Artists Questioned. What would you recommend as essential reading for an artist?

Jamie Powell, Purple Reign Acrylic and spray paint on cut-canvas, 8" x 10", 2013

Jamie Powell, Purple Reign Acrylic and spray paint on cut-canvas, 8″ x 10″, 2013

All artists have questions they seek answers to. Sometimes they ask themselves the same questions over and over again, and sometimes they seek out friends and mentors who provide answers to their questions. If you ask the same question to several people you will most likely get several different answers, and then it is up to you to select the answer that is best for you. So the question is…What would you recommend as essential reading for an artist?

Jenny Hampe Endresen: Essential reading for an artist???? Oooooh: so much! I mean, there’s poetry, literature, art history, biography, artist’s journals…. Where do I begin?! Well, the first book that came to mind was Roger Cardinal’s “Outsider Art”, which had a huge impression on me as a 22 year old…. Then, the collected writings (rantings) of my dearly belovéd Jean Dubuffet…. The journals of Joan Miró…. The diaries of Paul Klee…. “Concerning the Spiritual in Art”, by Kandinsky…. The collected writings of Piet Mondrian…. Letters of Van Gogh…. “Search for the Real”, by Hans Hoffman…. “Raw Vision: Outsider Art and Beyond”…. “Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry”, by Jaques Maritan….”The Transformation of Nature in Art”, by Ananda Coomarswamy…. “The Unknown Craftsman: a Japanese Insight Into Beauty”, by Soetsu Yanagi…. How’s that, for a start? I could list HUNDREDS of books that have had a huge influence upon my art…. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, e.e. cummings, J.D. Salinger, Meister Eckhart, etc. etc. etc. 


Brian Frink: Books that have been important to me…..I’m writing this on a plane.

John Berger’s, Sense of Sight

John Berger is one of my favorite writers who wrote about art.  It is difficult to label him a critic.  He did write some criticism yet he wrote much more.  Sense of Sight is a collection of his short essays.  Some are about specific artists others are musings.  His prose is compact, full of allegory and poetry.  My favorite essay in this collection is The White Bird.

Suzi Gablik, Has Modernism Failed?

In 1984 Ms. Gablik had the audacity to suggest that Modernism might have failed.  Well she had the audacity to ask that question.  It was a question on a lot of artists mind and this book neatly presented it.  She paralleled the development of Modernist art with industrialism in Western society.  She suggested that the ethos of the individual, a concept that found its full flowering in late Twentieth century America, had run it course.

I had moved from New York to Madison Wisconsin.  Ms. Gablik gave a talk about her book at the Madison Art Center.  I had the great fortune to hear her speak and buy her book.

The Empathic Civilization,  Jeremy Rifkin

This a big fat sprawling book.  Rifkin examines the idea of empathy.  He proposes that humans rather than being naturally competitive are instead, naturally empathic.  He describes the ever-increasing empathetic response in humans through the advancing development of our civilizations and our technologies.  He makes the assertion that we are well on the way to developing into what he labels Homoempathicus.  He also makes the claim that our future survival as a species is dependent on this evolution.

James Elkins  What Ever Happened to Art Criticism?

A slim volume by the Chicago based art historian and writer James Elkins.  In it he asks the very simple question that forms the title.  Elkins is a wonderfully clear writer with an accessible style reminiscent of Berger.  As it turns out something HAS happened to art criticism, it is gone.  He quickly breaks down where it went and speculates on some ideas on how to get it back.

James Elkins, What Painting Is

An amazing book about painting, I don’t know what else to say about it.

Ree Morton catalogue from her New Museum exhibition

It was 1979 and I had just moved to New York City.  I walked into a place called New School For Social Research.  In the New School was a gallery called the New Museum it was run by the legendary Marcia Tucker.  On this fall afternoon I happened upon an exhibition by the great, late Ree Morton.  This exhibition marked me, sitting in my imagination nudging me towards a quirky, idiosyncratic formalism.  It was asymmetrical and strange.  I used what money I had to buy the catalogue and it has been a cherished part of my library for thirty-two years.

David Douglas Duncan, Picasso

This book was a Christmas gift from my parents when I was in high school.  It was a gigantic coffee table style book meant to glorify Picasso.  I loved it.  I pored over the many black and white images of the artist at home, in his studio, at the beach, cavorting everywhere and making art out of his leftover meals.  Included were all of the paintings he had made for that particular year, 1974.  I still go through this book.

————————————————————————————————————————————- Ashley Garrett: I actually don’t feel there isn’t a book that couldn’t be considered essential reading for an artist! The sources of inspiration for artists are extremely wide and varied. I don’t feel that I can recommend a particular book or line of thinking to another artist, but would rather encourage other artists to look far into their own channels of thought and follow each line as far as possible. Read wide and deep, ask questions in the text, and find the next book that approaches that answer, and on to the next question. Integrity for an artist is to stay intensely curious about the world and all the things and thoughts in it. I find myself constantly re-reading books by Joyce, Dostoevsky, and Nabokov, Steppenwolf by Hesse, Nausea by Sarte, Ibsen’s realist cycle and his early plays, poems by T.S. Eliot and Sylvia Plath–just like in making work, go to the edges of what you really don’t know, and read from there. Books that were given or recommended to me by other artists mean a great deal especially: just a few are Virginia Woolf’s first novel The Voyage Out by Curtis Hamilton, Ibsen by Katherine Aungier, The Poetics of Space by Noah Post, Wallace Steven’s The Palm at the End of the Mind and Henri Michaux by Brian Wood, William Butler Yates by Farrell Brickhouse, and a few great ones by high school and art school teachers including short stories by Flannery O’Connor and TJ Clark’s The Sight of Death.


Lisa Pressman:  I have many artist books that I look through but I like to reread  books that discuss the creative process.

Twyla Tharp: The Creative Habit

The Writing Life :Annie Dillard

Daybook: Anne Truit

May Sarton: The Journals of Solitude

Trust the Process Shaun Mcniff

Art and Soul: Audrey Flack

Anais Nin: all the journals

Concerning the Spiritual in Art Kandinsky

Free Play Stephen Nachmanovitch

Art and  Fear, Ted Orland

“This is on my list to get ASAP:”

The Infinite Line: Re-making Art After Modernism by Briony Fer

Zen of Seeing: Seeing/Drawing as Meditation

Art Critiques: A Guide (Second Edition) – James Elkins; Paperback

“I also did a series on my blog about what is on your book shelf?

Here,here and here.


Jamie Powell:  Here is my list of books for artists – they are in no particular order.

Needless to say I lean towards artists writings.

Essays On The Blurring of Art Life

by Alan Kaprow

edited by Jeff Kelley

Jasper Johns

Writings, Sketchbook Notes, Interviews

edited by Kirk Varnedoe

WET on Painting, Feminism and Art Culture

by Mira Schor

Philip Guston 

Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations

by Clark Coolidge

Letters To Young Artists

edited by Peter Nesbett, Sarah Andress, Shelly Bancroft


Sarah Saunders:  I’d recommend “The Art Instinct” by Denis Dutton. It’s a history of aesthetics from an evolutionary viewpoint. It basically looks at why we consider anything to be art, or beautiful. He’s not interested in judgement, critique or defining good art; it’s more about the instinct to be concerned with anything called art at all. He discusses the universality of this instinct across cultures and time. It looks at the question mainly from the observer’s point of view. I’d be interested in a similar take from the creator’s viewpoint, the basis for our motivation to create! Sadly, he died shortly after this book was published.

The other book I’d recommend is “The Language of Ornament” by James Trilling. It’s a survey of the history and expressive language of ornament. He makes a case for seeing ornament as a distinct category of art. He looks at the role of ornament; seeing it not simply as added on embellishment, but as a visual language in it’s own right (with history, expressive force, relation to material etc.).

The previous question was, and the next question is…

If you have a question you’d like answered please let me know. If it is interesting maybe I’ll use it.

Have you met…Lisa Pressman?

An introduction can be a wonderful thing. You can meet interesting people, and make new friends. You can be introduced to your new favorite foods, books, music, or artist.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite artists. Some of whom I’ve been familiar with for years, and others I’ve only recently been introduced to.

The person I’d like to introduce is the artist Lisa Pressman.

The Deep, 24"x24", encaustic.

The Deep, 2013, 24″x24″, encaustic.


“I focus on fragments in my work, just as our culture is fragmented and disconnected but my worldview is one of interconnection. I try to reveal elements that many people have lost sight of, elements that communicate to a place deeper than words. My work is rooted in a sense of play and discovery, an intuitive dialogue between the random and the deliberate that allows a relationship between intent and accident to develop. I try to create in the place of “not knowing” and exploration. My paintings invite a deep, visceral response that evolves over time; they have a life of their own.” LP

Things That Matter, 1, 2013, 24"x 24", encaustic.

Things That Matter, 1, 2013, 24″x 24″, encaustic.


Lisa Pressman began her studies in ceramics, sculpture and painting at Douglass College, NJ, where she received a Bachelor of Art. She continued her studies at Bard College and completed an MFA in painting. Her  paintings incorporates oils, collage, wax and other mixed media to create works that allude to a personalized time  and space. The work is the physical embodiment of the slow and gradual process of realization and transformation.

Lisa  has a solo show scheduled at The Rosenfeld Gallery, Philadelphia, PA in the fall of 2013 and the S.H.E Gallery in Boonton, NJ, spring of 2014. Her work also will be exhibited in several group shows including: Shape Shiting, Susan Eley Fine Art, New York, NY; Swept Away: Translucence, Transparence, Transcendence In Contemporary Encaustic, The Cape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis, MA (curated by Michael Giaquinto); a Group Show at Western Carolina State University Museum, Cullowhee, NC. and also ed at the A GAllery in Provincetown,MA

Pressman’s recent 2012 group exhibitions included: Wax is Hot, Amy Simon Gallery, Westport, CT; EW’12 Invitational Exhibition, R&F Handmade Paints, Kingston, NY; From Where I Stand, Rye Art Center, Rye, NY; and Confluence: Medium Meets Message, Morean Arts Center, St. Petersburg, FL.  In 2011, Pressman’s work was exhibited in Kindred Spirits, Schiltkamp Gallery at Clark University, Wooster MA, Making the Mark at Susan Eley Fine Art and at the Affordable Art Fair with Anelle Gandelman Fine Art, both in New York City. Her paintings were also featured in The Balancing Act, a solo show at Rosenfeld Gallery in Philadelphia. Other recent exhibitions include: Reality and Artifice, the 2010 New Jersey Annual at the NJ State Museum, Trenton, NJ; Illusive Balance: Transcendental Pattern and Layered Surface at the Douglass Library gallery, New Brunswick, NJ; Little Gems at Butters Gallery, Portland, OR. She is represented by the Jack Meier Gallery, Houston TX, Anelle Gandelman Fine Art, Larchmont NY, and the Allyn Gallup Gallery in Sarasota, FL

She is currently an adjunct at the Art Institute of New York and teaches painting privately and around the country. You can find her teaching schedule at

Lisa Pressman lives and works in West Orange, NJ.

Things That matter, 3, 2013, 12x12, encaustic.

Things That matter, 3, 2013, 12×12, encaustic.

Other material relating to Lisa Pressman.

Artist Website: Lisa Pressman.

Lisa Pressman Art Blog: Lisa Pressman.

Youtube: Lisa Pressman.

Studio Critical: Lisa Pressman.

MoMa PS1 Studio Visit: Lisa Pressman.

ArtSlant: Lisa Pressman.

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