In his new book, Nick Bantock ushers readers into a virtual studio, seats them in comfortable chairs, and regales them with anecdotes, all the while flipping through his vast portfolio, presenting reams of fantastic paintings, drawings, and constructions. The Artful Dodger: Images & Reflections ($55 cloth 1-57324-335-1, 224 pp., Chronicle Books/Raincoast Books) is strongest when Bantock talks about himself – his training, process, and the singular events that have marked his career. It is weakest when he succumbs to the temptation to explain the meanings of various works. His psychological explanations of the Griffin and Sabine trilogy, for instance, smack too much of rationalization after the fact. The occasional over-explication aside, Bantock is disarmingly honest and open about his work and his process. He gives equal time to his compromises, his failures, and his successes. The Artful Dodger is filled with images, crammed with stories, but only lightly salted with facts. It’s a book for fans, a companion to Bantock’s work, with no pretense of being an autobiography. Rather it is a book to dip into, a series of glimpses into a career in progress.