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My Five Favorite Art Books

As many of you know, most of my painting inspiration comes from personal experience, art museums, and walks through the beautiful Southern California gardens and beaches. This month I’d like to take the opportunity to share with you my five favorite art books. Like old friends, these books are the ones in my collection that I turn to the most for inspiration and technical reference.

Please note: The books are not listed in any particular order, and are compiled from my personal collection. I do not receive any compensation for my recommendation or from the links provided.

Years ago, I purchased this book at the LACMA exhibition featuring the artwork of John Singer Sargent. It was amazing to see his work in person. The catalogue contains the museum’s exhibit of Sargent’s watercolor paintings featuring people and scenes from Italy. I specifically utilize this book to study Sargent’s amazing use of color and lighting. Very inspirational!

This is a beautiful collection of 120 woodblock prints by Hiroshige. The large-scale images allow you to see the details and gradation in the artwork, and the woodblock print illustrations come with a description of each image. This book is a treasure of Hiroshige’s views of the Edo landscape and amazing colors.

My favorite book on Michelangelo. This book contains 109 illustrations of the frescoes on the Sistine chapel and explains each Biblical scene. The large, beautiful illustrations depict Michelangelo’s process from the preliminary sketches to fresco paintings. Technical information includes plaster and color mixture, as well as paint application. All pictures are before the first stage of the modern restoration cleaning beginning in 1980.

This is another LACMA exhibit catalogue and my favorite book on spirituality and abstract painting. There are seventeen scholarly essays in this book, each examining the deeper meaning found in abstract art. This book ventures beyond the idea that abstract art is just about lines, shapes, and colors. It examines the spiritual connection, beliefs and influences that artists such as Gauguin, Pollack and O’Keefe (to name a few) convey in their work.

  • Techniques of the Great Masters of Art by Waldemar Januszczak
    ISBN 13: 9780890098790

This is one of my favorite art books and an invaluable resource. The techniques in this collection start in the 13th century and conclude in the 20th century with Lucien Freud. The writer methodically describes each painter’s technique and an explanation of materials used, including canvas type, pigments, and paints.

Although my current collection may increase (I have learned the hard way to never let go of an art book), these five books remain a constant source of inspiration and technical resource. If you are an artist or an art enthusiast, I highly recommend these books for your collection. I also recommend that you never let go of your art books! I have done so in the past and have never been able to find those books again.