I love picking up my art books and getting lost inside their pages. Mostly because they feel like a break from reality, a time to steep one’s self in a way of making, a philosophy, or stories of lived experiences that inform the art we have grown to love.
I love them whether they are bigger coffee table art books or smaller paperbacks and hardcovers that you can slip into your pack. While there are beautiful books one can prop up on a shelf as a design piece as much as a book with pages to be turned, I’ve found the following 6 art books an incredible, practical addition to any art lover’s bookshelf.
Jerry Saltz is an incredible human being. He began his career as an art critic at the age of 40 after being a truck driver and avoiding his creative impulses all his life. This book, published in 2020, is a book every creative person should read annually. It’s not about how to criticise art, it’s about the persistence, grit, and practicality of showing up every day and working at your craft. As Jerry says, this book won’t tell you how to make money as an artist, but it will kick you in the ass with love, pushing every one of us to be a better, more prolific creative version of ourselves. It’s compassionate, thoughtful, wise, funny, and buoys the reader into a state of creative positivity and empowerment. IPaintMyMind is a big fan of Jerry Saltz and what his writing means for future generations of creatives.
Feck Perfuction is like Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass, except it’s meant for artists. His little vignettes are complemented by art, design, and book layout glory, and this small, pack-able book is gasoline for your creative fire. Unrelenting, sometimes, brash, and also wise & evocative in incredible ways, Victore’s years of teaching, design work, and consistent output makes him an incredible voice of perspective for those of us looking to lead insatiably creative lives. His years working with college students is born out in his style as well as his inimitable way of leading a horse to water. He’s a teacher through and through, a gateway for inspiring more of us to devote our lives to the uncertainty (less so every day) of a life of art-making.
This book is very much in the same vein as Jerry Saltz’ and James Victore’s spots on this list: it’s about demystifying creativity and getting you to go for it, already! It leads with the fact that all art is derivative, inspired by and informed by others, by history, by culture, and then spat out in our own, unique way. The 10 rules Kleon offers are about how we accept ourselves, learn to stop sweating it, and start making what we’re compelled to make. Ideas about perfection hold us back, and the reality is that we just need to start making now. Austin has gained cult status with this book, and rightly so, you should buy a copy right now. Get one for your ‘creative friend’ too.
Published by Yale University Press in conjunction with the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and paired with the stellar Moholy-Nagy retrospective exhibition from a few years back, this book evidences the incredible range, genius, and multidisciplinary artwork of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. A professor in the Bauhaus school and essentially bringing that movement to America via Chicago, his breadth of production, design, and uniquely evolutionary approach brought to light one of our greatest renaissance men: an artist, a leader, and an educator. This book weaves together the timeline of how Bauhaus made its way to America, and will impress upon any reader just how vital these concepts have been, if only because they are still ubiquitous in 2020. Moholy-Nagy proves you can do anything.
This gem by Gingko Press has been published in a few editions, one more beautiful than the next. Chronicling Shepard Fairey’s artistic career with incredible images of the majority of his work, this book is a must-have for any fan of Obey Giant, Shepard Fairey, or art prints, stencils, and street art in the last 30 years. It’s an epic compilation of his stickers, wheatpastes, murals, and more, telling his story all the way through his iconic Barack Obama poster. This thing is weighty and comprehensive. You’ll come back to it time and time again, making it worth more than twice the price.
This book is truly eye opening and an incredible way to learn directly from a wide range of artists who have been prolific in a wide range of mediums and forms of expression. The book leads the reader through 27 multi-page artist profiles where the artist offers their perspective alongside some of their works. The content isn’t always related to a specific piece of art, but again, feels instructional in a biographical way. Marina Abramovic, Olafur Eliasson, Piero Golia, and Joan Jonas, among others, testify and illuminate process and perspective. Interviews yield to pages of high-quality reproductions of art works, yielding to another testimonial of an entirely different perspective. A truly awesome work published by Phaidon, this book gives and gives.
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