Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Review: How to Render by Scott Robertson

Scott Robertson recently released his new book How to Render: The Fundamentals of Light, Shadow, and Reflectivity, and he sent me a copy to take a look at.

It's a followup to his previous book How to Draw, which I reviewed last year. Once you know how to draw the outlines of an object in perspective, the next thing is how to to use light and shade to bring out the form, and how various surfaces will look in different conditions. That's what this book concentrates on.

Scott has plenty of experience as a teacher. He has taught at art schools, seminars, and workshops, and has produced a lot of DVDs for Gnomon. He also shares regular videos on his YouTube channel.

He brings all that experience to his organization of the book. The book is divided into two main sections: 1. The physics and the perspective of light and shadow, and 2. The physics of reflectivity.

The book opens with a presentation of drawing tools, and then dives into a discussion of the kinds of light and the elements of form. He uses as examples both ideal geometric forms and photos of real objects (such as sculpture and architecture).

In one section of the book, Scott guides the reader through various practical systems for constructing shadows in perspective using geometric forms. That section feels a bit like a math textbook, but that's the only way to learn it, especially if you're creating imaginary forms.

The second half of the book analyzes reflective surfaces and their specific properties: including the Fresnel effect, reflection flipping, reflection pools, reflections over graphics, and cast shadows on reflective surfaces. He also goes through a catalog of examples of specific materials, such as glass, plastic, chrome, gold, wood, leather, and cloth, as well as examples of photographic effects such as motion blur and depth of field.

Scott does some rendering demos using both digital and physical techniques, so they will be of universal value from a technical perspective. Although there is some limited coverage of organic, natural forms (such as portraits, plants, animals, and landscapes) and passing references to atmospheric effects, the chief focus of the book is on transportation design—such things as cars, airplanes and robots.

The book was created by Robertson's own publishing company Design Studio Press. It is large (9x11 inches), thick (272 pages), and printed on heavy opaque paper. The book also provides the reader with special access to dozens of supplementary online videos.

How to Render: The Fundamentals of Light, Shadow, and Reflectivity is a rigorous book that covers the subject comprehensively and authoritatively, and it should become a useful textbook for many years to come.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember the co-author's Visual Communications course at Art Center (the book is drawn from it) and while many of the concepts proved valuable to me, the part you describe as "like a math textbook" was denied greater relevance (I almost wrote "rendered moot") by your treatment of the same subject matter in Color & Light and Imaginary Realism. That is to say: your technique showcases the innate advantages of real light on real mock-ups vs. purely 2D "constructed" scenarios. The former method is fun, easier to understand and less liable to break one's mind in practice.

I like Mr. Robertson and Mr. Bertling. Their process works. I only wish their books had slightly more honest titles, a la: HOW TO DRAW LIKE SCOTT ROBERTSON and HOW TO RENDER LIKE SCOTT ROBERTSON. Maybe the byline is meant to suggest as much.