10 best tools for traditional artists this May

This month, we've got something for everyone. We're taking a look at a couple of must-see exhibitions by two very different artists on opposite sites of the Atlantic. We've rounded up some of the best new art books: one on doodling, another on the career of a large-scale painter, something about arty salad, and a book introducing Post-it note philosophy. And we've found the best gear for the plein air painter.

01. Salad for President

75 salad recipes inspired by artists

Julia Sherman runs Salad for President, a project that "draws a meaningful connection between food, art and everyday obsessions". Each of Sherman’s blog posts includes a salad recipe made in collaboration with an artist or creative professional. This new book features 75 of those recipes, with artists such as Tauba Auerbach and Laurie Anderson.

02. Meet Georgia O'Keefe

This Georgia O'Keefe book includes activities based on her artworks

Georgia O'Keeffe was one of the 20th century's most significant American artists. She was celebrated for her large-scale paintings, depicting everything from flowers to cityscapes. This new book encourages you to, "Explore O'Keeffe's unique perspective as you draw, paint and play your way through activities based on her artworks, and discover how to use art to express your own view of the world."

03. Ellsworth Kelly in Focus

Ellsworth Kelly is the subject of a new exhibition at Tate Liverpool

A new exhibition at Tate Liverpool celebrates the work of American hard-edge, minimalist painter Ellsworth Kelly. The exhibition features 11 paintings and prints, spanning six decades of Kelly's career, and showcases his "transformative impact on post-war abstraction through his use of intense colour, chance processes and shaped canvases."

04. Frederic Remington at The Met

Frederic Remington chronicled the American Old West

American artist Frederic Remington chronicled the American West, and a new exhibition at The Met hosts 20 pieces taken from throughout his career. Remington painted, in intricate detail, the lives of Native Americans, trappers, cowboys, cavalry and scouts; paintings now recognised as some of the most iconic images of the Old West ever made.

05. If you can doodle, you can paint

Learn how to build your doodles into full-sized paintings

This book argues that doodles are an expression of your true style – like your handwriting. It goes on to explain how you can build doodles into full-sized paintings. There are 'assignments' to get you doodling, and guides on how to size-up these compositions into larger compositions, before adding watercolours and then acrylics. An interesting read for artists of all abilities.

06. Post-it philosophy 

Modern life, explained on Post-its

If you mix Modern Toss with Dilbert, you get Insta-Chaz, better known as Charles Hutton. He plots the highs and lows of daily life via graphs, charts, illustrations, all on Post-it notes, which are then shared on Instagram. In this book, Hutton explores the complexities on modern life – Tinder, avocados, Kanye West – in Post-it note-sized bites.

07. Plein air easel

A more portable version of this popular easel

This is a half-sized version of one of the most popular easel's around – manufactured by French manufacturer Jullian – and is perfect for painting outdoors. It's made of elmwood, it looks smart, but it also has all the features you'd expect of a full-sized easel: drawer with adjustable dividers, wooden folding palette and plastic moulded feet. Plus there's a shoulder strap and shoulder bag, making it easy to tote around. 

08. Water-mixable oils 

These work like conventional oils, but are water-mixable

If you're going to be painting outdoors, you're probably going to carry a limited palette. You also need a bit more flexibility. Winsor & Newton developed these water-mixable oils to work just like conventional oil colours. The key difference is you can mix and clean them up with water. But the depth of colour, consistency, lightfastness, and drying times mean you use them the same way you'd use regular oils.

09. Michael Harding plein air set 

The shades in this oil paint set are intended to capture natural light

Michael Harding specialises in oils. "My paints are made by hand," he says, "using techniques which date back to the days of the Old Masters … As an artist and painter I wanted to create colours that were true and vibrant, and paint which was beautiful and durable." He created this set of 10 oils with the plein air painter in mind, in colours intended to capture natural light.

10. Plein air brushes 

These brushes are designed specifically for painting en plein air

Easel, paints – you're pretty much set for a spot of en plein air. You just need brushes. When painting outdoors you need a soft brush so you can paint lightly over previous strokes without disrupting them too much. This set offers exactly that. They're small too, so they're easy to take out and about with you.

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