BOOKS: Three art books you need for your coffee table

If your coffee table has been looking sparse of late, look no further than one of these three art collections from Titan Books


The Art of Jim Burns: Hyperluminal by Jim Burns

Jim Burns likes women and spaceships, luckily he can paint both extremely well. Noted in particular for his work on the covers of science fiction novels, this book offers a retrospective covering forty years of gleaming chrome and airbrushed cheekbones. 

Peppered throughout the images — for the most part finished paintings, though there are the occasional welcome glimpses of preliminary pencil sketches — is Burns’ own commentary, detailing everything from his working relationships with authors to problems over Dragon physiology (“I’ve always had issues with the skeletal implausibility”).

Naturally, your appreciation for the work will depend entirely on personal taste (and, possibly, the amount of prog rock albums you own on vinyl) but there is no questioning Burns’ skill as both a photo-realistic painter and imaginer of future worlds.


The Art of John Alvin by Andrea Alvin

These days, most movie posters are created digitally, PhotoShop confections of Hollywood stars (smiling at you like the box office lures they are) and exploding cars. The Art of John Alvin serves as a welcome reminder that some of the best, most iconic, movie images used to come from the point of a paint brush. 

Working through the book is reminiscent of the ancient PR campaign once used to sell Crowded House CDs (“Oh! I didn’t know that was one of his!”) The touching fingers of the E.T. poster; the dangling, moonlit spider of Arachnophobia; the partly opened shoebox offering a glimpse of Gremlin paws, Alvin is responsible for some of the most memorable cinematic moments, many of which are more recognisable than a frame from the movie they represent.

The finished artwork is bolstered by several work-in-progress sketches plus text from Alvin’s widow, providing a portrait of Alvin as evocative and charming as if he’d drawn it himself.


The Art of Robert E. McGinnis by Robert E. McGinnis and Art Scott

Robert McGinnis also worked on movie posters, most memorably those for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Barbarella and a handful for the James Bond franchise (including one of its very best, the improbable but gorgeous pile up of Live and Let Die, Roger Moore surrounded by Tarot cards, while a speedboat bursts from an alligator’s mouth). His main body of work though was for book covers, a field he has worked in since the late fifties.

Most recognisable are the covers he did for pulp crime novels, pale-skinned dames lolling on sofas or hearth rugs, a martini never far away. Unquestionably sexual yet always strong, a McGinnis woman looked you in the eye from across the book store, a cocktail olive hovering at her lips, and dared you not to pick the book up. 

It’s no surprise McGinnis also had frequent commissions within the pages of men’s magazines, most particular Saga. “I didn’t sign it,” he explains in the accompanying text, “because I was ashamed of doing them, I grew up in the Midwest, and I don’t think my mother and father would want their name associated with it.”

The book covers his entire career, taking in more unlikely — but never less than gorgeous — work from the pages of National Geographic, Good Housekeeping and Guideposts, a Christian publication for which McGinnis worked more than any other, illustrating ‘inspiring’ stories.

An utterly beautiful book, to be enjoyed with a tumbler of whisky and a twinkle in the eye.



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