Drumroll! Drrrrrr and ta-da! Here are my top ten favorite ” art making” books! What do I mean by that? I mean any book that focusses on the art of creating: Drawing tutorial books, art advice, sketchbooking etc.
These are my personal top ten: These books have taught me a lot, inspired me and made me want to become a better artist. I put the books in no particular order, I couldn’t pick a favorite, so don’t make me 😊 Enjoy the list!
“The Cartoonist’s Big Book of Drawing Animals” by Christopher Hart
If you want to learn how to draw cartoons you will at some point or other stumble over a book by Christopher Hart. His drawing books are best sellers for a reason and are an awesome starting point if you’rea beginner.
I’ve heard people say negative things about him, people being embarrassed they started off with his books, but I really don’t see the problem. I heard a YouTuber complain that Hart doesn’t show you how to construct a character, but I think that you can learn this from other books (or pick it up as you go along) and that Chris’s books are a great point to start your cartooning journey. He will show you funny and often retro style cartoons and how to build up from simple shapes to a more complex character. My favorite book of his is this one, but the other ones are also worth your time:
“Draw Your Day” by Samantha Dion Baker
To me Samantha is the sketchbook queen. If you’re into sketchbook journaling there’s no getting around her beautiful books. She fills her journals with the most beautiful watercolor and gouache illustrations, often of her life in New York City, but also of her travels to Europe. The way she arranges her vignettes on the page are a master class in composition itself.
Keeping a sketchbook diary is an often overlooked form of art that I personally love very much. I also keep a diary sketchbook and try to draw funny and interesting things that happened to me during the day, but of course I do it in a cartoonish way that looks nothing like what Samantha does.
Essential reading for anyone interested in sketchbook journaling!
“The Illusion of Life” by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas
If you’re a Disney nerd like me and you’re interested in how the animators of the Disney Golden Age used to work, this is the book for you! The book was written by two of the so called “Nine Old Men”, the most famous Disney animators of the 40s and 50s.
The book is chock-full of amazing behind the scenes information, beautiful character design sheets of every development stage, sketches, photos of the important animators and artists who worked tirelessly behind the scenes and the beautiful background art. Plus: There’s a lot of interesting anecdotes about the big man himself: Walt Disney.
In my opinion animated movies never got better than during the “Disney Golden Age”. This book is a must-read for anyone even remotely interested in this time period or animation in general.
Warning: It’s pretty hard to track down! It’s out of print, so your best bet is to head over to abebooks.com and find a second-hand book store that has a copy, that’s how I got mine.
“The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling” by John Muir Laws
You like nature? Have you considered nature journaling? If so, this is the book for you! Any questions you may have, John Muir Laws will answer them and inspire you! As a trained biologist he also has a scientific mindset to offer that will differ from other artists on the same subject. I learned so much about the scientific method by just reading his book. Putting his methods into action will open up a whole new world to you, I promise!
Also: He has a great YouTube channel you can follow for further inspiration.
“The Silver Way: Techniques, Tips and Tutorials for Effective Character Design” by Stephen Silver
I have a couple of books about character design and I’m just getting into it more deeply myself, but Stephen Silver’s book is the best I know! His methods are awesome, his instructions clear and I had a few “light bulb moments” while reading his book. He explains how he plays around with shapes, offera tricks to push the gestures further by using geometrical lines, using every day objects for inspiration and so much more. If you want to broaden his method, he has a few fun apps you could buy in the app store, one of them being a fun “character shuffle” if you’re out of ideas what to draw.
“Drawn to Life I and II” by Walt Stanchfield
The bible of drawing books, ladies and gentlemen! This book features in basically every list I’ve ever read about “My favorite drawing books” etc. Walt Stanchfield taught Disney animators with these (now legendary) lectures for over twenty years. The books are full of great drawing advice for artists of all genres. Especially if you’re interested in becoming better at drawing gesture there is no way around Walt Stanchfield.
The book has taught me that the secret to good gesture drawing are very loose sketches. You won’t find “finished art” in this book, but lots and lots of beautiful sketches that get the “essence” of the movement down to a tee. No other drawing / art making book gets as much praise as Drawn to Life and there’s a reason for this. Get it!
“Steal like an Artist” by Austin Kleon
There are a lot of misoncecptions about creating out there. People always ask creatives “Where do you get your ideas?” “I wish I had talent” “I couldn’t do what you do” yadda yadda yadda. All not true! The thing is: being an artist is a job! It’s a craft! It’s something you can learn! Creativity is for EVREYONE! Need some encouragement? Read this book!
“Steal like an Artist” will give you the kick you may need to start creating, to not be scared of making mistakes, to immerse yourself in the world of art for inspiration, to harness ideas without being a copycat. The book is written in such an encouraging, positive way that it will benefit beginners and pros alike (beginners will benefit greatly from the pragmatic mindset promoted here and professional artists will like the reminder every once in a while).
A great book for anyone doing creative work, not just for visual artists.
“An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers” by Danny Gregory (Editor)
I LOVE sketchbooks. I love looking at sketchbooks, I love keeping one. If you’re a curious person by nature like me and you also like peeking into other people’s sketchbooks then this is the book for you! It features peeks into the sketch journals of 50 illustrators and they vary as much as you could imagine! All of them are unique, all of them have a strong voice and the book is endlessly fascinating. It will definitely motivate you to grab a notebook and a pen and start a journal yourself! This would also make a great gift for an art loving friend!
“The Field Guide to Drawing Animals” by Tim Field
Just the most gorgeous and beautiful book about animal drawing I possess. It’s full of fascinating biological facts and – of course – superb art! Tim Field will teach you how to get the basic structure of the different animal families down, from arachnids to whales. He will give you basic anatomy of every kind of animal, explain the different body parts etc. following Michelangelo’s motto that you have to understand your subject if you want to draw it right.
Even if you’re not interested in making realistic animal portraits this is a fascinating book to read in bed and learn about animals.
“Draw What you Love” by Simone Grünewald
Most Instagram users who love illustration and drawing will probably know SImone Grünewald’s account “schmoedraws”. Simone is a former animator who is no self-employed and has written two wonderful books full of tips, advice and – of course – her beautiful art. Topics range from light and color to how to draw folds in clothing and even a chapter on how to price your work as an illustrator. Above all it’s pure eye-candy!
That’s all folks! My top ten art books right now! I’m sure the list will get longer over time and I may update it every once in a while or – even better – write a new one!
What are your favorite art books? Leave your faves in the comments!