Everyone doing something creative finds certain books help more than others.
Some inspire you to action – to simply DO more, some show you how it could be to live your creative dream, others give you insight into a specific technique while others dispel myths and doubts which then allows you to progress with your creativity.
Over the years these 6 books have done more to give me happiness and satisfaction in the field of creativity, watercolour and also in life in general than any others.
I have read tonnes of instructional books and some I regret selling off when money was short!
This is what each one did for me:- If you click on the titles you will be taken to Amazon if you want to buy them:)
1 Watercolor: You Can Do it! – Tony Couch – This gave me the unshakeable fundamentals of watercolor when I was attending a twice weekly drop-in class during a period of depression.
I copied nearly every painting in his book and his no messing instructions and dynamic tone dragged me out of the quagmire of feeling down into getting excited about painting and living.
Most importantly this book teaches you that without clearly established tones (values) your work won’t work!
2 The Joy of Watercolor – By David Lyle Millard – With loose sketches and vibrant colours this book inspired me to just be “me” on the paper.
He encourages a sketchbook use for life and to not care too much about how things look and rather to focus on “seeing” and perceiving.
He showed me that you don’t have to have perfect angles and perspective to create art.
3 Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards – Now recommended reading in most art schools and other creative institutions.
This book showed me how to “see” on an even deeper level that book No 2. Squinting and looking at 2D images upside down are amongst some of the tools Betty employs to flick off the non-creative left hand side of the brain and allow in the creative right hand side a free rein. Get this if you want to learn to draw.
This book is your chance to start to learn to see and draw again before primary education messed it all up for you.
4 Webb on Watercolor – by Frank Webb – This is an artist who uses very strong value patterns to create the most luminous and colourful paintings that are contemporary and minimal.
He was a breath of fresh air that encouraged loose painting and bold decision-making. His palette is also the one I bought on my first ever painting course over 20 years ago and still use to this day.
He showed me that especially in the early stages of a painting the wetter the paper the better!
5 Confessions of a Starving Artist – by Harley Brown. As I am mad on Native American Indians getting this book was like dying and going to heaven. Harley’s masterful rendering of facial and costume details in his portraits are breath-taking and amazing.
I learned about painting pastels in shapes and forms as opposed to objects. The eye shape was painted and not the eye so that it all grew organically outwards instead of the prescriptive oval face outline approach.
One of my best ever pastel portraits is of a copy I made of a little Indian girl of his. If you come to my home it hangs in my studio to remind me every day that this is what I aspire to paint. When visiting New Mexico a few years ago I saw an original of his in Taos and felt as if I had finally met the master.
A revelation in how to paint the face.
6. The Art Spirit by Robert Henri. Read this if you like to dream about being an artist. This book is very motivational and philosophical and I love it!
I bought it to read on a trip to the American South West and it fueled my imagination and made me motivated to do more art and believe that even when someone has painted something brilliantly that there is still a point to your painting it – each of us has our own vision.
He explains what it is to have art on your mind all the time – something which chimed with me.
Read this if you need convincing that there is a point to you picking up a pencil or brush.
Do you have a fave art book that is simply the best?
Please tell us about it below – Thanks!