My Favorite Art Books for Learning

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In the not-so-distant past, I was really against purchasing art books for reference and learning. Why would I do that when there is so much inspiration on the internet, most of it available for free? I could just scroll endlessly to find just the right tutorial, technique, or color palette…

Eventually, it has been this very black hole of distraction online that brought me to books. I’ve been trying to eliminate time wasters so that I can actually focus on producing work I enjoy. So far, it’s working!

In the beginning, I checked out stacks of books from the library to figure out what I liked best. This works well for many books, so give it a try if you’re looking to save some money. The only issue with that method is many books are self published on Amazon, and not available through libraries. Speaking of Amazon, I wanted to put this list together because Amazon typically has great book deals (like $5 off $15 or more) for Black Friday and Cyber Monday! That’s when I do a lot of my purchasing. Now, on to the books!

My first choice is, “How to Draw Cute Stuff“, by Angela Nguyen (@pikarar). I love that this book covers a range of subjects; you can learn to draw cute people, animals, foods, furniture, and different building styles! You could easily create an entire adorable scene using the step by step methods in this book. I utilize this book a lot for practice with animals and people, and I especially recommend this book to friends with elementary age kids who are interested in drawing.

This recommendation is more adult oriented; I would recommend it for a high schooler or older. Peggy Dean (@thepigeonletters) has published several books over the past few years, and they keep getting better! “Nature Drawing & Watercolor” is my favorite so far. In fact, I bought this the day it was released, and I have not been disappointed! This book combines line drawing, watercolor, and urban sketching techniques to create gorgeous natural scenes. Even if you only want to improve in one of these areas, I would highly recommend this book.

This recommendation is more for an author than a specific book, but Julia Kuo (@juliaskuo) has a lot of wonderful books for reference! I especially enjoyed, “Drawing Trees & Leaves” because it has a lot of information about the biology of different try types in addition to drawing techniques. Julia also has several other books similar to “Draw 500 Fabulous Fashions” that provide basic reference images in her style, but there is no instruction.

“Thinking with Type” was a book recommended by @thegraytergood on Instagram. It’s for the person who is serious about upping their handlettering game, or learning typeface terminology to apply when creating fonts. It is more informative than instructional, sharing the history of typeface, vintage techniques, comparing advertisements and breaking down styles to reveal why they work. This is a great book for a self taught artist like myself, who hasn’t taken any formal design classes.

Alright, this last recommendation might be very specific to myself, but I had to include it! The “Star Wars Character Encyclopedia” is a great example of utilizing a book for visual reference when you want to practice drawing something specific. I enjoy the fashion and character styles of Star Wars, so I use this book when I want to practice drawing people, clothing, and even alien life forms. You may not be excited about Star Wars, but I’m sure there is a visual encyclopedia out there that would work for you!

I encourage you to turn off your devices (or put them in another room), and utilize these traditional methods to learn some new techniques. An added bonus to utilizing books is that it’s easier for other people to share them at the same time. I will often open a book for my own reference, and the colorful pages invite my daughter to pull up a chair and practice along with me!

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