The 7 Books That Made Me An Artist

by laraleslieyoung

Here is my path, in books, to becoming an artist.  What books made you who you are?

2002: John William Waterhouse by Peter Trippi
Waterhouse is the reason I started to draw and paint.  My Nana gave me his modern biography by Peter Trippi for my birthday. I have since matched my own progress in painting against Waterhouse’s, by age.

Trippi Waterhouse
john william waterhouse

2003: Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.
My mom gave me this book when I was starting to study art in college.  It miraculously teaches anyone to draw “what he or she sees.”  The exercises forever altered the way I think, making everything and everyone in the world more beautiful and interesting to contemplate.  See the drawings done by students before and after the short course (after the cover image) below:

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

lara young, lara l young, lara young ringling, betty edwards, drawing on the right side of the brain

2005: The Elements of Color by Johannes Itten
Also from Nana, this book taught me my strongest skill as an artist: Color.  It’s a heavy read, but it puts you miles ahead of where you started.

04_itten2 Itten Color StarItten’s Color Star

2007: Creative Illustration by Andrew Loomis
Lee and Bill Mayer ( lent this book to me.  The author assumes you can already draw really well.    It’s a huge book, so learning everything in it could take you a couple of years.  It’s worth the investment if you ever want to move on from “just drawing what you see” and actually tell a story with your art.

2009: Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland
A mentor and friend, David Laufer, recommended this book.  He believes every artist should read it, and I agree with him.  Art and Fear deals with the psychology behind art-making and creativity.

2010: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
This book recommended by my friend, David Chanin, taught me that artists can and should defy traditional business models.  Business models are just something else to design.  This book was the start of my life as an entrepreneur.

2013: Mastery by Robert Greene
You can learn all the technique in the world, but if you don’t know why you’re creating art, you’ll never really inspire or change the culture around your field.  In Mastery, Greene tells the stories of historic and modern masters, including the architect Santiago Calatrava and fine artist Teresita Fernandez. I posted examples of their work below:


Lara Young, Lara L. Young, Robert Greene, Teresita Fernandez, Night Writing

“Night Writing” by Teresita Fernandez, featured in “Mastery” by Robert Greene

Santiago Calatrava, Lara Young, Robert Greene, Mastery

Architecture by Santiago Calatrava, featured in “Mastery” by Robert Greene