Monday, January 28, 2008

Reader Questions on Art Books

Okay, here are a few questions for the artists and art lovers out there. Please reply if you get time in the comments or by e-mail (portraitswithcharacter AT

1. Do you read books on art?
2. Are they books on technique or books on art history?
3. Do you read the words? Or just look at the pictures?
4. No really, do you read the words?
5. What makes you pick up a new art book?
6. Do you own any "inspirational" artist books (like Julia Cameron's book)?

Maybe I should've added #7 -- What other question should I have asked?

Thanks, all!


Katherine said...

1. Yes - all the time. I've given up on reading fiction!
2. Both
3. Both
4. Really!

5. Publisher (there's an awful lot of dross around and if I think a publisher produces dross then I'm much less likely to pick a book up) subject matter/title, Cover, Author. Whether I buy it then depends on the contents.

6. Yes - but have only ever dipped into them. Not really my cup of tea. However inspirational writing by artists does make me pay attention.

7. How come there is so much dross out there??? And by that I mean books which are poorly written or poorly presented or are rehashed yet again for the third time or are just a giant rip off.

I'd love to go into an art bookstore and to linger over every one I haven't got. Too often I look and then put a book back on the shelves in less than 10 seconds.

Bonny said...

1. Yes, definitely.
2. Both. More on technique at the moment.
3. Yes. I read the books cover to cover onceand then go back for the sections that are useful to me, perhaps several times.
5.Yes, all of Cameron's books, Danny Gregory and a few more.

Debbie said...

1. Yes
2. Both
3.First I go through all of the pictures then go back and read the words.
4. Really, am a reading junky. Will even read cereal box if nothing else available.
5. The cover. Figure the best piece is on the cover. Then look through. Have to be good when money is tight. Plus books for art school
6. Own yes, read through yes. Did the exercises no.
7. Maggie, are YOU working on the monthly project?
7a. Really?

Kathy C said...

1. Yes
2. Technique
3. I look at the pictures first and then read the parts I find most relivant.
4. Really, I only read the words of the technique books.
5. Technique I want to learn.
6. No, not yet, I'm waiting for Maggie Stiefvater's art inspiration book to be published.

Ann said...

1. Yes
2. Both
3. Both
4. Yes - but not always all of them
5. Style of artwork and/or technique
6. Yes
7. What art book am I reading now? Finding Your Visual Voice by Mitchell
7a. - What art books do you like? Will you review them here? I love reading about books others find interesting and of value. :)

Rose Welty said...

1. Yes, I read and buy alot of art books.
2. Both history and technique.
3. I read the words, look at the pictures and (shh, don't tell anyone) take notes so I can turn it into a blog post.
4. Yes, and add my own in a post.
5. Interest in a topic, known author.
6.No, inspiration books tend to make art about feelings. Personally, I'm in it for the work and the only feeling I want to think about is the one at the end where I'm impressed that I actually made something I like. :-)
7. There are free blogs and boards with lots of information and inspiration out there, so what makes you plunk down cash and buy a book?

Anonymous said...

1. Not much. These days I'm more likely to do a web search if I need a quick answer to a technical question.
2. Technique.
3. Mostly I just look at the pictures.
5. A super-deep discount price.
6. Mmmm, no.

Kellie Hill said...

Yes, very adamently, to all of them! Except maybe number 5- it doesn't work for that one.

Some books- like the Splash series and anything "Best of"- I buy just for pretties and inspiration. There aren't many words usually, but I read them.

Some I buy because I'm fascinated by the artist's techniques and ideas, and I know that those books can get me out of a rut or give me some new ideas to toy with- like "Creative Composition and Design" or "7 Keys to Great Paintings"

The history ones I buy are almost always on a specific artist I love, almost never on movements or periods of time, and if it's regular text I'll read every word- if it's a bunch of collected letters to and from the artist, then not so much.

Is there a limit on how long comments can be? Sorry I'm going on so long, but it serves you right, asking about books :)

Then there's the odd ones- like "I was Vermeer" about a guy who made forgeries and how he did it, and "Chinese Folk Designs" which is fascinating, and a bunch of books that are macro pictures of flowers.

And then historical fiction about artists- I really want it to be well researched, but that's about it- I'm always fascinated. Reading "The Painted Kiss" again right now, about Klimt and Emilie Floge- mostly about her. Some liberties and extrapolation, but I like it.

I'll buy art books off of amazon, but only if they have buyer reviews and if I feel like I've got a good feel for the book. I'll also get them from estate sales, and from the-library-is-getting-rid-of-its-books sales, and from the discount rack at Barnes and Noble. I flip through and see if it feels right, mostly.

You could've asked for a pet peeve for 7- that'll always ellicit responses. I hate how-to books written by people who aren't any good at all, and they're out there, being sold along with all of the wonderful, beautiful books by exquisite artists. Go figure.

Tales of an Artist & his Travelers said...

Only books on art history. My lovely wife has quite a library and reads them over and over as she slowly incorporates new one into the mix.
I learn the basics of a disipline and then go where the wind takes me.

vivien said...

1 yes
2 both
3 both
4 yes honestly :)
5 an artist I admire, the cover has a fabulous work on it, recommened by a friend .... how long is a bit of string?
6 yes - Shirley Trevena's books on Watercolour - fabulous books, John Blockleys's books from way back and Jeanne Dobie's Making Color Sing (American book so colour spelt wrong >:>) )

question 7 - do you then forget what you've read/copy ideas slavishly and change your style totally/ or take ideas and integrate some into your own work in your own way, evolving and developing but retaining your own voice? ... guess the correct answer >:>)

I agree with Katherine that there is an awful lot of dross out there and tooo many 'paint like THIS' books

Stacy said...

1. Yes
2. I mostly read books on technique and a few about the business of art. I ventured into art history with the book "Strapless" about Sargent's portrait of Madame X, but that read more like a novel than a history book - probably why I liked it.
3 & 4. I start by looking at the pictures then go back and read the words. But I rarely finish reading, because I find I want to be painting instead of reading. However, I do read Aritst Magazine from cover to cover, typically when I am in the car waiting to pick up my kids.
5. I choose books because they cover a topic I am interested in at the time or because they come highly recommended by an artist I respect.
6. Only two Art & Fear and The Creative Habit. Both more about how to buckle down and get the work done.
7. Do you regularly read any art magazines?

Melanie said...

1. Yes
2. both
3. i start out reading the words - if it is something i am interested in, i keep reading, if its a bore - i skip to the pictures. i have a short attention span, i must admit.
4. see question three :)
5. usually i purchase a book because i went searching for it (need to learn something/interested in subject) But - for those 'impulse' purchases... either it was the cover or the title that made me open it up in the first place.
6. Yes - I am currently working through 'Walking in this World' by Julia Cameron. (its delightful)
7. does this have anything to do with your something big? and just out of curiosity, does this have anything to do with North Light?
hmmmm.. curious indeed :)
p.s. loved your bullet points yesterday

Meg Lyman said...

1. Yep
2. Some of each, plus art marketing
3&4. It's hard to learn from pictures alone - I read.
5. Recommendations
6. Nope

Jennifer Rose said...

1. yes, the library is my friend :p
2. Both, but I tend to read more books on technique. If I see a work of art that I like I will try to find more info about the artist.
3. Look at the pictures first and than go back to read the words.
4. Yes, ok sometimes I skip sections that I find boring.
5. usually the subject matter. If there is an example of the work on the cover, I would buy that instead of a book without an example on the cover. I am not concerned with who is the author as long as any info is well presented.
6 Who??

Dee said...

1. Yes
2. Technique
3. Look at the words when the pictures capture my attention
4. Not everything. I find the start of most art books I've read to be very similar so I skip that
5. Title, front cover and recommendations
6. Er, I own a book on Da Vinci - does that count?

Most of the books I've bought are coloured pencil books and I think I'm over them at the moment. There's a lot of very similar stuff out there, and the last book I bought turned out to be a huge dud. It would need to be something really eye catching to grab my attention.

Lisa B. said...

1. Yes.
2. Both.
3. Read & study the artwork.
4. Yes. I'm a dweeb.
5. Topic and reviews.
6. No.

Alison said...

1. Yes
2. Both
3. Pictures first then words, though I tend to skip parts I'm not interested in.
4. yes
5. It's cheaper than going to a class. I have a lot to learn.
6.No, I just don't have much time for reading recreational books, too busy reading your blog and other artist blogs and art sites.

Jo Castillo said...

1. Yes
2. Technique
3. Pictures first, then words.
4. Really.
5. Most are gifts, I read the Art Magazine and Pastel Journal when I'm waiting..doctors office, Gene at hardware store, etc.
6. Never, enough on-line from artists.
7. I have never been interested in any history, art or otherwise. I have you, Katherine and Rose to do my research. :)