Art Books to Change Your Life, Inspire Your Work, and Move You to Create

Art books to inspire, best art books, best creativity books


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 to change your life, art books to inspire, best art books, art books to change your life

A page from Lisa Congdon’s A Glorious Freedom


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 to change your life, art books inspire, best art books


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.

art books to change your life, art books to inspire, best art books, best books for artists


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!

Creatively Yours,



*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!


  1. Jayasri

    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!!

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      HI Jayasri:

      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.

      XO Amy

  2. Sherly

    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.

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      Hi Sherly:

      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!
      XO Amy

  3. Eileen McGarvey

    I would also add all of Lynda Barry’s books, but especially Picture This.

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      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!

  4. Julie

    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!

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      YAY Julie, I’m so glad to hear it! She is one of the mother’s of the field. XO Amy

  5. Stephanie Smith

    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!

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      Hi Stephanie:

      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

  6. Brandi Mahurin

    Thank you for this wonderful list; I cannot wait to add some more of these to my library. I love art and creative books.

    • Amy Johnson Maricle

      Brandi – They are such a wonderful creative boost, aren’t they? Thanks so much for popping in! XO Amy

  7. Victoria

    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.

    • Amy Maricle

      That’s a great add to the list, thanks Victoria~ xo

  8. Kathy Hill

    The Art Spirit by Henri is the best book I have ever read hands down about art. Read it put it on your list. It is a must have. Dense and delicious.

    • Amy Maricle

      OOH that sounds intriguing. I’ll check it out. Thank you!


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