View Full Version : Am I "collecting" too many art books?

04-22-2011, 03:40 PM
:confused: I realize that this will vary by the individual, but how many art books do you feel are "necessary" w/o going overboard?

I have about 55 - several each in the categories of art history, drawing, general WC instruction, color, and more specific topics such as animals, landscapes, etc. I DID thin out the ones I wasn't using (flowers) but maybe I should try to cut back more? Some I use a lot, some almost never, but they have info I may "need" someday or are classics.

I'd like to hear what others have, quantity wise.

04-22-2011, 03:43 PM
My art books are still in the minority of my library, but growing fast.

I have trouble even getting rid of the books I know I am never going to crack the covers of again. You are not alone in this.

55 doesn't sound too bad to me.

04-22-2011, 04:01 PM
Hi Joy... For a very short time, I was a collector of *stuff*, including books and art magazines... then, one day while dusting them I realized that they were just that - dust collectors... I really wasn't reading and enjoying them. I weeded out those that had absolutely no interest for me, reducing my "library" to less than a dozen books. I took all my magazines to a Senior Centre and those books I wouldn't use to a second hand book store. I had a nice credit... :)

Anyway, the few that are left have to fill a need or they'll be purged also... My friend and I have been painting our way through the exercises each Tuesday morning from Jeanne Dobie's book, and five others are supporting resource material... We have identified a couple of Stephen Quiller books that will be useful for the same process, later on this year.

The truth is that the few that are still here have been so helpful and I've really enjoyed them! Because they're being used so much, amazingly they're not collecting any dust... bonus! :)

04-22-2011, 04:40 PM
I have to admit that I have collected several dozen art books and many magazines over the years. I have started giving the magazines away to my art class and they are providing inspiration to them.

I do periodically bring a book downstairs to thumb through whilst watching TV.


04-22-2011, 05:03 PM
I've not counted but would guess close to 100. I do look at most of them occasionally,but does seem bordering obsession. It's a bit like al other art supplies for me. I have wat more than I'll ever really use or need. Lucky for me, I have the space.

04-22-2011, 07:01 PM
I didn't count my art books, but I have maybe 2 or 3 dozen. I haven't bought any new ones in several years because (1) more info is available in the Internet, (2) I have more interest in seeing real paintings vs. reproductions in books and (3) I have much less interest in seeing anyone's formulaic approach since I'm more interested in developing my own style. All the books served a purpose at the time I got them, but now I only consult those on tools and materials.

04-22-2011, 07:30 PM
Not sure how many I have or have had, but like others got rid of many and going to list several in the swap meet or eBay. Many a(probably have 8or 10 at least) are colored pencil and while that is a nice way to draw/paint, I find I have renewed my watercolor interest. Agree that the others have become dust collectors.

For a long while I wanted to get away from the glass framing issues, weight, price, less sales...but when all is said and done for me watercolor is the cats meow! So I have finally started to return to watercolor...funny it was the first media I painted in...no one told me it was suppose to be the hardest...guess what one doesn't know in this case didn't hurt me at all!

As someone else said I also have and continue to develop me own style.

I have this - almost - obsession of having things around that I don't use so really it wasnt difficult to get rid of the books. For those who hang on to unused thinge...just because...you should try getting rid of a few unused items! Truly does free up the mind...at least for me...Happy clearing out of unused books!


04-22-2011, 11:17 PM

I counted my hardback art books in a variety of topics about 2 years ago and I think I had about 120. That does not include my art magazines.

I have added a few more since then but since I am not working I have not been buying many books. I instead have been enjoying all the ones I have and plan on working my way through them one at a time.

I love books anyway and won't ever stop reading.


04-23-2011, 01:06 AM
Funny you should start this thread...I just spent a couple of hours today doing a 'cull'. :)

I just counted 106 books; -there are another 10 I am going to donate.

This is art, photography and photo reference books.
If I had to include the cross stitch books in the bedroom, I'd have to add another 40 or so. Ha!

One book I really wanted to get rid of, I couldn't because it had a single large color plate of Albrecht Durer's "The Hare". So back on the shelf it went because I love that painting and I'd really like to try and copy it someday... but really, the rest of the book hugely sucks. I won't look through the rest of it ever again.
So, no, half of these are not really necessary. The other half I adore looking through from time to time, like re-reading a favorite novel. I reasoned that they are already bought and paid for, and take up relatively little room, so they may as well stay.

So...nope, you don't have too many, really!

Books are wonderful to have...you never know when you might want to revisit a topic, try a new technique or find a friend who you can introduce to a new hobby!
(Hmmm, change my number to 107..one of my watercolor books is on loan to a friend...)


04-23-2011, 09:17 AM
Well, you got my curiosity up, so I counted them. There are 56. I have a few favorite artists whose work I love. Furthermore, I tend to collect ones on flowers and close-up still life and now I am collecting some on landscapes as I am working to improve my style on those.

The books I choose are in the style I like to paint and offer info on color, composition, technique. That is what I look for when choosing a book. I also have a couple of books on perspective, color, or just tricks and techniques.

I do reference these books from time to time as the question "how would I handle this" arises. There are a few books that are out of print and I have held onto those.

I do cull when my bookshelf is full.

So, there you have it. My rationale for those I own.


04-23-2011, 09:57 AM

I generally did not read books or watch videos, in fact I avoided books and dvd's in an attempt to develop my own style, I did not want to be influenced by other artists technique!


04-23-2011, 10:07 AM
On the rare occasions when I have purchased a " How to Paint " book, I have done so with a great appetite and anticipation - hoping that the insides will make me a better painter. But, most often I am disappointed to a degree. Sure there are some good ideas and some worthwhile techniques - but staring at a book simply doesn't cut it. Hence most of the books on my studio shelf just sit there.

I also like to whip up my own style - such as it is. And the $ 20 or $30 spent on books could perhaps be better invested in paper for more art.

Can't imagine having shelves full. Which makes me wonder how the ancients learned to paint without having mail order books to send for.


04-23-2011, 10:57 AM
Never is too much,I have about 47 books and several dozens of magazines,plus around 10 videos.And I plan to continue purchasing books,that is the most instructive of the things you buy and the least expensive too,well some of them and on Amazon.


04-23-2011, 01:58 PM
Like everyone else here , I have collected through the years and culled at least twice . I now have to stop myself from doing this all the time, because i love books so much .
Many have one or two things in them I like to remind myself about in my painting, that I keep and some in which I just love the artist so they stay put .
I decided to quit many years ago, but a few sneak in, that I can't resist .
I am Watercolor Junkie .
Is there a cure for that ? The recession helps and no room too.
I shall resist .
June :o :o :evil:

04-23-2011, 02:17 PM
OK I won't count them, but here is my library - most of 'em :rolleyes:


No room left!


04-23-2011, 04:06 PM
One of the things my wife and I agreed on before we married ('bout 40 years ago) was that we both loved art and both loved books, so what we call "art books" (at least 80% of all our books, I'd guess) has a pretty wide definition, and our collection, taken all together, certainly outweighs and takes more space than any other thing we keep in the house.

We don't cull often, altho I'm just gearing up to do some of that (the "art" books are safe!); we quite intentionally collect, and the times we've rediscovered wonderful, dimly recalled things in our collection are innumerable; just last night we spent a good hour exclaiming over a treasured art book my wife got as a high school graduation gift that I hadn't opened in over a decade: The Visconti Hours (http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&q=visconti%20hours%20online&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi). It's a true family treasure and not for sentimental reasons, but the collection as a whole is the real treasure. It's our personal library, and it's both a unique resource and a history of our life together and as artists.

So, obviously I'm using the term "art books" differently than the OP, no? It sounds like you guys posting so far are assuming that this means art instructional material, right? We've got a good bit of that, but I doubt we've collected more than 200 or so titles that are just "how-to" over the years, and that includes all the various arts and crafts we've both ever been interested in (all of which still seem relevant to whatever art we're currently doing, which pretty much means painting these day and has for years), but all visual arts seem related in some ways.

As a sometimes teacher, I find it very valuable to have such a good collection of how-to watercolor, drawing and painting material. but that's by far the least interesting or useful category in our art-book library.

The main thing we collect for is inspiration. Now THAT'S what I think of as the function and definition of an "art book".

Any other inspiration collectors out there?


04-23-2011, 07:13 PM
90, 91, 92. . .as far as I'm concerned, one cannot have too many art related books. I love my art books and refer to a good many of them often.

My name is Kathie. . . and I am a book whore. . ., lol.

04-24-2011, 09:52 AM
Oh but I love my books!! My husband is always joking with me that I will not live long enough to read all my books! But as far as my art/nature/reference books go I have a lot. I recently reorganized my studio and put most of my art technique/reference books in a double door steel cabinet. I have a matching one for just my art supplies. I donated the ones that I no longer wanted to my local art society, gave others to artist friends. I work in several media, so have books on each. Since there is so much information on the internet, I find that I do not purchase as many books as before, but recently started a watercolor class and found that I need some technique books, but I have been picky at selecting them. There are so many awesome ones to choose from, it has been difficult making decisions on which ones to buy. But my studio is a small converted bedroom in our home and space is very limited. Since I am new to watercolor - please make some suggestions on your “must have” reference books - I would really appreciate it.

04-24-2011, 11:05 AM
Way over 100. Almost all of them bought since 2003 when I discovered North Light Book Club and sent off for "Buy one get four free" and got five freebies because one of the listed possible freebies was "Watercolor Basics: Perspective" and "Watercolor Basics: Color" as a two for one. Amazingly, they let me get that double package as one of my freebies. I felt like I was ripping them off.

Since then almost all of my new acquisitions are from North Light Books. If I find good ones I like on Amazon I find out they were from North Light anyway. I own the complete Artist's Photo Reference: Topic series. I wish they would continue that series, especially if they can get an author/photographer/artist who snorkels to create "Artist's Photo Reference: Reefs and Sea Life." Maybe they could get Lisilk to do that one, she has great undersea photos in the Reference Image Library.

If I wasn't disabled I'd send in a proposal on doing that and justify a good camera and some trips, spend the whole advance on the research.

My favorite art books have been replaced three or four times each. Jack Hamm's Drawing the Head and Figure, Cartooning the Head and Figure. In 2005 I discovered that he'd also written Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes and How to Draw Animals. These are essentials. A lot of the Scenery volume is on composition and some of it didn't make sense to me till I took Johannes Vloothuis "Paint Stunning Landscapes from Photos" online course that just ended. I'm looking forward to rereading the parts I couldn't understand.

The two-volume Watercolor Basics ones got me interested in watercolor again and many other watercolor books followed. Also colored pencils books since I've been doing those since the 1970s and my first box of Prismacolors. I've got lots of animal painting and drawing books. I bought up everything on oil pastels that I could find anywhere and reviewed them all. My pastels books collection is growing and growing too, one of the OP books is Bill Creevy's "The Pastel Book" and I hang out in the softies forum just as much as oilies.

I don't have many on acrylics even though I have acrylics. I'm not sure why but I may look into that. I'm starting to get a few more on oils since Johannes lit a fire under me for oil painting, left me feeling as if I could eventually Get It and produce decent oil paintings.

Right now thanks to his recommendations, which are all good, I've doubled my usual To Be Read stack of four or five. I like having a few unread ones to bury myself in on days I don't feel up to painting but really want to paint. I can at least study on bad days. It's a little daunting looking at a dozen new ones that I haven't had time to read!

Let alone choosing favorites other than the few proven by their being worn out and needing replacement. Each of the books I have has something wonderful about it. Sometimes it's not that the material is new to me but that the author's style of presenting it intrigued me. A few favorites are beginner level books that I'm studying to write better art instruction articles. I loved The Drawing Bible for that and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

I just got Powerful Landscapes in Watercolor and love that format - spiral binding inside a hard cover. Easy to find on the shelf with the hard cover, durable enough to survive being stacked next to the bed or my desk or on the bathroom stack where it's currently sitting. Lays flat on a table to consult while painting. That format rocks. If I do an art instruction book I'd love to use that format.

No, when I do an art instruction book I'd love to use that format.

That's why I'm completely unselfconscious about the growing big art books collection and the way it's bumping fiction into double stacked rows in out of the way locations. I do winnow my fiction shelves, get rid of anything I didn't like to make room for more Terry Pratchett and Stephen King and anything new I like. I don't have the space to collect books that authors who own their own houses do, I live and work in a small bedroom.

One step cosier than yours, Barbara, my bed is in the studio. But that's pretty much what it is, the bed and dresser are the only remnants of normal life in the art-and-writing studio. Besides, I have a bathroom to extend the space and its bookshelves are full too. Many of my past issue art magazines live on those shelves. I lucked on how much shelving is in there and its location in relation to the shower, haven't been getting damage or mold so fiction tends to circulate in there and magazines do along with art supply catalogs.

I go through the art supply catalogs periodically and throw out all but the current ones even if I liked their covers. Something's got to give.

I have never known an author who didn't have more volume of books per cubic foot of living space than anything else. It comes with being a writer. You just do. They come into your life and remain useful after the first read and then it's downhill from there, you wind up dreaming of a long row of antique glass door bookcases to keep those treasures dust free and clean and easy to see at a glance. And maybe a personal assistant with a library science degree to keep track of the lot and re-shelve them properly.

I am considering the compilation CDs from North Light to get all my stored issues in CD format instead of taking up shelf space. This will give me more room for new books and fill in back issues I don't have. Most likely I'll order those compilations first and still have trouble letting go of all my back issues. They're printed on nice paper, still so clear and easy to read and good. I can't throw them out so I will probably box them for the local library or donate them to a school when I get the CDs.

That space will fill up again with more North Light books. Sometimes titles I'm dithering on slide into their clearance bin and then they're irresistible. Oh no, I wanted that, can't let it go now! Besides, it's on sale. Out comes the debit card. Ouch, cry the bookcases. Others, like Pastel Pointers, I wind up preordering because I wanted it so much.

But Richard McKinley has seriously helped me with a lot of things on his blog and having it all in book form is so convenient.

I'm about stocked up on supplies, more filling in corners now than getting important things lost when I quit and gave away everything in my studio. I've long since replaced everything important, sometimes with better artist grade versions. From 60 pastels I've gone to several hundred. So my books will expand into the budgetary space.

They'll all be cost effective when I sell a book to North Light. What I'm doing now is building my skills till both my art and my writing are good enough for their extremely high standards.

04-24-2011, 11:17 AM
Here comes a commercial :lol:

Why not do some reviews of your favourite books and add them to the Reviews sticky in the Learning Zone?


rue d'oak
04-24-2011, 11:59 AM
There are a handful I continue to turn to for inspiration, to move through a block, or find exercises to refresh technique. It is tempting to continue buying art-related books, but I have started turning to my local library which has a large collection. When I reach for a how-to book, I want one where the majority of the book is about the specific technique. Too many of them dedicate a significant amount of pages to the very basics ("This is a tube of paint"), which duplicates what I already have -- hence the library.

At this point I am more likely to buy an exhibit catalog or a book about a single artist or movement, rather than a how-to book.

Great ideas about donating or reselling books no longer in use.

Can there be too many? Not if you have the budget and the shelf space!


04-25-2011, 05:11 AM
Wow:eek:! I thought I had a lot of art books, mainly watercolour, but some of you leave me for dead. Actually I should qualify that, a quick count reveals over 80. I do have more than 800 books all told but mainly on gardening, Military history in all it's aspects (mainly WW2) and also American Indians, primarily the conflict between the native Americans and the settlers/US Army.

I love books but admit that many don't see the light of day and my perusal of art books covers an increasingly restricted number, those from Charles Reid being most thumbed. Eek:D just ordered `Realistic Abstracts' by K Van Aalst. To book lovers though the ownership of a treasured book is just as good as reading it. My wife just wants me to get rid of most of them but I continue to resist...;)


04-25-2011, 06:49 AM
I have quite a few artist magazine and art books. I love books and thumb through mine quite often. Sometimes, I go through them if I want to try a new technique. They have really helped me tremendously. Like someone said before me, I look for the book to make me a better painter. I will continue to buy books because I have a passion for painting - may be too many but keeps me excited. Bonnie

04-25-2011, 02:10 PM
:eek: You sure have impressive libraries! Doug, love the pic of your bookshelves!

I did mean all types of art books (like hx and the Splash series), but I have mostly instruction. I did purge the shelves and don't miss them. Of course, I replaced them with others! :lol: Hey, I got a new copy of "Painting With The White Of Your Paper" from eBay for only 99 cents.:)

My skills and experience are more limited than most of WC members, so as I develop, I find re-reading some of the material puts in in a different perspective (pun intended!). I would imagine that one is always learning and can look at these items years later and learn. At least, that's my excuse! :angel:

I wish I had stocked up more from North Light b4 they stopped the club; a lot of those books are worth a lot now! Also, many basic WC books have demos or color charts or something that I just don't to part with! DVD's are nice, but I don't have a TV in my studio, and just prefer books. I find it is easier to find what I need.

When I eventually find my "style" :crossfingers:, I'll purge some of the books that seem repetitious. It's hard to discard inspiration!

So to (misquote) Forrest Gump, "Art books are like a piece of chocolate; you always want one more!" :wink2:

virgil carter
04-25-2011, 07:40 PM
Too many books? No! How is that possible?

Sling paint,

04-26-2011, 01:11 AM
Too many books? No! How is that possible?
Hear,hear.Well said.


04-26-2011, 01:53 AM
I agree.

There's never too many books ... only not enough bookshelves.

I NEVER part with books.

Sci-Fi, textbooks, writing, mathematics, science, weather, embroidery, quilting, knitting, woodturning, carpentry, woodcarving, history, gardening, old books, new books .... as well as lighter topics :lol:

And then there's the art books :evil:

And then there's my husbands collection of war history, biography, aviation, cabinetmaking, old tools, gardening (we share), musical instuments.... etc

I'll have to leave a cabinetmaking one open at a page for a rather attractive set of bookshelves :)

04-26-2011, 04:38 PM
My name is Steve and I am a Biblioholic...

The watercolour ones are, mostly, technique books and I am just getting to the stage (no pun) where I can tell a good one from the rest of the herd.

One "bonus" to being a hoarder is that as some books go out of print the value of your copy goes up.

But who can bear to part with an old friend...


04-26-2011, 10:55 PM
Too many books? I decided I had too many bedrooms, so changing bedroom into Art Room, Having shelves built, never rid my art books. LOL :angel:

04-29-2011, 04:41 PM
This question really interested me, because I too, have way too many art how-to books, and other stuff related. From time to time, I go over the collection, and think I'll cut out about 3/5ths because it gets confusing, but then a nap sets in and I forget all about the culling. Yorkie's collection looks like mine, (add another shelf or two) so I don't feel bad, but I notice that too many of any one thing makes me lose interest and nothing ever really gets done all the way. Anyone else with this problem? I'd love to hear ananswer on that problem. Lildip

04-30-2011, 10:28 AM
I have quite a number of Art books from Drawing to Watercolour to Soft Pastels, not to mention a number of years worth of Australia Artist Magazine which has a wealth of information in them.

I don't think you can have to many reference books of any sort as they are all so different in one way or another.

Take Care and keep collecting.

Lots of Love Carolynn :grouphug::grouphug::heart::heart::heart::):):wave::thumbsup::clap::heart::heart::heart::grouphug::grouphug:

05-01-2011, 11:22 AM
I don't have a lot of books yet but maybe 20 or so but I keep collecting them, in fact I just saw a few in on line that I want. I think I'll go now and order a couple, you never can have enough or learn enough!!