Top 10 Art Instruction Books

The following painting and artist books are my favorite art instuctional books in my library, and frequently recommend them.

Oil Painting Solution Book for Landscape Artists

This book while targeted toward outdoor painters, plein air painters, and those painting from a photograph about landscapes, there is so much more value in this book. I reference it often. It goes through everything you need to know as an artist, such as how to stretch a canvas to learning color, saturation, perspective and even varnishing. Seriously, if there is only one oil painting book you have the budget for, it would be this one.

Art of the Pencil

I remember reading this book about 15 years ago. I thought about it often and finally came across it again last week and bought it for my library. This book has helped me out so much with regards to drawing and holding the pencil in creative and different ways. Regardless that it is a drawing book, the principles works well with all kinds of art, including painting, and holding your brushes differently for different effects. It has helped me out with ergonomics as well.

Now, the problem with this book Art of the Pencil, is there is a bit of nudity. I’m not a prude, and understand why people take life drawing classes, basically to shock you into drawing shapes, light and shade, rather than focusing on the naughty bits of people’s human anatomy. But to me, extreme graphic images are unnecessary particularly in a general drawing book. There are ways to tastefully draw or paint a nude. Look at many of the old classical paintings. Fine, do whatever you like. But these days, some artists will go out of their ways to shock you to the point of nausea. Very graphic drawings of the unmentionables, which in the case of reading and learning from a book it extremely distracting and unnecessary. What I did was to use some sticky notes on the naked people so I can concentrate on the actual lessons.

The Artist’s Handbook

This is stellar for those artists who who want to know everything about their tools from what it is made of to how to use them. If you use many different mediums, say chalk pastels, oil paint, casein, watercolors and acrylics, then definitely buy this book.

Liquitex Acrylic Book
This is a free e-book, which used to be in print (still have mine 😁). Absolutely hands down the best starting point for acrylics. It will share with you the origins of acrylics, down to how to use the new types of fun additives for acrylics. I love this book.

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

I hear you. “Ok, what?” Yes. Understanding Comics. If you draw art in a series be it a triptych, or sequential art, draw storyboards, draw storybooks or god forbid the dreaded word… comics, I one hundred percent recommend reading this book. Forget the modern bull crap that we are subjected to in the high violence, bloody mess thinking of the word comics, and think of the possibilities in fine art… just saying. Look. I love art, especially ancient art. Reading codexes and manuscripts from the the sixteenth century, Egyptian art, Japanese, Chinese and Indian art, Mayan and Aztec art—all these were written in the style of sequential art… comics.

Color Sketching and Rendering in Watercolors

This book is one of the most fantastic books about watercolors I’ve ever read. It goes through every trial and error you can imagine and gives real world situations of why you need watercolors in your life.

Welcome To My Studio

I’ve noticed all of the teachers I’ve paid good money to use this book for teaching oil painting, almost exclusively. I feel kind of ripped off, but there you go. Now I have this book in my library. It is good, and effective, but only use this book a starting point.

Drawing on Artist Within

I was very skeptical at first with this book, but took the course for giggles. It is from the author of Drawing On The Left Side of Your Brain, which is covered somewhat in this book. Actually after I had completed the course, (it is a month long journey) my skills went way up and was able to get jobs in drawing. Very recommended. Unfortunately, I had lent this book out, and no longer have it. But, because it had such an impact on my life and the fact I remember it more than a decade later, I absolutely recommend it.

The Artist’s Muse

This book is actually a card game, which is very effective to stir your imagination and get you to create things you wouldn’t ordinarily think of. I love this system. It breaks me out of my hoity-toity (as some friends so lovingly call my art) painting. It has a book and three game card sections, one for color suggestions, one for the subject and techniques.

Color: A Natural History of the Palette

While this is not an art instruction book, per say, there is much to be learned about art in this book. This is a travelogue about paint. The writer goes around the world to the origins of each paint in an old paint box. A beautiful and delightful read about the history of paints.