Artists are born, not made. There is something inside of us that yearns for visual expression. It cannot be taught.
That being said, through my personal journey I’ve discovered numerous resources that have proven very inspirational and even invaluable. Books outlining the technical processes involved in defining space and form, paint handling, composition… These things don’t supersede the artist’s eye, but they do help us to make more informed decisions. They may also open our minds to new possibilities …and if you’re anything like me, research on the development of artistic processes throughout art history will also prove fascinating.
I’ve compiled the following list of books and websites that I reference/follow, and consider to be excellent resources for the beginner and advanced artist alike.
Disclosure: I sometimes include affiliate links in my posts, and may receive compensation from the companies whose products I endorse. I test each product thoroughly and recommend only those that I have found personally useful. I am an independent artist and the opinions expressed here are my own.
This is not a book about anatomy and proportion! It’s a wonderful and modern approach to drawing the human figure as we see it. It provides many insights on learning to transfer visual stimuli onto paper, and outlines the technical aspects of drawing outlines and building forms.
Painting in Oils
Not for the faint of heart, but this book is full of excellent advice. I have seen it referenced time and again around the web. It is one of the classics.
I bought this book looking for more information on Renaissance painting techniques, and walked away with so much more. Not only does Virgil Elliott outline several major painting processes used throughout the ages, he also provides essential information on perspective, composition, and form. He also addresses conservational concerns, giving us the tools to create art that will last centuries. I revisit it again and again.
Juliette Artistides has created here a classical atelier in book form. She goes in depth on various art historical methods, and provides useful lesson plans for student readers. If you’re not able to attend a real-life atelier, or even if you are, this book is a wonderful resource.
I was so incredibly fortunate to attend Professor Kleiner’s courses as an undergrad at Boston University. He is a great story-teller. Both in his writing and lectures, you hang on every word. This book is the essential survey of Art History, used as an accompaniment to his and many other major introductory courses. My copy is several editions old, with many cracks in the binding. I’ve referenced it personally and while teaching for more years than I care to admit.
Delphi Masters of Art
A series of books with the complete works of the great masters. Many of the books also include notable artist biographies. I bought a few of the digital versions as quick inexpensive reference guides to use while reading related materials.
Exquisite. This is a large-format book explores Leonardo’s full repetoire, in both interesting historical text and full-page detail images. An excellent sourcebook for artists and art enthusiasts.
Another gorgeous edition. The text is compelling, the photos are breath-taking, the book itself looks beautiful on the coffee table. This is a must have to Michelangelo lovers.