Art Books to Change Your Life, Inspire Your Work, and Move You to Create
Dear Wonderful, Creative You:
Art books changed my life. My favorites have beautiful pictures, inspiring quotes, and generally give you permission and support to be your weird, wonderful, self and let it show in your art. This year I closed my art therapy practice to focus on Mindful Art Studio. As I spend more of my time dedicated to my art practice, I find that reading about art and artists is not just fun, it’s necessary. So here’s a list of what I think are some of the best art books to change your life, inspire your work, and move you to create.
Art Books I Loved This Year:
Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art & History, in That Order, Bridget Quinn and Lisa Congdon
Bridget Quinn is a brassy and passionate writer and art historian. Her love for these women artists is contagious, and the work is enriched by Lisa Congdon’s delicate illustrations.
A Glorious Freedom, Lisa Congdon
There’s a theme this year with Lisa Congdon’s books! Lisa champions powerful women over 50 doing amazing things.
Georgia O’Keeffe, Roxana Robinson
I was amazed at how much I learned about O’Keeffe’s relationships to her art practice and the people she loved. Reading about her absolute dedication to her art practice inspired me to dive deeper into my own.
Drawn from Life, Helen Birch
This beautiful little book details various drawing styles from a variety of artists. You’ll be inspired to draw as soon as you pick it up!
Art Books that Inspire My Work:
New and Selected Poems, Mary Oliver
Mary Oliver’s connection to nature is so clear and pure, I find the more I steep myself in her poetry, the more I am energized to create nature based work.
The Mandala Book, Lori Bailey Cunningham
Lori’s beautiful book traces mandalas throughout history and various cultures, and in nature, from the smallest cells to the cosmos.
The Curious Nature Guide, Clare Walker Leslie
This lovely book is full of Clare’s illustrations and prompts for tuning into the splendor of the natural world, even in your own neighborhood.
Nests: 50 Bird Nests and the Birds Who Built Them, Sharon Beals
Eggs and nests have appeared in my intuitive art for a long time. They inspire my work in pen, acrylic, and paper cutting.
Art Books That Changed My Life:
The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron
This book has helped so many self-doubting creatives. With practical exercises, and an inspiring vision, Cameron shows us how to convert creative dreams into reality.
Inspiration Sandwich, SARK
SARK is a master permission-giver and inspiration officer in chief. With incredible stories and exercises, she will inspire you to live your fullest creative life like she does.
The Art Therapy Sourcebook, Cathy Malchiodi
This is a great introduction to the concepts of art therapy and art for personal transformation. I did several of the exercises and found they opened up new avenues in my art. It helped me decide to pursue art therapy.
Art is a Way of Knowing, Pat Allan
Pat Allan validated my view of art making as a spiritual process, and gave structure and exercises to help me dive deeper.
Art Books that Will Move You to Create:
Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon
Art & Fear, David Bayles and Ted Orland
The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp
Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
The Blank Canvas, Anna Held Audette
My Art Book Wishlist:
Be bold! Send this post to someone who might need holiday gift ideas for you. This is a great way to ask for support of your art practice.
The Collaborative Habit, Twyla Tharp
Keep Going, Austin Kleon
The Joy of Swimming, Lisa Congdon
Creative Pep Talk, Andy J. Miller
Art Before Breakfast, Danny Gregory
Picture This: How Pictures Work, Molly Bang
Daily Rituals, How Artists Work, Mason Currey
What art books move you? Which are on your wish list for this holiday? Tell us about it and share this list with loved ones so they can gift you with some art inspiration!
*The links in this post are affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, if you choose to click the link and buy something, you will support the work of Mindful Art Studio to empower the artist in everyone. Thank you!
Thankyou for this list. I’ve only read the artist’s way and it has changed my life. Now I’ve got so many more to read! Yay!!
Thanks so much for dropping in! I’m thrilled that you have discovered the magic of The Artist’s Way and that you are excited about these new titles. If you haven’t already, you might also love my free class, The Guide to Creative Self-Care E-Course.
I have read The Artis’s Way and Big Magic, both of which I have learned so much from. Thank you for sharing your list. I look forward to reading so many of those.
Yes, they are SUCH POWERFUL BOOKS. I’m so happy you found your way here and I hope you love the others as well. Please let me know if I can point you to any other art resources!
I would also add all of Lynda Barry’s books, but especially Picture This.
HI Eileen: Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to write. I’ve heard Lynda’s work recommended by several folks on my Instagram as well. Happy reading!
I’m currently taking a Survey of Art Therapy course (loving it, BTW), and required reading is Pat Allen’s book. It’s really resonating with me. This is a great list for further inquiry. Thanks!
YAY Julie, I’m so glad to hear it! She is one of the mother’s of the field. XO Amy
My number one art inspiration book is “The Mission of Art” by Alex Grey. That book kept me from giving up my art practice on multiple occasions. Pat Allen’s book “Art as a Way of Knowing” was a huge one for me as it helped to confirm what I believed about my own practice and how I chose to teach others. “Trust the Process” by Sean McNiff is great, as is “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield.
As someone who has both used and taught sacred mandala art, I am also a fan of Bailey Cunningham’s books.
This year, I finally read “The Principles of Uncertainty” and LOVED it!
Thanks for this post!
Oh I’m so glad you dropped in! I just loved hearing the Principles of Uncertainty book suggestion and then looking through your lovely site. Indeed we are on parallel paths. If you haven’t already, reach out to Lori Bailey Cunningham. I wrote to her after referencing her in a post a few years ago and we had such a delightful exchange. I’m so happy to find another kindred spirit. Happy art making! XO Amy
Thank you for this wonderful list; I cannot wait to add some more of these to my library. I love art and creative books.
Brandi – They are such a wonderful creative boost, aren’t they? Thanks so much for popping in! XO Amy
You might want to try Sarah Urist Green’s You Are an Artist: Assignments to Spark Creation.
She is the creator (I think) of the youtube channel, The Art Assignment.
That’s a great add to the list, thanks Victoria~ xo