7 Books Every Painter Should Read

One wonderful thing about experts in any given field is that often the Greats write their wisdom down to let the rest of us into their world. Though not every great painter publishes their journal, a blog, or a full-fledged book detailing their secrets and schemes, there are ample to be grateful to sharing their art and know-how. Scroll through my list of 7 recommended reads that I believe every painter should know and reference.

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Below is a list of 10 books the authors of Bohemian’s Minds recommend to any painter, from novice to career-illustrator. May they bring you closer to your own creative spirit, spark inspiration, and pass their wisdom and advice to you in your painting journey.

Recommended Reads

Check out the following reads I recommend no matter your place in your painting journey:

Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist - Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon describes himself as a “writer who draws.” His books resemble comic-style quotes and short insights on the artist’s path, struggles, and real-world resolutions. I am deeply grateful to fellow Bohemians’ Minds author Marek for recommending Kleon’s books in my creative journey. This recommended read is short and quick to digest, easily flipped through in one night or even sitting. Most profoundly, he makes “stealing like an artist” feel humane and proves invaluable for the aspiring painter (or any art, for that matter).

Buy it here on Amazon, or here for a signed copy

On Becoming an Artist – Ellen J. Langer

On Becoming an Artist - Ellen J. Langer

Pairing psychological research with personal reflection and her advice as an art teacher and psychology professor, Ellen J. Langer projects a very positive and empowering story of building confidence and simply trying at art. As a scientist, Langer offers backed-up case studies and research behind the psychology of mindfulness, creativity, self-esteem, and entrepreneurship in a relatable way. She advocates for believing in and embracing the artist within each of us; it is part of human nature to create in some way or form. Acknowledging how so many seem to undermine and dismiss our creativity as we age, Langer leaves the reader with clear exercises to put theory into practice.

Buy it here on Amazon.

The Mission of Art – Alex Grey

Taking my personality into consideration, Alex Grey’s book The Mission of Art perhaps ought to be at the top of my recommended reads. As a visionary artist, Grey invites the reader to embark on painting and visual art as a medium to conveying the intangible. While this may sound advanced at first, he does a fine job introducing concepts of varying states of consciousness, spirit guides, dream interpretations, and energetic fields to the average reader. Each chapter ends with practical, reflective, or meditative exercises to open creativity. If you’re into abstract or psychedelic art, I recommend his other books, as well as checking out his paintings and projects at CosM.

Find them here, or on Amazon.

Show Your Work – Austin Kleon

Show Your Work - Austin Kleon

Kleon makes it on my recommended reads list twice! Again gifted to me from Bohemians’ Minds author, Marek, Show Your Work continues his mission to encourage the artist to get their stuff out there in the world. With chapters like, “You don’t have to be a genius,” “Share something small, every day,” and “Don’t turn into human spam,” it’s yet another example of a recommended read that is easy to digest and to apply. Long story short: try, and don’t quit. Your art will resonate with or motivate others – that’s a near guarantee.

Get it here on Amazon, or here for a signed copy.

How to Paint: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Watercolors, Acrylics, and Oils – Angela Gair and Ian Sidaway

How to Paint: A Complete Beginner's Guide to Watercolors, Acrylics, and Oils - Angela Gair and Ian Sidaway

This book rocks for practical tutorials on purchasing, applying, maintaining, and creating with watercolors, acrylics, and oils. I found this one several years back in the Squamish library and soon bought a copy for myself. Gair and Sideaway use personal anecdotes and stories to illustrate their learning curve with each medium. They also supply ideas for composition, fixing problems such as drying time and perspective. I reference this often, especially mid-painting when I’m stuck wanting some more composition or texture advice.

Find it here.

Daily Painting: Paint Small and Often to Become a More Creative, Productive, and Successful Artist – Carol Marine

This one makes it to the list of recommended reads because it is dense and practical. I really appreciated how Carol Marine encourages aspiring and experienced painters to utilize their senses and practice mindfulness. As I mentioned in my previous article, viewing the world around you with a new, curious lens will yield endless potential for painting ideas. Marine guides us through simple exercises to do just that, including the approximate time and resources needed to practice them. Really nice, straightforward read!

Find her book here on Amazon.

Art Inc. – The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist – Lisa Congdon

Lisa Congdon is well-revered as a professional painter, illustrator, and author who has put her own advice to work and made a living off her art. She speaks with colloquial, relatable language and reflects upon her journey from childhood finger-painter to present-day success. Congdon’s book is applicable and gets right to the point. Helping the aspiring career or at least money-making artist walk through the steps from creation, production, marketing, and wholesaling. See all of her fun, bright works here on her site, and feel inspired by the many applications of her art into sellable, wantable products.

Buy it here on Amazon, or here for a signed copy.

Listed are my personal favorites for learning more about painting as an art, a hobby, a skill, and a passion. I encourage you to check them out, even just flipping through them at the library or bookstore or ordering a copy for your own bookshelf. I reference these often; their lessons are memorable and easy to digest. Hopefully, the painting will seem a little more accessible, fun, and rewarding for you as you continue your journey as a proud painter!

Bonus Videos

While not books per se, YouTube tutorials are free, accessible, and nearly as helpful as having a teacher or friend show you in person. I recommend the following videos for familiarizing with and practicing painting techniques, composition skills, and fixing issues to take advantage of these.

  1. Crash Course on How to Oil Paint

2. Top 10 Tips for Acrylic Painters

3. Beginner Oil Paint Problems

4. Beginner’s Watercolour Problems

5. Fun and Accessible Ideas, Techniques

I am passionate about making the best of life through cherishing relationships, exploring worldly experiences, and cultivating a creative lifestyle of art, music, dance, and fitness. I am a self-taught painter, inspired by the sublimity of nature, consciousness, love and universal transcendence that binds all of humanity and nature, together.


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