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Best Books for Artists – A Business Focused List

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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

Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life

Rockonomics: A Backstage Tour of What the Music Industry Can Teach Us about Economics and Life

An absolutely brilliant mind. The definition of left and right brain balance!!
Quincy Jones
Musician
The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

I’m not really sure what to say about this book. It just kind of re-affirmed a lot of what I’ve been thinking about making art: that it’s important for me to have a day job, so I can separate work from play, and that the more generous you are with your audience (through blogging, teaching, sharing, etc.) the better off you’ll be as an artist—spiritually and financially.
Austin Kleon
Writer, Artist
Streampunks: YouTube and the Rebels Remaking Media

Streampunks: YouTube and the Rebels Remaking Media

I tend to jump from book to book and may switch if I am interested in some new topic. This is a pleasure for me (which I also do benefit work wise from too). It’s quite a random list because I have eclectic interests (or just scatterbrained most likely) on tech business, AI, general global economy, geopolitics, rising Biotech economy & history. I'm basically 15% to 50% into all these books.
Marvin Liao
Partner/500 Startups
Ed Emberley's Drawing Book: Make a World

Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World

I only came to Ed Emberley’s Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make A World last year, but it’s quickly become the #1 book I recommend to people I meet who say, “I can’t draw.” In it, Ed Emberley shows you how to “make a world” with just a few simple shapes, step-by-step. I love the emphasis on simplicity: if you can draw a triangle, a square, a circle, and a line, you’re good to go.
Austin Kleon
Bestselling Author
300 Arguments: Essays

300 Arguments: Essays

I had a couple of magical Manguso readings this year: On a summer trip to San Francisco, I bought this in the morning at Christopher’s Books in Potrero, and then read most of it later that afternoon in the Yerba Buena Gardens. Later in the year, I found a used copy of Ongoingness: The End of A Diary in a market in Antigua, Guatemala, and read that in one sitting, too.
Austin Kleon
Writer, Artist
Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success

Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success

An essential playbook for success, happiness, and getting the most out of ourselves.
Arianna Huffington
Founder/Thrive Global
Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

I just started Rising Strong by Brene Brown. I'm turning 35 this year, and emotional intelligence isn't something that comes naturally to me. Brown's previous books have always pushed me into a space that's uncomfortable and rewarding. As a wife, parent, and entrepreneur, I'm expecting the book to help uncover some blind spots in each of those roles.
AnneMarie Schindler
Founder/Small Wins Consulting
The Actor's Life: A Survival Guide

The Actor’s Life: A Survival Guide

I loved reading Jenna's honest and sincere appraisal of the actualities of breaking into, finding one’s way, and then thriving in this business. I hope it is given out as a guidebook of sorts to any young actor when they land at LAX.
Jon Hamm
Actor / Mad Men
Selling Contemporary Art: How to Navigate the Evolving Market

Selling Contemporary Art: How to Navigate the Evolving Market

Edward Winkleman delivers an absorbing, well-researched, and much-needed book on the gallery world of the last seven years. He provides in-depth analysis based on research along with his own astute observations making this book a must-read for those contemplating a start-up as much as for those who have spent their lives in the gallery business.
Dorsey Waxter
Partner/Van Doren Waxter Gallery
Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto

Never have I read a book that I said “this is so perfect, amazing, hilarious, he’s thinking what I’m thinking (in a much more thought out and cool way)”.
Karen Pfaff Manganillo
Co-Founder/By Karen and Jess
You & a Bike & a Road

You & a Bike & a Road

A comic diary of Davis’s bike across the south. I love her work so much. If I had to pick, this might be my favorite book I read this year. She’s on fire, and I can’t wait to read what’s next.
Austin Kleon
Artist & Bestselling Author
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: And Other Tough-Love Truths to Make You a Better Writer

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: And Other Tough-Love Truths to Make You a Better Writer

Steven Pressfield shares his #1 lesson for anybody in the working world.
Ben Casnocha
Founder/Comcate
Who Is Michael Ovitz?

Who Is Michael Ovitz?

Learn how to build an empire and transform an industry from the Jedi master of modern Hollywood.
Marc Andreessen
Co-founder/Andreessen Horowitz
Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006

Chip Kidd: Book One: Work: 1986-2006

  • Tibor, Tibor Kalman
  • Chip Kidd Book One, Chip Kidd
  • Once Upon a Time, Slim Aarons
  • Our True Intent is for Your Delight, Martin Parr
These are a selection of my favorite creative minds who visually inspire me like no one else.
Karen Pfaff Manganillo
Co-Founder/By Karen and Jess
Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life

Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life

Relentlessly generous and endlessly creative, Chase is challenging us to see the shifts in our culture and media as the opportunity of a lifetime. If you care about making things better, this book is here to help.
Seth Godin
Marketer, Entrepreneur

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