5 of my Favourite Books for Creative Inspiration

The best books for getting my creative juices flowing.


Danny Gregory Everyday Matters

I wrote a post last week on my other blog, all about the best non-fiction I had read in 2018. In that post I talked about the fact that I have never typically been very drawn to non-fiction, my shelves have always been filled with fantasy worlds and far off places – and that’s true – except that there’s one type of book that I do keep around, and I do pick up and look at most days – books that inspire me creatively.

A couple of these are more recent, but according to my Amazon, I ordered one of them in 2010 (How?!?! Where is time going?!), but they’re all books that I love and that I get a lot of inspiration from and so I wanted to share them here with you today!

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An Illustrated Life by Danny GregoryAn Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory

An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers – by Danny Gregory

This is the book that I’ve had for just shy of nine years, apparently! An Illustrated Life is information from artists, graphic designers and illustrators all over the world about what sketchbooks they keep, what they put in them, and why they do it. This book basically changed everything about the kind of art I make and why I make it – I know that sounds dramatic but it’s the truth. I remember finding it on the bottom shelf of the cupboard in my painting lecturer’s room and just picking it up to idly browse through.

I fell in love with not just seeing the work of all these amazing creative people, but hearing them talk with such passion about their artwork – whether they’re talking in-depth about what sketchbooks mean to them, or just writing an ode to a particular kind of pen. I felt like, these are my people, I have found them.

I had never, never considered that sketchbook work, or visual journals had merit on their own. They were a way of building towards a final project – building towards something “more”. After reading this book, I realised that filling sketchbooks and journals was my favourite way to make art, and that actually, I was free to pursue that, just as it was.

Hand Job by Michael PerryHand Job by Michael Perry Inside Spread

Hand Job: A Catalog of Type – by Michael Perry

Much like An Illustrated Life, Hand Job is not a book showing the work or words of one person, but again, is a collection of work – in this case typography and hand lettering, from people all over the world. Unlike An Illustrated Life, however, Hand Job is not heavy on the text, well, I mean, it’s obviously full of text, but images of text rather than paragraphs to read. Great, that was as clear as mud.

I would definitely say that this is more of a book to flip through to light a fire and get moving, rather than a book to sit and leisurely read with a coffee. It’s a fun book that I love because, much like An Illustrated Life, it opened my eyes to a kind of art that I didn’t know existed, but it’s not a book that delves into the development or histories of different typography.

1000 Artist Journal Pages by Dawn DeVries Sokol1000 Artist Journal Pages by Dawn DeVries Sokol

1000 Artist Journal Pages – by Dawn DeVries Sokol

The third and final book on this list that has been with me for a long time. After An illustrated Life Opened my eyes to the world of sketchbook and journal art, I just couldn’t get enough! 100 Artist Journal Pages features images – admittedly without context – of all sorts of artist journals and sketchbooks.

The book features everything from marker pen sketches to elaborate pieces that blow your mind when you think they’re just kept in a little book thrown in someones bag or pocket. I love this book for when I’m feeling sort of lost with my own work, or when I’m worried about “ruining” my book by drawing a “bad” page – seeing the wide range of quirky pages in this book helps remind me that the only pages to regret in a sketchbook are empty ones!

Everyday Matters by Danny GregoryEveryday Matters by Danny Gregory

Everyday Matters: A Memoir – by Danny Gregory

Everyday Matters is Gregory’s memoir, and in it he shares the story of a tragic accident that caused his young wife to be paralysed from the waist down and how learning to live in these new circumstances – while raising their then 10 month baby – caused Gregory to look for sense and meaning in the world. Part of his method, or his recovery from the trauma, was to teach himself to draw.

Everyday Matters is a beautiful, intimate, illustrated story that makes me smile, makes me cry and helps me remember why I make art. After I graduated from University – ironically with a degree in art – my confidence in my work was just.. gone. I had no belief in my self, I felt like a complete imposter for even owning art supplies, it was not a great time for me, art-wise. Eventually, after a long time of not lifting a pencil, I came across this book and reading Gregory’s story helped me reconnect to mine – for that, I am so eternally grateful!

Sketch Your World by James HobbsSketch Your World by James Hobbs Inside

Sketch Your World: Drawing Techniques for Great Results on the Go – by James Hobbs

While reading Everyday Matters was amazing and helped me find the motivation and the courage to make art again, another thing I struggled with was the different circumstances in which I was now to make art. You see, previously, I had been an art student, I literally had hours of time a day to make art, I had studios to work in, and friends to make art with. Now, I worked full-time in retail and lived in a busy city, so for a while I struggled to find a way to fit my creative practice in with my new life (in a way that wasn’t just me drawing really depressing cartoons of me in a retail uniform, crying), But Sketch Your World really helped me feel inspired by creating urban art.

The book is very accessible and covers everything from different media you might want to use for quick sketching, to what to do when people ask to see what you’re drawing. It shows lots of examples of different work people have created while out and about, and again, I think seeing a bit range of work like this, helped me to feel like I could have a place in this world of art.

So, ta-dah, those are the 5 books I reach for most when it comes to creative inspiration – and while I do definitely still love all of these, I am also keen to add in a couple of new ones for 2019 – what are your favourites? What do you think I would like based on what I’ve told you about these ones? Let me know in the comments below, or come and say hi over on Instagram!

Thank you for reading โค

Cat sitting on stack of books

Author: Timorous Minimalist

Scottish girl blogging about trading in anxiety and being busy for simple living and well-being.