Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Best Art Books of 2010

-By Dan dos Santos

Anyone who knows me, knows I loooove my art books. I've even been known to fly with an empty suitcase to San Diego Comic Con, for the sole purpose of filling it to the brim with art books before my return. Since 2010 is coming to an end, and every one seems to be making their various lists, I thought I'd contribute too and give you my 10 Best Art Books of 2010.

I'd like to preface my list by saying that these 10 books were my personal faves. I know there are a lot of deserving titles, many by members of this very blog, that have been released this year. I strongly encourage you to mention them in the comments section. But these particular titles, I felt, were either really exceptional, unexpected or simply long awaited.
So, in no particular order:

1. Drawings, by Dorian Vallejo

Dorian Vallejo, son of the legendary Boris Vallejo, is honestly one of the best portrait painters I have ever met in my entire life. I can't begin to describe how facile he is, be it with a brush or a pencil. So you can imagine my enthusiasm when he announced that he had compiled a book of years worth of drawings. The book is amazing. If you are an artist, aspiring or otherwise, and really want a dose of art that will make you feel like an untalented, lazy piece of shit... this is the book for you.

2. Moebius Transforme, by Jean Giraud

I am a Moebius Freak. Yes, I capitalized 'Freak', because I feel it's that official of a title.
I own at least 30 different Moebius books, and apparently, that's not even half of what is out there. Yet, despite the plethora of Moebius books floating around, the artist  has not released anything in a long time... until now. With 2010 came the release of not one, but TWO new Moebius books. Not only has he revamped his classic Arzach, but he has produced an amazing catalogue to coincide with his solo exhibit at the Fondation Cartier. This limited edition book will set you back a pretty penny, but for a Moebius Junkie, it's a must have.

3. Harvey Dunn, by Walt Reed

Harvey Dunn is one of the great Golden Age American Illustrators. Having instructed artists like Dean Cornwell and Saul Tepper, a book devoted to the man has been long overdue.  Thankfully, Flesk Publications has finally delivered. This book went on sale just days ago, so be sure to grab it while you can.

4. Rough Justice, by Alex Ross

Say what?
Yes, Alex Ross.
One day the family and I went to Barnes and Nobles. Being my turn to watch the kids while the Wife shopped around, I grabbed this book thinking it would kill some time while the boys caused a ruckus in the children's section. Now I will be the first to admit that Alex Ross' painted comic work just doesn't do it for me. I find it a little stiff at times, and his realistic attention to detail often kills the sense fantasy a little bit. So I expected to be rather unimpressed with this book, but I was so wrong. This book collects Alex's preliminary sketches for numerous projects, and really shows off his true abilities. Whatever you may say about his painting, his pencil work is undeniably brilliant. His sense of lighting and composition are on full display here, and really have changed my opinion of his work.

5. Jean-Leon Gerome,

Gerome has been one of my long standing inspirations, having painted hundreds of realistic and epic images usually based on historical or mythological subjects. Unfortunately, the only books cataloging his work have either been black and white, or incredibly small (Like, 7 inches tall). For the first time that I know of, there is an oversized book consisting of solely his work, with wonderful reproductions.

6. Cover Run, by Adam Hughes

Anyone who knows comics knows Adam Hughes. Graphic, stylish, and undoubtedly sexy, this book can be summed up in one word... YUMMY.

7. Aggregate, by Steve Prescott

If you don't know Steve's work, you are truly missing out. Primarily doing work for clients like Magic: the Gathering and Dungeons and Dragons, Steve's paintings manage to evade the radar of a lot of people. Yet, for those in the know, his work is envied by many and unparalleled in creativity. Wizards of the Coast has yet to release a book of the art created for them, and I am starting to think it will never happen.  Until then, this book is the next best thing. Consisting of just black and white preliminaries, this book is chock full of brilliant costume designs.

8. The Legend of Steel Bashaw, by Petar Meseldzija

Justin Gerard has recently written a post about Petar's work, so I won't delve into a childish, jealous rant about how good it is. Suffice it to say, if you oil paint, and you do not own this book, you are retarded.

9. Spectrum 17, By Arnie and Cathy Fenner

At this point, Spectrum needs no introduction. I truly feel it is at least partially responsible for keeping Fantasy art in the forefront of the public's attention and maintaining that interest. Composed of HUNDREDS of the year's best Fantasy artworks, this book, and all of the prior volumes are a must own for anyone interested in making SFF art their career.

10. Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter, by James Gurney


  1. I want want *want* Color and Light and Imaginative Realism. Just the covers make me jump up and down. Once the Christmas postal nightmare dies down, I'm going to see if I can get a friend in the U.S. to send them to me (living in Scotland can be seriously inconvenient). Going to see if I can find the others somewhere close to home!

    Awesome post, thanks!

  2. There's a Dorian book?!?!?! Just one more thing to add to my list for Santa! And I heartily second your endorsement for...well, shoot, ALL of these books. Dunn, Gurney, Moebius, Gerome, etc...how can you miss by picking up ANY of these collections? (And thanks for the shout-out on #17!)

  3. Awesome post Dan! Thanks for letting me know I'm retarded for not owning Petar's book :-)I'll work on it. Enjoyed the post!

  4. ditto on being a moebuis fan. his depictions of marvel heros were the posters on my wall.

  5. Great suggestions! I'm gonna have to see if I can get my hands on these..!

  6. My art book shelf, much like my art career, is still in its infancy. Hardly three feet worth of books!

    ...but I happen to know that Color and Light will be in Santa's bag come Christmas night...

    Some of my favourites from my pathetic collection:

    Out of the Forests: The art of Paul Bonner. I am very serious when I say that I think Paul Bonner is one of the greatest creative geniuses alive right now.

    Pittura Barocca. It's all in Italian, but it's shock full of pictures, and I bought is at an amzing price in Venice.. Pity it's already falling apart...

    Lord Leighton by Christoffer Newall. Man, Leighton... You rule.

    Holbein by Stephanie Buck. Just the fact that I love Holbein so much and still haven't seen a single piece by him in the flesh is enough to call me retarded.. Gotta get to some nice museums soon...

    Exposed: the Victorian Nude edited by Alison Smith. There's a lot of nude paintings in this one. Also: figure drawings from the 19th century! Yummy..

    Georgios Iakovidis: a retrospective. Did you know that Greece had a lot of amazing painters in the 19th century? Yeah, yeah I know that the Parthenon is awesome, but if you happen to be in Athens and love great painting, get your ass to the national gallery!

  7. Thanks for posting such a great list!
    Charles Vess' "Drawing Down the Moon" is a really nice collection of fantasy work.

  8. I hope Father Christmas will be generous ;D. Great list, hmm can't choose!

  9. Great list, I have a hard time not to order the Prescott book directly ( will do so soon:) here´s my recommendation for x-mas; timeless as everything from Gil Bruvel: http://www.amazon.com/Reality-Dreamer-II-Gil-Bruvel/dp/0967338824/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b

  10. This is a pretty impressive array of books - especially the new James Gurney title. I was so impressed with his Imaginative Realism title that I may have to see this new one.

  11. Great selection! Thanks.

    BTW, have you actually received the Mobius book from that web site? I have filled out their order form twice with no response. Will get it from Amazon.fr if not.

  12. I'd read some disappointed reviews of the Gerome book that it was one of those "too much text, not enough art" collections. I'll have to find a flip through or something, so far I haven't seen one anyplace

  13. @Palumbo,

    There is definitely WAY more text than art,
    but as far as I could see, there weren't any paintings of his that I recognized as missing. I think there just isn't THAT much work to pull from.

  14. Hey Dan, you might want to plan this in for next year. Ill be going fo sho!


  15. I flipped through the Harvey Dunn book at a board meeting that Walt and I were at and I was blown away. He started putting this book together just about 20 years ago. It's an amazing book.

  16. Thanks so much! Now I have a christmas wish list. :D

  17. oh also wanted to add "Lifestyle Illustrations of the 60s" to the recommended list. Probably one of the ten best art books I've bought in the past 5 years

  18. This was such an awesome post, I often find myself wandering around Barnes and Noble or Borders thinking of new art books to hunt for and this along with all the great suggestions in the comments has filled up a new list for sure. Damn you all for making me want more art books that i more than likely can't afford at the moment haha

    Thanks for sharing your faves with us, Dan

  19. Don't forget to look at the used book stores... Found a nice NC Wyeth book this year along with James Gurney's World Beneath [it was new but great discount].

    I was suppose to be frugal this year bookwise... then I found out Paul Bonner had an Art of book... then happened across Flesk Publications, finally buckled under and bought The Book of Schuten, Vess's book came out, Rebecca's illustrated Ballet book for my daughter, Tom Kidds book, found a cool Boris and Julie pencils book... finished rounding out my Frezetta books with Legacy. Was given Prince Valiant but came across Froud/Lee's Fairies, wasn't going to get Spectrum 17 - then I opened it, Color and Light, Disney's Archive Series Design book and last I read a blog on Muddy Colors about Materials and Techniques... still waiting for that one. Sorry Donato I passed on Lord of the Rings -for now-... though your Portfolio from IMC 2010 and the Chesley Award book have me quite happy. Especially having the "Cartographer". I love Maps, Illustration, Story and Adventure... your painting has it all... floored me when I saw it in Spectrum... "WOW who is this Guy and what an amazing painting" still rings in my head today... Anyhow... it was suppose to be a frugal year for books...

    Cheers, and thanks Dan for stirring up all the excitement that comes from exploring illustrated books... now I'm all giddy... where's my pencil and sketch pad time to draw...

    Mike Perusse

  20. Yes, yes, yes!!! on Moebius. Funny story: was in Paris recently for a convention app. and the opening of my art exhibition at the Daniel Maghen Gallery. 96 piece s of Vess art were on display and I felt pretty chuffed about it. With friends we bumped into Moebius at an outdoor cafe and chatted. I told the master about my exhibit. A sparkle in his eyes, Jean came back with news of his exhibit (the catalog you show above) which had approx. 600 pieces in it. Whew!

  21. Can somebody give an honest, unbiased review on Gerome's book, please?
    I am considering purchasing it, and I don't mind large quantity of text as long as the reproductions are large and of high quality.

    1. I work using sessions your blog in many cases along with advisable the item to me to learn in addition. The actual writing style is definitely excellent and the submissions. american restaurant

  22. @Tinoradman:

    I just went through the Gerome book again.
    There is certainly a lot of text, but it's not as bad as I recall, and it's all informative stuff about each individual plate.
    There are -hundreds- color plates.
    Some pieces are just half a page or quarter page, others are double page spreads... a good balance overall, and the reproductions are top-notch.

    I put it on this list for a reason, I promise you won't be disappointed.

  23. Great post Dan, I love Steve Prescott's book, He would be a great guest poster on Muddy colors, I don't think I've ever seen a step by step from him.

  24. Awesome list, all these books are must haves!!!


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