It’s been about 15 years since Fred Gambino’s last book, Ground Zero, and that alone tells you how established Gambino is in the world of concept art. Most recently Fred Gambino has been working with game and film studios. Gamers will certainly recognise some of the themes here.
The companies Fred Gambino’s worked for are equally recognisable to gamers; WhizKids, Lego, Mattel, Warner, Penguin and Paramount as well as prestigious titles like Der Speigel, National Geographic and Scientific American.
The first 50 or so pages of the book are a look at Dark Shepherd. As I flicked through the book without reading anything first I was getting Mass Effect vibes. Was this a FemShep story I had missed? I don’t think so. Dark Shepherd is a script that Gambino’s worked on himself. This art book opens with excerpts from the script and plenty of Gambino’s art to illustrate it. The result? It works well; it’s like a paper version of a movie trailer. It is a teaser and visual.
I especially enjoyed watching the model Bealey Mitchell transform into the character Breel. The Art of Fred Gambino certainly lets you peer behind the veil.
Just to complete the Dark Shepherd teaser there’s an introduction to the graphic novel as well.
There’s a lot more than “just” Dark Shepherd in the book though. It’s a bit like going to listen to your favourite band live. Do you want to hear all new stuff? Do you want to hear some of the old favourites?
The last two-thirds of The Art of Fred Gambino let us look back at the work we might be more familiar with; whether that’s drawings of swords and dragons. I especially liked the Battletech and MechWarrior chapter. Gambino was a creative talent on Battletech for about six years.
Expect a mix. There’s even art for Star Wars Visions that Gambino drew for George Lucas. There are album covers, advertising and speed-paintings.
Dark Shepherd, the book, certainly benefits from the annotations provided by the artist. He seems to have taught himself almost every technique possible.
Should you buy it? Without question fans of Gambino, those who’ll recognise his style – and I’m thinking of Battletech fans and F1 Race Star players – will certainly be at the front of the queue. Anyone looking to learn about concept art, I think, will benefit from the book too and that’s due to the portfolio of excellence and all the insight shared. Everyone else may well enjoy a fantastically presented art tome, something to let guests flick through while you finish off cooking dinner or while the rest of weekend’s roleplayers turn up.
The video tour below of the book uses filters and Google’s Auto Awesome to put together a look inside. These blurry pictures, snapped on an HTC One M7 in need of a clean, do a better job at proving you wisdom and insight on Dark Shepherd than I or mere words ever could.
My copy of Dark Shepherd: The Art of Fred Gambino was provided for review. The hardback is due out via Titan Books for the 29th of July.