I had a conversation with a friend last week that got me thinking. She asked what university was like for me, and had assumed that I had spent the few years I was there happily painting away all day under the watchful eye of my oh so helpful professors. Not exactly… apart from the fact that to get a University degree in Canada I had to take a load of courses that were not at all art related, my actual art classes were big on the theoretical stuff like composition and colour theory, but not so big on instructional stuff like how to actually apply paint. Or how to come up with ideas. Or how to market yourself. She was surprised… and asked how I managed to learn all that? My answer? Books. The library is a fantastic resource. There are books to learn practically everything. And now of course there is youtube… you can find professional artists demonstrating techniques that you can watch until you get it, without having to leave the comfort of your studio. But not in the 80s. Anyway, I thought I’d list my top 5, for any beginner artists looking for somewhere to start.

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain – Betty Edwards

Book by Betty Edwards

Book by Betty Edwards

This was one of the first art books I went out and bought after borrowing from the library. We took drawing in school, and even learned some of the same things she goes over in the book, but it helped me immensely to understand what I was actually learning when I was doing a contour drawing (how to see the edges and understand the shapes), or wtf the prof was expecting me to do when he went on about “drawing the negative space”.  I hadn’t had any real art instruction before uni, and I needed to start at ground zero. This book seriously helped.

The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron

Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

I picked up this book on a whim when my son was a toddler and I felt like I had become the invisible mom. I worked my way through it chapter by chapter, and started following some of her suggestions like journaling and going on “artist dates”. I’ve gone back to this book from time to time and reread some of the chapters, as a reminder to myself that if I can’t invest the time it takes to nurture my creativity, I will never get where I want to go. This isn’t a easy book to work through… it dredges up all kinds of crap from childhood onward that you may think is best forgotten, but if you don’t understand where your insecurities and limiting beliefs come from, you will never be able to defeat them. It’s worth the effort.

The New Acrylics – Rhéni Tauchid

Book cover by Rheni Tauchid

New Acrylics by Rheni Tauchid

If you are going to paint in Acrylics, you really should grab yourself a copy of this book. Rhéni has experimented extensively with anything and everything, and covers so many interesting techniques. She and her husband own Tri-art paints, so she has had access to pretty much any kind if medium and pigment. Get the low down on the best way to get to most out of your paint, with this clear, concise resource.

 

Experimental Painting – Lisa Cyr

book by Lisa Cyr

Expermental Painting by Lisa Cyr

The first book I picked up on mixed media, it is a great idea book on ways to stretch your limits. Lisa Cyr mixes powder graphite with oil paint, makes stencils, builds levels into her substrates, uses found objects for printing, transfers for background patterns… all kinds of stuff I had never thought of. And she has the technical know-how to pull it off. This book is a wonderful way to stimulate your imagination and  get you going in a new direction.

 

Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon

book by Austin Kleon

Steal like an artist by Austin Kleon

This book was recently all over the internet… and there is good reason. I got it from the library, and promptly went out and bought a copy for both my son and my niece. It’s a short book, an easy read. But he deals with an issue artists face every day… where to get your inspiration.  I’ve read it a few times now. And I’ll probably read it again. It’s a good one.