An Artist’s Bookshelf – November 2018

It’s Election Day…

Despite the divisive political climate of our nation these days, I choose to celebrate with a smile over the simple and awesome right to cast my vote. In that spirit, I’ve collected a few works for my bookshelf that are inspired by my gratitude for my home country, as well as my growing interest in all things creative. Here’s what I’m reading in November:

It Occurs to Me That I Am America edited by Jonathan Santlofer – The editor compiled the works of 50 well-known writers and visual artists for this collection showing “the variety and diversity that is America now.” I’m hopeful this book will be not only a good read in and of itself, but also a catalog of creatives for my further investigation.

Abstract City by Christoph Niemann – Since my last bookshelf entry in which I mentioned Neimann, I read his book Sunday Sketching. I loved it–I didn’t put it down from start to finish–and it looks to me like Abstract City features similar visual playfulness and clever writing. On the cover? One of America’s iconic structures–the Chrysler Building in New York City–being used as a pencil.

Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer – His book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is one of my all-time favorites. For me, it captures the deep and personal pain caused by the events of 9-11 in a way that completely touches and wrings my heart. Not only that, the book is an experience, complete with quirky photos that parallel the story. Once again, Safran Foer makes Tree of Codes an experience, this time in a more tactile sense since each page appears like a censored letter. It reminds me of Newspaper Blackout, which I read earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed.

Exercise your rights. Cast your vote. Join me in appreciating our colorful and creative homeland and the contributions of our fellow citizens!

An Artist’s Bookshelf – September 2018

So it’s not all books this time, but I can’t wait to dig into the resources I’ve got ready for the coming month…

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order) by Bridget Quinn & illustrated by Lisa Congdon – This book provides a natural segue into my continued creative discussions with my friend Tami over Skype. We finished A Glorious Freedom recently (we both give it glowing remarks), and by Tami’s recommendation, we’re trying Broad Strokes next. It just happens to be illustrated by Lisa Congdon, author of A Glorious Freedom, and the first pages of our latest book quickly reveal Quinn’s wit, creativity and breadth of knowledge.

Wyeth (PBS) – I can’t tell you how pumped I am to watch this film tonight on PBS! I’ve been fascinated with Wyeth’s work ever since being exposed to it through Coursera.org’s “Modern Art & Ideas” class and the fictional book A Piece of the World inspired by Wyeth’s painting “Christina’s World.” And I obviously have some catching up to do with the entire American Masters series “Artists Flight.”

The New Yorker – Through a sweet deal I spotted on Facebook, I’m getting twelve issues of this popular art-filled magazine for just $6. The first article I read today—“What We Know About Art and the Mind” by Paul Bloom—introduced me to a book that will likely make a future bookshelf post: How Art Works by Ellen Winner. More on that—as well as other New Yorker discoveries—later!

An Artist’s Bookshelf – May 2018

img_1248This month’s reads are the “next chapters,” so to speak, of other works I’ve read or seen recently. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf in May…

Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel by Iris Barrel Apfel & Iris Apfel: Accidental Icon by Iris Barrel Apfel
When I was a relatively new Netflix subscriber, I came across the documentary “Iris” about a spicy older woman with colorful clothes and accessories from all over the world. She has a magical knack for layering, be it bangle upon bangle, or feathers upon hound’s tooth, or chunky chain link necklaces upon 19th Century vestments. It’s fun to page through these two biographies by Iris Apfel’s own hand and really study her sense of style and talents in color and texture. A truly unique brand of artist!

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this book suggestion by my local library is based on a painting that I remember from the “Modern Art & Ideas” Coursera course I finished last month. The author was inspired by “Christina’s World,” a piece by Andrew Wyeth; Baker Kline recreates the life of Christina Olson who experienced the physical limitations brought on by polio. The book reminds me of one of my favorites from years ago—Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland—that revolves around one of Vermeer’s masterpieces. Such writings further prove that creativity begets creativity!

Living the Creative Life: Ideas and Inspiration by Working Artists by Ricë Freeman-Zachary
I so enjoyed reading Freeman-Zachary’s Creative Time & Space: Making Room for Making Art in March that I picked up another one of her books! Once again, the author showcases the stories and artwork of all kinds of artists and offers exercises that can help the rest of us to collect ideas and to pursue projects, too. So far, I really like the simple tip of collecting paint-sample cards and mixing them together to test different combinations of colors. I’m totally going to do this!

An Artist’s Bookshelf – April 2018

img_1161As always, my plunge into all things art includes some notable books on the topic. Here’s what I’m reading in April…

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Every book that I’ve read about art so far either refers to The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron or this one (or both). I’m about two-thirds of the way through it and have gleaned some practical insight on how to make sure my creative ideas make their way to real endeavors. Each chapter comes in two parts: 1) Tharp’s narrative on how she’s invented her own creative habit in the world of dance and 2) exercises to apply in our own creative lives.

Creativity: The Perfect Crime by Philippe Petit
I have no idea what to expect from this book, which is by the guy who may be best known for his illegal tight-wire walk between the Twin Towers in the 70s. It was this teaser that intrigued me to check it out: “With the reader as his accomplice, Petit reveals fresh and unconventional ways of going about the artistic endeavor, from generating and shaping ideas to practicing, problem-solving and ultimately pulling off the ‘coup’ itself—executing a finished work.”

My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman
It was through an invitation to curate an exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City that this book came to be. Not only does Kalman pay tribute to all the items she chose for the exhibit, but she also weaves in some fantastic autobiographical writing and artistry. It makes me ponder the items by which I am fascinated: the five-dollar rummage-sale quilt that my family used in our camper during my growing up (my mom recently gifted this treasure to me), handmade bowls, yarns of striking hues, and books, books, books. Kalman’s is a delight!

An Artist’s Bookshelf – March 2018

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My art-related book finds for the month ahead

I can’t get enough of them: books, be them about art, about artists or for artists. So I got to thinking… Why not offer a monthly account of my favorite reads and resources here? Again, I’d love your suggestions to possibly add to my list—I’ll be sure to give you a shout-out if your recommendation makes it to my bookshelf! As for now, I am reading…

Creative Time & Space: Making Room for Making Art by Rice Freeman-Zachery
What first drew me to this book was its vibrant photos of a variety of works by 14 different artists. From sculpture to collage to fashion, it’s all in there. Much more than that are the stories about and insights gleaned from the artists’ different routines, studio spaces, creative processes, etc. How they are inspired and how they work are now inspiring me in my work—even down to making sure I have on hand a good supply of tea, a “real” artist’s beverage of choice apparently. 

Painting Accessible Abstracts by Laura Reiter
As I continue to dabble primarily in mixed media, this book intrigues me when it comes to layering all of the elements of a piece, employing color and meaning, considering degrees of abstraction, and making the most of different materials and their unique effects. Fantastic photos and graphics once again enhance the content of this book.

Pastels by Mari Bolte
Children’s books about art are the bomb! Children’s authors don’t have to convince kids to make art and to cut through years of personal fears and doubts—most kids are ready and eager to experiment and create without reservation! I picked up this children’s book as a refresher for my pastels skills; my husband and I took a course several years ago, and I loved playing around with blending. I’m particularly taken with the exercises that produce a more abstract result: “Triple Rainbows” (pages 14-15), “Perspectives” (pages 16-17), “Batik Heat” (pages 20-21) and “Pop Warhol” (pages 26-27).

The Art of Rivalry: Four Friendships, Betrayals, and Breakthroughs in Modern Art by Sebastian Smee
Society often thinks of artists as reclusive types, rarely engaging with other people and the outside world. This book proves quite the contrary by showcasing the relationships between four well-known artist duos: Manet and Degas, Picasso and Matisse, Pollock and de Kooning, Freud and Bacon. Smee defines “rivalry” not as “the macho cliché of sworn enemies, bitter competitors, and stubborn grudge-holders slugging it out for artistic and worldly supremacy.” Instead, she says her portrayals of the artists reflect their “yielding, intimacy, and openness to influence.” I look forward to developing more of my own rivalries—by this definition—as I continue to pursue inspiration, productivity and growth as an artist!