The nights are getting cold and long. The holidays are just around the corner. What better than to cosy up with a selection of the best illustration books around. Here’s my latest list of recommendations to tide you over the winter season.
“Andrew Loomis’ books were a formative influence on my life and art. My entire approach to drawing and painting superheroes owes it’s genesis to Loomis’ work.” – Alex Ross
Drawing The Head And Hands – By Andrew Loomis – Titan Books
The second in Titan Books series of reprints from Andrew Loomis’ admired manuals on illustration. Originally printed in 1943, this book covers in detail the technique for drawing effective heads and hands, often some of the trickiest areas for any illustrator. Beautifully presented again by Titan, this is an essential purchase for all artists wanting to improve their basic drawing skills. I can personally vouch for the improvement i’ve seen in my own work as a result of these books.
The Art of Doug Sneyd – A collection of Playboy Cartoons – Dark Horse Books.
A collection of nearly 300 cartoons from Playboy Magazine dating from the 1960’s to the present day with an introduction from The Hefner himself. Whilst the cartoons on show here certainly depict Playboy’s view of a ‘man’s world’ there’s no denying the quality of illustration on show. I particularly like the animated quality of Doug’s drawing and the balance of cuteness and realism that he achieves in his characters. I suggest you overlook the somewhat dimwittedness of the women and just enjoy the excellent drawing.
The Art of Osamu Tezuka, God of Manga – By Helen McCarthy – Abrams Comicarts
An affectionately made study of Japan’s best known manga artist often dubbed the ‘Walt Disney of Japan’. There’s a wealth of work on show here from a seemingly inexhaustible and prolific creator. Also included is a great 45min DVD documentary that offers an insightful look into the world of an otherwise reclusive artist.
Robert Fawcett, The Illustrator’s Illustator – By David Apatoff & Manuel Auad – Auad Publishing
A highly respected illustrator from the American ‘Golden Age’ and instructor at the Famous Artists Correspondence School along with the likes of Norman Rockwell and Walt Reed. Best known for his Sherlock Holmes illustrations for Collier’s magazine, his work also featured in the most popular magazines of the day including The Saturday Evening Post & Cosmopolitan. There’s masterful draftmanship on show here, but it’s his skill of composition that make the work addictive viewing.
Dave Stevens, Complete Sketches & Studies – IDW
IDW collects together 4 complete sketch books (plus approximately 100 previously unseen sketches) from the renowned comic book artist and creator of The Rocketeer, Dave Stevens. With pen and ink work worth drooling over to quick 5 minute life drawing studies, these sketchbooks are a testament to Dave’s skill and show why he remains such a favourite among comic fans.
Oeuvre – Drew Struzan – Titan Books
Although essentially a re-issue of the earlier, larger format Oeuvre, this is another welcome release from Titan Books collecting Drew’s incredible movie poster work. This new edition does contain lots of new work, previously unseen personal work and makes for an excellent companion piece to Titan’s other volume on Drew, ‘The Art of Drew Struzan’. There’s over 300 pages worth of some of the best illustration you’ll ever see here, that makes picking up this book a no brainer.
The Horror! The Horror! By Jim Trombetta – Abrams Comicarts
A collection of the creepiest, nastiest, most spine tingling comics that the government didn’t want you read! Pre-code horror comics of the 1950s were the subject of huge controversy and paranoia and blamed for the so-called outbreak of juvenile delinquency at the time. This led to the creation of the ‘comics code’ that essentially censored anything that a select group of people deemed unsuitable. A running commentary introduces each comic and their context in the grisly story of government censorship. A great DVD is also included containing ‘Confidential File’, a TV propaganda piece shown in 1955 that looks at the ‘evils’ of comic books.
Xenozoic – By Mark Schltz – Flesk
I’ve long been an admirer of Mark Schultz pen and ink work, often using a dry brush technique that runs throughout his collected series of Xenozoic tales. An extremely well crafted and entertaining adventure story featuring a winning combination of dinosaurs, dames and danger!
Caniff, A Visual Biography – By Dean Mullaney – IDW
Another master of pen and ink, this time an artist at the forefront of 1930/40s newspaper comic strips with characters such as Terry and the Pirates, Male Call and Steve Canyon. This definitive 300 plus page book offers an exhaustive look at his life and career featuring many complete strips, sketches, photos and memorabilia from the time.
Masters of American Illustration, 41 Illustrators & How They Worked – By Fred Taraba – The Illustrated Press
Collected from ‘Step by Step Graphics’ magazine, this huge book documents the lives and working methods 41 renowned artists from the American golden age of illustration. An excellent reference book for fans of American illustration and an introduction to many unfamiliar but great artists.
If you enjoyed this selection and would like to find more titles on the subject of design and illustration, head to my page dedicated to book reviews > Books for Illustrators