Best Books for Artists - A Business Focused List

When I created this list I asked my artist friends about it. Most of them said that it’s difficult to be inspired and expand your horizons after you attend art school. There are plenty of opportunities to be creative but fewer ways to learn about the art world. While you could get someone to show you the ropes, they found it beneficial just to pick up one of the best books for artists and read away.

At this point, you’re probably asking, “How can a book benefit me?”. Well, artists tend to work alone and find it better to learn from experience. With no coworkers or peers, it can be hard to come up with new concepts.

I believe that art is ever-changing and that you must never stop learning. You should want to experience growth and be able to change as an artist.

When it comes to talent as an artist, you need a method to learn new techniques that can help you develop. Honing your skills and adapting to the modern world is what makes art so unique, after all.

If you’re struggling to understand the art world, these few books I recommend can make a difference. These gather inspiration and teach different art techniques. They also list different strategizing business ideas that can help you feel like you’re connected and one of us.

If you don’t want to sit there and browse online for books for hours on end, then I can help by suggesting a handful of good reads.
The list includes some recommendations from people we look up to. So, without further hesitation, here’s the list.

 

 

Best Books for Artists

 

 

The Stoic Creative Handbook: Struggling Creatives Are Driven By Passion. Thriving Artists Are Driven By Purpose.

The Stoic Creative Handbook: Struggling Creatives Are Driven By Passion. Thriving Artists Are Driven By Purpose.

My title, The Stoic Creative Handbook, draws heavily on both Steve and Seth’s work. It was Seth’s altMBA program and The Marketing Seminar that helped me develop the posture and mindset of a thriving artist in all the work I do as a musician, teacher, and writer. Reframing what it means to be “successful” has led me to true prosperity and re-engaged my passion for the work I do.
Scott Perry
Author, Stoic Guitarist
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

Part of ambition is modeling yourself after those you’d like to be like. Austin’s philosophy of ruthlessly stealing and remixing the greats might sound appalling at first but it is actually the essence of art. You learn by stealing, you become creative by stealing, you push yourself to be better by working with these materials. Austin is a fantastic artist, but most importantly he communicates the essence of writing and creating art better than anyone else I can think of. It is a manifesto for any young, creative person looking to make his mark. Pair up with Show Your Work which is also excellent.
Ryan Holiday
Founder/Brass Check
Understanding Art Markets: Inside the world of art and business

Understanding Art Markets: Inside the world of art and business

Iain Robertson takes a deep dive into the international art market, in an account that is both impressive in its depth and breadth. He explains the processes by which art is created and valued within the socio-economic context of post-war consumerist society, with a painstakingly curated choice of art and artists from around the world and across the centuries. This is a must-read for anyone involved in the art trade, as well as the casual reader curious about how a single painting can be valued at more than $250 million
Sundaram Tagore
Owner/Sundaram Tagore Galleries
How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking about Art

How to See: Looking, Talking, and Thinking about Art

Question: What five books would you recommend to young people interested in your career path & why?

Answer:

  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Drawing is Thinking by Milton Glazer
  • How to See by David Salle
Liquan Liew
Founder/Ripple Root
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work

B. J. also recommended Daily Rituals by Mason Currey for anyone who would enjoy seeing the daily routines of legends like Steve Jobs, Charles Darwin, and Charles Dickens. "It is so reassuring to see that everyone has their own system, and how dysfunctional a lot of them are".
B. J. Novak
Founder/The List App
In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs

When I founded Humanisation, a mentor recommended that I pick up Grace Bonney's "In the Company of Women". It's one of the most beautiful, inspiring books you'll read. It's a big, delicious coffee table beauty with business tales from 100 powerful women. I bring it out whenever I look for inspiration.
Cat Williams-Treloar
Founder/Humanisation
How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery

How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery

Ed runs one of the most straightforward sites dedicated to demystifying and discussing various aspects of the art world. Now, in How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery, he's packed–in understandable terms–information I wish I had known before starting my gallery.
Zach Feuer
Owner/Zach Feuer Gallery
Scam Me If You Can: Simple Strategies to Outsmart Today's Ripoff Artists

Scam Me If You Can: Simple Strategies to Outsmart Today’s Ripoff Artists

In spite of his unusual beginning--or more likely because of it--Frank Abagnale’s abilities to teach us how to avoid fraud are second to none. He’s been there, he’s done that, so if you want to know how the criminals will come at you, and how to protect yourself from them, buy this book.
John Miller
Former Assistant Director for Public Affairs, FBI
Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist

Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist

Lisa Congdon has managed to debunk the outdated and toxic notion that making money and making art are diametrically opposed outcomes, attaining one of which invariably compromises the other-a primary source of crippling self-consciousness. She equips emerging artists with the necessary tools-from the psychological to the practical-for defining success by their own standards, then attaining it on their own terms.
Maria Popova
Founder/BrainPickings.org
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Also hard to find on audio. I find Steve's voice to be fascinating, and even before I knew him, I was fascinated by listening to him speak his own work. The War of Art is one of those books, at least for me when I finally was exposed to it, I said, 'Why wasn't I informed? Why did it take this long for this book to land on my desk?'... You need to be clear with yourself about what you are afraid of, why you are afraid, and whether you care enough to dance with that fear because it will never go away.
Seth Godin
Author & Entrepreneur
Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011

Meet Me in the Bathroom: Rebirth and Rock and Roll in New York City 2001-2011

How much you enjoy it will probably depend on your familiarity with the music — I was eighteen and a freshman in college when I saw The Strokes in Newport, KY, in 2001, so it made me pretty danged nostalgic.
Austin Kleon
Artist & Bestselling Author
Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood's Creative Artists Agency

Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency

Sorrell, CEO of the communications house/ad agency, WPP, has a rather eclectic mix this summer:

 

  • Powerhouse: The Untold Story of Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency—James Andrew Miller
  • Universal Man: The Seven Lives of John Maynard Keynes—Richard Davenport-Hines
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future—Ashlee Vance

 

Sir Martin Sorrell
CEO/WPP
The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made

I’ve been watching The Room for years, and I first read Bissell on the subject in Magic Hours. This was a total behind-the-scenes trip, and it is no surprise to me that the movie based on it has gotten great reviews. (I still haven’t seen it.)
Austin Kleon
Writer, artist
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art

Unsolicited, but here’s my advice for visual thinkers (and others) who want to be better writers:

[...]

Cartoonists, because their work demands work from two disciplines (writing/art, poetry/design, words/pictures), are highly instructive when it comes to visual people learning to write, writers learning to make art, etc. (Check out Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics for more.)

Austin Kleon
Writer, Artist