7 Art Books to Jump Start Your Creativity in 2017!


Every year, like most people, I go through the process of making New Year's resolutions... but I don't always stick to them. Sound familiar? Despite the unfulfilled resolutions, I have a secret weapon. I've discovered the best way to keep yourself seriously motivated is to read. So today I've hand-picked 7 books to inspire you and your creativity in the New Year.

It's worth noting before we dive in that while I love to read physical books before bed and on lunch breaks, another way I love to read is by listening to audiobooks! If you have never tried listening to an audiobook, I highly recommend the app, Audible. It makes reading on your train commute or in the car a snap. Plus it's an Amazon company, so all you have to do is login and you get one book for free. You have nothing to lose!


1. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic is an excellent book to start with if you're feeling intimidated to read all 7 books. Gilbert seamlessly weaves together a narrative of personal life stories and motivational steps for overcoming some of the biggest challenges of living creatively. It's often the story that we feel inspired by the world around us, but are quickly crippled by fear when we are ready to actually create. What if I am not good enough? This books truly helps you push past this. Gilbert breaks it down with chapters like courage, enchantment, permission, persistence, trust, and divinity. Clearly explaining how she turned her personal struggles as a writer into a successful career by capturing and using "Big Magic" to make it all happen.



2. Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa

Danielle Krysa's Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk, is a VERY short book about how to make that stupid voice in your head just shut up. The voice that says: don't bother, you're not a real artist, and get a real job. An excellent book detailing tricks to understand why your inner voice is saying these things and how to make it stop. Krysa does an amazing job of interviewing real artists throughout the book and sharing their similar experiences of dealing with personal self-doubt and professional struggle. Life isn't always a straight and narrow track to becoming an artist. Krysa makes it clear that no matter what your goals in life, you should never hold yourself back because of fear!


3. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Csikszentmihalyi is a world-famous psychologist who has devoted his life work to study the state of mind called Flow. Flow is state of heightened focus in which it requires a minimal effort to create. Have you ever felt like this? It's basically the fancy term for being "in the zone". Csikszentmihalyi breaks it down into the steps need to be in Flow:

  • There are clear goals every step of the way.
  • There is immediate feedback to one’s actions.
  • There is a balance between challenges and skills.
  • Action and awareness are merged.
  • Distractions are excluded from consciousness.
  • There is no worry of failure.
  • Self-consciousness disappears.
  • The sense of time becomes distorted.
  • The activity becomes an end in itself.

This book really appealed to my logical brain. It helped me to understand that being creative isn't just some random thing that happens on a whim. There is a way to create time to produce amazing work. A bonus to this book is that if you don't want to spend the money to buy the book, you can watch Csikszentmihalyi's TED talk for free. It's about 19 minutes long and from 2008, but if you can take a break from your Netflix binge of Stranger Things... it's totally worth it!



4. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kando

Okay, so this book has nothing to do with art. So why is it on this list you ask? Well..... it's because this book is actually life-changing. NO! REALLY! I know what you're thinking, Lisa, books don't actually change lives, but this one does. I truly feel that if you are a working or aspiring creative, this book can help you. I so often make the excuse that I can't create until I have a clean workspace.

This is another super short and quick read that can help you achieve a space in your home or studio that is actually de-cluttered and organized. When I read this book, I was living in a 240sq apartment in Brooklyn with my boyfriend, dog, and two cats. See below...



After using Kando's methods, we were able to make our tiny tiny tiny space into a clutter-free safe haven. This book was so good in fact, I bought copies for everyone in my family for Christmas and even gave away my only copy, all in the name of living clutter-free.

Seriously, read this book... and if you can't afford it, FaceTime me and I'll personally explain the methods to you. That's how much I believe in it.



5. I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson

I thought it would be fun to include a book on this list that is a work of fiction. Also because this is one of my top five favorite books ever. A brilliant work of art in itself, Nelson effortlessly tells the story of a set of twins. Each chapter switches perspective of the twins in order to recount a telling story of their lives together. Both artists, the twins drift apart as the grow older, but family and art eventually brings them together in an extraordinary tale of heart-break, lose, and raw creative talent.




6. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit takes the award on this list for most scientific. A book about the brain, this narrative helps you understand how habits control what we think and do. This is so critical as an artist. Making sure you aren't falling victim to sneaky bad habits, you can keep your creative mind free and clear. This makes room for new ones that promote the work you've always dreamed of making.


7. Burn Your Portfolio: Stuff they don't teach you in design school, but should by Michael Janda

I feel very fortunate to have been able to attend a university for a formal arts education. But not everyone is that lucky. However, if you're just starting out, this book is an excellent read. Janda really hits on the major lessons that can turn you into a professional artist and designer. Reading through this book, I did learn many of these things through years of hard work in school, but some of this stuff was also learned through work experience. Knowing these tips and tricks before you make the mistake in the real world can be everything when you're just starting out. I'd say this one is a must buy if you're considering going pro with your work any time soon!


I hope you've enjoyed this sneak-peak into my arts bookshelf. I take a lot of pride in reading to become a better artist and informed learned. These books really made an impact on my life and I believe that even if you are not an artist, these books can inspire the creativity that everyone has inside them.

With love,








***(It is important for us to say that these are the full opinions of the Coffee + Charcoal writers. We are not being paid to write this. Seriously. These are our honest opinions and we love to share and promote the books and products that we love. We hope you love them too)***