Over the past two years I’ve been working through a series of books on Art, from histories to theory to manuals. I’ve decided to share some of the best works that I’ve come across. This page, A Very Artistic Library, will be an up-to-date list of recommendations for people who want to learn more about how to create art.
A Very Artistic Library
Art Manuals: Drawing
Learning to draw is the first skill that you need to learn in order to paint. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition by Betty Edwards will teach you how to learn to draw what you see. If you can’t make art in simple black lines then it makes it so much harder when you try to add value, shape, and color. Drawing Atelier by Jon deMartin will teach you what you should’ve been taught in art school: the process that classical and master artists used to create their drawings and a good foundation for creating thumbnails and sketches that will eventually become paintings. These two books together will help you create the drawing for your painting; what the Renaissance artists would have called the composition or cartoon.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition by Betty Edwards
Drawing Atelier by Jon deMartin
Art Manuals: Painting
Learning to paint — how to make a compostion, sketches, different painting techniques, tools, supports, etc. These four works give a comprehensive review of painting, from painting what you see, to painting what’s impossible to see, to explaining what it is that you actually see. These are the books that you should pour over, read repeatedly, and constantly review year after year.
Alla Prima II by Richard Schmid with Katie Swatland
Richard Schmid breaks down the components of the craft, techniques, and process of painting. It’s no longer in print, but if you can find it, it’s an excellent resource.
Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist by James Gurney
Imaginative Realism isn’t about painting aliens and dinosaurs and dragons. OK, it isn’t just about painting aliens and spaceships and dragons. It’s also about painting real things that you’re unlikely to see: ancient civilizations, historical personages, and extinct animals. And to top it off James Gurney reviews what you’d need to consider in the process of getting work done — everything that I learned in Commercial Art — thumbnails, color studies, drawing from photographs, and more.
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Oil Painting Techniques by Patrick J. Jones
Patrick Jones gives us another comprehensive look that serves as a complement to Imaginative Realism. While James Gurney explored the traditional process, Patrick Jones gives more detail for working from photos and using digital painting.
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney
Color and Light is well worth the price if all you take away from this book is the understanding of the following gem: “Under normal lighting conditions, the rods and cones cooperate to give you an interpretation of reality.” but the book contains so much more and many more gems just like it.
Art Manuals: Creative Theory
These are the books that I’ve recently read that address my creative issues. I think I’ll be reading them more than once. I’m spending all this time trying to figure myself out. I’m trying to get out of my own way. I’m trying to harness whatever muse, genius, or creative spirit it is inside of me that will take me where I want to go. And, as I’ve told myself for the last 20 years, trying to figure out what I mean when I tell myself, “let go.”
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
A 12-week program to get your mind together as it relates to creativity. I’ve worked through it twice last year. I’ll be picking it up and working through it again and again.
Trust the Process: An Artist’s Guide to Letting Go by Shaun McNiff
Flow: The Psychology of Optimum Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Time and again I’ve heard people talk about flow. This was the book that started the discussion of the experience.
Choose Wonder Over Worry by Amber Rae
I heard Amber Rae on the Your Creative Push podcast. She discussed what she called her Multiple Personality Order. I realized that I needed to read this book. I didn’t want to read it. The first chapter was a struggle for me. I had to drag myself through the book, because it was so relevant.
Turning the Mind into an Ally by Sakyong Mipham and Pema Chodron
I originally read Sakyong Mipham’s Running with the Mind of Meditation book last year. I purchased this one without realizing that it was by the same author.
Tales From Both Sides of the Brain by Michael S. Gazzaniga
I purchased this book first. It was one of the blurbs on the back that sold me: “…the idea that we all have ‘multiple minds’ operating as a ‘confederation’…” It was too relevant to pass up.