Instead of blowing my hard-earned cash on wasteful eccentricities like food, clothes or whatever, it’ll often be spent on what might be my one true addiction, books. Instead of leaving me broke and wondering where I went wrong, this addiction leaves me better educated and the proud owner of a collection of beautiful books focusing on the worlds greatest artists & illustrators.
Listed here are 20 of my favourites, representing a band of the young and old, each working in range of styles and mediums, but all exceptionally talented. Enjoy 😉
1. MYTHOLGY, THE DC COMICS ART OF ALEX ROSS – By Chip Kidd & Geoff Spear
Alex Ross’s somber take on comic book illustration creates a sense of realism within fantasy worlds that has been a direct influence on films such as Unbreakable. This book features an outstanding collection of work including one my all time favourites of his, the Harley Quinn & Joker cover (see inside pic).
2. THE ART OF COOP – DEVILS ADVOCATE
Although he has a clear penchant for the larger ladies, there’s no denying Mr. Cooper’s ability with brush and ink. His naughty but nice poster art represents some the of iconic images of the gig poster scene. A book that makes you feel naughty just for holding it.
3. THE ART OF MODERN ROCK – By Paul Grushkin & Dennis King
This could possibly be the one that started it all for me. Nowhere else is there such a comprehensive look at the gig poster movement, all beautifully presented in an epic coffee table size book.
4. BURLESQUE POSTER DESIGN – THE ARE OF TEASE
An overlooked topic in print before this book arrived, this is a top quality collection of saucy poster art spanning from the scene’s beginnings to today.
5. CARTOON MODERN – STYLE AND DESIGN IN FIFTIES ANIMATION – By Amid Amidi
A top-notch check list of classic animation studios from the 40s & 50s including favourites such as Terrytoons and Hanna-Barbera. This is a book that leaves you with the question ‘why don’t cartoons look this cool today?’
6. CHARLEY HARPER – AN ILLUSTRATED LIFE – By Todd Oldham
Something of a new discovery for me, Charley Harper’s masterful use of simple forms mixed with expertly economical brush work make for inspiring viewing and all presented in a life spanning hardback volume.
7. CLEAN CARTOONISTS DIRTY DRAWINGS – By Craig Yoe
Fancy seeing what the creators of Mickey Mouse, Superman, Charlie Brown & Cat in the Hat draw when they think no one’s looking? An un-official look at naughty work from classic illustrators that the Comics Code certainly wouldn’t approve!
8. DAVE STEVENS – A BRUSH WITH PASSION – By Arnie Fenner & Cathy Fenner
Creator of one of my all time favourite comics ‘The Rocketeer’, Dave Stevens produced work that you can stare at for hours admiring the line work and trying to figure out how he did it. Known as ‘King of the Pin Ups’ this book covers his early work including his friendship with Betty Page up to his untimely death due to leukemia at the age of 52.
9. DREAM WORLDS – PRODUCTION DESIGN FOR ANIMATION – By Hans Bacher
Although mainly about the process of animation, this book features some stunning experimental artwork from Disney that would otherwise never see the light of day.
10. DREW STRUZAN – OEUVRE
Movie studios have been molesting our eyes lately with awful Photoshop disasters that can’t help but make you feel a little angry every time you see them. Maybe it’s because we had it so good in the 70s and 80s with output like this from Mr. Struzan? Everything he produces promises a good time and exudes the magic of childhood. I can’t think of a better collection of his work than here.
11. FOUL PLAY – THE ART & ARTISTS OF E.C. COMICS – By Grant Geissman
Anyone into comics has read ‘Tales from the Crypt’, ‘Weird Science’ or ‘Two Fisted Tales’ and knows about the controversy that surrounded them. This book tells the crazy tale along with some previously unreleased stories.
12. GIG POSTERS – VOL 1 – By Clay Hayes
Thanks to the Gig Posters website this books includes all the great illustrators working today including Tara McPherson, Brian Ewing and many more, not forgetting all the awesome bands! Each page doubles as a pull out poster too.
13. THE ART OF HARVEY KURTZMAN – THE MAD GENIUS OF COMICS – By Denis Kitchen & Paul Buhle
Terry Gilliam, Monty Python, Saturday Night Live and National Lampoon have all stated Harvey Kurtzman and MAD Magazine as influences on their careers. This books covers his work in spectacular fashion featuring some great in progress artwork and photos of the man himself.
14. HOUSE INDUSTRIES – TEN YEAR RETROSPECTIVE
Charting their first 10 years in business this book is a real gem if you can find it. Packed full of pop culture (and some not so pop) influenced illustration and design, this is one seriously nice looking book with metallic inks and spot varnishes on every page. Not many would give a book so much attention to detail as these folks clearly have.
15. J.C. LEYENDECKER – By Laurence S. Cutler & Judy Goffman Cutter
Famous for his work on The Saturday Evening Post covers, Leyendecker shares a spot with Norman Rockwell as one of the greats of the American golden age of illustration. The figure work and care given to the fashions are incredibly impressive, particularly in the ‘Arrow Man’ paintings. Interestingly, these were the influence for Alex Ross in creating the Harley Quin image mentioned above.
16. JIM PHILLIPS – SURF, SKATE AND ROCK ART
Best known for the Santa Cruz Screaming Hand illustration, Jim Phillips’ amazing ink work dominated the skate and surf scene in the 70s and 80s and is collected here along with his poster and advertising work.
17. NORMAN ROCKWELL – THE BEST OF -By Tom Rockwell
Possibly the most famous master from the Golden age of American Illustration, few things are more impressive than Rockwell’s photo realistic paintings. I was lucky enough to see one in the flesh at the Society of Illustrators building in New York and can confirm that they’re just as jaw dropping in real life.
18. RALPH BAKSHI – UNFILTERED – By Jon M. Gibson & Chris McDonnell
The bad boy of animation, Ralph Bakshi’s work is the antithesis of Disney’s clean-cut brand of princesses and fairies. Covering his early studio output to later film work that he’s better known for, this is full of great concept drawings, finished stills and un-used work.
19. THE ARTIST WITHIN – By Greg Preston
A portrait collection of artists and their studios that offers an interesting peek at the working environment of others. It’s amazing how they range from the wildly cluttered to the clean and minimalist. It’s also nice to put a face to some of your favourite illustrators too.
20. THE ILLUSION OF LIFE – By Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston
Charting the creation of Disney Studios and ‘the nine old men of animation’ who developed the techniques that created the classic movies that we all know and love. Including some stunning artwork from artists such as Eyvind Earle this is a hefty read, but a must for anyone interested in animation.
Long live print!