FAVORITE TEN ART BOOKS !!! BOOK ONE — BEKSINSKI


In the roughly twenty plus years I have been serious about collecting art books, graduating from early love affairs with Dali and Rubens and Caravaggio, to the most recent SPECTRUM editions, I have been lucky enough to sample and own some of the best art books by the best artists.

I recently started to think in terms of a top ten list.

Not top ten artists, but the art books that if all my others were lost to time, as all things eventually are, the ten that I would put in a safe deposit or a time capsule or bequeath to the National Library of Congress the way Thomas Jefferson did with his book collection.

The ten PHYSICAL, TACTILE books (not digital kindle bits, but physical item that is made art by its form as much as its content) that I believe should endure for generations not yet born.

The first book that came to mind on my very prejudicial list, is one of my older art books, and one of my most loved.

fantasticartbeksinski

THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI – This 1998 book was my, and the world’s, introduction to polish artist, surrealist, fantasist Zdislaw Beksinski. Produced by short lived but stellar publisher MORPHEUS INTERNATIONAL, as a kid who had grown up loving both the surrealism of Dali and the Baroque/heroic realism of Peter Paul Rubens and Caravaggio I saw something brilliant and haunting and both new and old and transcendent in the work of this, at the time, unknown artist.

I became a cheerleader and reseller of that book, I was that enamored of it. Here 17 years later, 15 years into a new century, other and bigger tomes on Beksinski have been produced, but to Morpheus International’s credit, their eye for book design, and use of quality paper and binding, has not only stood the test of time, but remains the finest book on Beksinski ever produced, and currently the only one I recommended. Highest Recommendation!

Get your copy here:

The Fantastic Art of Beksinski (Masters of Fantastic Art) Hardcover

Than come back for my selection of nine other… of the most essential, innovative, and beautiful art books!

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WEDNESDAYS WORDS

WEDNESDAYS WORDS is a new weekly installment that ranks the most interesting, intriguing books of the week (old, new, reissues, digital, etc). Contributors represent a variety of genres and sources. Each book includes Title and publisher blurb.


Sketchtravel [Hardcover]
Gerald Guerlais (Foreword), Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi (Foreword) Sketchtravel

The Sketchtravel is a unique international charity art project. This red sketchbook was passed from one artist’s hand to another like an Olympic torch in an artistic relay through 12 countries over 4 and half years.

A total of 71 artists, over the course of 4.5 years, contributed to this traveling museum, including Bill Plympton, Enrico Casarosa, John Howe, James Jean, Scott Campbell, Dice Tsutsumi, Peter de Seve, character designers Carter Goodrick and Nicolas Marlet, veteran animators like Glean Keane and even Koji Morimoto and Hayao Miyazaki.

Can you say “an easy and essential purchase at the price”? Something of a one of a kind collectible.

The Frazetta Sketchbook [Hardcover]
Frank Frazetta (Author), J. David Sopurlock (Author) The Frazetta Sketchbook

It’s Frazetta, and it’s an artbook. What more do you need?

Big John Buscema: Comics & Drawings [Hardcover]
Publication Date: July 3, 2012 Big John Buscema: Comics & Drawings

John Buscema has been called one of the finest comic artists who ever put pen to paper. His work for Marvel Comics on The Avengers, Thor, The Fantastic Four, and Silver Surfer are all classics, highly regarded by fans from around the world. The same is true for his definitive rendition of Conan the Barbarian – Buscema breathed life into Robert E. Howard’s legendary creation in a manner that has rarely been rivaled. IDW is proud to announce the first American publication of John Buscema: Comics & Drawings, a special edition of the fine art catalog created for the most extensive exhibition of Buscema’s art ever staged. Weighing in at nearly 300-pages, this gorgeous hardcover book is a dream come true for fans of the visual mastery of John Buscema, an artist who’s ilk we are unlikely to see again.


Prometheus: The Art of the Film [Hardcover]
Mark Salisbury (Author), Ridley Scott (Foreword)Prometheus: The Art of the Film

Visionary filmmaker Ridley Scott returns to the genre he helped define, creating an original science fiction epic set in the most dangerous corners of the universe. The movie takes a team of scientists and explorers on a thrilling journey that will test their physical and mental limits and strand them on a distant world, where they will discover the answers to our most profound questions and to life’s ultimate mystery.

With an introduction by Scott himself, this lavish book will be the only publication to accompany Prometheus. Stunning production art and behind the scenes photos will grant the reader a window on the process of creating this astounding new epic.

I’m not really a fan of movie art books. In fact I own a grand total of zero, but I am quite impressed by the visuals on this film. Enough to make this art-book a definite possibility.

Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth [Hardcover]Genius, Illustrated: The Life and Art of Alex Toth

Dean Mullaney and Bruce Canwell continue their comprehensive review of the life and art of Alex Toth in Genius, Illustrated. Covering the years from the 1960s to Toth”s poignant death in 2006, this oversized 9.5″ v 13″ book features artwork and complete stories from Toth”s latter-day work at Warren, DC Comics, Red Circle, Marvel, and his own creator-owned properties, plus samples of his animation work for Hanna-Barbera, Ruby-Spears, and others, as well as sketchbook pages, doodles, advertising art, and other rarities provided through the cooperation of Toth”s family and his legion of fans.

Two of Toth”s best stories are reproduced complete from the original artwork: “Burma Skies” and “White Devil… Yellow Devil.” A full-length text biography will chart the path from Toth”s increasingly-reclusive lifestyle to his touching re-connection to the world in his final years. Fans of comics, cartoons, and all-around great artwork revere Alex Toth. See why Genius, Illustrated – along with its companion volume, 2011”s Genius, Isolated – are being praised as the definitive examination of the life and art of The Master, Alex Toth. Volume 2 of a definitive three-volume series.

Graphistes World Artbook 01- This artbook (223 pages) edited by Oracom Editions is a fine selection of francophones digital artists! The book is available in a lot of bookstores and of course on line via Amazon or FNAC. This is a really handsome object full of inspirations and talented artists. French language book.

Listen to me. Listen to me as if I’m Cerberus, barking with all his heads. Buy this Book. If you love art. Specifically of the Beksinski/dark surrealism variety, this is an art-book for you! (And yes that opening line is from KISS ME DEADLY :). If you have issues finding this book leave me a comment and I can help you with that. )

The WEDNESDAYS WORDS column is a new blog feature, appearing (you guessed it!) every Wednesday. Come back next week to see which books make the list!

If you’re a publisher, writer, or other creative representative looking to submit items for WEDNESDAYS WORDS, just leave a comment on this post with your email/contact info, comments don’t get posted they come right to me, and I’ll reach out to you with the snail mail details.

And as far as readers, if you see items on WEDNESDAYS WORDS you’re considering purchasing then, if you are able and would like to support this blog, please utilize the attached links.

Your helpful purchases through those links, generates much appreciated pennies to keep this blog running. Your feedback and support… just way cool, and way appreciated. Thanks!


Favorite/Best Art Books of 2011

This was a relatively easy list to decide on. My 3 favorite artbook purchases of 2011 were:

3. Zdzislaw Beksinski- I’m putting this on the list even though this isn’t a 2011 publication. Finally managed to pick up this 1992 English Language House Arkady (love that name) printing of BEKSINSKI.


2. SPECTRUM 18- Every year this annual showcase of the best of fantastic art, is a welcome purchase. And this year continues their streak.



1. REBUS- My number one artbook of 2011 comes from Chronicle Books, and is the drop dead gorgeous James Jean’s
REBUS. Having had this for a month I do not get tired of flipping though those stunning red gilded pages. The book is a work of art just in terms of design, even before you get to the art within, which is masterful, and beautiful, and disturbing. Just simply gorgeous. Trust me, If you at all have an interest in artbooks, you need to own this one. Highest recommendation.

There you go. Come back next installment as I start looking at 2012 artbooks to put on your must buy list! Price your copies by clicking on the links below:

Zdzislaw Beksinski

Spectrum 18: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art

Rebus

PODCAST OF THE DAY: SFF AUDIO and OPIUM

Been listening to episodes of SFF AUDIO, a Science Fiction Feed Podcast that covers all things scifi, from scifi readings to interviews to reviews and much more. Today I caught two episodes that share a common theme… Opium.

The first story is a great reading of WHO’S THERE by Fitz James O’Brien, brought to us by the host of another great short story podcast HYPNOBOBS, Jim Moon.

The second is the H.P. Lovecraft story, THE CRAWLING CHAOS excellently read by Wayne June, (Episode #138)

Far less interesting is the dissection of the latter story, that succeeds it on that particular episode, led by two pedantic hosts.

While it’s nice to hear both Jim Moon and Wayne June as guest commentators on that particular discussion, they are both performers with great voices, the aforementioned hosts, whose names escape me, aren’t that melodious, and while they don’t have to be, I do find their over-analysis of the Lovecraft short story grating rather than enlightening.

But that’s more than likely just me, as I tend to think like many creators that the two most meaningless, tiresome things you can ask of a creative person is “what does it mean” (Beksinski the painter particularly hated this question) and “where do you get your ideas from” (Harlan Ellison among others has had very little love for this question, from those for whom no explanation is enough).

While I am by no means a Lovecraft fan, I do acknowledge him, in his better moments, as a visionary, influenced by others such as the aforementioned Fitz James OBrien, and as such there is an ineffable quality in his work, the nature of the mystery, that to each reader is a bit unique. And to try too hard to decipher or lock down that mystery, to try to cross every ‘t’, and dot every ‘i’, which is what I took away from the post discussion, is to risk cataloging it with their heads, while missing it with their hearts.

It’s that pedantic nature to the dissection, which I find appropriate to accounting or taxes but… inappropriate and indeed anathema to the experience of art.

Perhaps proof that knowledge is not understanding.

That’s my take on it, your mileage may vary.

So great reading, but, my take, avoid the discussion afterwards.

Otherwise both episodes make for great listening.

Listen to episodes here!

The Plodding Dreams of Man

What if we’re wrong

What if we’re wrong, about all the plodding dreams of man

What if we’re wrong

**************

If someone held a gun to your, (have always hated guns, a coward’s weapon. But it is a coward’s world… so you play the hand you’re dealt)

If someone held a gun to your head

here

right now,

in this place, in this time, in this moment

And gave you 5 seconds to name your favorite art book, or they pull the trigger

What would you say

What would you say

Which would you name

It’s a question that would only hold terror to a rabid collector of art books, to a lover of art

The uncaring rabble, such a question would not be wasted on

But for you

You happy few

For whom beauty matters

they will come to you, with their shiny boots, and flags of flying, and drums a beating, and torches lit, and guns a ready… and say choose one, to save from this new bonfire of the vanities.

Which would you choose

5 seconds

Tick Tock

For me I didn’t even need 3

The title came out of my mouth unbidden

And the dream evaporated

like the remnants of sweet on tongue

Beksinski

I had said Beksinski

The Fantastic Art of Beksinski (Masters of Fantastic Art S.)

And I woke from the dream, neither laughing nor screaming, but listening… to the sound of drums… coming nearer.

On Beksinski! Comparing the artbooks FANTASTIC ART and BEKSINSKI 1!

“In the medieval tradition, Beksinski seems to believe art to be a forewarning about the fragility of the flesh– whatever pleasures we know are doomed to perish– thus, his paintings manage to evoke at once the process of decay and the ongoing struggle for life. They hold within them a secret poetry, stained with blood and rust.” –director Guillermo Del Toro

I’ve been singing the praise of Zdzislaw Beksinski since 1998 when Morpheus International introduced his art to those outside Poland by publishing THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI.

The Fantastic Art of Beksinski (Masters of Fantastic Art S.)


Twelve years later and Beksinski’s work is more well known to the point where there are films and filmmakers singing his praises, bands doing albums to him, and additional art books produced about him. Sad that this increased exposure couldn’t arrive while he was still alive.

However, that injustice aside, I’m glad the art books and product are, in the wake of his demise, finding an audience. The work of Beksinski deserves to… persist.

One recent art book is BEKSINSKI 1 by publisher Bosz Art. A 2009 printing, which I only recently received. Having loved THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI, (it remains 12 years later, and hundreds of art books later, my essential art book) I had constantly been on the search for more art books by this “master of the aftermath”, and BEKSINSKI 1 fit the bill nicely.

It’s a bit more substantial of a book than Morpheus’ THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI. BEKSINSKI 1 is about the same height as THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI (which is 12″ by 9.6″) while being over an inch thicker, and sporting about 100 more pages.

Zdzislaw Beksinski (Bosz art) (Polish Edition)

There’s a very nice forward, both in Polish and English, by Wieslaw Banach, that is quite eloquent and slightly poetic. Beyond those few pages the rest of the books is given over to just a broad selection, listed chronologically, of Beksinski’s art.

The strength of this tome is its size allows it to include a lot of art not in THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI, some of it quite arresting. The weakness of this tome however is most of the tome is given to his post 1990 work, which is in a different less beautiful/fantastic realist style than his earlier work. It gets quite repetitive actually.

A 2nd failing is while the paper stock is thick, it is a dull, matte finish that does not show off the art of Beksinski as well as the Morpheus tome.

The glossy Morpheus paper, really captures the brightness and vibrancy of Beksinski’s colors, it makes the art come alive. An illusion that is lost in the dull matte finish of the Bosz Tome. Also with the inclusion of quotes interspersed, quite thematically, throughout the entirety of the book, as well as framing the art against, mostly haunting dark colors, THE FANTASIC ART OF BEKSINSKI is just a far superior designed book.

So I don’t regret spending the money to acquire BEKSINSKI 1, it’s a nice expansion to the world of Beksinski, but Morpheus International’s 12 year old tome, THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI remains the definitive book on the last great surrealist.

The Fantastic Art of Beksinski (Masters of Fantastic Art S.)

Final Grades: A+ for THE FANTASTIC ART OF BEKSINSKI B+ for BEKSINSKI 1.