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8 books every creative should read

Tips & Tricks

July 26, 2017

Are the dog days of summer getting you down?  Do you feel like you’re in a slump lately when it comes to producing high quality materials? Is it time for an inspiration intervention? If this is you, then look no further than our article below where we describe eight art books every creative should have on their summer reading list.



Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
By Austin Kleon


This quick read is perfect to take along while relaxing poolside or at the beach. It gets your creative juices flowing in ways you didn’t think were possible. The author takes you on an inspirational journey, helping you realize that you just need to be yourself in order to succeed in the creative world, or any profession. 


He begins by writing, “19-year-old me could use some advice…” which is something most of us have thought of at some point. Kleon continues by describing his book as “talking to a previous version of myself.” His message of positivity, along with useful graphics, illustrations and personal examples will motivate any creative to take charge of their work and show it off.




The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life

By Twyla Tharp


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Written by the creator of the hit Broadway show Movin’ Out and one of the world’s top artists and choreographers, Tharp uses her own experiences to help others get moving in their own careers. She provides exercises and creative language to identify with any reader, explaining what it’s like to be at both the top and bottom of your career. Even one of her chapter titles, “Before You Can Think Out of the Box, You Have to Start with a Box,” serves as useful inspiration. 


Tharp particularly identifies with creatives, since she happens to be one herself, but her advice could be transported across all lines and levels of work. She connects the dots in a truly masterful, motivational way for anyone looking to climb the ladder… or break out of their box.



Gus Van Sant: Icons

By Artist Gus Van Sant and Contributor Matthieu Orléan 


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Get inside the mind of filmmaker Gus Van Sant, the director of films such as “Good Will Hunting” and “Elephant.” Icons features a unique treasure trove of artwork, Polaroids, interviews and personal accounts the American filmmaker. It was published last year as part of an exhibition at the Cinémathèque française in Paris and showcases Van Sant’s work through his distinctive lens. 


The book provides a clear focus for any creative who’s in the mood to browse through a plethora of images of iconic figures, dig through Polaroids the director took in his early days and read about how he was inspired to make his films. It’s the perfect coffee table book, as well as one to keep on hand at your creative desk… whenever you’re in the mood for a little dose of inspiration.



The Electric Pencil: Drawings from Inside State Hospital No. 3

By Author James Edward Deeds, Jr., Introduction by Richard Goodman and Foreword by Harris Diamant


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This is not the conventional art book, but it can be just the medicine your doctor ordered to help you skyrocket to the top of your career. Discovered by accident in the trash, this collection of bizarre pencil and crayon sketches were drawn by James Edward Deeds, Jr., a young man who was institutionalized in Missouri’s State Hospital No. 3 in 1936. He gave the album to his mother as a present but his brother accidentally discarded it while moving in 1970. 


Another young boy found the drawings in the trash and held onto them for nearly 36 years before deciding to sell the assortment on eBay. From there, it landed in the hands of art dealer Harris Diamant. He hired a private detective to track down the family and wrote the foreword for what became The Electric Pencil. The pictures cleverly represent the artist’s mind and his immense drive to create, bringing life to an unknown man who spoke his own language through his drawings.




An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers

By Danny Gregory


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If you’re looking to ignite that inner creative spark, pick up this work of art, featuring journalistic accounts of sketches and interviews conducted with a select group of 50 top illustrators, designers and artists who discuss the creative process. In the myriad of words and images, bring yourself back to light from your creative darkness and peek through the windows of the souls of other creatives. You might just be inspired enough to start your own creative journal, in addition to producing other masterpieces.




Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All

By David Kelley and Tom Kelley



A truly special creative gem, carved out by two extremely close brothers who went through it all together… from sharing a bedroom growing up, to building a successful design firm, to being there for each other through one’s dismal cancer diagnosis (and making it through). Their two goals after beating cancer were to go on a special brother trip (to Japan) and work on a project that would allow them to share their ideas with each other and the world. 


That project was their book, which encourages individuals of all professions to discover their own creative potential and confidence. This motivational story is uplifting, rewarding and enticing, filled with motivational words every step of the way to get you to put the book down (after you finish reading it first, of course) and design a new path for yourself where you unleash your full potential.




The Emancipated Spectator
By Jacques Rancière



French philosopher Rancière cleverly explains the role the spectator plays in contemporary art through his wide variety of political and theoretical descriptions.  The book’s five essays drip with postmodern social and cultural critiques that discuss the pleasure of spectating – what it was, is and will become. He makes the point that what the spectator feels or thinks when viewing a performance or piece of art may not necessarily be what the artist intended. 


This story will get you to think about art you’ve experienced lately and question whether or not you felt the way the artist or performer wanted you to feel.  It will also allow you to question how an audience may view your art.




The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
By Walter Benjamin



In this book, the author takes you on a philosophical journey in describing how art has changed in modern times, just like technology, along with one’s perception. He writes that through mechanical reproduction, aura, or originality, becomes lost. 


If you’re looking for a book that really makes you think, this is the one. To quote a passage from the story, Benjamin writes, “During long periods of history, the mode of human sense perception changes with humanity’s entire mode of existence.” Read on to get inspired and see the world through a new perspective.





As stated by American sculptor, Stephen De Staebler, “Artists don’t get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working.” At one time or another, every creative (or just about everyone in all professions) seems to go through a rough patch, but the way to push through is to never give up. 


So this summer, don’t forget your sunscreen and some good reading (particularly these eight books) as you head out on your summer adventure. Sit back and relax in your beach chair and wrap yourself up in a great story. It just may help you and your career reach new heights.


By Laura Pourinski — A freelance writer and editor who loves to create beautiful stories with her words.

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