Friday, May 21, 2010

Favorite Art Books

Our question this month was "What are your 3 favorite art books?" Since everyone moaned so much about having to limit their choice to three, we will probably be revisiting this question frequently.


It's hard to choose three favorite art books when I have many favorites. The book that started my creative journey 11 years ago is Julia Cameron's The Artist Way. I took a twelve week course using her book and exercises to direct and inspire my creative life.

A book I refer to for how-to ideas is Traci Bautista's Collage Unleashed. It's full of her creative painting, layering, printing, lettering, stitching and book binding instructions.

My third book is Randi Feuerhelm-Watts' Wide Open- inspiration & techniques for art journaling on the edge. I like decks of cards about as much as books. I've used her notebook and 50 cards to create journal pages with different backgrounds, my photographs, tape, line and language.


1. "True Colors: A Palette of Collaborative Art Journals" by Kathryn Bold. This one first opened my eyes to the possibilities of mixed media art, and working with color. Probably the art book I've looked at the most. An amazing pool of talent here.

2. "Bead on a Wire: Making Hand Crafted Wire and Bead Jewelry" by Sharilyn Miller. My first experiences with wire jewelry making were in Sharilyn's classes. I have a lot of wire jewelry books but this one is the best, IMO.

3. "Cover to Cover: Creative Techniques for Making Beautiful Books, Journals, and Albums" by Shereen LaPlantz. Inspirational and informative. A classic.


I have so many juicy, delicious art books how in the world can I choose just three? (In fact, I will cheat just a tad and say that Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way is my very most favorite and changed my life - put me on course to call myself an artist, but that is another story . . . ) The three I chose to share here are three that I pulled off my bookshelves because they all are inspiring, colorful, and offer good tips about making art, especially in visual journals, one of my artistic loves. Here they are, in no particular order:

Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself by Sabrina Ward Harrison

Wide Open (Creativity Notebook and Card Set) by Randi Feuerhelm-Watts

True Vision: Authentic Art Journaling by LK Ludwig


Oh, out of a lifetime library of 300+ art "how to", history and studies, how can I pick out 3 favorites?? So, here are three of my interests, among many.

I love Southwestern art, the colors and designs. The book "The Radiances of My People" by R.C. Gorman is a beautiful book of drawings, as well as a history of the Native American man that was such a beloved artist.

Another love of mine is Asian art, and the book "UKIYO-E, 50 years of Japanese art" is a beautiful big book full of the types of Asian art I enjoy. I like to involve a touch of Asian design in collage and other pieces.

My third and possibly the most beloved interest is fabric art, fibers, weaves, prints, natural and synthetic's. The art projects presented using fibers, in any form, is endless. With that in mind, I was unable to pick out a favorite, but a great book, helpful and well written is "Complex Cloth" by Jane Dunnewold.


When I consider a book to be a favorite it is judged on several attributes, content, ease in use and quite often portability.

“The Encyclopedia of Watercolour Techniques” by Hazel Harrison. This book is a little less than 200 pages but packs a punch with a tip or technique on all aspects of painting. It has a wide variety of different styles and will show you many of the endless ways of applying paint to paper with the knowledge that there is no wrong way. If I could only keep a few painting books this would be one of them.

“The Flower Painter’s Pocket Palette” This little book is not great or big only 65 pages. I have owned this book for over 12 years and seem to pull it out several times a year and always pack it for a camping trip. It just gives you a little spark on shape or color and that’s all you need sometimes.

“Wrap, Stitch, Fold & Rivet“ By Mary Hettmansperger The author describes her jewelry as rustic, altered and organic, my favorite kind of art. Her instructions are easy to follow using materials that are not hard to obtain and techniques that don’t require expensive tools. I have noticed that most all of the jewelry art classes offered recently use the techniques in this book so it is handy to use as a reminder or reference.


My favorite art books are:

Interior Alchemy (Secrets to Creating Expressive Ambience) by Rebecca Purcell

An orgy of decorating and design ideas! This book inspires me to use pieces created by my favorite artists to decorate my home.

Art Making - Collections and Obsessions by Lynne Perella

I love to collect, and this book is eye candy for those days that I need to stay home and create.

Living the Creative Life (Ideas and Inspirations for the Working Artist) by Rice Freeman Zachary

Wonderful suggestions for overcoming creative blocks, prioritizing your art, and thoughts from other artists about creativity.


I like the Mary Todd Beam books, "Celebrate your Creative Self" and "The Creative Edge." In addition, I liked "Art Escapes" by Dory Kanter. All three are books I would call "Techniques Books." I like to read through them and take one of the projects and incorporate the techniquw into what I do. It's all about playing. Many techniqes have been sucessfully merged.


Essential for me is "The Artist's Way", but since that's already been mentioned, I'm going for three more. I'm narrowing my choices down to favorite fiber arts books:

"Stitch Magic: Ideas and Interpretations" by Jan Beaney and Jean Littlejohn. They are the queens of taking the hand stitch to a new level. I love how they take a common stitch and show how much variety you can get out of it by altering the stitch or the materials.

"Connecting Art to Stitch" by Sandra Meech. A beautiful book for showing connections between fine art and stitching with good design exercises.

"Symphonic Poem: The Art of Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson." I love her expressive, intuitive artwork. She uses fiber for storytelling and often incorporates found objects in her pieces.


I have an enormous art/craft library and trying to pick just three is difficult, so here are just

the three I had to choose for this question. (I can name a TON more!)

Of the ninety books on beads and beadwork I have in my library, the one I turn to the most

is Lark Books "500 Beaded Objects". This book is a kaleidoscope of color, texture, technique

and BEADS! It shows marvelous works of bead artists from the U.S. and Canada. To quote

the back cover, "Fine artists worldwide have discovered the spectacular range of expressive

effects that can be achieved with beadwork. This remarkable showcase of gallery-quality

works - including jewelry, sculpture, wall hangings, and many other types of beaded objects -

will excite collectors, inspire craftspeople, and delight anyone who loves art."

I love my beads and I love this book!

When I need an idea for building a new book and how I can put that book together, I always

grab Shereen LaPlantz's "Cover to Cover". I recommend this book to anyone who is just

starting out or is an experienced bookbinder. There are color examples of the books she has

made for this book and black and white step by step instructions on how to make them. She

gives you the bookbinding basics and then goes on to show pamphlet stitch, basic codex,

different stitches, stab bindings and more. Interspersed throughout the book are beautiful

pictures of other artist's books, and these ain't like the books on your grandma's bookshelf!

My newest found favorites is Bee Shay's "Collage Lab". "Collage Lab is structured to encourage the building of a visual vocabulary by working through the fifty-two labs comprising twelve units." Each unit consists of four to five labs to work out what works or doesn't in each unit. Unit 1 is Building the Foundation, Unit 5 is about Surface Design, Unit 8 is all about Paper Play. If you are not sure how or what you can collage, this book is for you. It's all about play and experimentation. There are a number of good ideas in this book to try for your own collages. also has a piece in the gallery section from one of our very own members, Jan Harris.


The Creative License by Danny Gregory because it is great for helping you find a way to make time to be creative.

I do love The Artist's Way for the same reasons. But it is best to work through it with a group, I think.

Gwen Diehn's The Decorated Page. This is one of the first books that I found on artful journaling, and it is still very relevant. It really got my juices flowing for making and keeping journals.

We all love new art books, so let us know what some of your favorites are!


Dayna said...

So nice to get some ideas for new art books!

Lesley said...

I'll be checking out the books on this list!
Right now I really love The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield.

Anonymous said...

This is a great idea! And a starting point for a new art library!

Robin Olsen said...

Thanks Lesley--I've never heard of that one but will be checking it out.