I love books. Fiction or non-fiction it doesn’t really matter. Books put words to the feelings I have but can’t explain, which is probably why I like books about the creative process so much. This is certainly not a definitive list of my favorite books on artmaking but it’s usually what I recommend to people first. Ironically, they’re all super quick reads with the longest of the three clocking-in at just 165 pages. So grab a cup of tea, snuggle up on the couch and let’s read some books!
Let me know your personal recommendations for books to inspire creativity in the comments. I’m always looking for new page-turners.
ART & FEAR
BY DAVID BAYLES & TED ORLAND
“What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is in the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. Put simply, your work is your guide: a complete, comprehensive, limitless reference book on your work.”
This book was required reading in art school and I’ve re-read it several times since. It really takes those feelings of fear that you have as an artist and normalizes them. It’s not just about fear though, it’s practically a roadmap to the artist brain. The authors take on jealousy, self-doubt, uncertainty, the vision vs. execution gap and craving approval. There really isn’t anything new here. It’s literally everything you’ve already known or felt over the course of your creative life put into the words you could never find yourself or you just never realized that that was what was going on.
My favorite parts have acted as a helpful guide to figuring out what my art is really about and to push me forward at each stage of my artistic development. That’s why I’ve re-read it so many times. Each re-visit is like a spotlight on a part of my creativity I didn’t even know existed yet. Basically, while you’re reading this book, prepare to nod your head repeatedly and feel infinitely less alone the next time you sit down and start making.
Buy it here.
BY LEONARD KOREN
“Beauty can be coaxed out of ugliness. Wabi-sabi is ambivalent about separating beauty from non-beauty or ugliness. The beauty of wabi-sabi is in one respect, the condition of coming to terms with what you consider ugly. Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.”
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic, philosophy and even way of life. It’s the inherent beauty of things that are ugly, broken, ephemeral or incomplete. There’s truthfully no direct way to explain wabi-sabi in English since its a way of thinking and uniquely Japanese but the author tries and what results is a mix of definition and poetry.
I didn’t finish the last page of this book and go out declaring myself an expert in wabi-sabi but, as an artist, I try to pull inspiration from everything. These musing on the beauty of imperfection will shift your view on the natural world, open up a new well of inspiration for artistic creation and help you understand the beauty in the imperfectness of your own work.
Buy it here.
THE WAR OF ART
BY STEVEN PRESSFIELD
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
I first heard of this book on the Creative Pep Talk podcast (Seriously, if you haven’t listened to this podcast I highly recommend it.) and the way that Andy J. Miller talked about this book I knew I had to read it. The title is not merely just a clever turn of phrase; it’s literal. There is a battle raging. One side is your creative dreams and every piece of art you are meant to bring into this world. The other is the Resistance, the internal roadblocks that keep you from making work.
The Resistance’s only job is keeping you from your creative calling. It’s the Resistance that says, “I’m tired today,” “No one will like this anyway,” “I can start that tomorrow.” I like the idea of the Resistance as a thing I can fight instead of just an amorphous feeling. Every day I put brush to paper I win a battle against the forces that are trying to stop me from reaching that vision inside me. Naming this force and understanding it, has helped me to push it aside when it rears it’s ugly head, not just with making art but with other areas of life too.
Buy it here.