EXOTIQUE 6: The World's Best CG Character Art

December 13, 2010 2:30 am

Tags: 2D, 3D, 3ds Max, Ballistic publishing, digital art, Photoshop, Zbrush

Book Review: Ballistic Publishing's EXOTIQUE 6

"Whenever someone asks me what Ballistic Publishing does, the easiest answer is to say we produce books on digital art...However, the question I enjoy answering most is why we do what we do – the reason that gets the team out of bed in the morning, and the reason we subject ourselves to deadlines. The answer can be one word, or thousands, but it boils down to this – inspiration"
-Daniel Wade, Ballistic Publishing

Catch by Brian Sola

The Australia-based Ballistic Publishing is "the leading publisher of books for the digital arts industry." They began publishing in 2003 with EXPOSE 1, which was their attempt to find and publish the "best digital art in the known universe." They've since expanded to other series with focuses on specific aspects of CG art, like the tutorial-based d'artiste series and the character oriented series EXOTIQUE, which we are looking at in this review.

Ballistic invites artists from all over the world to submit their character-focused CG art to the EXOTIQUE series. Each book in the series has received a record number of submissions. For EXOTIQUE 6, Ballistic received "3,000 entries from 823 artists in 71 countries." Clearly, as Daniel Wade states, "the record number of entries from artists in many new countries shows that the EXOTIQUE series is reaching out to more artists, and providing a valuable platform to showcase their inspirational art."

Considering the amount (and, I imagine, the quality) of submissions, it must have been no easy task to choose which artists to include in the current edition of EXOTIQUE 6. Although I'm sure the editors have some regrets, they still managed to include 229 artists and 344 pieces of extremely high quality character art. And, as I've pointed out, 95 of those artists are new. Something I think Ballistic should get a pat on the back for since it's faster (and easier) to simply choose artists and styles that you know or have previously published. Again, it's back to the publishers' stated goal: inspiring art. Of course, this creates a lot more work, but the results are spectacular, as you can see from the above EXOTIQUE 6 cover artwork "Catch" by Philippine artist Bryan Sola

The book is loosely organized around type and style of artwork, although you never know what you are going to see on the next page, something I find very enticing about EXOTIQUE 6. For example, there is a wonderful 2-page layout of 2D female character art early in the book (see picture below) followed 3 pages later by an equally vibrant series of 3D female characters. I was taken by Dani Garcia's "Fashion Model" on page 31. Created in 3ds Max, Zbrush, mental ray and Photoshop, it's a superb example of the almost hyper-realistic style that can come from meticulous detailed work and careful rendering. The light hairs on the models arms that are caught by the back light add that extra touch that make the model so life-like. But, it's really the overall character's attitude and mood that is so compelling.

Fashion Model by Dani Garcia

I was also impressed with the great variety of styles and subjects in EXOTIQUE 6. From anime/manga and science-fiction art to hyper-realistic and dense, stylized art, there is always something surprising on every page. Some works, like Leos Ng's "The Piece of Silver" suggest a story behind the deep focused image of a woman (soldier) having a glass of wine amidst the urban debris; while others like Rudy-Jan Faber's "Maggie Will Kill You" are color-dense action shots that are condensed like a graphic novel. Laid horizontally across two pages, the image almost moves the more closely you look at the woman firing her guns at an imaginary figure behind the viewer while she dives across a colorful grafitti-filled wall.

But, even as I write this with the book laid out on my desk in front of me, it's hard not to be distracted and pulled into other illustrations on the same page as the "Maggie Will Kill You" artwork. And that's the real beauty of this book: one work leads you to another. It's possible to read EXOTIQUE 6 completely out of order, unlike many other digital art books which you tend to read from the beginning to end in order. Kudos to the editors of this edition of the EXOTIQUE series for arranging the pieces so intuitively and so beautifully.

Maggie Will Kill You! by Rudy-Jan Faber

Quick list of some other stand-outs (for me) in this book:

Of course, I could go on and on with this list. Frankly, the entire book is filled with stand-out work carefully selected, color-corrected and placed perfectly on the page. It's hard to choose one piece over another. My selections are entirely subjective. I'm sure other reviewers and readers would come up with different artists that appeal to them.

Ooh la la! by Andrew Hickinbottom

The last point I'd like to make about EXOTIQUE 6 is the actual production quality of the book itself. I've been working in bookstores my entire adult life and have had a chance to look at thousands of art books both rare and new. It's obvious to me that Ballistic Publishing has gone the extra mile in putting this book together. Bound in such a way that the book lies flat while you examine an image closely, the colors are vivid and the layout makes it easy to find the credits for a particular image. Ballistic has also found a way to feature 11 double-page spreads and 93 full-page images while balancing the tricky business of the page division extremely well. There is a full 4 page alphabetical index of artists at the end of the book with their contact info and websites, along with the page numbers where their artwork appears.

I highly recommend EXOTIQUE 6 as a starting point if you have never purchased a Ballistic Publishing book before. It's probably the best in the series. And while you are at their site, take a look at some of the other CG art series they have to offer. The EXPOSE series, in particular, is equally as good, but has a more general theme than the EXOTIQUE series.

EXOTIQUE 6 comes in two flavors: the oversize paperback edition at $59, and a Special Edition hardback version for $115 (it's truly a gorgeous book). You can get a special tutorial by Ruoxing Zhang, an EXOTIQUE 6 artist, on how she created her "Chang_e" painting if you purchase the book through the Ballistic website.

My thanks to Daniel Wade and Ballistic for making this wonderful book available for review.

Homeless gang by Waldek Kaminski

Be sure to visit the Ballistic Publishing website

Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
December 13, 2010

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Article Comments

corinthianscori ( posted at 7:41PM Tue, 14 December 2010

Love this thing every year! One day I'll be featured in this! One day!

calum5 ( posted at 5:24PM Fri, 17 December 2010

I attempted to get some work into this after my success last year,but wasnt up to the standards this time out:(.Will try again next year,love the art offered by ballistic!Thanks for the preview!