1. Home

Best 10 Art Books of 2008

My favorite art and painting books acquired during 2008.

By

This list is my selection of favorites from the books added to my personal library during the year. One thing the books all have in common is that I feel I've learned great stuff from them, and anticipate consulting them again in the future whether for hard information or inspiration, or both.

1. Let's See: Writing on Art from "The New Yorker"

Book -- Let's See Writing on Art from The New Yorker by Peter Schjeldahl
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
This collection of 75 pieces by art critic Peter Schjeldahl, all originally published in The New Yorker magazine, tops my list because it's so enjoyable to read erudite, opinionated essays on art. Not only is it entertaining and informative, but it also makes me think about how I express myself when talking about my art and other people's. It's got an index, so it's dip-in-able by subject, artist, or specific artwork.
Compare Prices

2. Colour: Documents of Contemporary Art

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
This is a compilation of artists' writings on color, quoted from the original documents (and providing details of where they were published or sourced). Thoughts, philosophies, approaches, theories, some easily understood and others not, some by artists whose names I know and others not ... it's a treasure box to open randomly. It lacks a subject index, so my copy is already got numerous pencil annotations in it.
Compare Prices

3. Color and Meaning: Art, Science, and Symbolism

Art book review
Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
There are 21 chapters in this book, each dealing with a different aspect of color in art. Perfect for when I feel like relaxing in a comfy chair reading but want to assuage my guilt about being lazy. Will today's reading be Matisse's Black Light, Turner as a Colourist, Synaesthesia and Colour, Doctrines on the Mixing of Color...?
Compare Prices

4. How to Read Chinese Paintings

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
I've always been intimidated by the vastness of the world of "Chinese Painting", feeling it was near impossible to get to grips with it at even a beginner's level because there's so much to it. How to Read Chinese Paintings changed that. It's like doing an introductory college course by an enthusiastic tutor who uses ordinary language not artspeak.

5. Splashing Paint

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
Okay, so this isn't a book, it's a DVD, but I'm including it here because you can flick through it much like a book and because it's so inspirational and encouraging. Lovett's can-do, give-it-a-try approach is hard to resist. Next I have a creative downer, I'll be reaching for it again for sure.

6. How to Read Paintings

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
The focus of this book is to explain what artists do to create a masterpiece (or not), what the elements in such paintings are, and the "language" used to construct them. It deals with the physical basics, such as the materials used to paint, and the practical, such as giving titles to paintings, then surveys art subjects and styles through the centuries up to the mid-20th Century. If this sounds like it must have a lot of words, well it does, but it also has oodles of photos of paintings.

7. Classical Painting Atelier

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
This look at the atelier approach to art training by artist and teacher Juliette Aristides is both an intriguing and informative read. I'm sped-read my way through it, and am now dipping into it again slowly. Next step will be to stop reading about the techniques and trying them out.

8. Artists' Pigments c1600-1835

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
This is definitely a heavy-duty reference book. It's one I'd encountered in the recommended reading lists of other books on color, so I was delighted to find a copy in the bookshop of the Courtauld Gallery in London. It's a book I'll pick up when I want to learn more about a specific pigment, or just for something to dip into during a coffee break.

9. Teaching Art: Academies & Schools from Vasari to Albers

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
This is a study of art training in Europe from the Renaissance, where the academic tradition or style of art originated from and how it developed, and how it fell into disfavor. I think it's great for increasing my knowledge of how the Great Painters were made/taught, how the concept of Great Art became established (and changed), and what inspired the current revival of the atelier art tuition system. Unfortunately out of print, with second-hand copies expensive.

10. Artists and Their Studios

Photo © Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
This book falls into the "inspiration" category. It's a peek into the world of some 30 living artists; each gets at least two pages with a little text and a photographic portrait, and the best entries have more pages and photos inside their studios. It's a glimpse into the usually private creative spaces of artists, with clear photos in which you can read the titles on book and decipher paint bottle labels.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.