10 Books Every Artist Needs in Their Bookshelf

Dec 7, 2021 | 0 comments

Looking for titles of books every artist needs to read and have on their bookshelves? Continue reading to find out!

Being an artist means you never stop learning and growing. Every time you make art, you learn new things, whether it’s from making a mistake or doing a new technique you’ve never tried, or even just scrolling through your social media accounts to find inspiration. Learning never stops because as an artist, you strive to improve yourself, and that is simply reason enough to want to know more.

Sometimes, we all experience being stagnant and we feel like we aren’t moving forward as much as we wanted to. In times like these, there’s a sure-fire way to get ourselves in the mood again. And that’s to find the inspiration and motivation to do our art.

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey. They are home.”

Anna Quindlen

Here are 10 titles that will ignite a little fire in you to keep on creating. Here are ten books every artist needs to have on their bookshelves.

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10 Books Every Artist Needs

10 Books Every Artist Needs

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield 

The Art of War meets “The Artist’s Way” in this no-nonsense, profoundly inspiring guide to overcoming creative blocks of every kind. (source

If you ever have a creative block of any sort, this book is a must-read. It contains practical guides inside to lead you to success in your creative endeavors. The author talks about every artist’s fear and enemy – yourself, or rather the voice inside yourself that tells you you’re not good enough. If you are in one of those moments where you are struggling with discipline, this book will serve as the wake-up call you need to get over your fears and get on with your creative life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a painter, an illustrator, a writer, or something else, this book is a great read for all creatives about there.

Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland

“This is a book about making art. Ordinary art. Ordinary art means something like: all art not made by Mozart. After all, art is rarely made by Mozart-like people; essentially-statistically speaking-there aren’t any people like that. Geniuses get made once-a-century or so, yet good art gets made all the time, so to equate the making of art with the workings of genius removes this intimately human activity to a strangely unreachable and unknowable place. For all practical purposes making art can be examined in great detail without ever getting entangled in the very remote problems of genius.” (source

This is another of the books every artist needs as it helps readers overcome everyday obstacles of the creative life. It gives the readers a roadmap and a guide to pursue and persevere in their dreams. Even when the going gets difficult, giving up is not an option. Every artist goes through their own ups and downs but that does not mean that it’s the end of the road. This book will make you realize why you started in the first place and will encourage you to keep going.

Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch

In brief chapters, Lynch explains the development of his ideas – where they came from, how he grasps them, and which ones appeal to him the most. He specifically discusses how he puts his thoughts into action and how he engages with others around him. Finally, he considers the self and the surrounding world – and how the process of “diving within” that has so deeply affected his own work can directly benefit others.

Catching the Big Fish comes as a revelation to the legion of fans who have longed to better understand Lynch’s personal vision. And it is equally intriguing to those who wonder how they can nurture their own creativity. (source

I’m sure there are so many artists you’re looking up to and admiring and sometimes, you’d wonder where they even get their wonderful ideas that they’ve translated into their works. With this book, the author takes you to his process of finding inspiration and harnessing creativity from within. David Lynch gives deep and insightful ways to generate ideas. This book helps struggling artists who suffer from finding their inner peace.

On Writing by Stephen King

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must-have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. (source

This book is a must-read for any writer – actual and aspiring. Stephen King has written over 50 books in his life and this makes him an expert in this craft. He is a master storyteller and with his pieces of advice in this book, you’ll be more than inspired to work on your craft, you’ll be motivated, too.

Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon 

You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side. (source

This is a short book with only 160-pages to read, but even if it’s fast-paced, it has beautiful illustrations inside that will make you fall in love with it. Reading this book does not feel like reading at all because the author wrote it as if you were having a conversation with a good friend. The gist of the whole book is that the most important thing in being an artist is having to stay true to yourself. It shares pieces of hidden truth about creativity and that nothing is really original—and that’s okay.

The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Anyone who designs anything to be used by humans — from physical objects to computer programs to conceptual tools — must read this book, and it is an equally tremendous read for anyone who has to use anything created by another human. It could forever change how you experience and interact with your physical surroundings, open your eyes to the perversity of bad design and the desirability of good design, and raise your expectations about how things should be designed. (source

This book deep-dives into the psychology behind why some designs work and some do not. It covers a range of topics from ergonomics to behaviorism, and it tackles design success and failures of ordinary yet functional objects. It’s a whole new world of different perspectives and as an artist and creative, this book is a good mind exercise.

Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom Kelly 

Too often, companies and individuals assume that creativity and innovation are the domain of the “creative types.” But two of the leading experts in innovation, design, and creativity on the planet show us that each and every one of us is creative. In an incredibly entertaining and inspiring narrative that draws on countless stories from their work at IDEO, the Stanford d.school, and with many of the world’s top companies, David and Tom Kelley identify the principles and strategies that will allow us to tap into our creative potential in our work lives, and in our personal lives, and allow us to innovate in terms of how we approach and solve problems. It is a book that will help each of us be more productive and successful in our lives and in our careers. (source

Another one of the books that artist needs is this. Creative Confidence is a great read especially for entrepreneurs who are looking for a creative approach to their product-building and problem-solving. This book will help you unleash the creative potential within yourself because the author believes that we are all born with creative genes. The topics inside this book are thought-provoking and are lessons you’ll be thankful to learn.

The Art Spirit by Robert Henri

In this book are the essential beliefs and theories of a great teacher and American artist, Robert Henri. While it embodies the entire system of his teaching, with much technical advice and critical comment for the student, it also contains inspiration for those to whom the happiness to be found through all the arts is important.No other American painter attracted such a large, intensely personal group of followers as Henri, whose death in 1929 brought to an end a life that has been completely devoted to art. He was an inspired artist and teacher who believed that everyone is vitally concerned in the happiness and wisdom to be found through the arts. Many of his paintings have been acquired by museums and private collectors. Among them are the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Wichita Art Museum, and Yale University Art Gallery. (source

This book was first published in 1923 and it brings together the wisdom and musings of Robert Henri, the famous American painter and teacher. It’s a good book to open and read when you are in need of inspiration. This book is history as it shows Robert Henri’s creative philosophy and his contributions to society.

Creative Block by Danielle Krysa

Creative block presents the most crippling—and unfortunately universal—challenge for artists. No longer! This chunky blockbuster of a book is chock-full of solutions for overcoming all manner of artistic impediment. The blogger behind The Jealous Curator interviews 50 successful international artists working in different mediums and mines their insights on how to conquer self-doubt, stay motivated, and get new ideas to flow. Each artist offers a tried-and-true exercise—from road trips to 30-day challenges to cataloging the medicine cabinet— that will kick-start the creative process. Abundantly visual with more than 300 images showcasing these artists’ resulting work, Creative Block is a vital ally to students, artists, and creative professionals. (source

This is an insightful and beautiful read, perfect for when you’re on idle time and craving for new knowledge. This book shows you how 50 artists overcame their creative blocks and how they found inspiration to get on with their work. The book has large and colorful photos that you can flip through. It’s a refreshing read.

The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield

Using a “tough love approach” to pursuing a career in the visual arts, Jackie Battenfield expands on her highly successful classes and workshops to provide a comprehensive guide for both emerging and mid-career artists. Providing real-life examples, illustrations, and step-by-step exercises, Battenfield offers readily applicable advice on all aspects of the job. Along with tips on planning and assessment, she presents strategies for self-management, including marketing, online promotion, building professional relationships, grant writing, and portfolio development.

Each chapter ends with an insightful “Reality Check” interview, featuring advice and useful information from high-profile artists and professionals.

The result is an inspiring, experiential guide brimming with field-tested techniques that readers can easily apply to their own careers. (source

This book is written for artists by an artist and serves up as the ultimate reference book for artists. Jackie covered up a lot of topics and this book serves as a comprehensive guide of what a professional artist has to know to prepare themselves for the career path they’re taking. With real-life samples, this book presents tips on planning and strategies for self-management, marketing, promotion, and portfolio development. If you are a budding artist who wants to make a living out of your art, this is the book for you.

Final Thoughts

We’ve curated this list of 10 books every artist needs on their bookshelves to help you find more inspiration and the push you need to persevere with your work. We hope these help and that this list will be useful for you in some way.

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Read Next: 10 Habits To Keep Your Creative Spark Flowing

Renee Alexis

20-something Filipina, an introvert who loves young adult fiction, brush pens, Taylor Swift, and Mobile Legends. Coffee runs in my bloodstream.
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