Books on art and illustration


Read these first!

These are the classics of art, illustration and making comics which everyone recommends, and are absolutely worth your time.

The art side:
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards
Color by Betty Edwards

The business side:
How to be an Illustrator by Darrel Rees

Telling a story:
Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud


Read these next!

If you’ve gone through all of the above, the following are also good though maybe not for everyone.

On pictures:
The Art of Color by Johannes Itten
Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis

On writing:
Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need Paperback by Blake Snyder
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks



Not particularly useful to read these, just for fun…


Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies by Tom De Haven
A few years in the life of a comic strip writer in 1930’s New York.


The Moon and Sixpence by William Somerset Maugham
Loosely based on the life of Gauguin, here called “Strickland”, a man so driven that he uses and discards everyone and everything in pursuit of painting. On the title: “taken from a review of Of Human Bondage in which the novel’s protagonist, Philip Carey, is described as “so busy yearning for the moon that he never saw the sixpence at his feet.” According to a letter from Maugham, “If you look on the ground in search of a sixpence, you don’t look up, and so miss the moon.”


Miles Walker You’re Dead by Linda Jaivin
A satire of the modern art world. It has it’s flaws, but definitely entertaining and I do love the idea of ZakDot – an artist who doesn’t make any actual physical art just thinks about the art work in his head. This is a joke about something that has always bothered me about conceptual art – if the idea is more important than the execution, and the artists usually go out of their way to make work only appreciated by a tiny collection of aesthetes, wouldn’t the logical conclusion of this be to just make art in your head for an audience of one?


Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa by R.A. Scotti
A non-fiction book written in a light, novelistic style about the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. Finger printing had just been invented, photography was just becoming widespread in newspapers, and Sherlock Holmes was at the height of his popularity.

The crime turns out to be not so interesting, and the whole book feels a little insubstantial. More remarkable is that the theft and media coverage are what transformed an accomplished Renaissance art work into an untouchable icon. The idea of the Mona Lisa is so powerful it means it is impossible to consider the painting as a painting any more, and what I took away from Vanished Smile is if she hadn’t been stolen maybe this transformation would not have taken place.

Other things:

Interesting that in a time before the internet, a picture like the Mona Lisa could be the focus of the deranged: It was the only picture in the Louvre to get its own post (love letters), and the year before the theft in 1910 a “heartbroken suitor” shot himself in front of the painting.

Picasso, at the time becoming known for Cubism, is briefly accused of being involved with the theft. In his failure to defend Guillaume Apollinaire from accusation of another art theft and failure to petition Apollinaire’s release from the Nazis he comes across as spineless and viciously self-serving. Though it’s hard to think of a 20th century artist that is not now viewed as a horribly flawed human being.








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