Books I would Recommend

I'm going to be editing this for a while till I get all my thoughts about these books down, because right now I just kinda want to get this post up. Then I'll remember something and change it.

Note to reader: Anytime I say "our library" I mean the library located within Montserrat College of Art.

Alright so here we go!!!

This is a must read. I don't know what else I can say. I found this my freshman summer in beverly, when the old bookstore was going out of business. Picked it up and basically couldn't put it down till the sun started to set.

It's a nice reassurance that everyone doubts themselves and the best thing to do is just believe in yourself and keep working. I have my copy around somewhere if you want to read it for free. Don't know if I'll be able to find it.

Our library has it though.

What painting is... This book alongside "Art and Fear" rocked my world freshman summer. The way this man talks about paint is mind boggling and poetic. Later on I'll probably pull quotes out of it. It's because of this book that I'm a crazy James Elkins fanboy, but to be honest the books that I have read hence haven't been nearly as good. If you are going to read one of his books this would be the one to try. It's when he talks about the color plates that come along with the book that are really terrific. There is a lot of talk/history/lecture about alchemy in it, but it's worth wading through those blocks of text to get to the parts where he talks about paintings. He talks about working in the studio being a type of psychosis. It's really great stuff. I highly recommend it, but I've been recommending it for like 2 years now, and have only recently been able to convince one person to pick it up and read.

The library might have it. If not I own a copy that I would lend out.

I don't read that often despite what this book list may say. I get most of my reading done when I'm traveling back and forth from Kentucky. Books make airplane flight tolerable. So that might explain why I didn't pick this book up till like sophmore year had gotten underway. I picked it up 'cause it was written by James Elkins, but also I found it to be a paradox. How is a handbook for art students about how art cannot be taught.

The book is crazy pessimistic. "What Painting Is" is like rainbows and awesome art rants. This book is like a dissection of how art schools run. The books main point is that teachers do not directly teach. They do not directly impart you with knowledge. They talk, go on lectures or rants in the hopes that something they say clicks and inspires you. Besides expanding on that notion, the book also takes a very close look at how critiques work. More specifically seminar critiques, when you have several teachers from several disciplines talking about your work. It's insightful. It has some ideas in the end about how to mix things up. I read it all though so it had something in it that kept me reading.

Stupid small image messing up the page format
You can get it through the library

Alright lets round up this James Elkins fanboy train real quick. This book is a survey of how Modernism and Post-Modernism progressed. It stops just short of the year 2000 so it's not trying to make any statement of the world now. It's more talking about the transition into modernism and the resistance of post-modernism. It has interesting ideas, and basically put's forth all the theories of what modernism is. It's good for conversations about such things. We're going to move on from it now.

Our library has it don't worry.

Jenny Saville. One of the YBA's. (Young British Artist) If you're not sure who they are, Damien Hirst is a YBA. If you don't know who that is. Well stay tuned you'll be educated eventually. Anyways yeah. Jenny Saville rocks my world. Her paintings are huge. 6 ft being the smallest dimension in any of her work. Biggest being like 16 ft I think. Nice color plates. From afar they seem to be expressive figurative paintings. Walk up to it and suddenly you're looking at a De Kooning. This is one of the books I'll take out when working in the studio. Have it open just so I can look at it. Lovely color plates. Her imagery can be rather jarring at first, but eventually you're desensitized to the imagery and just appreciating the paint. Take that notion however you want, that's what's going on in her paintings.

Our Library DOES have this book.

Euan Uglow... It's a crazy hard name to remember. Hopefully now that I've had to type it up several times I'll be able to remember it now. Uglow is another british artist, but not part of the YBA's. Not sure what the difference between the two is? Jenny Saville crazy popular and rich. She sold one of her paintings at her grad school show and took off from there. Uglow had to be at his craft for a while before he got a book. While Jenny Saville's imagery is very powerful, this guy's paintings have such a meditation on them that it's crazy. He was so into making marks for measurements that he would mark the wall behind the model. Just another great figurative artist. If you get a chance to flip through this book don't pass it up.

Great Britain has a huge tradition of figurative artists. Like the entire island has a collective school of thought when it comes to figures. I don't know if you would include Jenny Saville in it. However, Uglow and Freud would definitely be part of it. Trends in this school of thought being very realistic and the avid use of browns.

Our library has it.

I found this book over winter break my junior year. It was my one and only christmas present to myself, and my stomach paid for it later on down the road. I was able to get it for 75$ though. Which is awesome, since now that I see what it is going for on amazon makes me feel much better about buying.

Anyways this book is copyrighted 2009. It is a wonderful survey of contemporary painting today. from 1970's to 2009. It's like you went on a trip to New York and were just bombarded with great paintings. Not only does it have great color plates, but it's like a text book. I'm currently reading this, and not yet done, so I can say much for it right now. Besides that it has wonderful paintings in it and gets me very excited.

Alright that's all the books I can think of. Please leave a comment with what you think. I'm not sure what I'm going to talk about now that I've done the one idea I had.

Thank you for reading, see you later.


  1. I'll make a note to add some of these for spring break. Should last me for that week, at least.

    Why you don't own a copy of What Painting Is already, I don't even know. One day, you are getting your own copy so you can stop checking it out of the library for weeks on end and someone else can finally read it.

    Also, I remember flipping through that Jenny Saville book at the desk. It's absolutely gorgeous, and I'm just in awe of how she handles her paints. They may be prints at a fraction of the size of the actual painting, but I still find myself getting sucked into even the tiniest reflections and how the colors blend.

  2. Some things to check out. Specifically interested in Elkins. Thanks for the list.

    If you do not know the difference between Uglow and the Young British Artists, I strongly suggest you either give up painting completely or read the book on Uglow again! Uglow was a student of William Coldstream who passed down his way of observation and painting onto his students. It's apparent in all of Uglow's work. The work in the book dates back to the late 40s which is before the majority of the YBA's were even born. Uglow and the YBA's are too completely different things that both happen to be British.

    The school should have that Uglow book. You can order another using an interlibrary loan but it is not as comprehensive and informative as the one you listed above. I once remarked to Rob Roy about how it was a shame that the school does not have any book on him. He agreed and ended up having this one ordered shortly after. It is a possibility that it was stolen. Or just not returned for a long time.

    Good to see an update. I'll replace this blog with the one linked on my site.

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  4. I was stating that YBA's and uglow are completely opposite but was getting lazy by that point and worded it poorly. Actually i just reread it and I stated that they "Uglow is not part of the YBAs."

    I'm not familiar with William Coldstream I'll look him up, sounds interesting.

    I actually was in the library today and the our school does have a book on uglow, so i'll probably edit this post and fix that.

    thank you for the link.