Art Books that Make Me Happy: A Review

“Honey, I’m so glad that I can create something and enjoy it!” I flop down next to him on the couch with my painting.

He continues reading his book.

“Not because I think the outcome is so great,” I explain quickly, “but because I can enjoy the process and not be so worried that it’s not going to come out right.”

He marks his page and looks up.  He doesn’t have to say anything, because I know he knows exactly what my frustration has looked like, up close and ugly.

“Don’t you remember trying to paint pottery with me one time and I got so angry with myself because I couldn’t get it just right?  Or scrapbooking? Or, well, you know it’s been a problem for a long time.”

He agrees with me, gives me the smile that tells me he really has been listening, and heads back to his book.

But I still linger on the miracle that I can sit down and work on something creative and not kill the whole endeavor with my self-doubt and perfectionism.

Talk about freedom to play and explore!

If I only I had the miracle of a lot more free time, but I digress…

Two arts books are making me very happy right now and I’d like them to make you happy too, so let me tell you about them.

Drawing Lab: 52 Creative Exercises to  Make Drawing Fun

First of all, this is a well-designed book, which is an inspiration in and of itself.  It has a great cover, the layout of each page is sharp and appealing, and the examples of the projects make me want to do art! Also the materials and directions are clear and easy to follow with the eye (and eventually the hand).  This is a user-friendly book. It’s also user friendly because the author wants to free you of the exact issues I just mentioned above, perfectionism and self-doubt.  These aren’t “the right way” exercises, these are “come on in, get your coffee, and start your fun” exercises.

Several times I’ve taken this book with me to a coffee shop (along with some pencils, pens and watercolors) and enjoyed an hour and half of play (and therapy, because the process of art is very therapeutic).  I’ve also added in a husband or a child, who have done the art exercise with me.

Here’s some of the art that has arisen from this book, at our house:

Water Paper Paint: Exploring Creativity with Watercolor and Mixed Media

Thanks to my very generous sister-in-law (that’s you Robin), I got another book in this series last weekend. Water, Paper, Paint: Exploring Creativity with Watercolor and Mixed Media is also a feel good art book.  No, I mean it literally feels good in your hands, the cover feels just like watercolor paper.  Like it’s sister book, it’s filled with art that makes me itch to get a pen and paintbrush in my hand.  And just from flipping through the book I now know that there is a process with special tape to prevent wrinkling and bowing of paper (something that’s been driving my crazy since falling for watercolors).  I also know now that salt on wet watercolors creates texture, something I’d wondered about when I saw an artist do that on a video a while back.

I will say that the directions in this book look more involved then Drawing Lab, but then again it might have to do with the process being explored.  I haven’t decided if I can do as much “take and go” with this book, but I know that it is going to take me further into the world of watercolor, and that makes me very happy.  This would be a good follow up book to Drawing Lab if you have the itch to keep going.

Here are two exercises my 9 year old daughter and I tried out together.

This is the first exercise in the book, an experiment of working wet watercolors onto a still wet watercolor surface, trying out similar and contrasting hues.  Also, it was fun.

Here’s my daughter’s:

In this next exercise we tried many different size brushes, working with a range of hues.




I’ve got my eye on Art Lab for Kids by Susan Schwake, which releases in early February. The older kids have adapted well to the other books even though the target audience is not children, but my six year old often gets frustrated by some of the abstract ideas. Hoping this will make a third treasure in my collection.

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