The best art books for painters to stay creative

Nancy Reyner Author Of Create Perfect Paintings: An Artist's Guide to Visual Thinking
By Nancy Reyner

Who am I?

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. 

The books I picked & why

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The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image

By Leonard Shlain,

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

Why 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.


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

By Steven Pressfield,

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

Why 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.


Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

By Elizabeth Gilbert,

Book cover of Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Why 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.


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

By Gregg Braden,

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

Why 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.


Concerning the Spiritual in Art

By Wassily Kandinsky,

Book cover of Concerning the Spiritual in Art

Why 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.


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