Katherine regularly reviews art books and has a very extensive art library (4 bookcases and lots of stacks waiting for the next one!)
THE TOP 10 BEST ART BOOKS
This listing of the best selling and top rated fine art books was completely reviewed and revised every single month up until the end of 2012. I identified the relevant art books across various categories of Amazon Art Books (.com and .co.uk) - including books yet to be published - and cross referenced these to other sources of data.
Which is not as easy as it sounds! Plus it took a long time which is why I no longer do it.
2012 saw the introduction of a new set of categories - find out if you know which are the top rated and best selling art books this month for:
* art history
* art business
PLUS the rest of The Best New Art Books - also updated and published each month
NOTE: This listing reflects what other people have wanted to buy and/or rate highly. I have then filtered out all those books which are lightweight and/or which are not for artists (eg doodling, books for kids etc). Amazon.com books are listed below and Amazon.co.uk books are listed in the side column. I've then filtered the lists to extract the best new books relevant to fine art - and the listings have a mid-Atlantic flavour
How this list is compiled each month
NOTE: This listing IN NO WAY REPEATS the listings for different categories for arts and photography on Amazon.com
Do you get confused and lost trying to find the book you want on Amazon?
Are you trying to buy somebody the gift of an art book - but have no idea what's good?
If you are read on!
If you're anything like me you will find that Amazon Book Categories can be INCREDIBLY CONFUSING because
* Books are often listed in multiple and incorrect categories.
* Some categories verge on being completely useless because of the degree of contamination by books which are NOT related to the category.
* The listings are then complicated by all the changes which Amazon keep making to their websites and what they do and don't list.
THIS SITE IS THE SOLUTION TO ALL THOSE WHO LIKE SIMPLE LISTS OF GOOD ART BOOKS!
Books listed on this site are a personal and transatlantic interpretation of listings found on a combination of Amazon.com AND Amazon.co.uk and other book sites sources where ratings and popularity can be identified
They are compiled by:
* focusing on fine art books only (ie excluding all books for children, comics, commercial/graphic artists and photographers)
* reviewing the category lists at Amazon - and which books are included in the category
* ignoring all books which in my view are inappropriately categorised (and there can be more than just a few of those)
* ignoring all the books which in my view are lightweight and/or for kids or comic artists and/of no interest to fine artists
* identifying the best selling book in the chosen categories
* identifying the top rated book in the chosen categories
* only listing a book once - in whichever category they rank highest
* reviewing the listings monthly and updating in each category as appropriate
While I take a lead from Amazon - while ignoring its somewhat crazy categorisation of books - I also look at what evidence I can glean from other sources. What that all means is that this listing is NOT a replica of the top books list on Amazon - in a good way!.
In 2012 I'm using five categories as follows:
* Drawing Books - This category is about books about fine art drawing for artists and those wanting to learn how to draw. It excludes drawing books for children, fantasy/comic art and applied books for commercial artists and animators
* Painting Books - This category is about books about fine art painting for artists and those wanting to learn how to paint or improve their painting. It excludes painting books for children and applied books for commercial artists
* Artists - This category is about books which are about fine artists (typically draughtsmen, painters, printmakers, sculptors) - from any movement, period or style. It excludes books for children and about fantasy artists, illustrators and graphic and commercial artists.
* Art History - This category typically covers the overviews of the history of art and museum exhibitions which are not just about one artist
* Art Business - This category includes practical aspects of the business of art for artists and collectors and stories about people in the art business.
Finally there is another supplementary listing of The Top 10 NEW Art Books just published or about to be published. These were published last month or are due to be published - and include good books which might not reach the "best seller" or "top rated" for the listed categories
Also listed after each category are top rated books from previous months. Some categories generate more "churn" than others hence the different number of books listed.
*** TOP DRAWING BOOKS ***
This category is about books about fine art drawing for artists and those wanting to learn how to draw.
It excludes drawing books for children, fantasy/comic art and applied books for commercial artists which are niche categories
Andrew Loomis Books get the 'in the window" treatment
This is a photograph I took in the summer of Andrew Loomis books in the window of Foyles Bookstore on Charing Cross Road - it's one of the biggest books shops in London.
DRAWING - Top Rated Drawing Book in APRIL 2013 - Figure Drawing for All It's Worth
"Figure Drawing for All It's Worth" is an extraordinarily popular book by Andrew Loomis. It's one of a series of drawing instruction books which have been republished in a facsimile edition. This one was republished in May 2011 and has been a top rated book ever since!
It currently rates 4.9 out of 5 stars following 69 customer reviews
The demand for these books came because second hand copies were really difficult to locate and acquire - they had all been out of print for decades. However all those that had used his books rated them very highly. In effect the books became like gold dust - very valuable but very difficult to pin down! Hence ways to share the books which could be located had to be found. Friends would share - but only with very trusted friends as it was important not to lose the book. Websites also sprang up to share the contents online.
Now there is a facsimile copy in print - and we can all own one of the most sought after books about drawing!
It goes without saying that a facsimile edition of a book which has been through four editions and was first published several decades ago does NOT look like one which is published today.
DRAWING - Best Selling Drawing Book in APRIL 2013 - Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain: The Definitive, 4th Edition
This is the NEW and 4th edition of probably the most popular drawing book for adults that has ever been published. This book is a standard text for beginners and improvers and has been consistently either the best-selling and/or the top-rated drawing instruction book on Amazon for the last 33 years.
I've got editions #2 and #3 (read my review of the last edition) but that didn't stop me going out and buying the fourth edition earlier this year!
4th Edition: Amazon: 4.8 out of 5 stars 151 customer reviews. It's also currently #1 in the top selling books about Drawing on Amazon (April 2013)
Goodreads: 4.50 avg rating - 12 ratings - published 2012 (These are ratings for the latest of the 4 editions)
Facts about this book:
* 1.7 MILLION people all over the world have bought this book since it was first published. It's been translated into 17+ languages
* First published in 1979.
* The only drawing book I've ever known which stayed in the New York Times Best Seller lists for over a year
* Each subsequent update has introduced material developed as a result of drawing workshops
* Second edition in 1989 went back into the NYT Best Seller List after revisions by Betty Edwards
* Third edition in 1999: The 20th anniversary edition spent nearly 2,000 days in the top 100 books (Arts & Photography) on Amazon and consistently topped the TOP 10 BESTSELLING BOOKS ABOUT DRAWING ON AMAZON
* Fourth Edition - published April 2012 by Tarcher/Penguin - currently ranked #1 in Drawing Bestsellers
It's worth noting the current author's opinion that the book is essentially about 'perception' ie how to see properly so you can record accurately rather than about art per se. I certainly subscribe to the notion that learning how to see is a fundamental step to learning how to draw properly.
Best Drawing Books - in 2010, 2011 and 2012 - all these books have been best selling or top rated
There's intense and stiff competition to become the top rated or best selling drawing book on Amazon. However there are very few books which get to the top and the turnover is between just a few books.
Those that have made it to the top in the past also tend to stay in the top 100 art books on Amazon for a long time while newcomers often sink without a trace.
SEE THE BEST BOOKS ABOUT DRAWING AND SKETCHING FOR A COMPLETE RANGE OF BOOKS ABOUT:
* HOW TO DRAW
* DEVELOPING YOUR DRAWING SKILLS and learn about drawing at an advanced level
* LEARN ABOUT THE MASTERS OF DRAWING through the ages
*** TOP PAINTING BOOKS ***
This category is about books which are about fine art painting for artists and those wanting to learn how to paint or improve their painting.
It excludes the niche categories of painting books for children and applied books for commercial artists
PAINTING - Top Rated Painting Book in APRIL 2013 - Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist
Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter by James Gurney is also the top rated book about painting - but since I don't allow a book to head both sections we need to move on and look at #2 - which is yet another book by the very popular and very knowledgeable Mr Gurney - Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn't Exist!
Amazon.com reviews: 4.9 out of 5 stars by 98 customer reviews
Amazon UK reviews: 4.9 out of 5 stars by 14 customer reviews
#5 in Books > Arts & Photography > Painting
PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2009 / TOP RATED for several months and periodically since
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Read my Book Review - Imaginative Realism by James Gurney
On publication this book became the #1 art instruction book on Amazon. The reason being that this book sets a very high standard for all art instruction books as it is jam packed full of useful content which is both very accessible and highly informative.
The bias is towards Gurney's normal fantasy art subject matter but the principles are applicable to all painters who create works which involve some element of imagined realism.
Top Rated Painting Books - in 2010, 2011 and 2012 - all these books have been top rated
These books were all top rated on Amazon at some point in 2010, 2011 and 2012. It's not a huge list as it's very difficult category to excel in and those which are good are very good!
The category is defined by how many reviews you've got. I've noted that it's increasingly it's the authors with a following - either through a profile on the Internet or through online teaching or through a programme of workshops - who are able to generate ratings by their loyal fans. Mind you - you have to be good to generate that sort of fan behaviour!
Realistically an author who doesn't have some sort of fan following - through workshops or the internet - has very little chance of being top rated.
PAINTING - Best Selling Book in APRIL 2013 - Color and Light: A Guide for the Realist Painter
2.5 YEARS AFTER PUBLICATION & STILL AT THE TOP OF THE LIST OF BEST SELLING BOOKS FOR SERIOUS PAINTERS
This book ranked #1 BEST SELLER in the Top 100 Painting Books - BEFORE it was published in November 2010 on the strength of pre-publication sales - it has now pretty much stayed at or very near the top ever since.
Also the TOP RATED Book in August-October 2011 and January-March 2012 and #2 in November and December 2011.
Rated 4.9 out of 5 stars in 121 customer reviews on Amazon - It consistently earns more and more 5 star ratings on Amazon.
#2 in Books > Arts & Photography > Painting
Currently ranked #2 in the top 10 books about painting ordered as gifts
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED by me. READ my detailed review of this book Book Review: Color and Light by James Gurney
Summary review: - This is a book for students and improvers and all those who want to know more about colour and how light and colour interact - in life and in a painting. Practical application of the lessons learned is made possible through a very accessible text coupled with excellent use of images and graphics. Coverage of this topic is comprehensive.
The key reasons this book is highly recommended by me are:
I've not come across any other book which covers this topic in such breath and depth and makes it accessible as well.
* I've got ones which are more technical - but they're much less accessible.
* I've got ones which are as accessible - but they don't cover as much as he does
The major plus point about this book is that it is comprehensive and accessible art instruction of a very high order.
* It does not attempt to dumb down or omit important aspects of the way in which colour and light function and interact.
* It articulates very clearly how you can make choices about how to use different features of colour and light in a painting.
I am so confident about the impact of this book that I am happy to predict that if you buy and study this book your paintings will improve.
Best Painting Books - in 2010, 2011 and 2012 - all these books have been best selling
Best selling books in this category tend to turn over at very regular intervals - presumably due to the marketing effort on publication. The same cannot be said for the top rated books
***TOP BOOKS ABOUT ARTISTS***
This category is about artists - past and present.
In 2011, I "retired" 'Wall and Piece' by Banksy despite being top rated artists and a best selling book. Otherwise we'd never get to hear about the rest of the contenders!
ARTISTS: Top Rated Book in NOVEMBER 2012 - Asphalt Renaissance: The Pavement Art and 3-D Illusions of Kurt Wenner
Kurt Wenner gave up producing advanced scientific space illustrations for NASA to pursue his love of classical art and the development of 3D pavement art - initially in Rome. He subsequently travelled around the world painting pavements with his amazing pictures
This book is about his street painting and anamorphic perspective and the creation of his amazing 3D images
Top Rated Books about Artists - in 2010 and 2011
ARTISTS - Best Selling Book in NOVEMBER 2012 - Cezanne: A Life
This book is a comprehensive biography of the life and career of Cezanne and is the first such book for some time. It is a major work of research and scholarship as he tells the story of an artist who was both unknown and famous and who was never part of the 'in crowd'
Paintings are reproduced in 88 colour and 52 black-and-white illustrations
Reviews to date suggest that this book has been favourably received
ARTISTS: Best Selling Books in 2011 and 2012
*** TOP BOOKS ABOUT ART HISTORY ***
This category is about books which are about art history and fine artists - from any movement, period or style.
It excludes books for children and about commercial artists or animators.
In 2011, I "retired" 'Wall and Piece' by Banksy despite being top and a best seller. Otherwise we'd never get to hear about the rest of the contenders! In 2012, I did the same for 'The Hare with Amber Eyes' by Edmund de Waal
ART HISTORY: Top Rated Book in NOVEMBER 2012 - The Louvre: All the Paintings
This was a best selling and top rated book in 2011 and early 2012. It's now back as both a best seller and the top rated art history book in November 2012
Amazon ratings: 4.1 out of 5 stars (67 customer reviews) | Like (87)
#1 in Books > Arts & Photography > Collections, Catalogs & Exhibitions
The book catalogues and reproduces all 3,022 paintings on display in the permanent painting collection of the Louvre. They are reproduced in full color in this very large slipcased book. Note however that there have been significant criticisms of the DVD which should present large images and instead produces thumbnail size images.
Top Rated Books about Art History 2011
Some classic overviews of art history
ART HISTORY - Best Selling Book in NOVEMBER 2012 - Leonardo and the Last Supper
Ross King has previously achieved accaim for his books Brunelleschi's Dome and Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling and has achieved a status that now people will buy a book by him simply because he has written it.
This time King turns his attention to Leonardo and the Last Supper (doesn't that title suggest this was a book just waiting to be written?!) The book has generated many very complimentary reviews in the press
Amazon reviews: 4.7 out of 5 stars (9 customer reviews) | Like (10)
Before he started to paint this painting which is 15' high x 30' wide, Leonardo had never worked on a painting of this size and had no experience of fesco painting! Plus his career had not been going well and he was now aged 43. Nevertheless he painted it - and the rest, as they say, is history!
Ross King is brilliant at research and bringing out the stories within a story - and this book is as much a portrait of a painting as it is a story about a man who turned his career around
I've not yet bought this book - which was published last month - but I'm going to
Best Selling Books about Art History in 2010 and 2011
Best selling books in this category tend to turn over at regular intervals. The same cannot be said for the top rated books.
I should mention that I have "retired" Banksy's Wall and Piece from competition (see below) to give the others a chance! However you will still find it listed below and it is still the top rated book and a best seller in this category. It's a category 'thing'!
*** TOP BUSINESS BOOKS FOR ARTISTS ***
This category includes practical aspects of the business of art for artists and collectors and stories about people in the art business.
It excludes books which specifically target commercial and graphic artists alone
THE ART BUSINESS: Top Rated Art Book in NOVEMBER 2012 - I'd Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist's No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion
TOP RATED ART BUSINESS BOOK DECEMBER 2011, MARCH 2011; FEBRUARY and MAY 2012
Amazon ratings: 4.9 out of 5 stars (108 customer reviews) | Like (35)
Goodreads: Avg rating 5.00 (3 ratings)
I'd Rather Be in the Studio! The Artist's No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion offers practical approaches that help to sell more art and build an art career that lasts. It shares self-promotion tools that have enhanced the careers of thousands of artists.
You'll learn how to:
(1) Introduce yourself as an artist so people want to know more;
(2) Nail your artist statement to discover the right words for all of your marketing messages;
(3) Expand your mailing list and use it to cultivate collectors;
(4) Create marketing materials that outshine the competition;
(5) Become a media magnet so buyers come to you;
(6) Take advantage of your Web site and blog to build a bigger audience; and much more.
Alyson B Stanfield is an art marketing coach who has a very popular blog - the ArtBizBlog and online tuition business (ArtBizCoach.com).
THE ART BUSINESS - Best Selling Art Book in NOVEMBER 2012 - 2013 Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market: The Most Trusted Guide to Selling Your Art
This is a book which is produced on annual basis and it's published in November. It changes some of its content every year and thus generates repeat buys which generate good sales every year - particularly in the run-up to Christmas.
Amazon reviews: 5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (3 customer reviews) | Like (9)
#1 in Books > Arts & Photography > Business of Art
Check out the Table of Contents on the "Look Inside" on Amazon to see if it fits the bill for you. The writing is accessible and sticks to what you need to know without any "flummery"
NEW this year:
* Articles on strategic planning, strengthening a business, budgets, negotiating contracts and applying for grants
* Special features on writing for artists, communicating with clients, hanging a solo show and achieving work-life balance
* Interviews with successful professionals
More Best Books about Art Business - these are the best books from 2010, 2011 and 2012
Check out these books - and all the other new art business books in The Best Art Business Books - see above
PLUS - THE BEST NEW ART BOOKS IN 2012
These are the top books published in the last 90 days or due to be published in the next 90 days - including very good books which might not reach the "best seller" or "top rated" for the listed categories
This listing of the best new books other than the top books has now transferred to a separate site - see below
Other Best Art Book Recommendations
A picture's worth a 1,000 words. Which art books do you love and which do you think are the best?
If you've got a list which you'd like to have added in here send me a link for consideration.
- lines and colors - 2008 Best Art Book Lists
here's a list of lists from various corners for art, design and photography books for 2008:
- Best Art Books
a listopia list of best art books
- Amazon.com: THE BEST ART BOOKS
Here's the beginning of a great library of art history and criticism. The books are expensive, but you should be able to find reasonably-priced copies somewhere.
- The Best Art Books of 2012 | Brain Pickings
A library of cross-disciplinary interestingness and combinatorial creativty
- Drawn - Favourite Comics, Art Books, and More of 2012
Drawn - Favourite Comics, Art Books, and More of 2012
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© 2010 Katherine Tyrrell
Comments and Feedback - comments are welcome - but please do not spam
lesliesinclair on March 13, 2012:
Super selections for the serious artist.
Harriet from Indiana on March 07, 2012:
My husband is a budding artist. He will so love your suggestions.
agent009 on January 05, 2012:
These books are going to be really helpful for the young artist in my family! Good lens! Thanks!
baby-strollers on December 18, 2011:
I learned a lot from this lens, I like art, but don't follow much!
Close2Art LM on August 08, 2011:
awesome lens thanks for sharing...RWJR
gypsyman27 lm on April 03, 2011:
I am an artist and i like cartooning and producing caricatures, your lens is a great reference and I will refer back to it many times. I will review all of your lens regarding the business of art as time allows. Thanks for sharing your insight. See you around the galaxy...
annieangel1 on April 03, 2011:
what a lot of information here - my personal favourite is Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain - an wonderful discovery for someone who couldn't draw a straight line.
Indigo Janson from UK on April 03, 2011:
Though I don't spend as much time as I'd like to actively creating, these kinds of books have a fascination for me. I could happily spend hours with many of those featured and Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is a particular favourite, as is Danny Gregory.
justholidays on March 04, 2011:
It's been 15 years that I haven't drawn anything. I think I should get rid of the computer to restart drawing :( Anyway, this is a very useful information source for anyone who's involved in arts!
irenemaria from Sweden on March 03, 2011:
Artist is a big word. I love to paint but I hesitate to call myself an artist =D To read books is one way to improvement. Another is to keep trying and learn by your mistakes hehe
Katherine Tyrrell (author) from London on November 02, 2010:
@RebeccaE: Thanks Rebecca - I've got a number of other book lenses which specilaise in different aspects of art - see the end module below to see them all.
RebeccaE on November 02, 2010:
this lens is wonderful, and it gave me so many resources, in terms of someone who is just starting out on their 'artisitic" journey I am gald to have read this lens
Lisa from Rhode Island on September 16, 2010:
what a wonderful idea I will be visiting monthly thank you
LadyFlashman from United Kingdom on May 30, 2010:
This is great, I especially like that you are updating this monthly and follows a slightly different slant to most 'top ten' lists. And enjoyable to read too!