Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Your NEW Favourite Art Books

What are your favourite art books from the last three years?  

Are they better or worse than previous favourite art books and, if so, why?  

PLUS Do you now read ebooks about art?

Popular art books according to Good Reads

Three years ago, in January 2009, I started the year by writing on this blog about what was happening to art books and the publishing industry.

At the time it was very apparent that a shift was happening within the book industry:
  • the impact of digital technology would mean that books in the future would be very different
  • that in turn meant there were major implications for the cost structures within publishing and distribution channels for selling books
It also seemed as if there was never a better time for artists to take more control over content and production - if they were so minded.  (Since then I've instituted the Making A Mark Award at the end of each tyear for The Best Book by an Art Blogger Blue Ribbon)

This led to asking people about art books and we all had a major discussion  on this blog about what was happening with art instruction books and the woeful way the content of some art instruction books had been downsized and downgraded.

Out of this came a post Your favourite art books - what you like.

It summarised your views into three categories
  • your favourite art books - ones which you've found very helpful
  • why you buy and read art books
  • your views as to the characteristics of a good art book
I also listed all those books which you liked and found valuable.

Out of this I built a website.  I guess I was wanting to make sure that the good art books didn't get buried!   However I shouldn't have worried as Artists' Favourite Art Books has remained perennially popular with readers of this blog and visitors to my 'resources for artists' websites for the last three years.

I'm now thinking it's time to do an update and identify what are our favourite art books of the last three years.  However. this time around I'd like to suggest some categories as a prompt.  I's also like to ask you about ebooks for art.

What are your NEW favourite art books - published in the last three years?

Have a think about NEW art books (published in 2010, 2011 or 2012) 

Which art books have you most enjoyed reading and/or learning from?

Which have become NEW favourite art books?  

Are they better or worse than your favourite art books from the past? Why do you think that is?

Here's some prompts to get you started.  You don't have to stick to these but you may find them helpful in reminding you about those books which have become your NEW FAVOURITES.

Please share your NEW FAVOURITES with us all via the comments to this blog post


Which is your FAVOURITE BOOK about:
  • sketching
  • drawing
  • how to draw for beginners
  • how to draw for advanced artists
  • how to draw people
  • how to draw landscapes and buildings
  • how to draw (whatever)

Which is your FAVOURITE BOOK about:
  • painting
  • oil painting
  • acrylic painting
  • watercolour painting
  • painting realism
  • painting with imagination
  • how to paint (whatever)
  • colour
  • composition and design
  • artistic practice (whatever)

Which is your favourite book about
  • an artist
  • an art movement
  • specific subject matter (whatever)
  • an exhibition
  • Which is your favourite art ebook?
I'm also particularly interested to hear whether or not you're a convert to ebooks and, if so, which sort of books work best as ebooks.

At the end of the month I'll do a round up and we can see which of the books published in the last three years have had the most impact.

MAM POLL (January 2013) - Do you read art ebooks?

I've also set up the Making A Mark Poll for January with a question which is a bit easier to answer - the question is Do you read art ebooks?

I'd love to know which books work best on the Kindle, Nook or iPad.

The possible answers - and you can click more than one are:

  • Yes - I read art instruction ebooks
  • Yes - I read art history ebooks
  • Yes - I read art business ebooks
  • No - I don't have an ebook reader
  • No - there are none I want to buy
  • No - I prefer real art books
  • I don't read any sort of art book

The poll is in the right hand column - just below the subscription section - and closes on 31st January.  There'll be a post later that day to say what the results are

Please note subscriptions only become live after you have verified the link in the email you will receive


  1. This is easy! My absolute favourite is Sanctuary: Britain's Artists and their Studios (Thames and Hudson 2012). It's a mighty big tome (600 pages!!), packed full of wonderful photography and really insightful, brilliantly varied Q&A interviews about the nitty-gritty, day-to-day life of each artist through to more philosophical questions about art, society, the role of the artist...
    I simply can't recommend it enough!!

  2. I have recently returned to drawing and pastel painting after several decades. I've also just picked up colored pencils. As I have recently (in the last year) ordered several books, ebooks, and videos to help learn new techniques and remind myself of old ones. Through all the decades, I kept and now refer back to Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and about 3 months ago ordered the Art of Portait Drawing by Joy Thomas after ordering and watching her video via a download on portrait drawing. It reminded me of techniques I learned from art instructors from my youth. But I've not yet been intrigued by a book published in the last three years... perhaps I've just not found the right one.

  3. I love the assignments in Drawing Projects by Mick Maslen and Jack Southern, published in 2011.

    This is a great post. I love hearing others' suggestions.


  4. Claire, how heavy is Sanctuary: Britain's Artists and their Studios (Thames and Hudson 2012). My husband is visiting Scotland next week and I would like to buy it via Amazon, having it delivered to my FIL house. However his first and most valid point when I mentioned it, was how much does it weigh? With baggage allowance going down and down, might be worth considering that before I actually buy it.

    1. Hi Jacqui,
      It is really rather heavy, I'm afraid.
      It's 15 x 13 x 2 inches and 600 pages! I was hoping Amazon would show the weight - they do sometimes - but they don't; nor do Thames & Hudson, but it's a fair few pounds...
      If I can get it weighed, I'll let you know.

  5. Jacqui - are you an expat?

    Shipping Weight is 8.7 pounds!

    You can also buy it via amazon.com - see the March section of my website 2012: Best NEW Books about Artists

  6. Probably my most favorite art book is the next one I'm going to read- whatever that might be. However of the ones I've read- Robert A. Johnson's "On Becoming a Painter" is one of my favorites. Its a gorgeous book and the philosophy presented is excellent.

    I have both a kindle and the kindle app for my iPad. I do read books with both but not usually art books. I like the tactile feel of a real book and the ability to flip pages etc of a paper book.

  7. thanks Delphine and Katherine. Yes I am expat and I looked at USA Amazon. Its available via different sellers but it actually slightly cheaper in the UK. So as Gordon is going to Scotland next week I thought I would buy via Amazon UK. I will see what he thinks of the weight. That's quiet hefty! Might just get it over here

  8. I'd call that very hefty - think largish new born baby!

  9. I bought one art ebook for the Kindle application on my iPad after downloading a few samples but I was really disappointed. It was a Dover book of drawings by Degas.
    It completely missed the point and possibilities of an ebook beyond immediate delivery. Drawings are not zoomable, the captions end up in the following page and if a drawing is in landscape mode the only way to view it is to get up and go round the iPad or lock the screen so that it doesn't swivel.
    This is clearly an "old" book that has been uploaded probably by scanning, it feels like when they were transposing old non digital recordings onto CD !
    Perhaps one should only buy recent art ebooks.

    1. I've had the same experience. My feeling is that there should be some sort of classification for ebooks for art - using standards and criteria - so that we know how much something is a proper all singing all dancing zoomable clickable ebook. Too many are not - and the publishers are either not switched or or don't want to invest in making them into proper ebooks.


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