The best books on art and creativity

Who am I?

I’ve been an artist all my life. In childhood, I was always drawing and after graduating from university I became an illustrator doing hundreds of drawings for major newspapers and publishers in the United States for over 25 years. It was my mission, no matter what was going on in the world, to find some humor and lightness to share through my drawings. About 15 years ago, I also began to teach drawing to adults and was amazed to discover that everyone can draw. When I saw how people seemed to become happier and bolder making art I became passionate about sharing how we can grow our creativity by developing an art practice. It makes for a beautiful life and quite possibly a more beautiful world.

I wrote...

The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind

By Cat Bennett,

Book cover of The Confident Creative: Drawing to Free the Hand and Mind

What is my book about?

The simple act of drawing can connect us with our true creative selves and this book shows how. Everyone can draw and use drawing as both a means to make art and a way to explore creative ideas. The book shows how to deepen our focus in a yogic way by immersing ourselves in the moment and letting everything else fall away. In this place we find inspiration. The book encourages us to take chances, observe the world and our work with clear eyes, stay open and respond to inspiration when it comes. And just be who we are as artists. It also looks at how by going to the edge of our abilities and mindset we grow our ideas and creative confidence. The book also offers practical drawing exercises for the reader to try and is illustrated with full-color examples from a variety of artists.

The Confident Creative was a 2011 gold medal winner in the Nautilus Book Awards.

The books I picked & why

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Spring Cannot Be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy

By David Hockney, Martin Gayford,

Book cover of Spring Cannot Be Cancelled: David Hockney in Normandy

Why this book?

I adore David Hockney. He draws so beautifully, and in so many different ways, and is always inventive in his art-making. He makes me see more through his art and was a major inspiration for me when I was starting out as an editorial illustrator years ago. This book is a 2020 pandemic conversation between Hockney, now living in Normandy, and his good friend, the art critic Martin Gayford in the UK. It really speaks to the devotion that artists have to observing life and creating something beautiful from it. I love the joy Hockney brings to his work and see that as a powerful energy to create from.

David Hockney: Drawing from Life

By David Hockney (illustrator), Sarah Howgate,

Book cover of David Hockney: Drawing from Life

Why this book?

This is a purely visual book of portraits by David Hockney from the beginning of his career until he is nearly 80. It’s full of different styles of drawing and painting and, for that reason, is the kind of book that stimulates visual ideas and makes me want to go straight to the drawing board. In other words, it really gets us thinking in some new ways about how we interpret the world around us in drawing and painting. It’s a good reminder of the pleasures of looking and making.

Feck Perfuction: Dangerous Ideas on the Business of Life

By James Victore,

Book cover of Feck Perfuction: Dangerous Ideas on the Business of Life

Why this book?

Artist, designer, writer James Victore urges us to be ourselves without hesitation. Artists don’t fit in, we can’t. We’re observers and makers and require a certain distance from the mainstream to refine our vision and do our work. But we can be afraid to express ourselves fully and stand out from the crowd. This book dishes out confidence like candy. It’s a great place to replenish flagging spirits when they descend as they will from time to time. It’s energizing and makes you want to open your eyes and do what you can to further the unfolding of your truth and spirit. Written in short pithy chapters, you can dip in and out of it whenever you need a boost.

Sonia Delaunay

By Anne Montfort,

Book cover of Sonia Delaunay

Why this book?

Sonia Delaunay’s work with color and abstraction in the first part of the 20th century was groundbreaking as was her ability to also bring her art into the world of the applied arts of fashion, set design, mosaics, tapestries, and lithographs. The book has excellent essays about creative life in Paris at the time and over 250 illustrations. For women, it’s especially inspiring to learn how Delaunay managed to be a wife and mother as well as a respected and prolific artist. It’s also inspiring to see how she made a huge creative leap from representational art to her distinctive abstract art. From the perspective of creativity, I love how she was inventive in her art and then brought it into the world in inventive ways too.

Stranger Than Kindness

By Nick Cave,

Book cover of Stranger Than Kindness

Why this book?

While Nick Cave is primarily a musician/songwriter, this book is a visual record of Cave’s creative journey filled with his early sketchbooks, photos, drawings, and typewritten song lyrics annotated by hand. Many of us artists work in sketchbooks where we can feel free to be messy and exploratory and pour our hearts onto the page. Some of us need words as well as images to explore the world around us, decipher our feelings and uncover our work. I love musing over Nick’s here—so messy and wild to begin and a little more ordered as he ages as one might expect. The book is filled with photos of different parts of his life, drawings and doodles, tight handwritten scripts and taped over typewritten lyrics gone yellow with age. It’s a compendium of a wonderful artist’s creative process. A real joy to sit down with and muse over.

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