Don’t know how to draw?
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
This is hands down one of the very best books for beginners who want to learn to draw. The author sings my favorite song on every page. Betty Edwards believes that you can learn to draw. It is like learning to do addition, to bake a cake, or to play a scale on a piano. She helps you start at the very beginning and teaches you to practice. A good teacher like Betty doesn’t expect you to know how to draw before you come to art class – she teaches you how to do it.
“Ability to draw depends on ability to see the way an artist sees, and this kind of seeing can marvelously enrich your life. You will soon discover that drawing is a skill that can be learned by every normal person with average eyesight and average eye-hand coordination.”
Don’t understand what art is all about?
Basic Design for Quilters (and everyone else!):
the Elements and Principles of Art
I wrote this book because I firmly believe that absolutely everyone, including you, can learn to be an artist!!! If you were able to learn the alphabet used to create these words, then you can learn the five-letter alphabet of the language of Art. The elements of Line, Texture, Shape, Color and Value are the basic building blocks that all art is made from. If you read this book and work through it’s exercises, you will be able to see the world through the eyes of an artist.
“Do we hand a five-year-old a copy of Shakespeare and say “You’re just not a reader, you should do something else,” when she gives us a blank stare? No! We teach her the letters of the alphabet and the sounds they make. We teach her to put those letters together to make words, then she practices and progresses until years later, she can pick up Shakespeare and not only make sense of it, but enjoy it. Learning the fundamental elements of art is like learning to read and write.”
Having trouble getting started?
The Creative Habit
This book is easily summarized in three simple words: DO THE WORK. You can’t find your voice unless you speak… all. the. time. You can’t master your craft without doing it. There is no such thing as waiting for the muse to inspire you. You just have to do the work.
“After so many years, I’ve learned that being creative is a full-time job with its own daily patterns. …The real secret i that they do this every day. In other words, they are disciplined. …In order to be creative you have to know how to prepare to be creative.”
Afraid nobody will like your work?
Art and Fear
Get our your highlighter ready because you are going to need it for this book. These authors speak clearly and meaningfully to the reasons we don’t just get down to it and make our art. Read this book to shift your fearful paradigm from “what if they don’t like me or my art” to “let’s get this done.”
“The lesson here is simply that courting approval, even that of peers, puts a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the audience. Worse yet, the audience is seldom in a position to grant (or withhold) approval on the one issue that really counts – namely, whether or not you are making progress in your work.”
Need inspiring quotes for creatives?
Gavin’s graphic illustrations of inspirational quotes will keep you going during those inevitable days of self-doubt. Secret confession: I bought two copies of this book so I could tear out pages and post them all over our walls. You might also love Gavin’s other books, Creative Struggles, and Dream the Impossible Dream.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life and the procedure. The process is its own reward.” – Amelia Earhart
Think you don’t have any new ideas?
Steal Like an Artist
This book is a quick, light, and inspiring read. Your lightbulb moment might be learning that nothing is original. Every work stands on the shoulders of what came before it. All artists steal. Just learn to do it like an artist.
“What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Some people find this idea depressing, but it fills me with hope. If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.”
Need to find the “why” of your creativity?
The Artist’s Way
Your journey to becoming an artist isn’t going to be short or easy. Learning to love the process as much as the product is vital. Yes this book is “spiritual” but the concrete series of exercises will help you to clarify and solidify who you are as a creative being and what you want to do and be as an artist.
“As blocked creatives, we often sit on the sidelines critiquing those in the game…. We may be able to defer to true genius, but if it’s merely a genius for self-promotion we’re witnessing, our resentment runs high. This is not just jealousy. It is a stalling technique that reinforces our staying stuck.”
Think you’re not creative?
The War of Art
This book is in the same category as Art and Fear, although a little easier to get through. The author reiterates and reenforces one of my favorite soapbox convictions… EVERYONE can be creative. The self talk that is going on in your head saying “I’m not creative” can be squashed if you absorb the ideas in this book. Hey you, yes I’m talking to YOU!!! You are creative and you can learn to be an artist.
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear, then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there’s no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist. What Henry Fonda does, after puking into the toilet in his dressing room, is to clean up and march out onstage. He’s still terrified but he forces himself forward in spite of his terror. He knows that once he gets out into the action, his fear will recede and he’ll be okay.”
Want to paint realistically?
Color and Light
If you are a fan of painted realism you are going to absolutely love this book. It is a practical guide to understanding how to make your paintings feel alive. I’ve loved everything James Gurney has done for years and years. His amazingly educational and entertaining blog, the hours and hours my children and I have spent with all of his Dinotopia books, Imaginative Realism, just – everything.
“Your paintings can be true to nature but emphasize different aspects of visual truth compared to another artist. The way you paint is a record of how you see.”
Ready to get serious about sketching?
The Natural Way to Draw
If you really, really, really want to learn to draw, really, really, really well, you have to do the work. This book is a college text. It is deep, dense, and amazingly wonderful if you are ready to spend the time mastering the technical skill of drawing. The author is very clear and detailed about every exercise. Blind contour drawing is one of my favorite ways to truly SEE what I’m looking at and he explains the reasoning behind the exercise. Practicing the exercises in this book has done the most to further any skill I have in sketching. Most importantly, the exercises have helped me SEE like an artist.
“.. a contour study is not a thing that can be ‘finished.’ It is having a particular type of experience, which can continues as long as you have the patience to look.”10
(In the interest of full disclosure – if you buy these books through these links I get a tiny little kickback. I hope you find the list worthwhile.)