somewhere in the caption I want to see a tiny, faded, infinitesimal serial number. I want to be able to go to Ballistic Publishing's website, type it in a box and order a poster shipped to me in a cardboard tube. Ballistic can figure out a fair split with the artist, maybe a charity, their investors - whatever. It helps the artist, it helps out my vacant wall space, it helps Ballistic, it helps all my friends who demand posters of some of the finest digital art in the known universe. Everybody wins. Unfortunately, EXPOSÉ does not currently have such a feature. Hence, the flaw.
I know what you're thinking: "It would cheapen the experience."
Let me be clear: I'm not asking for EXPOSÉ to become a mail-order catalog. Such a thing would be a disgrace to the entire EXPOSÉ lineup, and artists everywhere. I would cry crimson tears of anguish over such an injustice. I just want a tiny, obscure, faded-out serial number and a corresponding website that knows what those numbers mean: Posters!
I want posters! Everyone I know wants posters! EXPOSÉ 11, can you hear me?
EXPOSÉ 10 is inspiring work, in high resolution, in a bound volume that you can hold in your own two hands. I'm pleased to say that even after ten years, Ballistic has managed to keep the quality bar very high. In EXPOSÉ 10 I saw no signs of corporate temptation. You know, the sequel effect that plagues so many products. E.g: product 1 was great, product 2 less so, product 3 is a horrible repugnance all to save a buck. With EXPOSÉ, I've seen no such nonsense. They're all more amazing than the one before. Hats off to everyone at Ballistic for another great addition to the EXPOSÉ series.
As for the artists who made EXPOSÉ possible: Thank you. Thank you for doing what you love. Your work inspires people you will never know. You made me smile and laugh and stare in admiration, lust, fear, envy and awe. Thank you for sharing the result of those countless hours you dedicate to making beautiful pixels - your altruism in this regard is admirable.
You can check out a low resolution version of every page of EXPOSÉ 10 on Ballistic Publishing's website. One day you might even be able to buy posters of images featured in EXPOSÉ, I hope.
For more info, please visit:
All supporting images are copyright to their respective artists, and used with permission from Ballistic Publishing.
All content and images cannot be copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner without written permission.
Kurt Foster (Modulok) falls somewhere between programmer and visual effects artist. When not sifting through technical manuals, he takes on freelance roles in both programming and visual effects, attempting to create a marriage of technical knowledge with artistic talent. He can be seen helping out on the Renderosity Maya forum, when time permits.
October 1, 2012
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