Art & Creative Books: Community Favorites

Favorite Art & Creative Books

Knoweledge plays an essential role in our creative and artistic development. A recommended book with the right information can be as beneficial as anytime spent in a classroom.  The right book will improve our intellectual outlook and open doors of thought that may have been walls before.

We recently conducted a community poll, asking:

“What is your favorite book on art or the creative process?”

We were excited about the results: some of the books we couldn’t agree with more, others we had heard of but haven’t read, and some were totally new to us.

We look forward to adding some new resources to our library.

The best of the best art and creative resources are listed below:

Our Favorite Books:

(in random order)

BOOK: The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life
by Twyla Tharp

"All it takes to make creativity a part of your life is the willingness to make it a habit. It is the product of preparation and effort, and is within reach of everyone. Whether you are a painter, musician, businessperson, or simply an individual yearning to put your creativity to use, The Creative Habit provides you with 32 practical exercises based on the lessons Twyla Tharp has learned in her remarkable 35-year career.

"In "Where's Your Pencil?" Tharp reminds you to observe the world―and get it down on paper. In "Coins and Chaos," she gives you an easy way to restore order and peace. In "Do a Verb," she turns your mind and body into coworkers. In "Build a Bridge to the Next Day," she shows you how to clean the clutter from your mind overnight.

"Tharp leads you through the painful first steps of scratching for ideas, finding the spine of your work, and getting out of ruts and into productive grooves. The wide-open realm of possibilities can be energizing, and Twyla Tharp explains how to take a deep breath and begin….(more)...

BOOK: The Art Spirit
by Robert Henri

"In this book are the essential beliefs and theories of a great teacher and American artist, Robert Henri. While it embodies the entire system of his teaching, with much technical advice and critical comment for the student, it also contains inspiration for those to whom the happiness to be found through all the arts is important.No other American painter attracted such a large, intensely personal group of followers as Henri, whose death in 1929 brought to an end a life that has been completely devoted to art. He was an inspired artist and teacher who believed that everyone is vitally concerned in the happiness and wisdom to be found through the arts. Many of his paintings have been acquired by museums and private collectors. Among them are the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Wichita Art Museum, and Yale University Art Gallery."...(more)...
BOOK:Art of War
by Sun Tzu

"The Art of War is the military classic written by the Chinese philosopher-general and military strategist, Sun Tzu, around 500 B.C. Concise and direct, this work of just 7,000 words has had profound influence the world over. It has influenced Eastern military and business thinking. In the West, the book’s popularity continues to grow as managers and leaders increasingly seek to apply its principles to their business challenges. 

In a statement packed with solid management advice, Sun Tzu advised, “Take advantage of the enemy’s unpreparedness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack him where he has taken no precautions.” The most significant point for the purpose of creative execution is the idea of making your way by “unexpected routes.” 

These four lessons from Sun Tzu can guide you in developing and applying creativity to seize advantages. 

Understand Circumstances to Position Creativity 
Knowledge is the strategic foundation of applying creativity. You can’t examine and push the norms of your business or industry without understanding the movements of others. To “make your way by unexpected routes,” you need to understand your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your opponents. You must be able to anticipate the movements of competitors and have a full picture of a plethora of battlefield conditions. 

This knowledge is imperative for Sun Tzu, who said in one of his most oft-quoted passages: "Know the enemy and know yourself, and you can fight a hundred battles with no danger of defeat." You can’t make your way by unexpected routes if you don’t understand the paths your competitors have taken. Of even greater importance is the intelligence to anticipate the paths they will take." (synopsis by Becky Sheetz-Runkle)
BOOK: Concerning the Spiritual in Art 
by Wassily Kandinsky

"A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality, this book is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. Written by the famous nonobjective painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), it explains Kandinsky's own theory of painting and crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the period. Along with his own groundbreaking paintings, this book had a tremendous impact on the development of modern art.

Kandinsky's ideas are presented in two parts. The first part, called "About General Aesthetic," issues a call for a spiritual revolution in painting that will let artists express their own inner lives in abstract, non-material terms. Just as musicians do not depend upon the material world for their music, so artists should not have to depend upon the material world for their art. In the second part, "About Painting," Kandinsky discusses the psychology of colors, the language of form and color, and the responsibilities of the artist. An Introduction by the translator, Michael T. H. Sadler, offers additional explanation of Kandinsky's art and theories, while a new Preface by Richard Stratton discusses Kandinsky's career as a whole and the impact of the book. Making the book even more valuable are nine woodcuts by Kandinsky himself that appear at the chapter headings.

This English translation of Über das Geistige in der Kunst was a significant contribution to the understanding of nonobjectivism in art. It continues to be a stimulating and necessary reading experience for every artist, art student, and art patron concerned with the direction of 20th-century painting."...(more)...
BOOK: The Artists Way 
by Julia Cameron

"The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life. Still as vital todayor perhaps even more sothan it was when it was first published one decade ago, it is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work. In a new introduction to the book, Julia Cameron reflects upon the impact of  The Artist’s Way and describes the work she has done during the last decade and the new insights into the creative process that she has gained. Updated and expanded, this anniversary edition reframes The Artist’s Way for a new century."...(more)...
BOOK: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
by Betty Edwards

"Translated into more than seventeen languages, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is the world's most widely used drawing instruction book. Whether you are drawing as a professional artist, as an artist in training, or as a hobby, this book will give you greater confidence in your ability and deepen your artistic perception, as well as foster a new appreciation of the world around you. This revised/updated fourth edition includes: 
  • a new preface and introduction; 
  • crucial updates based on recent research on the brain's plasticity and the enormous value of learning new skills/ utilizing the right hemisphere of the brain; 
  • new focus on how the ability to draw on the strengths of the right hemisphere can serve as an antidote to the increasing left-brain emphasis in American life-the worship of all that is linear, analytic, digital, etc.; 
  • an informative section that addresses recent research linking early childhood "scribbling" to later language development and the importance of parental encouragement of this activity; 
  • and new reproductions of master drawings throughout 

    A life-changing book, this fully revised and updated edition of  Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is destined to inspire generations of readers to come."...(more)...

BOOK: Coaching the Artist Within 
by Eric Maisel 

"Creativity Coaching Essentials shows people how to become more effective creators by guiding them through 12 self-coaching lessons. Eric Maisel, a leading creativity coach, writes each lesson with a novelist's flair, as a narrative complete with examples, exercises, and questions to help readers explore and reflect on underlying issues that may be keeping them from pursuing their urge to create. Topics include committing, planning and doing, generating mental energy, achieving a centered presence, becoming an anxiety expert, upholding your dream, and maintaining a creative life. Maisel has worked extensively with creative people — poets, filmmakers, novelists, dancers — and he revisits some of them in coaching sessions in San Francisco, Paris, London, and New York. Typical are the rock musician who wants to pursue a solo career and the screenwriter anxious to become a poet. Their examples both entertain and instruct, outlining how to discover one's personal muse — and the motivation to keep creating."...(more)...
BOOK: The War of Art
by Steven Pressfield

"A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul. hat keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do? Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece? Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identif ies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success. The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline. Think of it as tough love . . . for yourself. Whether an artist, writer or business person, this simple, personal, and no-nonsense book will inspire you to seize the potential of your life."...(more)...
BOOK: The Spirit of Clay: A Classic Guide to Ceramics 
by Robert Piepenburg

"A clear and definitive text on the making, glazing and firing of contemporary ceramics. In addition to containing an extensive wealth of detailed instruction it celebrates the art of ceramics and the gift of the human spirit. Uniquely concerned with the miracles of the creative process and the emergence of a more connected self, it offers the beginner and experienced potter alike a bold new bridge between spiritual development and the clay experience."...(more)...
BOOK: The Letters of Vincent van Gogh (Penguin Classics) 
by Vincent Van Gogh

"This selection of letters by Vincent van Gogh helps to elucidate not only the creative processes involved in his painting, but also the tortured soul that lay behind the genius. Covering the years 1872-1890, from his time as an employee of the Art Gallery of Goupil in the Hague, to his final tragic months in Auvers-sur-Oise, this remarkable collection provides essential reading for anyone who seeks to know the real Van Gogh. The collection includes letters to his mother, fellow artists and, most notably, his beloved brother Theo, who supported Vincent emotionally and financially throughout his short life. This new edition includes a revealing memoir by the sister-in-law of the artist, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger."...(more)...
BOOK: Color: A Natural History of the Palette
by Victoria Finlay

"In this vivid and captivating journey through the colors of an artist’s palette, Victoria Finlay takes us on an enthralling adventure around the world and through the ages, illuminating how the colors we choose to value have determined the history of culture itself.

"How did the most precious color blue travel all the way from remote lapis mines in Afghanistan to Michelangelo’s brush? What is the connection between brown paint and ancient Egyptian mummies? Why did Robin Hood wear Lincoln green? In Color, Finlay explores the physical materials that color our world, such as precious minerals and insect blood, as well as the social and political meanings that color has carried through time.

"Roman emperors used to wear togas dyed with a purple color that was made from an odorous Lebanese shellfish–which probably meant their scent preceded them. In the eighteenth century, black dye was called logwood and grew along the Spanish Main. Some of the first indigo plantations were started in America, amazingly enough, by a seventeen-year-old girl named Eliza. And the popular van Gogh painting White Roses at Washington’s National Gallery had to be renamed after a researcher discovered that the flowers were originally done in a pink paint that had faded nearly a century ago. Color is full of extraordinary people, events, and anecdotes–painted all the more dazzling by Finlay’s engaging style.

"Embark upon a thrilling adventure with this intrepid journalist as she travels on a donkey along ancient silk trade routes; with the Phoenicians sailing the Mediterranean in search of a special purple shell that garners wealth, sustenance, and prestige; with modern Chilean farmers breeding and bleeding insects for their viscous red blood. The colors that craft our world have never looked so bright."...(more)...
BOOK: Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
by Ross King

"In 1508, despite strong advice to the contrary, the powerful Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti to paint the ceiling of the newly restored Sistine Chapel in Rome. Despite having completed his masterful statue David four years earlier, he had little experience as a painter, even less working in the delicate medium of fresco, and none with challenging curved surfaces such as the Sistine ceiling's vaults. The temperamental Michelangelo was himself reluctant: He stormed away from Rome, incurring Julius's wrath, before he was eventually persuaded to begin.

Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling recounts the fascinating story of the four extraordinary years he spent laboring over the twelve thousand square feet of the vast ceiling, while war and the power politics and personal rivalries that abounded in Rome swirled around him. A panorama of illustrious figures intersected during this time-the brilliant young painter Raphael, with whom Michelangelo formed a rivalry; the fiery preacher Girolamo Savonarola and the great Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus; a youthful Martin Luther, who made his only trip to Rome at this time and was disgusted by the corruption all around him. Ross King blends these figures into a magnificent tapestry of day-to-day life on the ingenious Sistine scaffolding and outside in the upheaval of early-sixteenth-century Italy, while also offering uncommon insight into the connection between art and history."...(more)...
BOOK: Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way
by Steven Pressfield

""There is an enemy. There is an intelligent, active, malign force working against us. Step one is to recognize this. This recognition alone is enormously powerful. It saved my life, and it will save yours." -- Steven Pressfield Could you be getting in your way of producing great work? Have you started a project but never finished? Would you like to do work that matters, but don't know where to start?The answer is Do the Work, a manifesto by bestselling author Steven Pressfield, that will show you that it's not about better ideas, it's about actually doing the work. Do the Work is a weapon against Resistance - a tool that will help you take action and successfully ship projects out the door. Picking up where The War of Art and Turning Pro left off, Do The Work takes the reader from the start to the finish of any long-form project—novel, screenplay, album, software piece, you name it. Do The Work identifies the predictable Resistance Points along the way and walks you through each of them. No, you are not crazy. No, you are not alone. No, you are not the first person to "hit the wall" in Act Two. Do The Work charts the territory. It's the stage-by-stage road map for taking your project from Page One to THE END."...(more)...
BOOK: Creative Is a Verb: If You're Alive, You're Creative
by Patti Digh

"Yearning to reclaim a creative spirit in your fantastic, unique life? . . . To live your whole life as art, not just the bits you draw on a canvas or embroider or sing? Join Patti Digh in a new kind of book that leads you by both heart and head to acknowledge, reinforce, and use your own creative spirit by teaching six creative commitments—Put Down Your Clever, Turn Around and Look, Show Up Like Magic, Please Lick the Art, Stop Trying So Hard, and Ignore All the Critics. Whether you’re apt to say, “I don’t have a creative bone in my body and really wish I were more creative,” “I’m just a dabbler but would love to be a real artist or craftsperson,” or “I’m an artist and would love to be known and respected,” Creative Is a Verb is for you."...(more)...
BOOK: Art as Therapy
by Alain de Botton

"What is art’s purpose? In this engaging, lively, and controversial new book, bestselling philosopher Alain de Botton and art historian John Armstrong propose a new way of looking at familiar masterpieces, suggesting that they can be useful, relevant, and – above all else – therapeutic for their viewers. De Botton argues that certain great works offer clues on managing the tensions and confusions of everyday life. Chapters on Love, Nature, Money, and Politics outline how art can help with these common difficulties – for example, Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter helps us focus on what we want to be loved for; Serra’s Fernando Pessoa reminds us of the importance of dignity in suffering; and Manet’s Bunch of Asparagus teaches us how to preserve and value our long‐term partners. Art as Therapy offers an unconventional perspective, demonstrating how art can guide us, console us, and help us better understand ourselves."...(more)...
BOOK: Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
by David Bayles

""This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially—statistically speaking—there aren't any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius removes this intimately human activity to a strangely unreachable and unknowable place. For all practical purposes making art can be examined in great detail without ever getting entangled in the very remote problems of genius."
—-from the Introduction

Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn't get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way. The book's co-authors, David Bayles and Ted Orland, are themselves both working artists, grappling daily with the problems of making art in the real world. Their insights and observations, drawn from personal experience, provide an incisive view into the world of art as it is expeienced by artmakers themselves.

This is not your typical self-help book. This is a book written by artists, for artists -— it's about what it feels like when artists sit down at their easel or keyboard, in their studio or performance space, trying to do the work they need to do. First published in 1994, Art & Fear quickly became an underground classic. Word-of-mouth response alone—now enhanced by internet posting—has placed it among the best-selling books on artmaking and creativity nationally." ...(more)...
BOOK: A Treatise on Painting
by Leonardo da Vinci

"Leonardo da Vinci's written observations about painting rank among the most remarkable from any era. Never edited by the author himself into a single coherent book, these writings were compiled many years after Leonardo's death into the principal repository of his practical thoughts on the techniques of drawing and painting. A Treatise on Painting begins with precise instructions on drawing the human body and then moves on to techniques of rendering motion. Other topics include perspective, composition, the expression of various emotions, creating effects of light and shadow, and color. With 48 anatomical drawings by Nicholas Poussin and geometrical and architectural designs by Leon Battista Alberti, this famous volume remains one of the world's most useful and valuable art instruction books."...(more)...
BOOK: Creative Illustration 
by Andrew Loomis

"During his career as one of America's most sought-after illustrators, Andrew Loomis (1889-1959) taught at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and in 1939 he codified his lessons in his first manual, Fun with a Pencil. Four years later it had already been through six printings, and he followed up over the next two decades with a series of even more successful how-to books that remain the gold standard for artists to this day.

"Creative Illustration is considered Loomis's magnum opus, which was aimed primarily at the professional-level illustrator. Divided into seven sections: Line, Tone, Color, Telling the Story, Creating Ideas, Fields of Illustration, and Experimenting and Studies, this book is filled with instructions, tips, insider experiences, and incredible illustrations."...(more)....
BOOK: Secret Knowledge (New and Expanded Edition) Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters
by David Hockney

"Join one of the most influential artists of our time as he investigates the painting techniques of the Old Masters. Hockney’s extensive research led him to conclude that artists such as Caravaggio, Velázquez, da Vinci, and other hyperrealists actually used optics and lenses to create their masterpieces.

In this passionate yet pithy book, Hockney takes readers on a journey of discovery as he builds a case that mirrors and lenses were used by the great masters to create their highly detailed and realistic paintings and drawings. Hundreds of the best-known and best-loved paintings are reproduced alongside his straightforward analysis. Hockney also includes his own photographs and drawings to illustrate techniques used to capture such accurate likenesses. Extracts from historical and modern documents and correspondence with experts from around the world further illuminate this thought-provoking book that will forever change how the world looks at art. Secret Knowledge will open your eyes to how we perceive the world and how we choose to represent it." ...(more)...
BOOK: What Are You Looking At?: The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art
by Will Gompertz

"Every year, millions of museum and gallery visitors ponder the modern art on display and secretly ask themselves, "Is this art?" A former director at London's Tate Gallery and now the BBC arts editor, Will Gompertz made it his mission to bring modern art's exciting history alive for everyone, explaining why an unmade bed or a pickled shark can be art—and why a five-year-old couldn't really do it. Rich with extraordinary tales and anecdotes, What Are You Looking At? entertains as it arms readers with the knowledge to truly understand and enjoy what it is they’re looking at."...(more)...
BOOK: A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Center for Environmental Structure)
by Christopher Alexander

"You can use this book to design a house for yourself with your family; you can use it to work with your neighbors to improve your town and neighborhood; you can use it to design an office, or a workshop, or a public building. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction... 

"At the core of these books is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities. This idea may be radical (it implies a radical transformation of the architectural profession) but it comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people.

"At the core of the books, too, is the point that in designing their environments people always rely on certain "languages," which, like the languages we speak, allow them to articulate and communicate an infinite variety of designs within a forma system which gives them coherence. This book provides a language of this kind. It will enable a person to make a design for almost any kind of building, or any part of the built environment.

"Patterns," the units of this language, are answers to design problems (How high should a window sill be? How many stories should a building have? How much space in a neighborhood should be devoted to grass and trees?). More than 250 of the patterns in this pattern language are given: each consists of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution. As the authors say in their introduction, many of the patterns are archetypal, so deeply rooted in the nature of things that it seemly likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today."...(more)...
BOOK: The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World
by Ted Orland

"In The View From The Studio Door, Orland turns his attention to broader issues that stand to either side of that artistic moment of truth.
In a text marked by grace, brevity and humor, Orland argues that when it comes to art making, theory and practice are always intertwined. There are timeless philosophical questions (How do we make sense of the world?) that address the very nature of art making, as well as gritty real-world questions (Is there art after graduation?) that artists encounter the moment they're off the starting blocks and producing work on a regular basis.

"Simply put, this is a book of practical philosophy. As a teacher and working artist himself, Orland brings authentic insight and encouragement to all those who face the challenge of making art in an uncertain world. The breadth of material covered is reflected in chapters that include Making Sense of the World, Art & Society, The Education of the Artist, Surviving Graduation, Making Art That Matters, The Artistic Community, and more. All things considered, The View From The Studio Door is a perfect companion piece to Art & Fear."...(more)...
BOOK: The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life 
by Tung-pin Lu

"The meditation technique described by The Secret of the Golden Flower is a straightforward, silent, multileveled technique designed and expressed as the progressive integration of some inner mandala rising inside some "golden palace" or "chamber" ; the book's description of meditation has been characterized as 'Zen with details'. The meditation technique, set forth in poetic language, reduces to a formula of sitting, breathing and contemplating.
Sitting primarily relates to a straight posture. Breathing is described in detail, primarily in terms of the esoteric physiology of the path of qi (also known as chi or ki), or breath energy. The energy path associated with breathing has been described as similar to an internal wheel vertically aligned with the spine. When breathing is steady, the wheel turns forward, with breath energy rising in back and descending in front. Bad breathing habits (or bad posture, or even bad thoughts) can cause the wheel not to turn, or move backward, inhibiting the circulation of essential breath energy. In contemplation, one watches thoughts as they arise and recede."...(more)...
BOOK: Life, Paint and Passion 
by Michele Cassou

"Life, Paint And Passion is a deeply involving approach to using the creative process as a tool for self-discovery. With vibrant and contagious enthusiasm, the authors liberate the reader's urge to create freely and spontaneously, as a painter or an artist in another medium, purely for the process of exploration, not for result.

With eloquence and simplicity, the authors encourage the reader to journey inward toward his or her authentic self and discover the unique intuition awaiting there. It is this intuition that provides all the tools the reader needs to crumble the barrier between the innermost self and its uncensored manifestation.

Through lively interviews with students, the authors explore painting as a practice that facilitates the ecstasy of unfettered expression. With simple brushes, a few dishes of paint, and this book, the reader will be able to coax the hidden self out of the heart and onto a paper.

Life, Paint And Passion is the result of nearly thirty years of intensive work with the painting process. It provides powerful insights into the act of creation, a solid base for facing and transcending creative blocks, and brings fresh perceptions and healing to life."...(more)...

 

 

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-article compiled, photographed & written by Lyrica Glory, founder of Patron of the Arts