Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Thoughts on Book-Buying

"Royal" - 16 x 20" colored pencil on pastelbord (finally finished!)
Copyright 2008 Maggie Stiefvater, private commission.
e-mail me at portraitswithcharacter AT gmail.com for portrait info.

Wow! I had no idea what a response I would get when I asked you guys about your art-book habits. I'm still processing your answers (I was surprised by a lot of them), but I thought it would probably only be fair to answer them myself, as well as some of the extras that folks threw in.

1. Do you read books on art?
Yes. Not as much as a should. But I do.

2. Are they books on technique or books on art history?
Hm. I guess probably mostly on art history, but that's only because I am usually picking them up for monthly studies instead of for technique. And frankly, a lot of books on techniques read like "how to paint just like me" instead of "how to paint just like you except better." Which is not what I'm after.

3. Do you read the words? Or just look at the pictures?
Because of the "just like me" aspect of a lot of techniques books, I tend to do a lot of picture skimming. I think of them like cookbooks. I have a bunch of cookbooks with photos that I think of as idea books. The recipes in them are bland and crappy, but the photos are pretty. I have a few other books I trust that have no pictures but have wonderful recipes if I deign to try them. So I look at the photos in the ideas books to see what I want to make out of the non-photo books.

4. No really, do you read the words?
For a writer, I really am bad about this, aren't I? Can't they make any funny art books? If it's an artist I really respect or the artist dives into fun things like composition, theory, or other things like that, I will read the words. Or at least most of them. I have a very well known one that was recommended to me that I never finished. It just didn't speak to me. It was as if it was written for some other sort of artist from me. Or possible a different species.

5. What makes you pick up a new art book?
Pretty pictures, because of the shallowness of #3. I'm far more likely to buy an art history book than a technique book. I'll check out the technique books from the library and buy the art history books. Or coffee table books of living artists. I don't only look at dead artists' work, even though it seems that way sometimes.

6. Do you own any "inspirational" artist books (like Julia Cameron's book)?
The closest I have is TAKING THE LEAP, and I really enjoyed it. It's not really an inspirational book as it doesn't address emotional issues head on, but it is an idea book for really taking your art seriously -- and that's the sort of inspiration that I need.

BONUS questions folks asked me:
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.
Um, no comment. Well, some comment. I think possible because publishing nonfiction is driven by "platform" -- if you are a somebody or have a readymade audience you're far more likely to get a contract. So if you're an artist with platform but can't write very well, you could still get published. Also, if something gets assigned as school reading, that's a readymade audience and can guarantee more printings. Oh, and if you fill a niche that not many people can -- the only artist who creates drawings from dog poo writing a how-to book. Not too much competition.

Maggie, are YOU working on the monthly project?
Heh. Well, I talked extensively with a friend about Kay Nielson last night and I talked to an agent about an illustrated novel today, does that count? But seriously, there's a reason why I made it a two-month project. Because I knew I was going to have to skip out on it some weeks. I do have stuff to show you guys for next Sunday, though.

What art books do you like? Will you review them here? I love reading about books others find interesting and of value. :)
I actually have my four favorite art books down on the right side of my blog, if you scroll down. It says "the books I recommend for serious artists like moi" or something like that. But I love me some fat books on Mary Cassatt or someone else like that with plennnny of pictures. I do not like step-by-step technique books. They don't seem to encourage creativity to me at all.

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?
I consciously steal from dead artists, as you guys can tell, but it's been a long time since any modern artist has really inspired me in the same way. Well, except for Bryan Evans. I love his work. Please buy his work and then give them me. :D

Do you regularly read any art magazines?
My mom subscribes to Artist Magazine and lets me look at it afterwards. It's nice to hold it in my hands, because I love that physical feeling of reading . . . but I can usually get a better art fix reading blogs, like Katherine Tyrrell's super Making a Mark. I just feel like most of the art magazines are a bit . . . insubstantial. I wish they were longer every month!

Does this have anything to do with your something big? and just out of curiosity, does this have anything to do with North Light?
Mebbe. Not 'fessing up to anything.

Whoa! This post got long. I'm outta here!


Tales of an Artist & his Travelers said...

I enjoy seeing the finished "Royal". He`s strong like an iron horse and swift like the wind. You`ve captured those feelings for me.

Melanie said...

wow wow wow.
thanks for the link to Bryan Evans.
wow wow wow.
sorry for the lack of adjectives.
woke up late.
not enough coffee.
Royal is exquisite!

Karen Mathison Schmidt said...

OK, Maggie, I nominate you to give the world a funny art book! And by that I don't mean a book about funny art, but an instructional art book that is humorous and entertaining to read. I'm totally serious ... we know you could do it (more importantly, YOU know you could do it!)

And thanks for the Bryan Evans link ... amazing paintings! His style kind of reminds me of a watercolor version of one of my favorite contemporary artists, Cath Read, a pastel artist, also from the UK.

And I'll say it again ... I LOVE this "Royal" painting ... you have such a way of infusing your pictures with movement ... it's fairly dancing before my eyes!

Katherine said...

Thanks for the link - my stats say a lot of your readers took your advice!

Katherine said...

I hit 'publish' too soon! ;)

I second the idea of an amusing 'how to' art book. I think you have a clear field on that one.