-By Dan dos Santos

I just got back from Dragon Con, and one of my favorite things about attending any convention is snagging new art books that I might not have found elsewhere. Not surprisingly, I found quite a few that were easily some of my favorites of the summer. I figured I share with you all some of those favorites.

Here is my list of must have art books for the Summer 2014:

Alex Toth : Genius Animated

This just may be my favorite book of the year. This book is the third volume in a 3 Volume set, and is a comprehensive look at the animation art of Alex Toth. Alex was responsible for designing some of the most recognizable cartoons of the 60s, 70s and 80s, including the likes of Space Ghost, Johnny Quest and Super Friends. The book is jam packed with concept art, sketches and storyboards for all of these cartoons. It really is a must have for any fan of concept art.

Greg Spalenka: Visions From the Mind’s Eye

This is the most recent book I’ve acquired on this list, and certainly one of the most beautiful. Greg has been in this industry a long time, and this book is a wonderful retrospective compiling more than 30 years of his work.

It’s hard to classify Greg as just an Illustrator, because I think his work surpasses that. He is an incredible designer of many things, and this book is the perfect example of that. Type and paint and pixels all bleed into one, creating a beautiful tapestry of artwork inside that screams of pristine craftsmanship.

The book is roughly 9×12 inches, with a casewrap cover, and quite literally may have some of the most luminous reproductions I’ve EVER seen in an art book. I’m not certain if it’s a special paper stock, or some sort of metallic ink, but whatever it is, the images literally glow on the page. There is almost no commentary, so the book is an overload of intricately detailed work.

I have the regular version of the book, but there is a deluxe, limited-edition available. Knowing Greg, and seeing how nice the normal version is, I suspect the deluxe edition is an absolute knock-out.

Mike Mignola : Hellboy, the First 20 Years

Technically, this book was released in the Spring, but it was too good not to include it here. Mike Mignola is one of those artists that makes it all look so darn easy. I own a LOT of art books, but I only keep a select few in the taboret next to my easel. Mike’s book is one of them. Whenever I feel like I’m complicating things, I take a break and look through his work. In my opinion, he is the quintessential example of ‘Less is More’.

I already owned Mike’s 2004 book ‘The Art of Hellboy’, so it took me a while before deciding to buy this one. But I’m glad I did. The book is large, very well produced, and contains pretty much no commentary, so you’re getting a solid 100+ pages of art. Surprisingly, there is very little overlap between this book and his last, so it’s definitely worth picking up even if you have his older one.

Sanford Greene: Deadlines Vol. 4

There is certainly no shortage of comic-themed sketchbooks. The artists who work in comics are SO prolific, that they can easily produce 100 page sketchbooks every year, just of unused content. But what sets Sanford’s sketchbook apart from most (aside from the brilliant art within it), is it’s production value. Rather than printing a small black/white ashcan like most comic artists, Sanford created a beautiful, large, slip cased book that does a really good job of showcasing his art.

Even though Sanford is a comic artist, you’re not going to find sketches of Superman and Wonder Woman here. The book is filled with Sanford’s own unique designs. I think this book would really appeal to Concept Artists in particular.

Marina Bychkova: Enchanted Doll

Marina’s work is hauntingly beautiful, and this books does an amazing job of capturing it. Like all things published by ‘Baby Tattoo’, the book is very well produced. It has a casewrap hardcover, with silver gilt edges, and a bound book ribbon. The book itself feel precious and feminine, much like the work contained within.

How beautiful is this book? Let’s just say, that even my Wife (who has minimal interest in visual arts) came into my studio, let out an audible ‘Ooooh’, and promptly walked away with it. Easily one of my favorites.

Patrick Jones: Oil Painting Techniques

Patrick Jones is great at what he does. He has a very distinct style and color palette that makes his work very recognizable.

In this book, Patrick goes over his process VERY thoroughly. He talks about sketching (both digitally and traditionally), compiling reference, doing an under drawing, painting, glazing…. everything.  It is an instructional book, but he wisely included a small gallery of additional works which helps make the book enjoyable for even those that just want to look at some pretty art.

If you’re interested in learning to oil paint, but aren’t the kind of person who is going to watch an instructional DVD, I’d highly recommend this book.

Aron Wiesenfeld : The Well

I’m a big fan of Aron’s work, especially his graphite drawings, so it was a real for me treat to see this book released this year. The book is oversized, and printed in an eye-catching square format. With pretty much no text, this book is 120 pages of pure, unadulterated art.

This book is definitely my surprise catch of the Summer!

Frank Quitely : Graphic Ink

I’ve already mentioned this book before here on Muddy Colors, but had to include it in the list again. Frank is one of my favorite comic artists, and this is the only book on his art you’re going to find. Sadly, it only covers his work done for DC comics, and most of the book is reproductions of his sequential work. But there are still a lot of covers and splash art included, and at a whopping 368 pages for just $30, it is a total steal in my opinion!

William Bouguereau : His Life and Works

This as actually an older book, originally published as a 2 Volume set, and long out of print. But it was recently reprinted as a single, larger volume, at a MUCH more affordable price than what the previous edition (a now well sought after collector’s item) was going for.

To be totally honest, I think most of the images in the book suffer from a little bit of dot gain, and are just a smidge too dark. That nit-pick aside, the true benefit of the book is how comprehensive it is. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Bouguereau painting that isn’t included here.

Akihito: Heart of Art

This is one of those books that surpasses it’s genre. It is essentially a sculpting and makeup effects book, but the designs are just so stunning, that Fantasy Artists of any discipline will appreciate it. The book also goes into Akihito’s technique, which just makes the work within look all the better since it helps you appreciate just how much effort goes into it.

These are of course just a small sampling of what’s available (and what I’ve acquired). Personally, I don’t make much distinction between graphic novels and art books, but for the sake of this list, I kept it down to strict, non-narrative ‘art books’ which were released this Summer.

Is there a book you’re interested in learning more about? Or are you releasing your own art book that you’d like me to review? Feel free to contact me at: dsillustration@yahoo.com, where you can send suggestions or request my mailing address.