My favourite art books

my favourite art books

I have a confession to make. Despite being a voracious reader and someone who is always making art or otherwise being creative, I actually don’t read a lot of art and creativity books. My art ‘library’ is pretty modest, and not everything in it makes the shortlist of favourites by any means. There are however a select few art books that I have returned to again and again, and I’d like to share them with you.

Naturally all comments are my own perspectives and experiences of each book. They may or may not be for you. But if you do decide to purchase any by clicking on the images, these are affiliate links so I’ll probably receive about 50p. And nothing at all if you’re not in the UK. But buy them anyway! :)

Drawing and Painting People: A Fresh Approach by Emily Ball

This book is INSANELY GOOD. It has inspired me in so many ways, and is one of the few art books I’ve read cover to cover. Emily talks about the many aspects of the experience of making art in exactly the way I’d want to learn about it, and she also includes tons of original and refreshing exercises that really get you approaching art in new ways. She also includes discussions with and the work of other contemporary artists in this vein whom I’d have never otherwise known about. This book really helped me loosen up and become more expressive, and I go back to it repeatedly when I need a dose of new and flamboyant energy in my art.


Abstract and Colour Techniques in Painting by Claire Harrigan

I found this in my local library and LOVED it. Full of Claire’s gorgeous, lush, colourful paintings and plenty of examples, techniques and approaches for pulling your own abstracted and rich paintings together, whether landscape, figurative or still life, this book is a real feast for the eyes. I have since been back several times to borrow it again and it’s never available – that’s how good it is. I really should just reserve it. Or buy my own.



The Art Book

I’ve had this book for about a million years. My copy is huge, hefty and hardback, although a smaller paperback version is available. It’s basically a dictionary in images, with one painting and a brief description for every major {and slightly less major} artist in the history of time. Well, way back anyway. I love to open it at random {much like what I love to do with actual dictionaries} and discover new-to-me paintings or artists, or be inspired by abstract expressionism or whatever I’m in the mood for. It’s an art buffet in a book.


The Drawing Book by Sarah Simblet

Another discovery from my local library, this book covers every possible aspect of drawing you might think of, from media to techniques to subject matter. Not too heavy on the text, and with plenty of examples from artists throughout history for visual inspiration, I’ll be borrowing this one again for sure.



Rogue addition:

Mostly True: Collected Stories and Drawings by Brian Andreas

Not strictly an art book in the usual sense, but when I found this in a second hand book shop years ago I was supremely excited. If you don’t know Brian Andreas just Google ‘Storypeople’ and you will find a world of wonderful, whimsical drawings and writings that somehow touch the parts of us where we are all the same. Very inspiring in terms of using drawing and writing in quirky and non traditional ways.



What are your favourite art books? Please share in the comments! Any excuse to buy more books. :)

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  • Andy Getch says:

    My art book collection is mostly picture books of my favorite artists works. The five favorite (so far) books that offer more than just pictures are:

    “Picasso Guitars 1912-1914”, Anne Umland, The Museum of Modern Art 2011
    As you know I love playing guitar, guitar art and painting guitars, so no surprise here. This is a book of sketches and studies leading to Picasso’s guitar sculpture, all guitar art :).

    “Dali – 50 Secrets of Magic Craftsmanship”, Dover 1992
    A peek inside Salvador Dali thinking and creative mental process. Some interesting views on painting, art and life.

    “Vincent By Himself” – Bruce Bernard, Barnes & Noble 2004
    A book containing all of his letters and a representation of his paintings. It is almost an artistic journal and a peek inside.

    “Kandinsky – Complete Writings on Art” Lindsay & Vergo, Da Capo Press 1994
    Contains his art reviews some magazine articles and his books “Sounds” and “On The Spiritual In Art”.

    “Living Color: Painting, Writing and the Bones of Seeing” Natalie Goldberg, Stewart, Taboli & Chang 2014
    The author of several oft the best books about writing I have read “Writing Down The Bones” (on writing in general) and “Old Friend From Far Away” (on memoir). writes about the joy of painting just for fun, shares her experience and some of her paintings.

    Favorite picture books of my favorite artists are:
    “Salvador Dali 1904-1989” Robert Descharnes & Gilles Neret
    “Picasso Sketchbooks”, Je Suis Le Caheir, The Atlantic Monthly Press 1986
    “Picasso 1917-1926”, Palou/Fabre, Konemann 1999
    “Helen Frankenthaler Prints 1961-1979”, Harper & Row, 1980
    “The Life and Works of Van Gogh” Michael Howard, Hermes House, 2011

    The non-art book that got me started painting is “Julia Cameron – The Artists Way” Dra

  • Nicole says:

    Thanks for sharing these Tara! A new (to me) favourite is Cat Bennett’s The Confident Creative. I got it out of my local library and when I kept adding sticky notes and renewing the book, I knew it was time to order my own copy. I love how Cat talks about the similarities between drawing and yoga. I often think of art making as a mindfulness practice. I plan on sharing snippets of the book with my beginner art students as the philosophies – such as a focus on process – align with my practice.

    • Tara says:

      Oh that’s on my Amazon wishlist I think! Love it when a book requires lots of sticky notes. That’s how I know it’s for me. ;) Will revisit this one, thank you for sharing it Nicole!

  • my fav is Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon. Love it.
    love you too Tara!!

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