Do you love reading as much as I do? I see it as my favorite hobby and my go-to way to wake up in the morning and wind down at night.
Lately, I’ve found one of the points I miss from school is the art knowledge that was woven with my creative projects. After graduating, I unwittingly didn’t keep up with learning art history and seeking out the latest in art. It wasn’t purposeful; it was simply that my curiosity led me to other subjects. I could insert here one of the many phrases about failing to plan will cause a plan to fail and it would definitely apply!
But at the time, I didn’t know it was that important to me. It was a lesson for me to learn with time.
Last year I wizened up and put my foot down; I knew I needed to change. Since knowledge is like a snowball rolling down a hill – building and building the further it goes – I decided to integrate art books regularly in my life to keep the snowball moving.
The range of subjects varies for me: some books concentrate on the business side of art, others are general art knowledge and – likely my favorite section of books – are all about art history. I do read books outside the art theme, but there is a heavy bent towards art. It is my biggest passion, so it is also easy for me to concentrate on it.
That being said, with recommending art books, where do I start? I decided to put a line in the sand and consider this post the ‘foundation books post.’ These are the top three books I’ve read over the past year that made a deep, lasting impression on me. One is a textbook read, one is a coffee date with a sage, creative friend and one is a collection of essays. Enjoy!
The textbook read:
“Leonardo Da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson
When I saw this book popping up in book stores, I was so excited! Years ago I read Walter Isaacson’s book on Benjamin Franklin then followed by his book about Einstein. His books read like fascinating textbooks. He does thorough research and compiles these biographies into well-penned stories. I will say, there are so many details and so much to absorb that I would need to read each book at least 3 times through to feel confidant in saying , “Yes, I know about this man’s life.”
Have I done this? Ha, no! But that is how dense and information-rich the book is.
I’ve been extra-intrigued with Leonardo since art history classes in college when it seemed we barely touched on someone who had so much depth. How can one person be so many things at once? How could a person – who has the same amount of time that I do each day – be able to spread himself across so many areas? This book portrays a real human with real struggles, which is needed, I think, when history has made Leonardo to be nearly god-like in stature. It was delightful to feel a little more close to someone who has been put on such a high pedestal.
The coffee date with a sage, creative friend:
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Sometimes that coffee date can be thought-provoking and inspiring. Other times it can be a kick on the butt that says “Get to work!” The note at the bottom of the cover says it all – A practical guide. This isn’t a new release and many artists have recommended it. There is a reason it is highly recommended. I agree with others who say this should be a go-to book for creative people. I would emphasize that creatives in business should make this required reading.
Business is hard on its own and add to it the creative part and, if you’re like me, you start to ask a lot of questions. How do I balance it all? How do I ensure I have time to work out new ideas? How do I avoid burn out? How do I make sure I’m doing my creative best and fostering a long, creative life? This book helps with all of those questions. It provides one woman’s experience walking down that challenging, competitive, creative world. If I could sum it up in a word, I would say it is enriching.
The collection of essays:
The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair
When I first realized how important art was in my life, I had no idea how much color was tied to it. When I discovered this passion for color a few years ago, it was as though I opened a giant, unexpected present.
I will admit this: When I first realized my love for color, I questioned it a lot. Can I actually love colors? And not just one color, but the subject of ‘colors?’ Have I ever met a person who loves colors? (Answer: At that time, no. But now I have!) I still think it is a strange thing to love, but everyone has their whimsical parts!
Even if you’re not a color lover, the art history presented in this book is a side I never learned in school. Kassia St. Clair has written essays on each color’s history and how it became part of our lives. One of the most important points I took away from the book was how much easier it is to create with colors in our current day. What painters had to go through to ensure certain pigments didn’t chemically react with other pigments is quite the process. Beyond aesthetics, I don’t think about chemical interactivity being an issue when I paint. They did. It deepened my respect.
As a fun aside: My favorite color to learn about was the brown hue named ‘Mummy.’ I won’t give away the history here, but, oh, is it a good one!
Let me know what you think about these books – if you’ve read them, if they helped with your art journey, if you loved them too! Happy reading and creating!