Happy New Year everyone! Tis the season for resolutions, and next week will be the season for breaking those resolutions. It doesn’t have to be that way though! Keeping inspiration and motivation throughout the entire year can be really hard, so I’ve got 3 of my favorite books about art to keep you working on your goals. They say it only takes 21 days to form a habit, so if you resolution is to draw everyday, try a new medium, or learn a new style, these should help you get through that beginning hump.
If you want an art history crash course
Art History was actually one of my favorite courses in college, mostly because I was a giant nerd. Unfortunately over time I’ve forgotten a lot of what I’ve learned, so The Short Story of Art by Susie Hodge has been a lifesaver. It reviews major art movements, themes, and even techniques like ceramics and silkscreening. It’s basically a much cuter and more readable version of an Art History 101 textbook. This book is perfect to not only make you seem like a total smarty-pants next time you go to the Met with your friends, but also as a great source of inspiration and reference if you’re looking to learn a new skill like etching or pen and ink drawings.
I personally am trying my hand at painting with watercolors and gouache this year, and this book has lead me to discover artists I didn’t know used those mediums. If you’re also looking to learn a new skill this year, I recommend also looking into taking a workshop through Coursehorse, which is how I found a tapestry weaving class that I absolutely loved! You can use my referral link to get $15 off your first class too, so I highly recommend checking them out and seeing what you can learn.
If you want to learn more about one of art’s greatest mysteries
Now I’m a bit biased because Vincent Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists of all time, but I find learning about his life to be absolutely fascinating. So much of his life is shrouded in mystery that gaining any sort of clarity about who he was as a person and what he was experiencing can immediately deepen your understanding of his art. Of course reading the collection of his letters to his brother Theo is a great place to do so, but I honestly found those a bit hard to read unless you have a really good understanding of his life’s timeline and where he was at certain points. Van Gogh’s Ear by Bernadette Murphy is a perfect book for someone wanting a book they can not only sit down and enjoy but also learn a lot from.
The book details Murphy’s quest to finally find out once and for all what happened on the night of December 23rd, 1888 when Van Gogh is said to have cut off his ear and given it to a sex worker. The book is not only fun to read as a story in and of itself but also dives deep into the tales of Van Gogh’s madness, his life in Arles, and the loneliness that eventually led him to take his own life in 1890.
If you want a fun story about your favorite painting
There is an entire sub-sub genre of books that are historical fiction about the creation of famous paintings, and trust me when I say those are like crack to me. Whenever I find a new one I drop whatever I’m reading at the time and read that instead because I love imagining what it must have taken to create these masterpieces. The best known example of this genre is probably Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, although it’s not my personal favorite.
Out of the ones I have read so far, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland has been my favorite, although The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan is a very close second. “Luncheon” covers the creation of the painting with the same name by Pierre-August Renoir, one of the founders of the Impressionist movement. It’s got drama, it’s got painters, it’s got Paris in Summer. What more could you want? While these books are certainly not 100% factual accounts of the creation of these works, they are based in research and are a fun way to learn a little bit more about the process of some of history’s most famous painters.
Comment below if you made an art-related New Year’s resolution! I am trying to paint a little bit every day in the month of January to get the hang of it and see what I can make. What’s yours?
Learn a new skill this year with Coursehorse! Whether it’s a new language, pottery, or public speaking, get $15 off your first class by clicking here!
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