4 fantastic new art books for January

It's almost impossible to have enough art books, so if you've just been paid and feel the need to expand your collection, take a look at our recommendations, guaranteed to inform, educate and inspire.

01. Frida Kahlo at Home

Thank God it's Frida

The Blue House, the birthplace of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is one of the most visited museums in Mexico. So, it's appropriate that this beautifully illustrated book tells her fascinating story through the places she called home.

This biography covers Kahlo's origins as the daughter of a German immigrant; her childhood and schooldays; her volatile marriage to Mexican artist Diego Rivera; their involvement in the Communist Party and relationship with Leon Trotsky; her longstanding health problems; her brief time in the United States; and her return to her childhood home, where she died in 1954. 

Frida Kahlo's story is told through her various homes

Author Suzanne Barbezat, a writer based in Mexico, traces how these events shaped Kahlo's art, which was strongly influenced by indigenous folk traditions as well as the isolation she felt when convalescing after an accident (which led to her first foray into painting). 

Throughout this book, Kahlo's story is brought to life with beautiful reproductions of her art, alongside family photographs, objects and artefacts the artist collected.

02. Drawing Masterclass: Perspective

This book will help give your work extra depth

Perspective is a key skill needed for most artists, but many of us are fuzzy on the rules, or lack the confidence to put them into practice. Thankfully, this book does a great job explaining the fundamentals and how to master them within your pencil, pen and ink drawings, from simple box diagrams through to more complex scenes. 

The book begins with an informative history of perspective in art, then goes on to explain the different types, from zero-point perspective to multiple-point perspective. Using clear sketches, diagrams and drawings, this pivotal section manages to convey quite complex ideas in a manner that everyone can understand and, consequently, is worth the price alone. 

Learn the fundamentals of perspective and how to put them into practice

But that's not all – with the fundamentals laid out, author Tim Fisher explains how to put them into practice when drawing buildings, landscapes, people, animals, boats, reflections, skies, seas and more. Again, easy-to-follow diagrams and sketches demonstrate the principles being described and prove the maxim that a picture is worth a thousand words.

03. The Encyclopedia of Coloured Pencil Techniques

Perfect your pencil technique with this volume

This reissued classic will show you exactly what kind of art you can create with coloured pencils, as well as explain how to build up your skills. The first lesson explores how to hold your pencil – that might sound basic, but there's a lot to consider, including alternatives such as the overhand grip and the underhand grip. 

You then move on to discovering how to build up colour density with paper-grain effects, how to choose coloured papers, and how to begin making marks and shading. Then there are lessons on blending, hatching, blocking in, stippling, burnishing… and that's before we've even reached page 40. 

This book goes from the basics to the business of tackling your various subjects in coloured pencil

The next 40 or so pages cover more advanced techniques, from impressing and graffito to transparent supports and patch correction. Meanwhile, the latter half of the book, examines how to approach subjects such as domestic objects, foliage, animals and people. 

The lessons are light and concise, giving the essential information you need, but letting you follow along and try each technique at your own pace.

04. Sunday Sketching

This stimulating tome might be confusing to Niemann newcomers
  • Author: Christopher Niemann
  • Publisher: Abrams
  • Price: £25

If you're unfamiliar with Niemann's work, then flicking through this hefty 276-page tome will initially prove baffling. Mostly made up of seemingly random sketches, it's not obvious how it connects together. However, read it carefully from start to finish, and things start to make sense. Tracing his career in its entirety, the handwritten narrative that snakes through the scattergun selection of sketches reveals the essence of Nieman's creative process and explains how he built up and nurtured his career. 

Christopher Niemann's work is delightfully weird and inspiring

We particularly loved his oddball collage work, which combine illustration and photography, such as a man being eaten by a crocodile made of Gummi Bears (who is then transformed into a Gummi Bear himself), and a bunch of flowers with screwed-up pieces of notepaper as petals (an image anyone who's battled with creative block can empathise with). 

If you're after something intellectually stimulating, visually inspiring, wonderfully weird and humorous, then this could be right up your street.

This article originally appeared in Paint & Draw issue 2; buy it here!

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