5 Books Every Artist Should Read [Creatives Answer]

 • 4 min read
Author Arrieta Feli

Here at MasterBundles, we all love books. They teach us, they entertain us, they allow us to learn about different cultures. And if we talk about art and design books, OMG: Is there anything more beautiful in this world?

But where to start? It’s estimated that more than 2 million new books are published every year in the world. The possibilities are so broad (and so amazing) that it’s easy to get lost in the bookshelves.

Selecting the best books for artists seemed like too ambitious a project for the MasterBundles team, so we decided to broaden the call and ask 9 artists, creatives and designers about their top picks. They’ve made us discover books that broke boundaries and challenged concepts. Books that will inspire you to change your perspective, explore new ways of making art, feel the pleasure of connecting with the artistic community and encourage you to keep improving your creative practice every day.

Here is the list of must-haves; from bestsellers and classics to lesser-known gems from around the world. The perfect way to find inspiration for all tastes!

microphone for podcasts.
5 Books Every Artist Should Read: Creatives Answer [Audio Version]
5 Books Every Artist Should Read: Creatives Answer [Audio Version]

Top picks by Andra Popovici

Andra Popovici.

Andra Popovici is an independent illustrator working for over 10 years with clients from all over the world on ambitious projects.

Her work covers many fields, from commissions for international brands and companies, advertising to game artwork and GUI.

Follow her on Instagram and Behance.

There are quite a few books that I enjoy and that either I came across or were recommended by other artists, but the ones that I consider a must-read and I also refer to quite often are:

  1. Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney: This is such a great book with a lot of tips on how to choose colors wisely and improve luminosity in your work.
  2. The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams: Even if you’re not into animation, this would still be a must-read as one can learn a lot about posture and movement in drawings.
  3. Creative, inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco & Joy Deangdeelert Cho: This is a very good guide about the business side of things for freelance illustrators and for someone just starting out, this would definitely be a must-read.
  4. The art of, series of books showcasing artwork from Walt Disney company animation movies. There’s a lot of insight and an in-depth look into visual development and what lays behind creating amazing visuals for these movies. My favorite is The Art of Moana, Jessica Julius, Maggie Malone
  5. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson: I love biographies and this is one of the best-written biographies of one of the most extraordinary human beings of all time. A must-read!

‘A head full of dreams’, and Gems & Minerals by Andra Popovici.

Top picks by Yulong LLi

Yulong LLi.

Yulong Lli is a Shanghai-based freelance illustrator. He studied Visual Communication in the UK as a funded exchange program student and received his MFA from the China Academy of Art in 2020. His illustration style ranged from the cultural blending of eastern and western in Shanghai, such as Vintage illustration poster, Modernism arts, and graphic design.

Follow him on Instagram and Behance.

Top picks by Yulong LLi

Yulong Lli is a Shanghai-based freelance illustrator. He studied Visual Communication in the UK as a funded exchange program student.

‘Culture trip’ by Yulong LLi.

‘Culture trip’ by Yulong LLi.

Top picks by Nadzeya Makeyeva

Nadzeya Makeyeva.

Nadzeya Makeyeva is an illustration artist based in San Francisco, CA.

She feels inspired to work with design-focused organizations to create editorial art, website graphics, posters, portraits, app visuals, covers and characters — any kind of illustrations. She has created illustrations for Forbes, Volkswagen, Tatler, Interscope Records, Entertainment Weekly, Skolkovo, A1, Salle Privée, magazines, and bands.

Follow her on Instagram and Behance.

I moved to the US two years ago, before I lived in a post-soviet region (Belarus, Minsk), so I’m afraid books will be unfamiliar to the local audience. Anyway, the books have chosen are really the best, in my opinion, and shaped me as an illustrator:

  1. The Complete Guide to Anatomy for Artists and Illustrators by Gottfried Bammes.
    Originally published in German in 1964, Professor Gottfried Bammes Die Gestalt des Menschen is still considered the definitive guide to drawing the human form. Having undergone numerous editions since it was first published and still much in demand today, this, the first-ever English translation of the complete work, has been long-awaited. Based on the most recent German edition and faithful to the original, it contains over 1200 photographs, diagrams, and drawings, including work by the author himself, and spans over 500 pages. Now, both new and experienced English-speaking artists and illustrators can benefit from the vast body of knowledge accumulated and lovingly presented by Professor Bammes in his acclaimed work.

    This comprehensive guide begins with the history of human anatomy for artists and its influence on the development of the artistic visualization of the body. Bammes goes on to explore in-depth the human skeleton and musculature; the proportions of the body; the static and dynamic laws of posture and movement; body language; and the interrelationships of the various elements of the body. Through his systematic and practical approach to teaching, the reader will acquire an in-depth knowledge of anatomy and the ways in which it can be used to express the human form in art.
  2. The Diary of a Maniac Designer by Yana Frank. Yana Frank is an artist, illustrator, designer, and author of Diary of a Maniac Designer and All Curiosity Knows. Having made a career as an art director, in 2003 she said goodbye to work in agencies and concentrated on illustration and painting. Since then, she has been drawing pictures for numerous glossy magazines, advertising booklets, and posters, as well as writing books about the complexities, subtleties, and tricks of creative work.

    In this book, Yana talks about the non-obvious obstacles in the profession of an illustrator and how to overcome them. The book is addressed to anyone who plans to make a living as an illustration or has already taken up this.

  3. The Secret Knowledge of Commercial Illustrators by Yana Frank. In this book, Yana Frank explains how to become a commercial illustrator and reveals many of the intricacies of her work: she explains where to start and where to aim, how to build a portfolio, where to find clients and how to work with them, and she also analyzes small pictures and large projects in detail, shares technical tricks and provides step-by-step recipes for creating quality images.
  4. Color science by Lenina Mironova. Lenina Mironova is a Belarusian architect, teacher, and art critic. Candidate of Architecture (1963), Professor of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts (2003). Member of public associations “Belarusian Union of Designers”, “Belarusian Union of Architects”.

    The book consists of three parts.

    The first part briefly outlines the history of the science of color from primitive times to the present day.

    The second part contains the minimum information necessary for artists about the physical foundations of color, the laws of color vision, and the psychological impact of color.

    The third part outlines the principles of using color in the interiors of buildings for various purposes, in exposition objects, advertising, and visual agitation.

    The book is intended for students of higher and secondary specialized educational institutions of an artistic profile, and may also be useful to architects, graphic designers, and secondary school teachers who teach fine arts.

  5. The Art and Soul of Dune by Tanya Lapointe. I highly recommend taking a look at contemporary concept albums like this one. I think that trying to draw concept art means learning spatial thinking and learning to draw realistically. It teaches you to see your own artworks from several angles at once, which simplifies the construction of the composition. Well, these albums are just insanely beautiful after all.

Lana by Nadzeya Makeyeva.

Lana, by Nadzeya Makeyeva.

Top picks by Ola Szmida

Ola Szmida.

Ola Szmida is a professional animator, motion designer, and illustrator. Her experience includes editorial and book illustration, animation, post-production and storyboarding. Her animations were presented at many international festivals such as Seville European Film Festival, Anilogue, Animafest, Fantoche, Mecal – Barcelona, Żubroffka, Młodzi i Film, among others. Follow her on Instagram and Behance.

Follow her on Instagram and Behance.

  1. Henry Darger by Klaus Biesenbach: in my opinion, Henry Darger is one of the most interesting artists and humans in general. I recommend everyone to find out more about the In the Realms of the Unreal, gigantic work created by most of Darges’ life, especially if you’re interested in mixing different techniques and storytelling.
  2. Eightball by Daniel Clowes: great comic book – beautifully made, with amazing, surprising stories. Also, Daniel Clowes draws strange and beautiful faces, full of complex emotions – for me, besides being a great comic book artist, he is a wonderful portraitist.
  3. Animals in motion by Eadweard Muybridge: great source of references for animal movements and poses.
  4. Exercise the style by R. Queneau: this book taught me a lot about perception. Queneau wrote 99 versions of the same story – as much as the book is about practicing the writer’s style, it helped me find inspiration and new ideas in my work as an illustrator and animator
  5. On writers and writing by Margaret Atwood: Atwood’s witty and funny book is full of good advice for any artist, not only writers.

‘Smoke’ and Web illustrations for Funnelfly by Ola Szmida

Top picks by Rong Pham

Rong Pharm.

Rong Pham is an illustrator with over 6 years of experience in publishing and advertising, also pursuing a degree in Fine Arts, majoring in Son-mai (a traditional Vietnamese method of art-making). As a fine artist, and illustrator, he is well-versed in analogue, digital, and mixed media paintings.

His client list includes Scholastic Asia, Uniqlo, Honda, Coca-Cola, and Poodle Doodle Press, among others.

Follow him on Instagram and Behance.

I moved to the US two years ago, before I lived in a post-soviet region (Belarus, Minsk), so I’m afraid books will be unfamiliar to the local audience. Anyway, the books have chosen are really the best, in my opinion, and shaped me as an illustrator:

  • The sound of colors by Jimmi Liao: The illustrations are so poetic and the writing is, too. Let’s follow the journey of a girl who cannot see, and be deeply interested at how her world is through her imagination
  • Town is by the sea by Joanne Schwartz, illustrated by Sydney Smith: Wonderful use of ink brush and paints to demonstrate the hardness of the life of charcoal miners in the town. The sea is beautifully illustrated, too. I have read it too many times but never get bored of it.
  • Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi: I love it. What is beyond the sea? Layer and layer of imagination is waiting ahead.
  • Jamilia by Chingiz Aitmatov: I have never been to Kyrgyzstan but I can almost see the wind, the sloppy hill, and the mountain beyond the vast great sky when I read this book. This is certainly my cup of tea.

‘Flights of the doves’, book cover and ‘Newly tiny things’ by Rong Pham

Top picks by Lorena González.

Lorena Gonzalez.

Lorena G is a Barcelona-based graphic illustrator working remotely for worldwide clients as a freelancer.

Her impressive client list includes Google, Adobe, and The Wall Street Journal (USA) Le Méridien (FR) and El País (ES), among others.

Her colorful and cheerful geometric illustrations have been featured in many publications and collective exhibitions.

Follow her on Instagram and Behance.

  • A Dictionary Of Color Combinations by Sanzo Wada. A very useful book, full of awesome color combos to get inspired.
  • Eames by Gloria Koening. Discover the modernist perfection of designer duo Charles and Ray Eames through this compilation of their work.
  • Charley Harper : An Illustrated Life, by Todd Oldham. If you are into geometric shapes, illustration, and nature… This is your book!
  • Design as Art by Bruno Munari. Thought-provoking short essays about Munari’s ideas regarding design.
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert. It’s not design or illustration related but I’m obsessed with this saga right now. The greatest sci-fi story ever written, period.

digital book illustrations by Lorena G.

‘How to buy, assemble and set up a mommy’, digital book illustrations by Lorena G.

Top picks by Dominika Godette

Dominika Godette.

Dominika Godette is an illustrator and surface pattern designer from Czech Republic, currently based in London.

Her experience includes editorial illustrations, pattern design for products, logo design and branding.

Follow her on Instagram.

I was an art history major in college so I read a lot of theoretical books.

  • The Story of Art by Ernst Gombrich: I love it, it’s not only a beautifully written history of art, but also explains why art is so important in history and how society changes are mirrored through art.
  • and 3. On Beauty and On Ugliness by Umberto Eco: depicting never-ending process of changing standards of beauty and ugliness.
  • Lust for Life by Irving Stone: A moving story of Van Gogh’s personal and artistic life.
  • The Art Book: Great inspiration if you are feeling stuck! 100 artists selected from all periods and across the globe.

Valentine’s Day patterns.

Valentine’s Day patterns by Dominika Godette

Top picks by Germán Reina Carmona

Germán Reina Carmona.

Germán Reina Carmona is a 2D artist from Lanzarote, Spain. He works as a freelance concept artist, developing characters and environments for creative agencies, studios and game builders such as Roll7 (UK), SunnyBoy Entertainment (US), West Studio (US), Brown Bag Films (UK) and Zombot Studio (TW).

Follow him on Instagram and Artstation.

So here’s my list, first 3 books for technical aspects:

All of Bridgman’s anatomy books.

Framed Ink: Drawing and Composition for Visual Storytellers, by Marcps Mateu-Mestre

Color and light: a Guide for the Realist Painter, by James Gurney. It is a series of two volumes, the two of them are gold.

I would add Into the woods: A five-act journey into story, by John Yorke, not about art/illustration, but for storytelling purposes it’s a nice introduction and personally, it’s something I’ve enjoyed and I would expand in that direction to learn from it.

And last, any Moebius comic. It’s just amazing.

Characters for Warp Games.

‘Characters for Warp Games’ by Germán Reina Carmona.

Top picks by Alberto Miranda

Alberto Miranda.

Alberto Miranda is a Multidisciplinary Visual Designer and Illustrator from Madrid, Spain. He works as a freelancer, focusing mainly on editorial illustration. His impressive client list includes The New York Times, The Guardian UK/US, The Telegraph, Medium, El País, Líbero, and G2, among others.

Follow him on Instagram and Behance.

Top picks by Alberto Miranda

Alberto Miranda is a Multidisciplinary Visual Designer and Illustrator from Madrid, Spain.

Illustration for Soho Impact by Alberto Miranda.

Illustration for Soho Impact by Alberto Miranda.

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