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Our Favorite Art Books Of 2022

What do E.T., Peter Rabbit and The Grim Reaper have in common? You’ll find them all in Room 2’s favorite art books of 2022!

Besides practicing their craft, there are few things artists can do that will help to develop a professional mindset as much as reading will.

Here’s a list of our six favorite art books from 2022, recommended for aspiring (and experienced) concept artists, illustrators, kidlit creators and visual storytellers of all kinds…

The Art Of ‘God Of War Ragnarok’

Many aspiring visual development and concept art students have good ideas.

…but, in many cases, they fail to explore those ideas thoroughly enough.

For various reasons, they’re in a rush.

…and that rush is apparent in the work.

One of my primary responsibilities as a mentor is to remind my students to slow down, focus, fully develop and refine.

…but until you actually work for a studio that prioritizes that kind of process, it’s hard to understand what the difference is between thorough exploration and superfluous repetition.

Fortunately, books like The Art Of God Of War Ragnarok offer specific insights that can be hard to find elsewhere.

For example…

[Mild spoilers ahead!]

The story begins in Fimbulwinter, the beginning of the titular apocalypse. Protagonists Kratos and Atreus have been isolated from their armor smiths from the previous game. As a result, their early costumes combine aspects of the glory days with the patchy, DIY solutions required after three years of wear, tear and harsh weather.

…and that’s just the beginning. This game has a lot of characters and many (if not all) of their narrative arcs are made visual via costume design, hair styling, texture, silhouette and the magical effects of the titular apocalypse.

The environment designs are also full of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it genius. In one example, Luke Berliner explains how the design process for the land of the dwarves began with a question:

“How would their armorsmithing influence how they construct buildings? What would it look like if you built a house the same way you would make a helmet?”

Zombie Hel-Walkers with frostbite-decay, rusty color palettes in the land of the giants to evoke the melancholy of their grandeur lost, elegant desert ruins that were once a city underwater…

…you’ll find inspiration and insights like these from cover-to-cover.

I highly recommend The Art Of God Of War Ragnarok to anyone who would benefit from a clearer understanding of concept design and worldbuilding at its best.

-Chris

Land Of The Dead: Lessons From The Underworld On Storytelling And Living

Indiana Jones, Ellen Ripley, Michael Corleone, Dorothy Gale, Perseus, Little Red Riding Hood, Ebenezer Scrooge…

One might think these characters have little, if anything, in common.

But the most important thing they all share is what makes their stories great:

A journey through what author Brian McDonald calls The Land Of The Dead.

From where to find it to why we seek it, Land Of The Dead: Lessons From The Underworld On Storytelling And Living offers a comprehensive tour through the underworld, its inhabitants and its many forms.

…and explains why the journey is essential for stories and storytellers alike.

Flipping through the pages of this graphic novel feels like a trip to the underworld in itself, thanks to Toby Cypress’ dramatic and dream-like artwork. It perfectly conveys the darkness and complexity of what Brian McDonald covers in the text.

The Land Of The Dead (which is currently available for pre-order) is a must-read for all aspiring and visual storytellers.

-Mari & Chris

Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature

Sometimes, in seeking to learn more about the lives of the artists whose work inspires us, we regret doing so.

Disillusionment is, unfortunately, an essential aspect of education.

Far too often, one’s professional legacy is earned at the expense of personal virtue.

…but not always.

Some artists become more inspiring the more you learn about them.

Beatrix Potter: Drawn To Nature showcases her sublime plein air sketches and paintings and tells the story of her work as a naturalist, entrepreneur, farmer and conservationist which culminated in the establishment of the English Lake District (much of which she purchased with royalties from her professional work) as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fans of Beatrix Potter’s popular work will not be disappointed as the book also contains many images from her illustration process and sketchbooks.

To anyone looking for an art hero who lives up to the title and, of course, for all aspiring illustrators, I recommend Beatrix Potter: Drawn To Nature.

-Chris

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History

Though the 1980’s produced thousands of beloved pop-culture icons, it failed to produce quite as many great films.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, however, is both.

Caseen Gaines’ latest installment of the Ultimate Visual History series is a comprehensive account of the making of E.T. from director Steven Spielberg’s nascent inspirations to the character’s present-day legacy.

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial: The Ultimate Visual History is full of archival photos, concept art, storyboards, screenplay pages, production ephemera and tell-all reveals about how the filmmakers created the movie’s most memorable moments.

Like many 80’s kids, E.T. still holds a special place in my heart. I saw it at a drive-in theater in the summer of 1982 and in the 40 years since, I’ve learned everything I can about it.

…and yet almost every page of this book contains something I’ve never seen before.

To visual storytellers of any kind, I recommend this definitive history of one of history’s definitive films.

-Chris

The Art Of ‘Deathloop’

The world of Deathloop is an uncanny contrast of the severe, gothic aesthetic found in Arkane Studios’ previous Dishonored games, haphazard splashes of neon graffiti and pop-art ornamentation.

The art book is designed with that same, playful irony.

Individual chapters are framed like old comic books, complete with worn cover pages, mail-order forms, and doodles of characters trying to one-up each other.

You’ll find everything you’d expect from an art book: character explorations, prop breakdowns and technical drawings, funky environment concepts and 3D models.

…but what makes it special are scenes that evoke grainy photographs from 1960’s product catalogs or Space Race-era labs.

There’s almost no text in The Art Of Deathloop, so it isn’t as much of a guide for aspiring game artists or a detailed ‘making of.’

Instead, it’s a showcase of Arkane’s gorgeous art direction.

For fans of the studio, it’s a must-have. To anyone curious about how they can elevate the art in their concept art, we highly recommend adding this one to your collection.

-Mona & Chris

Women Of Walt Disney Imagineering: 12 Women Reflect On Their Trailblazing Theme Park Careers

“Imagineers don’t care if you’ve never done something before, as long as you are willing to embrace the assignment with your whole heart.”

In this collection of personal essays, twelve women come together to reflect on their pioneering careers designing and building the Disney Theme Parks across the globe.

From parking lot attendees and ad-hoc ride operators to lighting designers, architects, and executives, these women helped to shape every aspect of the industry.

Women Of Walt Disney Imagineering offers a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of early theme park design, documenting an era of trial and error and the relentless pursuit of excellence.

With no blueprints or established points of reference, everything was a new and exciting problem:

  • How do you make a mountain appear bigger than it actually is?
  • Why are the styrofoam displays suddenly melting?
  • How do you build a theme park in another country with unfamiliar materials?

It was an exciting time, but there was also struggle. The authors soberly discuss the hardships they faced: prejudice and harassment, single-parenting and working in a volatile industry where massive layoffs are common. But they never linger on the negatives too long.

Instead, they focus on imparting a sense of hope and can-do spirit, offering advice and encouragement to the next generation of Imagineers and to any young woman starting her career.

If you’re fascinated by the history of the Disney Parks or crave more stories about women helping to shape creative industries – this is a book for you.

-Mona


Special thanks to the publishers: Dark Horse Books (The Art Of God Of War Ragnarok & The Art Of Deathloop), Rizzoli Electa (Beatrix Potter: Drawn To Nature), Insight Editions (E.T. The Ultimate Visual History) and Disney Editions (Women Of Walt Disney Imagineering) for sending review copies of the books.

…and extra-special thanks to our dear friend and mentor Brian McDonald for sending us an advance copy of The Land Of The Dead!

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