Recommended Books for Artists - Drawing, Painting and Photography for Reference and Art Inspiration!

I've collected a lot of books over the past decade of art obsession, here's a glimpse at my bookshelf! I'll be making a series of videos flipping through some of my favorite artist resources and showing you how each book inspired me by doing a painting demonstration. While we live in a digital age for both image and tutorial searches, there's nothing quite like having a physical book to hold. On a day off from work you may want to skip the computer time and just grab a book to curl up on the couch with. It's also nice to have a reference book to keep handy near your work table, a printed photograph to compare your hand painted color swatches to, or to just browse something without having to come up with your own ideas or search terms. I find having books to flip through can help me relax and overcome "artist block", especially when feeling ill, overwhelmed or tired.

I have a growing number of books regarding color theory, pigments, dyes, drawing, mixed media, acrylic, gouache and watercolor painting. I have a particular interest in gardening, birding, animals and the Art Nouveau period, but I do also own a few things about anatomy, portraits, fantasy art (fairy/mermaid) as well as sea or landscapes. Below are a few photos from my bookshelves and I'll be putting review/painting demo videos further down the page. If there is a certain book title you'd like to learn more about, or you have a book you'd like to recommend to me - feel free to click a video to YouTube, leave a comment request and I'll consider making it a priority to do a video review :)

review books for artists animal reference photography botanical art painting color wheelbooks for artists animal reference pictures butterflies birds flora paintingbooks for art nature drawing and journaling mixed media gouache paintingwatercolor book watercolorists essential notebook unleashed jane betteridgebook review watercolor cozy days iraville art nouveau terry harrison painting 

Color wheel, color theory, combinations and schemes related charts and books:

One thing I find extremely useful as an artist primarily working in watercolor is a color chart (along with a swatch reference, combination or theory guide). While I have committed the color wheel to memory, there is no quicker answer to "what color would look good with this" mid-painting than having a color wheel on your desk/hanging on the wall next to your table. I like the C&T Publishing and Joen Wolfram charts, as they include magenta (CMY), 24 colors instead of 12 and each color tab displays the best pairings:

Color wheel chart color theory book schemes for artists ideas reference watercolor painting

I bought color wheel related charts and books on Amazon:

Photography reference books (pictures of animals, butterflies, flowers, insects etc.):

Book - lilacs lilies peonies hydrangeas vintage roses georgianna lane naomi slade rachel warne tulips

Book - lilies vintage roses georgianna lane naomi slade rachel warne tulips flowers

There's a great series of flower books that started with Vintage Roses in 2016 to Lilies in 2021 (and Lilacs is coming in 2022!). Each book may only feature one flower type, but there's so many color and pattern varieties within each book it's remarkably useful for art. You can use the color ideas or flower shapes as a reference for creative made up floral themed art, or for close replica studies for serious botanical work when you don't have access to real fresh flowers. The photography from Georgianna Lane and Rachel Warne is quite lovely, crisp/clear, large enough for identifying colors, shadows and discerning petal shapes and other flower parts for drawing. Here is a painting inspired by the Lilies book (Salmon Star variety):

lilies book mission gold watercolor triple pan set botanical snake painting


--- video on this series coming november 2021---


Flower Color Guide (single flower type per page) and Flower Color Theory (boquets/arrangements) are both lovely small format books by Michael and Taylor Putnam:

Flower color guide book putnam floral botanical reference book for art artists


Find flower / plant / botanical theme photography books on Amazon:

Some of my all time favorite botanical reference books are sadly out of print, but if you happen to see them for a low price as a used book - I highly recommend them. There are so many clean, background-free, detailed images of flowers and leaves in these books (hundreds of pages!) in Botanical Garden Vol.I and Vol.II by Martyn Rix and Roger Phillips:

Animals (birds, butterflies etc.) photography books on Amazon:

Reviews soon!





There are very few books about gouache that are worth checking out. There has been a recent surge of interest in the medium though so I believe this will change in the future. Gouache is an opaque watercolor, a re-wettable paint (unlike waterproof acrylic), which requires a different approach than transparent watercolor. The opaque (not see-through) layering methods can be done dark to light or any way the artist sees fit, since you can cover up previous layers with more paint. I find the difference in painting methods jarring after working with transparent paints (that I layer to build up color depth from light to dark), so seeing how other artists are approaching the medium can be really helpful.

Rediscovering gouache book review aljoscha blau 

Gouache books on Amazon:



Favorite artists and art time period books:

If you have a favorite art style / period or famous artist you admire, I would definitely check if there are affordable books of their work. Master studies can be a really enjoyable art challenge! I plan to attempt recreating one of these Paul Berthon pieces as a study of his style: 

Paul Berthon art nouveau artist print poster book journal decorative art deco eugene grasset

My favorite style is Art Nouveau (1890-1910 period, primarily regarding French poster art, product advertisements and theater promotions). From this period, my favorite artist is Paul Berthon, a student of the decorative artist Eugene Grasset, who unfortunately very little is written about. Much of his work was lost over the years or destroyed in World War I. One of the best books written about Berthon and Grasset was published in 1978 and is only available used. On occasion you can find one of Berthon's handful of remaining art images as a poster or a journal cover.

I'll be sure to write about other artists work I love in the future! Here are some of their books:




11-2021 = This brand new page is currently in progress, please check back in the future for further recommended reading.




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