Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Essential Books for the Artist

Below, I've compiled a list of books that I've collected over the years that I find to be worthwhile, if not essential, additions to the collections of those looking to improve their artistic skills. It's not by any means a be-all, end-all list, but they are resources I personally consider invaluable.

In other words, if you're tired of dealing with books that just aren't quite giving you what you need, or don't have enough information, this list is for you. 


Color and Light by James Gurney 

This book was instantly my new favorite art book when I received it. If you need an amazing, comprehensive book on how to paint and understand color, light, and form in a realistic manner, you'll find no better or easier to understand resource. It's only $16 on Amazon, and I'd have gladly paid $60+.


Basic Perspective Drawing by John Montague

I find that a lot of perspective books attempt to do what this one does, but in a much more complicated, and labor intensive fashion. Basic Perspective Drawing is easy to understand and follow, even to those with no prior perspective training. In other words, if you want to learn to draw in perspective, this is the book to have. 

Perspective Drawing Handbook by Joseph D'Amelio

This book is also quite informative, and it was my first book in college introducing me to perspective. It has a lot of valuable information in it, but it's better suited to someone who's already had some sort of introduction, which should probably be in the form of the book above. 


This was the required textbook for my college anatomy class. It tackles anatomy from an artist's perspective, but includes many technical details you might expect from something like a medical textbook. It's comprehensive, and easy to follow with great drawings, and gives you relatable ways of viewing and drawing anatomy. A must have in my opinion.

Cyclopedia Anatomicae by Gyorgy Feher

This book is nearly impossible to find new, but it's over 500 pages, with 1,500+ illustrations of anatomical reference and explanation for both humans and animals. It really lives up to its title, and even used, it would be worth your money. This, in conjunction with the atlas above, are more than enough to get you drawing and understanding anatomy extremely well.

The boxed set includes 3 books: Bridgman's Life Drawing, The Book of a Hundred Hands, and Heads, Features and Faces. Constructive Anatomy is another book entirely. I only list these ones because they happen to be the only ones I own, but you owe it to yourself to buy a set of George Bridgman's books. He's a master and you absolutely can't go wrong with any of his titles.

This book is amazing at breaking down how not only to draw facial expressions, but explaining how the muscles work, so even when you don't necessarily have the proper reference, you can work things out on your own still. Amazing, well illustrated book, worth every penny. 


Imaginative Realism by James Gurney

This is a book I haven't had much time to delve into yet, but if it's anything like Gurney's other book Color and Light, it's a winner. It details how to paint what doesn't exist, coming up with ideas and ways to make your work convincing, as well as giving all sorts of other input and instruction. 5 solid stars on Amazon out of 64 reviews, I don't think you can go wrong. 


I don't have much of an industrial design or technical background, so I don't have many books on the subject, but I recently found this one, and it's absolutely fantastic. It details how to draw and design products, but you can apply that sense to anything you need to design and draw in perspective. So, for designing and populating an environment with unique objects, this book is awesome.  


Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton

As with industrial design, I don't have a huge background with typography, so sometimes I need a little help when it comes to that aspect in design. This is a book that I find breaks down all the basics in a really great, easy to understand way and has plenty of do's and don'ts. So, if you're like me and need a solid book to help you understand and use type, this is it.

I hope these books are able to bring you as much help as they have for me. I don't know what I'd do without some of them, and I know you'll feel the same way if you decide to get your hands on a few. Good luck!


The Big PR said...

Thanks for posting these up, Reid! All of these books are awesome, I got to look over a few before, and this just reinforces my thoughts of how awesome they are.

Reid Southen said...

No problem! It was nice to see that all of them have solid reviews on Amazon too, even the ones I didn't get from there.

Kitsune said...

I want all of them!! :(
Particularly the basic perspective one cos I dont get it. Also the colour and light one.

Anna Lisa said...

my friend just got the first james gurney book mentioned. she even got it signed and he drew a happy dinosaur painting a rainbow for her! i looked through it yesterday and it's craaazzzy awesome!

Knut said...

Been wondering to buy color and light theory book for a while this tink im going to order it.

Great list Reid!

Cant wait until i see more of you'r work

Pretty much a beginner in digital painting my self and this is realy inspiring.

Rich C said...

Wow this is great, I only have the Atlas of Anatomy, will have to get some of these others :)

SkellyBones said...

Thanks so much for posting this list! I'm definitely going to get my hands on some of these books :D