The best books to inspire you to draw

Who am I?

I started drawing in my twenties when I was lucky to meet and be inspired by tutors who passed on their passion for it. I have drawn and kept sketchbooks ever since: they trace the everyday things, my travels and important life events, but they are also places for thoughts and experiments, notes, and phone numbers. I don’t dare leave home without a sketchbook and pen in case I miss some unmissable thing. I went to art college, trained as a journalist, worked at a variety of art publications, have written three books about drawing, and exhibit and sell my drawings and prints. 


I wrote...

Sketch Your World: Drawing techniques for great results on the go

By James Hobbs,

Book cover of Sketch Your World: Drawing techniques for great results on the go

What is my book about?

Sketch Your World shows how 60 artists go about drawing on location and capturing the energy of the scene around them. Drawing can change the way you see your environment – it makes you stop, look and engage with your surroundings in ways that you probably wouldn’t otherwise. Sketch Your World is an accessible and encouraging guide, if that’s what you want to do too. It doesn’t try to tell you how to draw, but instead artists, architects, illustrators, students, and reportage artists explain how they select tools, find subjects, deal with onlookers and take creative risks.

You need only the simplest, cheapest items – just a pen or pencil and small sketchbook – to do this thing that can excite and sustain you for the rest of your days.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Ways of Drawing: Artists' Perspectives and Practices

James Hobbs Why did I love this book?

There’s nothing like looking at the work of other artists to inspire you to draw. In this book, contemporary artists and teachers from the Royal Drawing School in London reflect on drawing and the diversity of ways to go about it through a series of essays that are interspersed with hundreds of drawn images by alumni and leading artists through the ages. A series of practical propositions for you to try out can lead to change and inspiration in your own work, whether it is based in the studio, out in the open, or from your imagination. This book makes drawing seem vital, current, and rich with possibilities. 

By Julian Bell (editor), Julia Balchin (editor), Claudia Tobin (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ways of Drawing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Ways of Drawing brings together a sophisticated, exciting range of reflections on markmaking by practising artists, teachers and writers. From explorations of how it feels to draw and personal accounts of artistic development, to short, imaginative propositions for looking, understanding and experiencing afresh, this collection repositions drawing as a vital creative and intellectual endeavour.

The book is divided into three sections: 'Studio Space', which focuses on drawing within four walls; 'Open Space', which ventures out into the cityscapes and landscapes around us; and 'Inner Space', which returns to the living, feeling, drawing person. Each section is comprehensively illustrated with a…


Book cover of Je Suis Le Cahier: The Sketchbooks of Picasso

James Hobbs Why did I love this book?

I can’t help being inspired by an artist for whom drawing was such a natural, intuitive, lifelong act. Picasso is known to have kept 175 sketchbooks during his lifetime, some linked to his best-known works, such as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. This book (“I Am the Sketchbook”) not only catalogues all 175, but it reproduces six of them in full, revealing a process of trial and discovery. The looseness, the simplicity, the richness, and the joy of enquiring lines and marks in these pages are, to me, an irresistible stimulant to draw. (There’s the occasional dud too, as any sketchbook should have.)

By Arnold Glimcher (editor), Marc Glimcher (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Je Suis Le Cahier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sketchbooks of Picasso is the only collection available of the private sketchbooks of Pablo Picasso, which he began in Barcelona in 1894. For more than seventy years, as the young painter blossomed and matured into the greatest artist of the twentieth century, he kept a record of his ideas and thoughts, so that by 1964 there were 175 sketchbooks, a unique and startling picture of the mind of a genius at work. Accompanying the major sections are essays by six of the greatest American art historians: E.A. Carmean, Sam Hunter, Rosalind Krauss, Theodore Reff, Robert Rosenblum, and Gert Schiff.…


Book cover of The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing on Location Around the World

James Hobbs Why did I love this book?

Drawing on location for the first time can be an intimidating prospect: where to start? Urban Sketchers, a non-profit organisation founded by Gabriel Campanario, the author of this book, has hundreds of groups around the world that meet to draw together in a supportive and non-judgmental way. Some participants have been drawing for decades, others perhaps never before. This book features more than 500 works by diverse artists from 30 countries who describe the tools they use and how they go about drawing what is around them. It is a route not only to get drawing and be inspired to try new ways, but to connect with a worldwide community and make new mates. (I’ll confess now: I have a few drawings in this book.)

By Gabriel Campanario,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Art of Urban Sketching as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Art of Urban Sketching is both a comprehensive guide and a showcase of location drawings by artists around the world who draw the cities where they live and travel. This beautiful volume explains urban sketching within the context of a long historical tradition and how it is practiced today. It includes profiles of leading practitioners, a discussion of the benefits of working in this art form, and shows how one can participate and experience it through modern-day social networks and online activity. The book is illustrated with over 700 beautiful, contemporary illustrations, and includes artists' profiles and extended captions…


Book cover of Lines of Thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to Now

James Hobbs Why did I love this book?

Drawings by artists through the centuries can be a fantastic reservoir of ideas for contemporary artists. This book – published to accompany a British Museum touring exhibition – includes works drawn across a 500-year span, bringing together ancient and modern: Rachel Whiteread and Georges Seurat, Bridget Riley and Albrecht Dürer, Philip Guston and Vincent Van Gogh. The immediacy and directness of drawings from the past means they speak as clearly to us as those that are contemporary. Take, for instance, the 300-year-old brush drawings of Alexander Cozens, which still look thrillingly fresh, or Roger Hilton’s modern, minimalist nude: both make me reach for the pen and paper. The oldest drawings sing alongside the newest and lure me in. 

By Isabel Seligman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lines of Thought as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Looking at works from a range of different artists and their various approaches, this book examines the process and practice of drawing, showcasing artworks from 15th- and 16th-century masters, such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, right up to artists working today. In arranging them not by period or style, but by the types of thinking that give rise to them, readers gain fresh insights into the thought processes of some of the world's greatest artists. This thematic rather than chronological structure allows us to place historical drawings side-by-side with modern and contemporary works, to show how artists from widely…


Book cover of Drawing Projects: An Exploration of the Language of Drawing

James Hobbs Why did I love this book?

This book is great because it combines illuminating interviews with leading contemporary artists who draw, such as Cornelia Parker, Dryden Goodwin, and Charles Avery, with no-nonsense practical projects. The book has the atmosphere of an art school studio about it, which is understandable because it has sprung from the authors’ collective 45 years as artists and lecturers. It feels like a creative launchpad, one that will take your drawings in new exciting directions if you’re prepared to give it a go. This is a book you should get dirty in the studio. I can almost taste the charcoal dust in the air reading this book.

By Mick Maslen, Jack Southern,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Drawing Projects as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Drawing Projects' is both a pratical guide to drawing and an informative insight into the minds of artists who work with the medium.


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Off Season

By Randy Kraft,

Book cover of Off Season

Randy Kraft Author Of Off Season

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Introspective Observant Bookish Friendly

Randy's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

When Sharon's ex-husband, Red, invites her to join him for a winter retreat, she agrees. After all, they've moved past what ails them, and they get on well. She will be on sabbatical fine-tuning a PhD dissertation, and he needs a respite from an illness. Why not enjoy the charms of a southern California beach town off-season?

Soothed by sea breezes, they become fascinated with their mysterious landlord and her late artist partner, Red is befriended by a flirty neighbor and her surfer husband, and Sharon shares her literary passions with a sexy retiree. When the winds of the pandemic blow, they have to confront their past within a daunting future.

Is off-season an opportunity for renewal or a glimpse of what might have been?

Off Season

By Randy Kraft,

What is this book about?

When Sharon's ex-husband, Red, invites her to join him for a winter retreat, she agrees. After all, they've moved past what ails them, she will be on sabbatical fine tuning a PhD dissertation, and he needs a respite from an illness. Why not enjoy the charms of a southern California beach town off season? On the other hand, what else might he have in mind and what will she face if she lets her guard down? Soothed by sea breezes and ocean views, they become fascinated with their mysterious landlord and her late partner, a Fauvist painter. Then, Red is…


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