Hello! I am writing to you today to share with you a few of my favorite art related books. Whether you are an artist, traveller, or simply love pretty pictures, I have something for you to consider here.
I am among the group of artists who do not come from a traditional, formal art education. in full transparency, I'm sometimes insecure about this, but I've slowly gained education over the years. That being said, I certainly would *love* to get BFA/MFA one day :) But, in the meantime, I read a lot.
A note before we dive in... I cringe at the term "self educated," so you will not see me write that here, even though a lot a artists do claim that when they haven't gone to a formal art school. In one of my magazines (I wish I could remember which and who said it...), an artist explains, "I took pride in the fact that I was 'self educated,' until I realized my teacher was ignorant." So that being said, I am grateful to have had mentors (like this one and this one!) who have greatly shaped my painting in recent years, plus wonderful teachers since elementary school who taught me the fundamentals I needed to know. I read a TON and am excited at how much I still have to learn in my journey as an artist.
Below are a few of my favorite books... Some on technique, some on art history, all worth delving into. It was REALLY hard to only choose five, so if you liked this, comment below and I'll write another one!
(I'm not receiving endorsements... just writing about my favorites!)
1. Europe 101 (for the traveler)
Did I just surprise you? :) My family ADORES Rick Steves and we watch his travel shows every Saturday morning. A few years ago, my husband and I celebrated the completion of sea duty + deployments by taking 3 weeks (and only a backpack) to travel Europe. We did a ton of research prior to, and by far this was the best book that I read.
I do not have a history brain and despite taking a few art history classes over the years, never seem to remember the details. (Believe me, I try. I know it's important!) This book did an amazing job of adding humor and simplicity to centuries of art history. For someone with a math/science head, it spelled out history in a way that was fun and memorable. You will see primarily European art history with this book.
2. Art Spirit (for the artistic soul)
Ahh... the book of books. This one is a summary of the teaching of Robert Henri that nourish any artistic soul. It was published in the 1920's but reads like it could have been written last year. In it, he just talks about art. The Greats, critiques of student work, the mindset of an artist. One thing I love about art is that at its core it doesn't change... We find new mediums and techniques to say things, but it's still an expression of some idea using paint, or ink, or lead, or textiles. The lessons Henri instills in this book aren't limited to the early 1900's.
"Understand that in no work will you find the final word, nor will you find a receipt that will just fit you. The fun of living is that we have to make ourselves, after all..." -Robert Henri
3. Postcards from Provence (for the art lover + inspiration seeker)
There are many many art books out there, and I would include them all if I could. However, if I had to pick one at this very moment, I would highlight "Postcards from Provence." The book is a publication of a daily painting ritual by Julian Merrow Smith during his time in the Provence region of France. Provence is sort of a "mecca" for artists, (and on my list of places to go). He gained a lot of notority by sharing and selling a painting a day of what inspired him. The book is just a snapshot of the hundreds of paintings he did.
What I love most about it is first, they are all life size- each one was relatively small, and I love that continuity. Second, he organizes them by seasons. This really sings with me.
If I ever just need to feel inspired to paint, I thumb through this book.
4. Composition of Outdoor painting (for the novice landscape painter)
...Which is me, as I continue to explore the subject!
For anyone looking to delve into landscape painting, this is a must read. It is easy to reference and Edgar Payne is a wonderful teacher. He talks about light, composition, and all the ins and outs of landscape painting. Most of the images are in black and white, which is my only complaint.
5. Metropolitan Seminars in Art (for the deeply interested)
My aunt Kathy gave these to me a few years ago and they are INVALUABLE. If you don't have a foundation in art history, it may be a little too in the weeds, but as previously mentioned, my "foundation" is simply traveling and reading Rick Steves, so that's good enough! They are incredible for artists, art historians, and art lovers, but do take a little commitment.
John Canady does a beautiful job of delving deep into art subjects, challenging the readers understanding of art. He includes beautiful plates of full color art used to illustrate his points. I've learned so much from these portfolios and highly recommend them.
If you have read any of these or have suggestions for me to read for next time, please comment below and let me know! I'd love to hear your thoughts :)