10 books to inspire you to make art

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When I finish a long project I don’t actually collapse but rather wander around in a state of unfocused activity. When that happened yesterday I decided to settle down and read. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to read, I pulled a slew of books off my bookshelves. And because I love sorting things into piles and classifying them, I eventually ended up with this pile of ten books that never fail to pull me into their beauty. I thought you might enjoy seeing them – almost all have a “Look Inside” link—and, if you were lucky enough to get some cash or gift cards for Christmas, maybe one or these might be just what you’re looking for.

Warning: these books are [mostly] devoid of plot with not much character development, just page after page of visual scrumptuousness.

So here they are, ordered from the top of the pile to the bottom:

BT037-01_1000_journals The 1000 Journals Project: Over ten years ago, someguy [that's the name he goes by] distributed 1000 blank journals around San Francisco, leaving them in airports, coffee shops, libraries and other public spaces with instructions to fill a page however you wanted and then pass it on or leave it for the next person to find. Over time, many of these journals made their way back to someguy; in other cases, participants sent him a digital page image. This book is a fascinating compilation of some of these incredibly intimate and creative pages, made even more interesting by the juxtaposition of pages from many different journals. Find out more at www.1000journals.com.

BT037-02_museum_purgatory The Museum at Purgatory: Like he did in the Griffin and Sabine trilogy, Nick Bantock takes us into a fantasy world that feels real, telling us imaginative stories illustrated by whimsical images, and presented in a beautifully designed and printed book. Bet you can’t get past page 50 without an overwhelming urge to go to your studio and make stuff. [What are you waiting for? Go!]

BT037-03_everyday_matters Everyday Matters by Danny Gregory: This book is simultaneously instructional, inspirational and an intimate look at Gregory’s life as he uses art, specifically drawing, to find his way through a difficult time.

BT037-04_polaroid The Polaroid Book: [Taschen]: I love the look of Polaroids, the feel of them, the real object-ness of them. The downright messiness of them. And I love the kind of pictures that are taken with them— casual, intimate, often haunting.

BT037-05_non_facture Non Facturé [Rejected Photos]: I came across this gem during a blissful afternoon wandering through Powell’s Bookstore some years ago. From the introduction: “Non facturé [not charged] is the term used by French photo labs for images not suitable for printing because they are, for instance, over- or under-exposed, blurred, out of focus, or taken by accident…at times they have an unexpected, spontaneous quality which would be impossible to achieve on purpose. This book and CD-ROM set contain more than 100 such pictures, selected on their often mysterious beauty and graphic quality.”

BT037-06_1000_artist_journall_pages 1000 Artist Journal Pages: Personal Pages and Inspirations: This call to artists got responses from hundreds of artists from around the world who were willing to share pages from their visual diaries. “I felt like part of a global community,” said Dawn DeVries Sokol, the project’s curator. “Hundreds of artists were willing to share themselves through their pages…one thing I know after working on this project: we are all artists, artistes, künstlers, artistas, artisti or however you may pronounce it in your part of the world.” You’re bound to find something in here that makes you say: I can do that! [So go already!]

BT037-07_artist_journals_and_sketch Artists’ Journals & Sketchbooks: If you are inspired to begin a visual journal but uncertain how to get started, this book will help. In addition to luscious page images, this book also contains some background about what these artists were thinking when they created the pages, tips for getting started, and some step by step techniques. [Now there’s no excuse. Go on, go. Make some art.]

BT037-08_true_colors_somerset True Colors: A Palette of Collaborative Art Journals [Somerset Studio]: Each of the 16 contributing artists started a journal in a designated color—white, red, hot pink & orange, violet & greet, metallics—and the journals circulated among the other artists, each adding her unique take on the color theme. [Now start making art with your friends.]

BT037-09_dan_eldon_journals The Journey is the Destination: Dan Eldon created seventeen journals in his short life, the final ones in the midst of the violence of Somalia in the 1990s. This book was put together by his mother and sister to tell the story of this young man who “blazed through his short life like a meteor, leaving a trail…that awes with its intensity and beauty.”—USA Today. [Eldon made art in a war zone! We really have no excuse.]

BT037-10_tricia_guild_color Tricia Guild on Color: Tricia Guild’s books are luscious, from the design of the table of contents, to the font choices, to the rhythm of the images. I turn to her books again and again to deconstruction them in various ways for my own book design work. But for now, just take a stroll through the color spectrum. And give thanks for our ability to perceive color.

Okay, spend some time getting inspired. Then put the book down and go make something.

[I’m supposed to tell you that I am part of amazon.com’s associate program, which means I get a pittance if you buy one of these books through these links. Just so ya’ know.]

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  2. [...] 10 books to inspire you to make art. “When I finish a long project I don’t actually collapse but rather wander around in a state of unfocused activity. When that happened yesterday I decided to settle down and read. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to read, I pulled a slew of books off my bookshelves. And because I love sorting things into piles and classifying them, I eventually ended up with this pile of ten books that never fail to pull me into their beauty.” [...]