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James Bama: American Realist Hardcover – October 1, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Readers may not recognize James Bama's name, but chances are they will have seen his work. Bama was the reigning paperback cover illustrator during the 1960s and 1970s, creating hundreds of unforgettable images that grace westerns by Louis L'Amour, the Doc Savage series, and novels by William Goldman, Taylor Caldwell, Frank Conroy, Anne Tyler, and Thomas Pynchon. Bama's forte is portraying characters with an Old Master soulfulness and passionate precision to create arresting images unsurpassed in emotional authenticity and sheer animal magnetism. Kane, whose first book celebrated the work of illustrator Hal Foster, documents Bama's entire diverse, irresistible, and exciting oeuvre in both radiant reproductions and succinct commentary that includes tributes from the likes of Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury, as well as Bama's own reminiscences. Kane documents not only Bama's unparalleled paperback years but also his magazine and advertising work, his phenomenal achievements as a sports illustrator and military artist, and (after moving to Wyoming in 1968) his triumphs as a fine artist. This unusual and immensely pleasing blend of pop culture and art celebrates an extraordinarily dedicated, prolific, and widely appealing American artist, and a neglected yet much loved art form. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

About the Author

Brian M. Kane is the author of Hal Foster: Prince of Illustrators and James Bama: American Realist. He teaches in the Illustration Department at the Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, Ohio. He has a Masters Degree in History of Art from The Ohio State University where he is currently working on his Ph.D. in Art Education with an emphasis in Visual Culture.

Harlan Ellison has written or edited more than 120 books and more than 1,700 stories, essays, and articles, as well as dozens of screenplays and teleplays. He has won numerous awards, including the Edgar Award, Hugo Award, an Audie Award for Best Solo Narration, and his fifth Nebula Award, breaking genre records. Ellison was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2006. He lives in California.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Flesk Publications; Second Printing edition (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0972375880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0972375887
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #673,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. Higgins on February 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who glanced at a rack of paperback books in the mid 60's to early 70's was bound to see at least one or two covers painted by the gifted artist James Bama. The most memorable of these covers were those for the "Doc Savage" series published by Bantam Books. These illustrations were always striking and dramatic and served to make the book stand out from the other titles next to them. When I saw a second-hand copy of "The Living Fire Menace" at a thrift store in 1973, it was the dramatic cover painting of Doc, in all his ripped-shirt glory against a background of orange flames and some kind of electric-blue sphere, that made me shell out my hard-earned 50 cents. From that day on I was hooked, and collecting the adventures of Doc became one of my hobbies. It became second nature to scan the shelves for those distinctive Bama covers, and when he stopped painting them in the mid-70's the series lost some of its appeal.

At the time, it was hard to learn much about James Bama, much less the significant role he played in making these repackaged 30's pulp stories bestsellers for a contemporary audience. Indeed, any artist who worked for the paperback market in those days had to confront the reality that the publishing world considered them hired guns at best, and getting a credit line of tiny-font text on the back of the title page was about all the acknowledgement they could expect to receive.

James Bama: American Realist is therefore a timely, and handsomely produced, overview of Bama's art. Over the course of 7 sections, it covers his work in commercial art in the 60s and early 70s, and his subsequent career in studio art since that time.
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Format: Hardcover
When Bama's book of Western art came out in the 1990s I gobbled it up, buying copies for family and friends. My only disappointed was that the only thing I could share was his fine art. James Bama: American Realist has rectified that problem.

Interspersed with Kane's biographical text are quotes by some pretty powerful artists, such as Evertt Raymond Kinstler (who has known Bama since they were both 15), Boris Vallejo and Mark Schultz, not to mention dozens of quotes and observations by Bama himself, but it's the color illustrations that this book is really all about.

If you're a Doc Savage fan you not only get all of Bama's amazing Doc covers, but a number of the Steve Holland photo shoots that inspired them. What I particularly like is that in many cases you can compare the photo to the painting and see what Bama adds to each; his innate sense of color and design, the way the figures in his paintings glow with some inner strength that is not present in the photos. Some people say that Bama just paints reality, this book should remove that notion from their heads.

Bama abandoned the commercial art world at the height of his career in the 1970s and this book covers both of his careers. It's dominated by his commercial work but there is plenty of his fine art work as well. Like I said, this book is complete.

You open the book and you are bowled over by a portrait of Robert Kennedy and I wonder, "How can Bama paint hope?" Maybe it's in the eyes or the gesture of the hand, whatever, it makes a immediate and powerful impact. And it's just the first of the many treasures to be found within.
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Format: Hardcover
This hardback collection of James Bama's work is a must for collectors of the realist style. Famous for his paperback covers and Aurora model covers, this book has one glaring flaw stopping it from getting five stars. Bama's most famous body of work is his 60s Doc Savage covers. Many of these are reproduced here-in the smallest format of any of the works covered. The sports and war covers are often given full page or half pages to each cover. The Doc Savages are six to a page. The Aurora Universal horror model paintings are given a full page each. Six full pages reproduction (as well as smaller ones of course) of sports, 11 war, 9 horror ans sci-fi, 3 for Doc Savage plus one title page. The rest of the covers are 6 to a page-with a third of the page taken up by text and dead space so the images are about 1/3 of a page tall. I don't know if this is because the other previous collections have these covers, but it makes them hard to see the detail. In fact, they're much smaller than the actual paperback size.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cover paintings for the Bantam reprints of Doc Savage "novels" brought Mr. Bama to my attention. Later, as many others have noted, I began to spot and recognize his work elsewhere. The elegant simplicity of the title says it all: he lovingly renders each and every wrinkle and shadow in flesh and clothing.

This is an expensive book, particularly if you are going to just flip through once and put it aside. However, if you keep art books handy, and periodically take them down to re-experience them, this one is worth the price of admission. It has been produced with the same care and attention that Mr. Bama puts into his art. And, if you do know Mr. B. only from the paperback covers, there will be some surprises in this volume.

OK, so you're the flip-through type, but you've got the bucks? Buy a copy of this for your local or favorite library!
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