The best books to study on Maestros of the art world and their varying prisms of thought

Alan Pierce Author Of An Artist's Odyssey: Chasing Ghosts, Masters & The Business of Art
By Alan Pierce

Who am I?

I first started art when I was nine years old, but my art journey really started after seeing the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s work at age 14. This experience changed my life and from there, I continued on with fourteen years of formal art education. The book details my experience and journey as a student, instructor, and professional artist over a thirty-year time period across three continents. I wrote An Artist’s Odyssey to help young artists or artists transitioning into art as a profession to help them avoid the pitfalls of the art world and supplement the necessary business acumen required to make a sustainable career in the art world.

I wrote...

An Artist's Odyssey: Chasing Ghosts, Masters & The Business of Art

By Alan Pierce,

Book cover of An Artist's Odyssey: Chasing Ghosts, Masters & The Business of Art

What is my book about?

I wrote this book to help young artists find their path within the art world and to promote personal and professional growth within the art field.  In my own experience, I found a distinct gap between studying art within the educational system and my own real world experiences as a professional artist and entrepreneur. This book is in part my attempt to create a framework to help young artists more effectively bridge that gap within their own artistic journey.   

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The books I picked & why

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The Artist's Complete Guide to Figure Drawing: A Contemporary Perspective On the Classical Tradition

By Anthony Ryder,

Book cover of The Artist's Complete Guide to Figure Drawing: A Contemporary Perspective On the Classical Tradition

Why this book?

I bought this book twenty years ago and still love this book. It is such a clear and beautifully illustrated book with a very strong explanation of the different elements of drawing the human figure and how to render with powerful volume and gesture. It is a great learning tool for artists of all ages and experiences to learn from, be inspired by or just review basic principles of drawing the human figure. The way that Anthony Ryder uses colored paper as the midtone is one of the easiest and most visually powerful ways to add character and depth to any drawing. 

Dalí. The Paintings

By Robert Descharnes, Gilles Néret,

Book cover of Dalí. The Paintings

Why this book?

Dalí. The Paintings is one of the most complete compilations of works I’ve seen, and it includes the examination of one of the most prolific and controversial figures in art. Salvador Dali is a genius. He took his artistic skill and vision across so many different genres of the arts. The book is a fascinating journey into his mind and work. I learned a tremendous amount regarding composition, palette and tone decisions, and of course realism. I loved the idea that you can inspire the mind, leading it into new thought patterns by presenting something that is different or strange. 

The Magic of M.C. Escher

By J.L. Locher,

Book cover of The Magic of M.C. Escher

Why this book?

For me, this book was a real education. It provided insight into how the greatest artists strive to break the rules and find interest in juxtapositioning different versions of reality and fantasy.  The perfect summation, to me, of what Escher strived to do is communicated in this quote, “My topics are often playful too. I cannot stop fiddling around with our incontestable certainty. It is a pleasure, for example, to deliberately mingle two- and three-dimensions, flat and spatial and to poke fun at gravity.” One of the main takeaways from this book is to always strive to reimagine reality, break rules, be playful, and never be afraid to fail.  

Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque

By Rudolph Wittkower,

Book cover of Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque

Why this book?

Bernini shows the culmination of the Baroque era in which the artist himself played a significant part in forming and exposing how art can be an intersection between painting, sculpture, and architecture. The level of detail and expression that he can imbue his sculptures with is an experience in itself. The book also gives insight into his process, internal rules, and definitions of art as well as the historical context behind many of his works. His larger works, along with his smaller, far more personal portrait busts, are all detailed with rich photography showcasing the incredible detail of his work. 


By Emmanuel Starcky,

Book cover of Rembrandt

Why this book?

Rembrandt is a fascinating journey through Rembrandt’s paintings and also his lesser-known (to the general public) prints. It’s also a chronological roadmap of his works from his early years until his final period.  Watching his progression and the mastery in his latest period was a true learning process of how ‘less’ can be ‘far more.’ In the works displayed in the book, Rembrandt shows his skill at wringing every last bit of functionality out of each color in a very limited palette and also the cornucopia of atmospheric density he played with so masterfully to push and pull the viewers’ eye.  

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Interested in art, classical antiquity, and drawing?

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