The best books about artistic doodads, thingamabobs, whatzits, hoohahs and whatsdissheres

Why am I passionate about this?

I've been a guest lecturer and featured presenter at colleges and conferences, served on the Board of Directors for ICON6, and authored eight published books on illustration and design. I'm a retired college art professor and freelance illustrator and still teach fine art, design, and cartoon classes for kids and adults; I’m also an English Dept. writing tutor at a local college. Right now, I am exploring the medium of cardboard. Cardboard taps into a material that is so ubiquitous and common, it’s often maligned as being inconsequential, but I’m positively tickled to be working in a material that was wonderfully simple and presents a simply wonderful challenge.


I wrote...

Drawing Inspiration: Visual Artists at Work

By Michael Fleishman,

Book cover of Drawing Inspiration: Visual Artists at Work

What is my book about?

Drawing inspiration: Visual Artists at Work (DIVA) examines the relationship between academics and professional illustration/design. Talking to teachers, students, and artists “out in the field,” DIVA introduces us to: former students now professionals (many now teachers); we hear teachers discuss teaching, students chat about teachers (and vice versa); professionals consider academia, academics look at the professional life. The book earnestly examines the connections in all this. The timeline (or distance) between schooling and the professional life isn’t a contract breaker.

DIVA simply talks to every artist as a teacher—with knowledge, insight, and wisdom to offer. DIVA showcases great art and discusses each artist’s unique process and product. This book challenges the reader to address their unique process and product in the same, honest manner.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Ben Shahn

Michael Fleishman Why did I love this book?

Boy, I have so many “favorite” artists! But if I had to name only one artist to study on that desert island, it just might be Ben Shahn.

An icon of Social Realism, Shahn was the epitome of an individual who kinda did it all, in his own, sweet way. By highlighting both his writings and his art, this book introduced me to Shahn as a person and an artist, and presented a whole picture of this wonderful, complex man.

It introduced me to the idea that you can wear many hats as long as you own the hats and aren’t afraid to wear ‘em. There’s nobody more connected to his world than Ben Shahn.

By Frances K. Pohl, Ben Shahn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ben Shahn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Haunted House

Michael Fleishman Why did I love this book?

Haunted House so enthralled and inspired me, I bought it three times! It originally came out in a full-scale edition, then in half-size. I bought both, and the smaller version again, as a gift.

This is a pop-up book on steroids. The mechanics behind it is stunning—a tour de farce of paper engineering. The story line is riotous. Smart writing, great illustration, and a super clever concept, Haunted House is a kid’s book only on the surface.

By Jan Pienkowski, Jan Pienkowski (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Haunted House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 2, 3, 4, and 5.

What is this book about?

Revisit - if you dare! - one of the best-loved pop-up books of all time, now more gleefully ghoulish then ever with the addition of several spooky surprises.

Enjoy a tour of this spooky old house where a spine-tingling surprise lurks in every dark corner. Re-issued in its original full-size format, with four new pop-ups, this definitive edition brings the classic novelty to a whole new generation.


Book cover of Milton Glaser: Graphic Design

Michael Fleishman Why did I love this book?

I guess, if you polled illustrators and designers as to who was the GOAT, it would probably be Milton Glaser. On my list, he’s certainly up there.

A supreme talent, Glaser was (still is, and I think, always will be) incredibly influential; when you read this book, you’ll see why.

While writing my book, I had the honor and pleasure to work with his life-long friends and studio mates, Reynold Ruffins and Simms Taback. All three of these guys demonstrated superlative skills coupled with super smart concepts. I should also mention they were just plain mensches.

By Milton Glaser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Milton Glaser as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Available again, the enduring, iconic volume showcasing the key early-career work and process of the godfather of modern graphic design

Milton Glaser: Graphic Design, perhaps the most famous book of its kind, explores the early decades of America's pre-eminent graphic artist. Glaser's work ranges from the psychedelic Bob Dylan poster to book and record covers; from store and restaurant design to toy creations; and magazine formats including New York magazine and logotypes, all of which define the look of our time. Here Glaser undertakes not only a remarkably wide-ranging representation of his oeuvre from the incredibly fertile early years, but,…


Book cover of Graphic Artists Guild Handbook, 16th Edition: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines

Michael Fleishman Why did I love this book?

In a book that thoroughly examines the world of art and design, it would be remiss to not discuss the business side of things. So, in my book, I do.

Why? I can’t think of a better way to earn a living than to make a living by doing something you love and that replenishes your soul. And no, selling your art does not mean you are selling your soul.

Hear me out: selling shoes is a worthy occupation. I’ve done that; people will always need shoes. But me, I’d rather sell art. This is the bible of how to sell your work cleanly and not get taken to the cleaners. 

By Graphic Artists Guild,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Graphic Artists Guild Handbook, 16th Edition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The industry bible for communication design and illustration professionals, with updated information, listings, and pricing guidelines.

Graphic Artists Guild Handbook is the industry bible for communication design and illustration professionals. A comprehensive reference guide, the Handbook helps graphic artists navigate the world of pricing, collecting payment, and protecting their creative work, with essential advice for growing a freelance business to create a sustainable and rewarding livelihood.
 
This sixteenth edition provides excellent, up-to-date guidance, incorporating new information, listings, and pricing guidelines. It offers graphic artists practical tips on how to negotiate the best deals, price their services accurately, and create contracts…


Book cover of Hellboy Volume 2: Wake The Devil

Michael Fleishman Why did I love this book?

There are some artists who are so talented they are, simultaneously, incredibly inspirational and discouraging.

Mike Mignola is one of those guys. Mignola is the commander of figure/ground. His beautiful sense of shape and form and utter control of black and white is just amazing. He builds story beautifully and constructs his pages cinematically.

When I looked for people to grace the pages of my book, I shot for consummate talent like that, and, if I can blow my own horn just a bit, the book succeeds along those lines. When I grow up, I want to be able to draw like that.

By Mike Mignola,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hellboy Volume 2 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A murder in a New York wax museum and a missing corpse lead Hellboy into ancient Romanian castles on the trail of a sleeping legend: the original nobleman vampire. Nazi scientists prepare for the return of their occult master and the end of the world, and Hellboy confronts his purpose on earth.


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The Last Whaler

By Cynthia Reeves,

Book cover of The Last Whaler

Cynthia Reeves Author Of The Last Whaler

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Arctic adventurer Eternal optimist Unrealistic realist Foodie Teacher

Cynthia's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This book is an elegiac meditation on the will to survive. Tor, a beluga whaler, and his wife, Astrid, a botanist specializing in Arctic flora, are stranded during the dark season of 1937-38 at his remote whaling station in the Svalbard archipelago when they misjudge ice conditions and fail to rendezvous with the ship meant to carry them back to their home in southern Norway. 

Beyond enduring the Arctic winter’s twenty-four-hour night, the couple must cope with the dangers of polar bears, violent storms, and bitter cold, as well as Astrid’s unexpected pregnancy.

The Last Whaler concerns the impact of…

The Last Whaler

By Cynthia Reeves,

What is this book about?

The Last Whaler is an elegiac meditation on the will to survive under extreme conditions. Tor, a beluga whaler, and his wife, Astrid, a botanist specializing in Arctic flora, are stranded during the dark season of 1937-38 at his remote whaling station when they misjudge ice conditions and fail to rendezvous with the ship meant to carry them back to their home in southern Norway. Beyond enduring the Arctic winter's twenty-four-hour night, the couple must cope with the dangers of polar bears, violent storms, and bitter cold as well as Astrid's unexpected pregnancy. The Last Whaler concerns the impact of…


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