Tuesday, August 09, 2011


A superb new book about illustration, written by the well known expert Fred Taraba, has just been released by Dan Zimmer's Illustrated Press.

An instant classic, the book describes the art and the working techniques of 41 great illustrators in loving detail. It provides a wealth of information you won't find anywhere else, including preliminary sketches, reference photographs and other helpful materials.

The reproductions are beautiful, many from the originals. The production values are excellent.

Taraba wisely chose to sidestep the illustrators who have already been covered exhaustively (such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish or N.C. Wyeth) and focus instead on brilliant but slightly lesser known illustrators who deserve greater recognition today.  Austin Briggs, Joe de Mers, John Gannam, Andrew Loomis, Alice Barber Stephens, Saul Tepper, Coby Whitmore... this book is a goldmine of under-appreciated talent.   I recommend it highly.  It is available through the publisher.  


MORAN said...

I saw this advertised. Thanks for your recommendation.

Anonymous said...

Preview looks amazing; great selection of artists.

Anonymous said...

Taraba wisely chose to sidestep the illustrators who have already been covered exhaustively (such as Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish or N.C. Wyeth) and focus instead on brilliant but slightly lesser known illustrators who deserve greater recognition today.

As an ardent collector of artist monographs, it disgusts me that a small group of artists undeservedly receive all the attention. Hundreds of Monet titles already available, enough out-of-print Monet books in used bookseller inventories to fill several landfills, and new Monet titles being published every year. Argh.

David Apatoff said...

MORAN-- As a general matter, I don't review new books here. There are a lot of new releases, and a lot of blogs and web sites that are far better at it (and more thorough) than I. But for a few rare exceptions (such as this book, or Walt Reed's new effort) I can't help myself. This is a truly important book for the illustration field.

Etc, etc-- I agree with you 100%. Publishing houses seem to churn the same perennial favorites over and over. The same Rockwells keep showing up in book after book. There isn't a used Frazetta Kleenex that hasn't been reprinted a dozen times. Taraba's book covers many truly talented artists, almost all of them with a major body of work that has never been republished or explored.

अर्जुन said...

Nice book. The reproductions are top notch. I highly recommend it.

I suggest when one opens the book to also open a window. I nearly passed out from the Chinese print ink fumes.

अर्जुन said...

9. Austin Briggs ~

"gessoed panel (oil-based, not acrylic)" ~ if his "gesso" ground contains oil it ceases to be traditional gesso and becomes an emulsion ground.
Is that what Briggs used? or Did he oil-prime with some extra whiting in order to make it more absorbent? Did he use traditional gesso and size it? shellac it?

Siccatif de Courtray(sic) ~ Courtrai

37. Mead Schaeffer ~

"usually unprimed canvas" ~ Really! Sized… right?

"using transparent watercolors…" ~ More likely an egg-oil emulsion (like Fechin or Cornwell)

"total of more than 5,000 published illustrations" ~ Maybe he didn't size those unprimed canvases, they apparently have all rotted away. Seriously, he worked from 1921 to 1954 (33 years). From 1943 to 1954 (11 years) his output consisted mainly of Post covers and war posters. During those 11 years, interior fiction rarely featured more than 1 or 2 illustrations per story. It might be generous to claim that he produced 100+ published illustrations during that time span. Which leads us to believe that from 1921 to 1942 (21 years) he painted 233 paintings per year.

A theoretical year, I'll be generous and use the high number;

A 6 part serial consisting of 5~6 illus. per part : 6x6=36
5 short stories and poems 1-2 illus. each : 5x2=10
A second serial, 4 parts published during our year : 4x6=24

70 paintings …a busy year …maybe his average, is far from the 233 needed for the # cited by Taraba. (70x21=1,470)

"…more than 1,600 published illustrations"

Tom said...

Looks like one for my collection. I was rather shocked by the international price on the publisher's site (I live in Europe), but fortunately it seems to be more reasonably priced on Amazon.

António Araújo said...


same here. You could also pre-order it at the book depository (www.thebookdepository.com, sorry for the advertisement, David, I swear I don't get a commission :)). It's around 25 euros and shipping is free.


Tom said...

Many thanks for info, António!

armandcabrera said...

While it won't stop me from purchasing a copy and I agree many of these artists deserve to have a book showcasing thier talent. I just don't understand the exclusion of Leyendecker and Cornwell and Wyeth. All who had originally been included in the Step-by-Step Graphics articles.

अर्जुन said...

Armand~ Different author.

David Apatoff said...

अर्जुन-- I noticed the smell of the ink too when I unwrapped the plastic, but it dissipated quickly. Do you know much about the olfactory qualities of ink? I love the smell of old picture books and magazines from the 1930s and 40s.

Tom and Antonio-- I don't know anything about the economics of the process, but this is a heavy book and must be expensive to ship internationally. Sounds like you have found a solution to the problem.

Armand Cabrera-- Those are great artists, to be sure, You can find treatments of Cornwell and Wyeth in the predecessor book from 1953, "40 Illustrators and How They Work." But there are so many other great illustrators who we would also like to see included (Pyle, Abbey, Homer, Gibson, Frost, etc.) an already large book would become unmanageably large.

Anonymous said...

Amazon price now $29.67

Sometimes Sophia said...

I stumbled across your thoughtful blog today as I was researching Bernie Fuchs. My dad worked for an advertising agency during the 1960s-80s that commissioned artists for various clients. He was given a gouache illustration of a high jumper. My mom has always said that she thinks the illustration was done by Leroy Neiman. Because of the palette and the cropping of the composition, which is very dynamic (the guy who framed the picture actually hung it in the wrong direction!!), I'm thinking it might be Fuch's work. Is there a way to contact you to send you a jpeg? I'd love to hear your opinion.

Jack said...

Great stuff here, I love paintings and drawings and all kinds of arts but specially drawings...
Check out the link, I think you'll like it... Coming back for sure!

Ivan K. said...

Whose is the illustration you posted?

And this one, from the very beginning of your blogging: http://photos1.blogger.com/img/252/5245/640/DSCN2213.jpg

Green Mountain Realty said...

Beautiful artwork, great selection

David Apatoff said...

Etc, etc-- I will never understand the economics of the book distribution business.

Sometimes Sophia-- Sure, just send me a jpeg at David.Apatoff@gmail.com.

Green Mountain-- I agree, Taraba chose wisely.

David Apatoff said...

Ivan K.-- the illustration in this post is by Saul tepper. The original is currently in the Kelly Collection of American Illustration. The older illustration is by Dean Cornwell.

You have a good memory. I understand why you link the two. They both have similar coloring and strong shadows, and they are both extremely romantic.

chuck pyle said...

Just got my copy. I am stunned. Such a deeply researched and carefully printed book. A true joy to behold, and a heavy weight TO hold. Fred has pulled off something of great significance. Makes me proud to be part of the illustrator tribe.

Alex R. said...

Will this be coming out in paperback? Available in the UK?

Anonymous said...

I thought this book came out years ago and was just repackaged? In fact, I have a copy.

ken meyer jr

David Apatoff said...

Chuck Pyle-- Agreed!

Alex R.-- I don't know, but I suspect the book is too big and heavy to be contained within paperback covers.

Ken Meyer Jr.-- You are probably thinking of a different book, "40 Illustrators And How They Work," which was a significant work, but not as important as this one.

Anonymous said...

Ah, David, you are right. So, these two books are not connected at all?


Anonymous said...

Wow, I see Amazon's price is now almost $45. Based on one of the comments above, it was 50% cheaper less than a month ago. Readers of this blog must really be flocking to buy this book!

BTW, David, cogratulations on the blog, I discovered it a couple of months ago, and took on the delightful job of reading every post since the first one, as if it was a book. A very entertaining and instructive one!

Greetings from Argentina,



Fantastic book! Also I just discovered it is available as an ebook for the iPad which is a great backup copy.