Art Books for Every Level to Inspire You

Art Books for Every Level to Inspire You

How important is it to read books as an artist? Can written words ever inspire you to depict your feelings and emotions in a visual language, something that people can understand better and perhaps fluently? Well, these are some of the questions that most artists, particularly in the field of visual arts, ask when it comes to reading books. Books are like a rabbit hole to discovery and inspiration. Most artists take their inspiration from other artists, writers, and the like. But, if there is something that most art enthusiasts, artists, and art students would recommend, it would be: to read books, particularly art books. Reading art books is just like learning art history: you get to learn deeper about the art and the artist, the meaning behind the artwork, the emotions felt by the artist during the creative process behind a certain painting, the inspiration, motivation, and so on. So to give you a head start of creativity and imagination, we have listed some of the best art books for every level to help you become a better artist by looking and learning from some of the world’s best artworks.

Regardless of their educational background and training—whether formal or not, there is a common denominator among artists, whether they’re educationally or professionally-trained or self-taught: they never stop learning. Curiosity sparks an artist’s creativity while creativity leads to so many things, including a masterpiece. We often wonder how artists fuel their imagination to create artworks that provide a visual language that everyone understands. In reality, amateur artists learn about producing artworks and mastering their craft by experiencing the art first hand or by immersing themselves in the sort of art that they like to pursue. However, in order to optimize their knowledge, it is also beneficial for them to learn more about their subject through reading books, particularly during their spare time. As we've discussed in earlier blog entries, it's not just the outputs or artworks you've completed and performing the tasks that makes a person creative; it's also about making sure that they have time for their "input" activities such as reading books, reflecting on their art and finding ways to improve it that can provide a harmonious balance in creativity. Thus, reading art books also keeps you from experiencing artist's block.

So, what are the art books for every level that we highly encourage everyone to read? Let’s find out!

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Art Books for Every Level

Beginner-friendly books:

  1. The Art Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained by Caroline Bugler, et al.

    Publisher: DK Publisher
    Date Published: March 1, 2017
    ISBN: 024123901X

    Dive deep into the world of art by learning about artists such as Henry Matisse, Sandro Botticelli, Rembrandt, Gustave Klimt, as well as other artists that changed the way we look at art forever. With this introduction to the narrative of art and the main concepts and motifs behind the world's most relevant art periods, artists, and artworks, take a grand tour of art history all explained in one book. With striking graphics and enlightening insights, The Art Book explores more than 80 of the world's most pioneering artworks by history's most important painters, sculptors, and artists. Thus, explore some of the major pieces of art and artists from throughout the world, including prehistoric Altamira cave paintings and jade carvings from China, as well as notable art movements such as symbolism, pop art, impressionism, and cubism.

  2. 365 Days of Art: A Creative Exercise for Every Day of the Year by Lorna Scobie

    Publisher: Hardie Grant
    Date Published: October 17, 2017
    ISBN:  1784881112

    Think of 365 Days of Art as a creative journal; it is an immersive and interactional motivational art journal aimed to assist readers and aspiring artists to cultivate their creativity and imagination while channeling their feelings and emotions through creating works of art.  Each day of the year provides an activity, ranging from simple activities like sketching geometric patterns to more complex exercises such as coloring-in, painting with primary colors, and illustrating what you see in your surroundings. The book blends uplifting quotations with helpful questions and activities to encourage contemplation via your sketching, writing, painting, etc., with stunning and artistic calligraphy and watercolor pictures that will surely boost your creative spirit.

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Art Books for Experienced Artists:

  1. Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney

    Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
    Date Published: November 1, 2010
    ISBN: 9780740797712

    Color and light are two of the most fundamental concepts in realistic art and this book is a deep examination of these concepts by bridging the gap between abstract theories and practical knowledge. The book investigates how lighting exposes shape, the qualities of hues and pigments, and the broad range of atmospheric surroundings, starting with a study of overlooked artists who refined the concept of color and light. Gurney rips through color's perplexing and conflicting ideology, putting it to the test in the light of science and reality. A glossary of terminologies, pigment index, and bibliography round out what will inevitably become a must-have tool for every experienced artist who wants to learn more about realism.

  2. Frida Kahlo: The Complete Paintings by Andrea Kettenmann and Luis-Martín Lozano

    Publisher: TASCHEN
    Date Published: August 2, 2021
    ISBN: 3836574209

    Among the few female painters who have transcended art history, none has experienced the spectacular ascension of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Her face is recognizable and her beauty was legendary. She was a trailblazer in the politics of gender, sexuality, and feminism, as well as one of the important personalities in contemporary art during the Mexican revolutionary period. This hardcover book is perfect for artists who use Kahlo as their inspiration and want to know the artist deeper as it includes all 152 of Kahlo's paintings, as well as never-before-seen images, diary entries, correspondence, and an illustrated biography of the painter. 

Art Books for Professional and Expert Artists:

  1. Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon

    Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
    Date Published: February 28, 2012
    ISBN: 0761169253

    You don't really have to be a creative genius or a master painter, the requisite for creativity is to simply be yourself according to Austin Kleon, the book's author and artist who understands that creativity and imagination can be found everywhere you look and it is for everyone. Steal Like an Artist is an artistic philosophy of the digital era, a handbook whose positive attitude, graphic design and pictures, activities, and lessons will put artists in touch with their artistic side even more. This book will help experts and professionals to influence people on how to be creative too.

  2. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon

    Publisher: Workman Publishing
    Date Published: March 6, 2014
    ISBN: 076117897X

    From the same author listed above who taught readers how to unleash their creative potential by "stealing" or borrowing from the artistic community, this book  demonstrates how to take that the crucial next step on your creative journey towards becoming a successful artist: being renowned in the art industry. Display Your Work! is about how kindness triumphs over talent in the field of art. It's about becoming discoverable, about utilizing your connection rather than spending time "networking." It's not about promoting yourself, it's about discovering yourself and inviting people into your process, then letting them take from you. This book is jam-packed with images, quotations, tales, and ideas as well 10 revolutionary guidelines for being open, giving, fearless, and productive as an artist.


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