Advanced guide on aesthetics for landscapes/environments
 
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  1. #1
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    Advanced guide on aesthetics for landscapes/environments

    Hello! I am an architect/landscaping student with quite a bit of training in basic composition and color theory, but looking at the work of concept artists I understand that there is very much more to learn. I would like to better understand what humans find aesthetically pleasing, in order to create better projects and visualizations. I got many good tips from watching Feng Zhus videos, but I would love to find a great illustrated book, DVD or PDF with plenty of examples and explanations of the advanced rules for aesthetically pleasing scenes/compositions. I found many books on aesthetics on amazon, typically aimed at photographers or artists, but the examples given are usually much less impressive than what the concept artists can do. Some magazines (Advanced Photoshop) occasionally contain a small fraction of amazing stuff, but learning that way feels very unsystematic/incomplete and inefficient.
    I'm looking for the kind of stuff that people who worked on environments in e.g Avatar or Skyrim all know, whether intuitively or taught directly.


    Thank you very much!

    Last edited by PaleBluePixel; May 17th, 2012 at 07:03 PM.
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    Realistically there is no such single source I'm aware of, plenty of treatises, approaches and thoughts on the topic of course, but as often as not they come from different points of view. Basically you have to sift through and filter dozens and hundreds of sources, cultures and artists and let that which inspires you distill down into your own vision.

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    Sure, I don't expect a book called "the complete handbook of composition, light and color for digital painting of landscapes" but there must be some books out there to recommend? There are certainly very many to choose from if you are a beginner. And there are loads of amazing professionals like Feng Zhu out there, surely at least one must have written a large book explaining everything he knows on composition of environments/landscapes?

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    Isn't composition and aesthetics somewhat universal? I wonder if you'd find more material if you didn't have the landscape constraint.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PaleBluePixel View Post
    And there are loads of amazing professionals like Feng Zhu out there, surely at least one must have written a large book explaining everything he knows on composition of environments/landscapes?
    I don't believe there are any such book yet. Plenty of art collection books of course loaded with their work but they're just folios more than how-tos.

    Gurney's books may be the closest to what you're looking for. You might also get Jack Hamm's "Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes". Carl Rungius is a good one to study and learn from as far as composition goes. "Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting" is very solid as well. Rob Alexander has a decent beginners book Drawing and Painting Fantasy landscapes.

    If you live in a decent city I would track down the architecture and design bookstore in the area and spend some time there. They could also point you to some good resources as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    I don't believe there are any such book yet. Plenty of art collection books of course loaded with their work but they're just folios more than how-tos.

    Gurney's books may be the closest to what you're looking for. You might also get Jack Hamm's "Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes". Carl Rungius is a good one to study and learn from as far as composition goes. "Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting" is very solid as well. Rob Alexander has a decent beginners book Drawing and Painting Fantasy landscapes.

    If you live in a decent city I would track down the architecture and design bookstore in the area and spend some time there. They could also point you to some good resources as well.
    Hello, thanks a lot. Alexander' s and Guerney 's book are clearly aimed more towards beginner level, and Hamm's even more so. I them ordered them anyway, they might contain some important details I've missed and seemed overall pretty good. Again, my problem with most of these books is that they are written by talented artists and will help a beginner become better, but none of them contains anything close to the amazing work I see among some artists in the commercial concept art community. I want to learn by the very best (at least in my taste) not "just" by the very good. Although to be fair some of the stuff especially in Alexander's book seemed top notch.

    I do live in a decent city (Liverpool) but the bookshops are pretty limited. None of them even sell books on landscape architecture.

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    I would be surprised if there wasn't a decent architecture shop in Liverpool...but maybe not. I don't mean just a shop with a section on architecture though, the kind I'm talking about are pretty rare...the one in San Francisco I frequent is called William Stout Books. You can get a small sense of what they're about just on the front page.

    Anyway, it doesn't get much better than Gurney actually...he's been imitated many, many times in modern fantastic film. Any "waterfall city" you see is a result of his archetype.

    The Hamm book is surprisingly rich...and conceptually right on the money.

    If you'r elooking for just digital techniques and workflow I would suggest subsribing to Imagine FX or checking out Gnomon DVDs for environment. Those will be your best bet for specific digital concept environments.

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    No specialists shops on Architecture. There are decent bookstores (Waterstones) with sections on Architecture and huge sections on gardening, just not one single book on landscape architecture.

    Anyways, I'm pretty excited about these books I ordered, thanks for the suggestions. I'm not too interested in learning about specific digital media/techniques, I will be using the sketchup/rendering/photoshop combo and offices are usually pretty limited in what more then can offer. These specific software packages I should know pretty well by now.

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    Try and find a book on Capability Brown. Now there is a gardener with a vision and has shaped our view of what the English countryside should look like.

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    Landscape Architecture from William Stout. I would just shoot these guys an email, or even give them a call and tell them what you're looking for. I'm sure they'll have good recommendations. They might also be aware of a similar shop in the UK they could direct you to.

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    There's a pretty big tutorial on Wetcanvas: "Landscape Composition Rules"
    It was one of the first I found when starting to search references online in... 2004? It's still around and good.

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    I would argue the opposite Maidith. First, there aren't really any "rules"...but if you follow such a limited and unimaginitive approach as that suggests, your work will be just that...average, mundane, uninspired and safe.

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  15. #13
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    Very clearly there are such rules. And no one would ever suggest following all of them every time. But in order to successfully break them, one should at least be aware of how they work. If you break all rules of composition (no basic subdivision of the canvas, no depth effect, no focal point, no color theory, no desaturated cold colors in the background, important contrastful details at the edges of the canvas etc) you will end up with a very messy picture indeed. What characterizes complete beginners is that the break rather than follow most of the rules.

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    The only decent thing that comes to my mind when it comes to architectural composition is Architecture: Form, Space and Order book. However it's not the "This is how you draw nice picture" type of book but presents more sculptural way of thinking (much closer to the job of an architect) and takes into account functionality, materials, cultural context and many other things. It breaks down most of the used architectural form throughout history into basic compositional vocabulary. Also examples are normal real life stuff rather than super futuristic cityscapes you can see in some of the concept art so you gotta see if that fits you (you can see some example pages on amazon)

    When it comes to aesthetics there is not such thing as one ultimate right look that's going to be always pleasant. You can only learn how car works but you gotta drive it yourself and see if you can get into some good place. It's all trial and error really. Sticking too closely to rules results in "safe" but boring, predictable look.

    Last edited by Farvus; May 18th, 2012 at 04:40 PM.
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    Not interested in arguing the whole composition "rules" thing yet again. Yes, certain compositions are pleasing and safe, certain compositions are more interesting and dynamic. If you follow the safe ones your work will never stand out.

    As I said right from the start, you basically have to sift through many sources and pull from them or reject them according to what feels right to you. You'll find that there is a large chasm between landscape design theory, landscape painting and environment concept art. The three things exist in very separate circles.

    Concept art for environments runs much closer to illustration, cultural architecture and precedents set in comics, film and imaginitive fiction than it does to landscape theory. Avatar owed it's environmental style to one guy: Roger Dean.

    Last edited by JeffX99; May 19th, 2012 at 05:26 PM.
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