Can you recommend some good books for those of us who are teaching ourselves art?  I have no access to art lessons or even a good library, so I am going to build one of my own.  Today I ordered "Painting Abstracts: Ideas, Projects, & Techniques" by Rolina van Vliet and "Trust the Process: An Artist's Guide to Letting Go" by Shaun McNiff.  I need to learn the basics of everything from color to composition to process.  In short, I am seeking to give myself an art education.  What books have been the most helpful to you?

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Starr I just finished reading 'Drawing with your Artist's Brain' by Carl Purcel.  It is a really insightful book that I found inspiring in terms of how I view and see things.  It is a great help in learning how to take what you see and create it on paper.  I've also had a few of the 'Dummies" books which have been really helpful too.  The Zen of Seeing is a good book too by Frederick Franck. I hope I have been of some help.
That's exactly the kind of info I'm looking for, Pauline.  There is an ocean of books out there, and getting recommendations like yours is so helpful in finding the good ones.  Thanks!
Thats ok Starr. I think the Art of Seeing is the key.  The techniques we learn then can be applied to what we "See"  I've learned alot about seeing lately.  It seems to open up a different world.  Hopefully in time practice will help me to transfer more easily what I see to paper.

Hi Starr,

If you want to learn about drawing, then Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards is like the Bible of learning to draw.  The lessons and techniques she explains in her book are taught in universities and workshops.  That's definitely one to look into, just go to Amazon and read all the reviews (!  Looks like she has a workbook available too:  And here is her website:


Are there any specific types of books you're looking for, as in, acrylic books, or abstract books, or inspirational/creativity books, etc? 

Thaneeya, thanks so much for the great suggestion and links.  That's exactly the kind of info I'm looking for.  As to what specific types of books I'm looking for - honestly I don't know exactly.  I seem to be interested in absolutely everything. While that is good in one sense, it makes it a bit difficult to know where to start sometimes.  I suppose I need to start with the basics - understanding how to use color and tone and understanding concepts such as composition.  When you go to art college, what do they start you off with?

I second the recommendation of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  I have both the book and the workbook and I plan to sit down and go through it finally.  I've had them for a very long time.


Another book that I absolutely love and that I'm currently reading for the third time is this book by Danny Gregory.


It's not so much like a true course in drawing but it's so inspiring and he really makes you feel like you can do it.

Hi Starr I just happened to get a copy of 'Drawing on the Right Side of Brain from my local library.  If you are not sure which books you want, why not try out your library, see if you like them, then buy if you want them for reference.  I used to buy too many books in the past and ended up with so many books unread, that can be quite overwhelming.


Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is based on a I think about 5 week course that helps to train you in seeing, by getting you to do certains drawing exercises.  It is very inspirational. I think will find it really helpful.  Happy drawing. Pauline

Stephanie, it's good to hear from you!  Thanks for the recommendation.  That seems to be highly recommended by everyone, so it's next on my list to purchase.  Sounds like a good place to start.


Pauline, going to the library is definitely an excellent suggestion.  Problem is, I live in a very small, rural community.  We have a small library.  There are a couple dozen art books, but mostly are broad overview type books. Not really what I'm looking for.  I wish I had access to a good library, but the nearest good one is 75 miles away!  I don't know what you guys call it down under, but in the States, we refer to where I live as 'the boonies' or 'the sticks.'  That means way out in the country - way, way out.  I love it, don't misunderstand.  But, it has certain limitations.  The internet is really helping to remove some of those limitations.  Luckily, we were able to get internet via a satellite service.  Thank God for technology!

Hi Starr, I didnt realize you were in the 'sticks' lol, or outback as they say here in Australia or 'in the bush'. I live in a small town too, but the library will order from other libraries throughout Australia.  The library here is tiny. I hardly ever go in but order online through the library website.  I dont know if this service has always been here, as we have only been here a couple of years.  It is a good service. For buying books, is an excellent Uk site that has no delivery charge and cheap prices, compared with Australia. I dont know whether it would be cheaper than where you are (in the US?). Sounds lovely where your are. I love the quiet and the fresh air.  I only visit (Melbourne 3 hours by train from here occasionally for an art exhibit or specialist doctor)..  I used to live in Canada so I remember the terms the 'boonies' or 'the sticks'  lol.  Good luck with setting up your library and i say also thank God for technology.  It has made my life a million times better! Especially with sites like this onel.

Hi Starr,

When I took Beginning Drawing in college, my professor actually used exercises from Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain!  That was the only class I remember where the professor referred to a book. 


I looked through some of my art books and here are three that I can recommend:


Artist's Manual: A Complete Guide to Painting and Drawing Materials and Techniques, edited by Angela Gair. ISBN 0-8118-1377-0.  It's exactly as the title says - it covers a lot of basic (and detailed) info about painting and drawing materials and techniques, from how-to demonstrations to theory like composition, color theory, values, etc. It covers 6 different drawing media and 5 different painting media.  There are also sections on subject matter and studio organization.  All in all it's a handy reference book to have, especially if you are interested in lots of different media.


Acrylic Secrets: 300 Tips and Techniques for Painting the Easy Way, by Gill Barron. ISBN 978-1-60652-118-2.  This one I got from the library so I haven't spent heaps of time with it, but it looks quite useful. The book discusses materials, composition, color theory, and various acrylic painting techniques. It would probably be helpful for a beginner in acrylics.


Acrylic Innovation: Styles and Techniques Featuring 64 Visionary Artists, by Nancy Reyner. ISBN-13 978-1-60061-864-2.  The book is probably more geared towards intermediate acrylic painters who already know the basics of working with acrylics. There are 29 styles covered in this book, with artist interviews, how-to-demonstrations, lists of materials used, lists of other art in that style, and variations of that style.  I think this book would be handy for people who want more ideas about what they can do with acrylics, especially with using different acrylics mediums and gels. Oh, and one of my abstract paintings is featured on page 98, in the section titled "Variations on Pattern Fields". :)


Hope that helps. If I come across any other good books, I'll let you know!

Thank you so much Thaneeya!  With all the helpful suggestions from everyone, I think I can stay busy for a while!  I look forward to learning why I like what I like, and how to reproduce something similar in my own style.  I want to know the mechanics behind how to create something that's visually appealing.  With these books, I should be well on my way.
Pauline, I will definitely check out the book depository site.  Cheap prices and free shipping is right up my alley!  Thanks!

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