Three Great Art Books

I love books on art and I try to read as many of them as I can. Of all the art books I’ve read over the years, here are three of my favorites. This list will probably keep growing.


The three books below were chosen, in part, for their accessibility. The older I get, the less patience I have for academic writing:

The Artist’s Mentor, Ian Jackman

This simple book contains inspirational quotes from a wide variety of artists on various parts of the creative process. It’s a quick and unassuming book that I re-read every couple of years.

The Story of Art, E.H. Gombrich

This very long book covers a ton of material, but it does so in a very easy to read and navigate format. Basically, every period of art, from cave to modern is given a quick recap in about ten or so pages. It’s easy to read a chapter before bed.

Art/Work, Heather Darcy Bhandari & Jonathan Melber

There are many books that can help you navigate the business aspects of your art practice. I’ve found this one to be a helpful point of reference.

Art Book Quotes

I recently visited my local bookstore and picked up The Story of Art by E.H. Gombrich. I’ve yet to read it, but it did inspire me to search for quotes from famous art books.


“There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists.” E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art

“First you do everything possible to make sure your world is antibourgeois, that it defies bourgeois tastes, that it mystifies the mob, the public, that it outdistances the insensible middle-class multitudes by light-years of subtlety and intellect – and then having succeeded admirably, you ask with a sense of See-what-I-mean?” Tom Wolfe, The Painted Word

“The Painted Word hit the art world like a really bad, MSG-headache-producing, Chinese lunch” Rosalind E. Krauss, Partisan Review

“Oil painting, before anything else, was a celebration of private property. As an art-form it derived from the principle that you are what you have.” John Berger, Ways of Seeing

“Art needs motives that are more profound than profit if it is to maintain its difference from – and position above – other cultural forms.” Sarah Thornton, Seven Days in the Art World

“What does one prefer? An art that struggles to change the social contract, but fails? Or one that seeks to please and amuse, and succeeds?” Robert Hughes, The Shock of the New

“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.” Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use – do the work you want to see done.” Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist: 10 things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

How to See by David Salle

On my long ride into work this morning I finished David Salle’s book “How to See”. While everything is still fresh in my head, here is a very short review.


For those unfamiliar with Dave Salle, he is an American painter who rose to prominence in the early 1980’s with bright, graphical artworks that bear a strong resemblance to Robert Raushenberg. His book “How to See” contains several short essays about his famous artists friends and their work.

While not overly academic, the book may be a little dry – if not pretentious – for the casual art fan. For the practicing artist however, it provides a unique look into the mind of an extremely successful painter, and shows how someone in the “in crowd” looks at, and judges art.

With the exception of a few digs (specifically one against Oscar Murillo), the tone of this book is largely upbeat. It is obvious that Salle knows a great deal about the art world and the creative process.

I liked all the essay’s, but I especially liked the one titled “A Talk for the First Day of Class.” It contains a series of questions and exercises, some serious, some not.

If your a fan of David Salle, or a fan of art in general, I suggest you pick up a copy.

33 Artists in 3 Acts (a review)

I love art, and I try to read every book I can find about it. A few year’s ago, I read 7 Days in the Art World. This past weekend, I finished 33 Artists in 3 Acts. Here is a short review.


Sarah Thornton obviously has many connections in the art world, and owing to this, her latest offering 33 Artists in 3 Acts contains a who’s who of contemporary art – this is a very good thing.

As the title suggests, the book is broken into three cinematic acts: politics, kinship and craft. Throughout these acts, Thornton spends time with some of the planet’s most important living artists, and along the way, provides an inside glimpse into the artistic mind as it grapples with, and attempts to find its way in an extremely fickle art world.

Irrespective of fame, the time the author spends with each artist is recounted in a very casual and humanistic manner. No where is this more apparent than in the kinship section where Thornton hangs out with the family of artist couple Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons. Few art books address the family dynamic.

Make no mistake, Thornton is by no means a push over. Although most of the artists come across as likable, at times they seem overly full of themselves, or even arrogant. Be that as it may, this writer doesn’t lead by the hand, and the reader is left to formulate their own opinions.

If you liked 7 Days in the Art World, you’re gonna love 33 Artists in 3 Acts. If you’ve yet to read either, I highly suggest that you do.