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!

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An Artist’s Bookshelf – October 2018

Once again, I’m traveling the “mixed media” route when it comes to my learning more about artists and artistic practices. Here’s what’s on my bookshelf, screen, etc., this month:

“Abstract: The Art of Design” series on Netflix
In short, this series is so cool! The first episode is about Christoph Niemann, a German illustrator who has many New Yorker covers and several books to his credit. I love the observation he makes at the beginning of the episode: given how it’s produced, the show is both by and about him; Niemann’s illustrations actually sew the documentary together. It’s hard to explain but so worth a look. I can’t wait to follow Niemann’s work from now on and to check out the next artists featured in the series. 

The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer
This book was described to me as The Artist’s Way for Christians. It promises “creative renewal” through readings, journaling, and other exercises focused on getting closer to God and, at the same time, discovering what He designed me to be and do. I look forward to seeing how this book will speak into my artistic endeavors and their intersection with my faith.

Finding Divine Inspiration: Working with the Holy Spirit in Your Creativity by J. Scott McElroy
Like The Creative Call, this book and study guide duo is focused on harnessing the spiritual capacity of art. “Collaborate with God,” reads the back cover of the study guide. What I specifically like about this collection is how it offers real-life examples of other people who have attempted this and, by all appearances, who have done it well. I can pray to add myself to their number.

 

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!

 

An Artist’s Bookshelf – February 2018

IMG_0729Procrastination… The struggle is real.

My kind of procrastination is often disguised as “research” or “inspiration”—after all, “Learner” is my number one strength according to StrengthsFinder 2.0. Despite my ill motives, the practice of reading does bear its fruit. As a result, I’m exposed to some great books and many thought-provoking ideas and philosophies as I slide other endeavors to the backburner. Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Letters to a Young Artist: Building a Life in Art by Julia Cameron
Yep, this is the same person who wrote the bestselling The Artist’s Way, which also makes its home on my bookshelves. In Letters, Cameron responds to a fictitious but relatable young artist “full of turbulent self-doubt”—relatable in the sense of apprehension, but rather annoying when it comes to the extent of his/her resistance to Cameron’s insight and advice (remember, the mentee is fictitious, so who should I really blame for this flaw in character?). I’m “young” in the sense of this new adventure as an artist, so I’m digging the read.

Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
Photographer friend Tami Sojka recommended this book to me, and I finished it this morning. In less than 100 pages, Koren tries to put words and pictures to “the quintessential Japanese aesthetic.” He describes wabi-sabi as “a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete… modest and humble… unconventional.” Such a definition of art, then, gives a rookie like me some hope.

This insight in particular continues to play in the corners of my consciousness: “While the universe destructs it also constructs. New things emerge out of nothingness. But we can’t really determine by cursory observation whether something is in the evolving or devolving mode. If we didn’t know differently we might mistake the newborn baby boy—small, wrinkled, bent, a little grotesque looking—for the very old man on the brink of death… In metaphysical terms, wabi-sabi suggests that the universe is in constant motion toward or away from potential.”

A Glorious Freedom: Older Women Leading Extraordinary Lives by Lisa Congdon
I discovered Lisa Congdon a couple years ago through an online art class she teaches through CreativeBug. Talk about someone who embraces the beauty of imperfection—she really encourages me in my attempts at art by speaking this truth over and over again. When it comes to her work, I so admire her playful use of pattern and color, as well as her whimsical approach to everyday objects.

Her signature style graces the pages of A Glorious Freedom, a biographical delight about women who found or are finding new identity or purpose as “late bloomers.” I feel a certain kinship with these women as I discover the glorious freedom that comes with age and some long overdue self-acceptance and celebration.

If you feel so inclined, I’d love to receive your recommendations of authors and books who have made a difference in your creative life. Please share in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!