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Artists' Favourite Art Books

What's Your Favourite Art Book?

This is a list of favourite art books - compiled from the responses of artists who read my popular art blog. I asked them two questions:(1) Do you have a favourite art book? (What is is it and why?) and(2) Is there one book which had a huge impact on you and your work?These are their perennial favourite art books of as suggested on my blog. I've subsequently added in those books identified as top art books in later years.If you want to share what is your favourite art book you can leave a comment at the end.Read my blog posts (below) to find out more about what people have had to say about learning using art instruction books and which are their favourite art books - across drawing and sketching, colour and painting using acrylics, watercolour and oil.* Art Instruction Books #1: different ways of learning* Art Books #2 - the economics of publishing* Your favourite art books - what you like

Favourite Books about DRAWING AND SKETCHING

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition - by Betty Edwards

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Currently Rated 4.7 out of 5 stars (315 customer reviews)This is the latest and 4th edition of the classic drawing-instruction book by Dr. Betty Edwards that has sold more than 2,500,000 copies. It was published April 2012 and is once again topping the chart for drawing books* Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was first published in 1979, it hit the New York Times bestseller list within two weeks and stayed there for more than a year.* In 1989, the 2nd edition went straight to the Times list again.* On the 20th anniversary the 3rd edition was published and sold steadily.

Keys to Drawing - by Bert Dodson

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - see my book reviewCurrently rated 4.7 out of 5 stars (128 customer reviews)PLUS This is the book most people buy having read this website!Bert Dodson's successful method of "teaching anyone who can hold a pencil" how to draw has made this tome one of the most popular, best-selling art books in history -- an essential reference for every artist's library!Dodson offers a complete system for developing drawing skills, basing his approach on 55 "keys" to drawing -- rules that don't need to be memorized, but realized. Dodson helps artists learn to trust their eyes and sharpen their observation skills through 48 practice exercises, reviews, and self-evaluations. Topics include learning to control proportion, scale, movement, depth, pattern and more!

The Drawing Book: An Innovative, Practical Approach to Drawing the World Around You - by Sarah Simblet

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Read more in my extended book review on my blog.If you feel you are most comfortable with traditional rendering/realism then this is probably not the book for you. However it emphatically earns in my view a five pencil rating for those keen to develop their drawing skills beyond technically correct rendering and/or are interested in drawing in art history and/or those who just want to develop their drawing generally. This book is a 'must buy' - I guarantee you will be blown away by it.

Favourite Books about COLOUR

Color and Light by James Gurney - A Guide for the Realist Painter

Ranked #1 in the Top 100 Painting Books - BEFORE it is published on the strength of pre-publication sales.Published in November 2010, this has become a best selling and constantly top rated book on Amazon.Rated 4.8 out of 5 stars by 196 customer reviews on Amazon.com. It is one of the top rated art books for sale today.James Gurney's art instruction book is excellent. I followed the development of the material for this book on his blog and knew that this book was going to become a very important book about colourI was then sent a review copy - and it is indeed a very informative and helpful book - here's my book review Book Review: Color and Light by James Gurney

Making Color Sing, 25th Anniversary Edition by Jeanne Dobie - Practical Lessons in Color and Design

Rated an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars based on 33 customer reviewsRanked #2 in Books > Textbooks > Humanities > Visual Arts > PaintingIf you want the bang up to date version of Jeanne Dobie's highly recommended book this is it.It also includes an updated listing of paint colours - revised for present day knowledge about lightfastness (see also http://www.jeannedobie.com/palette.html)Published in paperback in January 2011 - and hence not available when my original survey was done

Favourite Books about being a CREATIVE ARTIST

recommended by practising artists

The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to Be the Artist You Truly Are - by Danny Gregory

RECOMMENDED - Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars based on 112 customer reviewsA handwritten and fully-illustrated guide offers an approach to reconnecting with one's own creative energies--using drawing as an example--that ultimately leads to self-expression and creativeness without fear.Not everybody likes the handwritten approach.

Questions about art instruction books

You're invited to leave your thoughts as a comment (see the end)

Art Instruction books are supposed to help people learn. So - here are some things to think about:* Is it possible to become an artist just by reading books?* Can you really learn all you need to know from books?* Do art instruction books help to make it easier to become an artist?* Can art instruction books - which show art as a simple step by step process - make it possible to speed up the process of learning how to make art?

Making A Mark - looks at art instruction books

These are links to the reviews of the state of the art book market and the publishing industry in 2009

Favourite Books about WATERCOLOUR PAINTING

recommended by practising artists

Favourite Books about OIL PAINTING

recommended by practising artists

ALLA PRIMA II: Everything I Know About Painting - and More EXPANDED EDITION - by Richard Schmid with Katie Swatland

This is the second edition of Richard Schmid's famous book - now revised and expanded - but still based on the original book which was enormously popular and went through 13 printingsAverage Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars based on 22 customer reviews)

Fill Your Oil Paintings with Light & Color Paperback - by Kevin MacPherson

Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars based on 70 customer reviewsA book which is very popular with a number of oil painters. Considered to be full of good tips and advice

The Oil Painting Book: Materials and Techniques for Today's Artist

Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars based on 45 customer reviewsGoodreads: 3.79 average rating, 24 ratings, 4 reviews, added by 58 peopleThis is probably the most useful book when it comes to looking at oil painting materials. It also has excellent sections on on oil painting techniques.A book for those wanting to ground themselves thoroughly in the knowledge needed to become an oil painter

Grupp on Painting: Direct Techniques in Oil - by Emile A. Grupp (Author), Charles Movalli (Editor), John Lavin (Editor)

Regarded as one of the best books for learning about "alla prima" painting

Capturing the Moment in Oils - by David Curtis (Author), Robin Capon (Author)

RECOMMENDED - Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (9 customer reviews)David Curtis is an enormously popular English painter of landscapes and marine scenes who works in both oils and watercolour. This book will appeal more to the artist looking to improve the quality of their work rather than those who need step by step instruction

In praise of older books and other people's habits when buying books

I use sites and bookshops which sell second books to buy art books which are out of print. Some of the best art books I've got are ones you can only buy second hand - and often they're in very good condition

Anybody can comment, however please note that: all comments are moderated before publication; all html is stripped out of comments and Spam is not published.

 Last updated on August 19, 2014

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TreasuresBrenda profile image

TreasuresBrenda 5 years ago from Canada Level 4 Commenter

If I were an artist, I am sure that this list of great art books would be very helpful!Brenda


anonymous 5 years ago

Kathryn - Somehow I missed your post requesting book ideas, but hope these are not too late... Please get in touch if you need more information on any of these books.I was taught (Art Course as part of Teacher Training) by the artist and illustrator of (in particular childrens') books, Doreen Roberts. Recently I discovered she wrote two instructional books which I bought and in whichI recognise much of the material we were taught at college in them: Doreen Roberts - Drawing Workshop - Pub: Harper CollinsDoreen Roberts - Painting Workshop - Pub: Harper Collins(not sure if they are still in print but both come up for sale on eBay, which is where I bought themA brilliant book about colour with a fantastic colour wheel - if you buy one secondhand do make sure the colour wheel is still there!Stephen Quiller - Color Choices - Pub: Watson Guptill... more information follows as I have run out of permitted space!ShirleyWalthamstow, E17


anonymous 5 years ago

... some more informationExperimental and mixed media ideas.Karlyn Holman - Watercolour Fun & Free - Pub: Bayfield Street Publishing Inc. (Difficult to get in UK - Karlyn has a website. I rang her in the US & bought a copy direct - signed! Well worth it!)Karlyn Holman - Searching for the Artist within - Pub: North Light?Books by the late John Blockley are now difficult to get but worth seeking out. His daughter, Ann Blockley runs courses and has published (mostly) flower painting books, but has some wonderful information about watercolour effects and a loose style - like father, like daughter!Ann Blockley - Flower Painting through the Seasons - Pub: Collins(may have been renamed, but dont have information)Ann Blockley - Watercolour Textures - Pub: Collinsshe has also written a paperback (poss Collins) on painting wild flowers.Also:Frank Webb - The Artist's Guide to Composition - Pub:David & CharlesHope these help!ShirleyWstow E17


makingamark profile image

makingamark 5 years ago from London Hub Author

Thanks Shirley. I think I'll probably do an annual review of favourite art books each January in future.


anonymous 5 years ago

this is just a great resource, there are so many books out there it does get hard to pick the right one, this is a great guide.


JohnMichael2 profile image

JohnMichael2 2 years ago

A fine presentation of some great information


artshock profile image

artshock 22 months ago

Harley Brown's Eternal Truths For Every Artist changed my life. He really breaks down theory into real digestible bites. It's very hard to find and it's usually not cheap. I was very lucky to find a copy on my friends bookshelf and made a trade for it. I highly recommend!


natashaely profile image

natashaely 15 months ago

Fantastic lens, so much to choose from and good for me as I am buying a gift and rather than staring endlessly at hundreds of books on the shelf, I now have some idea about what to choose. Have added your lens to my online library lens as I know there will be many others needing the help.


makingamark profile image

makingamark 15 months ago from London Hub Author

@artshock: I can only endorse everything you say. It was quite a revelation to me too. It's quite unlike any other book by an art tutor.


makingamark profile image

makingamark 15 months ago from London Hub Author

@natashaely: Many thanks - you've pinpointed one of the main reasons I've made the lens. So many times artists don't get presents of the sort of books they'd value because their friends and relatives don't know what they are!

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