books for artists

Books for Artists: 17 Books Every Artist Should Read

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As artists, we are constantly looking for new inspiration and ways to improve our skills. Inspiration can be gathered from a multitude of places—museums, galleries, social media, courses and books.

Art books are there to help inspire, improve and sometimes, to get you out of a creative rut. Finding some inspiration off screen and straight from your home can be a brilliant way to spend some time.

This is a comprehensive list for artists that want to build on their art skills, get a creative boost and make their practice feel more fulfilling. For those who want tips on the business side of things, skip to the last section.

Books for Artists: To Instruct and Improve your Skills

No matter your level, beginner, intermediate, or professional, these books can provide you with a strong foundation to base your art practice upon, or help you master a more specific skill.

Art Fundamentals

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This book is a must-read for any beginner artist, no matter their preferred discipline. 

There are fundamentals in art, which, once mastered give way to developing a broader range of skills in more depth. Having an understanding of these skills can give you more confidence in using your materials and trusting your creative process.

Art Fundamentals outlines the very basics of art. With a section on compositional theories, such as the rule of thirds and the divine proportion. It gives a detailed guide on how to use colour, light, depth, shape, perspective and anatomy in art.

This book would even be suitable for a more experienced self taught artist who feels like they want to revisit some of the elementary concepts.

Mastering Composition: Techniques and Principles to Dramatically Improve Your Painting

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The key to a successful painting is in the planning and composition. If you paint realistically, expressively or abstractly, learning some of the formative compositional techniques can take your art to new heights.

This book is easy to follow and has five step-by-step demonstrations to help you put your knowledge to practice.

This book taught me to plan the design of my paintings before I start, instead of jumping straight in, which helped me improve quickly.

Color Choices: Making Color Sense Out of Color Theory

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Colour theory can seem like a complex topic, but this book puts it into context for artists, with practical demonstrations on how to interpret, mix and combine colour.

Quiller also encourages artists to make creative choices in their work, helping artists to find their unique style when using colour. There’s some helpful instruction on how to apply colour in artwork and various techniques you can use to make your work stand out.

You Will be Able to Draw by the End of This Book

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This is a fun book that shows you how to draw a variety of subjects, with space for you to practice on the page. The drawing tasks are therapeutic, relaxing and easy to follow. Plus, the book lies completely flat, making it easier for you to sketch on.

If you’re looking to learn how to draw but don’t know where to start,  if you want to learn how to draw a wider range of subjects, or if you want to break some of your usual habits and gain a fresh perspective on the art of drawing, you will get something out of this book. 

Even if drawing isn’t your main medium of choice, perfecting your skills will help you establish structure in your art pieces and give you the freedom to create drawings from imagination.

If you want to, this book can help you get into the routine of a regular drawing practice, which will over time, enable you to draw accurately and realistically freehand.

Drawing the Head and Hands

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A reprint of a classic book written in the 1940s. The illustrations have a wonderful vintage feel about them.

The author, Andrew Loomis was an illustrator famous for his commercial work and series of instructive books. He inspired artists such as Norman Rockwell.

This book covers everything from providing an understanding of facial anatomy, to giving demonstrations on how to render portraits in a clean and realistic style.

Artist's Painting Techniques

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This book is great for beginners who want to venture into the world of painting, but haven’t quite decided which medium they want to try. 

It gives detailed explanations of key watercolour, acrylic and oil painting techniques.

Learn everything you need to know about colour, tone pattern, brushwork, and composition to get a head start with painting.

Anatomy for the Artist

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Become a master of portraiture and learn how to paint the human form. 

There are six classes in the book, which demonstrate how to observe and draw people.

This book provides brilliant references, using original and interesting photography to illustrate the classes.

Simblet maps the human body, from the skeleton to muscle groups and systems so you can really understand how the construction of the body affects its appearance in portraiture.

Artist's Drawing Techniques

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A comprehensive guide on how to draw portraits, landscapes and still life. You can use pastel, charcoal, pencil or ink with this guide.

This book outlines more than 80 techniques, giving variety to your drawing practice. Learn stippling, crosshatching, blending and much more.

Learn how to draw realistically with projects for beginner, intermediate and advanced artists.

Portrait Painting Atelier

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A more advanced book for those who want to learn an academic approach to art.

Susan Brooker demonstrates the techniques of the old masters, of layering colour over a toned ground. This book is mainly aimed at oil painters, but most of the techniques can be applied to acrylic too.

From this book, learn how to paint luminous and realistic portraits.

Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice

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Capturing landscapes, with all its complexities in light, colour and form is a painter’s greatest challenge. This book breaks it down helping painters see the patterns, colours and shapes that make up the whole scene.

This book is an in depth course, for those really looking to fast track their skills. It gives a look at colour theory, composition and much more.

Books for Artists: To Inspire

Sometimes we need a book that helps us to realise our purpose, or remind us why we started on an artistic journey in the first place. These books will give meaning to your art practice and help you affirm and nurture your creative identity.

Find Your Artistic Voice

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One thing many beginner artists struggle with when they are just starting to improve their skills, is finding their ‘style’ or ‘voice’. 

This book can help artists to find their visual identity by focussing on the influences that inspire them to create and giving advice on how to develop and express a signature style.

Creative Block: Discover New Ideas

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Every artist at some point will experience creative block. This book offers solutions and ideas to help artists overcome this conundrum.

With interviews from fifty different artists, each professional provides exercises to help you feel more motivated and move back into a state of creative flow.

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists

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Every artist has a different creative journey and career trajectory, this compilation of forty essays shines a light on how contemporary creatives have sustained their practice over time.

Steal Like an Artist

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A hugely popular book of ten down to earth principles to help artists uncover a creative mindset and forge their own path to success. 

The advice is brazen, real and perfect for those who are feeling lost in the artistic world.

Books for Artists: Business Tips

Making a business out of art, even as an emerging artist is a reality for many—anyone with an internet connection, saleable art and a know-how for social media can start selling. There’s more to it than that, of course. These books will guide you through the process of selling art, with industry advice from professionals in the field to help you skyrocket your success.

The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

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This book provides strategies for marketing yourself as an artist, managing the day-to-day, promoting yourself online and building relationships with others in the field. Jackie Battenfield advises the reader on how to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and an all important cash flow from art.

Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist

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There are many ways to make a living from art. From selling fine art, making prints, teaching, doing commercial work and more. The author shows that there is flexibility in the field and room for all sorts of artists to settle into the market.

On top of giving encouraging advice, Congdon teaches the reader how to set actionable goals in exhibiting with galleries, promoting themselves online, pricing, selling and much more.

Show Your Work

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A beginner’s ten step guide to building an audience and promoting their work. A short, snappy, visual book that is a joy to read.

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