9 Books to Improve Your Creative Mindset

Watercolor of a girl reading a book

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For the Love of Reading

While Sheltering-In, books are a perfect antidote to fretting. A good book closes the door in the room of fragmented thoughts, and sits us firmly in a focus chair to absorb the words in front of us. Reading about art informs and builds your artist’s mental muscles too.

Creative Mindset

You can improve your creative mindset with books. What is mindset? It’s the established set of attitudes we believe, listen to, uphold and follow, whether they serve us or not. You can expand, or reshape your artist’s mindset with fresh influence and new knowledge. But, to access the influence, and absorb the knowledge, you must actively reach for it.

a woman in bed looking at her laptop
Laptop Night Light – a watercolor in process (see it finished here)

Practicing Community from Inside our Homes

Spending time with fellow artists who encourage or teach us, can reshape mindset. (Read about the influence your closest friends have on your art journey.) Taking workshops, participating in art associations and frequent group painting adventures influence what we create during studio time.

In this season of sheltering in place, we have a choice to make use of alone time with resourcefulness and “digital gatherings”.

  • Listen to art podcasts while you sketch, paint or carve a new block.
  • And read art books.
a light field monotype of a woman reading a book in a greenhouse
Pulling a monotype print of a woman reading in a greenhouse

Re-Write Your Own Code

Occupy your mind with words of wisdom. Listen to an audiobook while you paint, draw or make family photo collages. Hold something other than a screen in your hands. Re-map your art-thoughts. Insert fresh perspectives to replace looping narratives that block progress in your creative journey.

Making Friends with Smart Authors

Here are nine books to improve your creative mindset. Conversations with artsy people who speak our lingo, and recognize what makes our creative hearts tick are crucial to balance the alone-time of Making.

While we #StayHome, search for an artist-focused author who’s voice resonates with you. There are links to check out each book on Amazon below. Read the reviews on the books you’re interested in, and check out excerpts. If you have a favorite art book for mindset adjustments, please share the title in the comments.

If you choose to read a book to boost your artist’s mindset, pretend the author is sitting on the couch with tea, talking with you. Practice your best efforts at being #AloneTogether

Every day contains a thousand little servings of free time you might just have overlooked. And each moment contains beauty, wonder, and models you never need to pay.

Danny Gregory, Art Before Breakfast

Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways—operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes—makes you smarter. Or to put it a slightly different way, experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them—as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go—end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.

Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code
A watercolor painting of a young woman laying in bed reading a book
Vacation Reading – Watercolor on paper

You don’t get to pick your family, but you can pick your teachers and you can pick your friends and you can pick the music you listen to and you can pick the books you read and you can pick the movies you see. You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life. You are the sum of your influences. The German writer Goethe said, “We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.

Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist
Multi-color linocut in soft colors of a woman sitting in an overstuffed chair with a book in her lap
In Between Chapters, Reduction Linocut (available here)

The most pernicious aspect of procrastination is that it can become a habit. We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed. Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work.

Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
reading good art books can help shift mindset in artists. this is a watercolor painting of a woman laying on a couch reading a book on vermeer.
Recharge, watercolor on paper

 Art is not about understanding. Or Mastery. It is about doing and experience.

Jerry Saltz, How to Be an Artist
A drypoint etching of a young woman lounging against a pile of pillows in a bed reading a book
Book Escape, drypoint etching (available framed here)

Employers become patrons when we begin to see them not as obstacles to the work we want to do but as a way of funding it.

Jeff Goins, Real Artists Don’t Starve

The process of creating almost anything (and not just paintings) has a messy period where things feel like they are falling apart and we want to rip up the piece and throw it in the trash. But if you can work through that period, you are more likely to make a more refined, more complex piece of art in the end. Working through is essential to finding your voice. So get comfortable with feeling frustrated and keep going. It’s part of being an artist.

Lisa Congdon, Find Your Artistic Voice
A small watercolor painting of a girl seated on the arm of a couch in front of a window reading a book
Reading Light, Watercolor on paper

This book lays out a three-part Creative Success Now Methodology consisting of the mindset, authenticity set, and skill sets that can empower you to pursue the creative life – both for your personal journey toward success, and because the world needs your ideas. Ultimately, this book will help you to solve the many problems you encounter as a creative person so that you can live as a successful creative in the twenty-first century.

Astrid Baumgardner
How to Title Your Art
Visit How to Title Your Art and watch the preview to the class

Take This Time and Survey Yourself

Dive into encouraging workarounds, strategies for time management and fresh thoughts to play on repeat while you’re making stuff. Read or listen. Pin quotes to the wall. Journal about the pit you’re climbing out of, or the new habits you’re reaching for with willful determination.

Let’s make this time we’ve got at home count for something good.

What are you filling your Stay Home days with? Drop me a note in the comments and say hello. We’re all in this together.

See you in the next post –


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Art Quote

The point is to have more curiosity about possible forms the work could take, than sense of self protection for your ego.

Mary Karr

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12 thoughts on “9 Books to Improve Your Creative Mindset”

    1. Hi Kim! Thanks for the note! I hope you and your family are safely ensconced. Your latest watercolor process vids are GORGEOUS! Keep inspiring us with your beautiful work!

    1. Hi Kristie, thanks for the visit, and the comment. I’m glad the post is useful to you. Happy reading and best wishes for abundant creative planning over the next few weeks.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, and taking the time to leave a comment. I’m enjoying your painting posts on Instagram, and I’m so glad to see that the dry spell and busy schedule has opened up for some Art time.

  1. Janet Catmull

    I enjoyed seeing your beautiful art in between the book descriptions. Thanks for all the heads up on the art books!

    1. Hullo there JMC, thanks for the note…. books sandwiched with art focused on figures reading books and lounging on couches, beds and chairs. The same art that suggests I spend all my time reclined and lost in the land of stories, according to my husband. 🙂 still one of my favorite subjects. If you’ve found any titles that spoke to you, please share them in the comments. As a voracious reader, I’m sure you’ve discovered some good ones. Thanks XO

  2. Hi Belinda! This is an exceptional post during these times. Thank you for the work you do. I can’t wait to explore some of these books, and i just shared this post with my team at Ryman Arts. Take care, and be well.

    1. Diane! Long time, my friend! How are you? I hope the stay home directive has opened enough time for some creative projects just for you to enjoy. Thank you for this lovely note, and for sharing the post with your peeps. Praising the connection and community we can be grateful for – through the conduit of electronic portals! We are so lucky.

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