The best art books for painters to stay creative

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was nine years old, I saved enough allowance money to buy a big box of oil pastels. I was mesmerized by its amazing display of gorgeous colors. Never could figure out why my girlfriends played with dolls when it was more exciting to paint. It wasn’t until high school, and time to apply to colleges that I made the decision to go to art school. Another key moment for me was after graduating from art school and landing in New York City. It was then that I made a brave decision to never waitress again, and instead do whatever it takes to stay in the arts. 


I wrote...

Create Perfect Paintings: An Artist's Guide to Visual Thinking

By Nancy Reyner,

Book cover of Create Perfect Paintings: An Artist's Guide to Visual Thinking

What is my book about?

Learn Nancy’s comprehensive and systematic critique method to improve and enhance your paintings. These groundbreaking concepts will help you create your fine art paintings quicker, with more ease, and better results. Shape your artistic vision, add inspiration to your work, and find perfect solutions to resolve any painting issue. Discover how to quickly move forward when you get stuck. Enjoy watching your paintings progress from good to great. These painting concepts, rarely taught in art schools, will bring more attention to your paintings and expand your audience. Realistic or abstract – all painting mediums and styles will benefit. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image

Nancy Reyner Why did I love this book?

In this book, Shlain reveals his unusual take on the power of images throughout history. His discussion using contemporary ideas about our creative right-brain side brings interesting connections between the Goddess, images, and feminine values. Shlain's earlier book, Art & Physics was very popular expressing his breakthrough theory, ad revealing an astonishing parallel with these two seemingly different topics. I find that books like this, not dedicated to learning specific painting techniques, end up being more helpful towards how I think as an artist. A good writer, it is easy to read and very inspiring.

By Leonard Shlain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Alphabet Versus the Goddess as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This groundbreaking book proposes that the rise of alphabetic literacy reconfigured the human brain and brought about profound changes in history, religion, and gender relations. Making remarkable connections across brain function, myth, and anthropology, Dr. Shlain shows why pre-literate cultures were principally informed by holistic, right-brain modes that venerated the Goddess, images, and feminine values. Writing drove cultures toward linear left-brain thinking and this shift upset the balance between men and women, initiating the decline of the feminine and ushering in patriarchal rule. Examining the cultures of the Israelites, Greeks, Christians, and Muslims, Shlain reinterprets ancient myths and parables in…


Book cover of The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Nancy Reyner Why did I love this book?

As artists when we create there are times when we get stuck, blocked, or feel like we can't proceed. There are many reasons why as artists we choose to take time and resources to create. Usually it is a passion we feel, a need to express ourselves creatively, or just to feel the joy of creating. It is important to not let those times of insecurity stop us from creating. This book addresses very clearly and in easy to grasp writing, why we get stuck, and how to not let these reasons keep us from following our dream. Recommended for any person engaged in creative practice – whether an artist, writer, or even a business person that wants to add creativity in their life.

By Steven Pressfield,

Why should I read it?

21 authors picked The War of Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A succinct, engaging, and practical guide forsucceeding in any creative sphere, The War ofArt is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul.

What keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do?

Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid theroadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dreambusiness venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece?

Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identifies the enemy thatevery one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer thisinternal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success.

The War of Art emphasizes the resolve…


Book cover of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Nancy Reyner Why did I love this book?

Worldwide bestselling author of Eat Pray Love writes for all artists about the creative process. Often books about techniques and processes can be a tough read, but Gilbert is a wonderful writer and takes this topic to a place where the reader is bound to be inspired. Not just for artists but this book will also add enormously to anyone who wants their life to be more fulfilling. Gilbert adds plenty of ways to enhance our lives with more mindfulness and passion.

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Why should I read it?

17 authors picked Big Magic as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration from Elizabeth Gilbert's books for years. Now, this beloved author shares her wisdom and unique understanding of creativity, shattering the perceptions of mystery and suffering that surround the process - and showing us all just how easy it can be. By sharing stories from her own life, as well as those from her friends and the people that have inspired her, Elizabeth Gilbert challenges us to embrace our curiosity, tackle what we most love and face down what we most fear. Whether you long to write a book, create…


Book cover of Resilience from the Heart: The Power to Thrive in Life's Extremes

Nancy Reyner Why did I love this book?

While this book is not written for artists or even about art, I found it very helpful for me as a painter. To achieve the best for my paintings, I realize I need to trust my intuition over intellect. If I get too intellectual about any of my ideas for a painting, the end result is not as fulfilling if instead, I follow my intuition or inner voice. Braden goes into depth in this book about having two sources of intelligence – the brain and the heart. I like his take on this which can also be thought of as right and left brain or intellect vs intuition. By thinking about Braden's ideas on our powerful heart-brain connection, I am able to tap into deeper modalities on what it is that I am painting about. Very interesting read that sticks with you for a long time and easily becomes a painter's muse.

By Gregg Braden,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Resilience from the Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

We solve our problems based upon the way we think of ourselves and the world. From peak energy and peak debt to failing economies and the realities of climate change, everyday life is showing us where we've outgrown the thinking of the past. It's also showing us where big changes in the world mean big changes in our lives. Through dramatic shifts in our jobs, our relationship to money, our health, and even our homes, it's clear that our lives are changing in ways we've never seen, to a degree that we're not prepared for, and at speeds that we've…


Book cover of Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Nancy Reyner Why did I love this book?

This book is an absolute must-read for all painters. Kandinsky is known as the father of modern art who brought abstract painting into the realms of art history. As an important aside, there is now controversy over his title, as new information has come up about a woman painter Hilma af Klint, that preceded Kandinsky for abstract painting ideas. Even so, Kandinsky was the first to write about spirituality and art for painters. His ideas still feel fresh on how color plays an integral role to express emotion in painting. He originally wrote this book in German, and so the translation to English along with his determination to express inner motivation for painters, makes this read a bit of a challenge. A worthy task guaranteed to surprise even the savviest painter, on how Kandinsky points out our inner thoughts as contemporary painters, but more than a century ago.

By Wassily Kandinsky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Concerning the Spiritual in Art as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A pioneering work in the movement to free art from its traditional bonds to material reality, this book is one of the most important documents in the history of modern art. Written by the famous nonobjective painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866–1944), it explains Kandinsky's own theory of painting and crystallizes the ideas that were influencing many other modern artists of the period. Along with his own groundbreaking paintings, this book had a tremendous impact on the development of modern art.
Kandinsky's ideas are presented in two parts. The first part, called "About General Aesthetic," issues a call for a spiritual revolution…


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The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass

By Katie Powner,

Book cover of The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass

Katie Powner Author Of The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Small town resident Animal lover Question asker

Katie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Pete is content living a simple life in the remote Montana town of Sleeping Grass, driving the local garbage truck with his pot-bellied pig Pearl and wondering about what could've been. Elderly widow Wilma is busy meddling in Pete's life to try and make up for past wrongs that he knows nothing about. Yet.

When the sister Pete was separated from as a child shows up, Pete must confront a past he buried long ago, and Wilma discovers her long-awaited chance at redemption may cost more than she’s willing to pay.

The Wind Blows in Sleeping Grass

By Katie Powner,

What is this book about?

For the first time in his life, Pete has everything to lose.

After years of drifting, fifty-year-old Pete Ryman has settled down with his potbellied pig, Pearl, in the small Montana town of Sleeping Grass--a place he never expected to see again. It's not the life he dreamed of, but there aren't many prospects for a high-school dropout like him.

Elderly widow Wilma Jacobsen carries a burden of guilt over her part in events that led to Pete leaving Sleeping Grass decades ago. Now that he's back, she's been praying for the chance to make things right, but she never…


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