In my recent article I talked about using art and craft to increase well-being and reduce stress. I always see an improvement in my mood after being creative, even if it’s simply colouring in one of my adult colouring books. It’s the process rather than the product which is the most important part. And I use it as a form of mindfulness, and a digital detox. But there’s an added sense of satisfaction and accomplishment if it does turn out well. So, I’ve put together a list of the best art and craft books for beginners (like me). They are filled with step by step ideas, starting points and helpful tips for anyone who wants to become more imaginative and creative.
Drawing books for beginners
If there’s one drawing book you need, it’s this one. My artist friend Eve – who is a textile designer – introduced it to me. This is the book for you if you think ‘I can’t draw’, you want to draw realistically, or you want to de-stress by accessing the right side of your brain. It teaches you about being in ‘right brain mode’, which will not only help you as an artist, but help you to forget about your worry list of deadlines, work and other stresses. Those are left brain things. This book teaches you how to access your right brain and, in doing so, draw well.
This is a beautiful and concise book put together by artist Sharon Finmark who teaches life drawing and painting. It begins with simple exercises and mark-making to shading and practical advice on texture and perspective. Subjects covered are still life, flowers and plants, landscapes, interiors and people. It encourages creativity as a journal of your everyday life. It will make you stop and look more carefully.
A4 Moleskin sketchbook (£20)
When it comes to drawing, my best advice for you is to get a sketch book. Something you can carry around easily, and with thick paper. If you want to draw well, you need to practice. It’s just like playing a sport. It requires commitment. I love the Moleskin series of sketchbooks, including this A4 version. You can also find smaller ones here.
If you don’t have a decent set of pencils yet, you can pick up a Moleskin Art Collection (£25) which includes a sketchbook and drawing pencils set.
Painting books for beginners
I’m a big fan of watercolours. They don’t stain the carpet, for one thing. And this is a good book for the absolute beginner. It’s beautifully presented in a clean, minimalist style, with one tip a day, from the basics like which paper to use, to blending colours and using different brushstrokes for different textures e.g. animal fur.
I love this book because it brings together art history with practical tips. It’s an accessible and clear workbook (perfect for anyone who hasn’t picked up a paintbrush since school). Chapters cover technique, equipment and general theory, leading to twelve short sections examining master watercolour artists. Each chapter includes photographs and helpful examples of works in progress, methods and how-to demonstrations.
Making Color Sing by Jeanne Dobie (£13.72)
This best-selling book is still one of the most popular ones used by artists today. It invites you to think about colour in new ways. Readers are shown how the interplay of complementary colours can create a sense of movement (think Bridget Riley); how to create space through the push and pull of warm and cool colours; and how colour can affect perspective.
A new, up-to-date edition of the popular and comprehensive encyclopedia by professional artist Hazel Harrison. Ideal for artists of all skill levels, this exhaustive reference covers a multitude of topics. It’s divided into two sections: the first provides step-by-step demonstrations that guide you through a variety of techniques, from basic colour mixing through to creating special effects, such as wax resist. The second part focuses on themes, illustrating how individual artists tackle a number of subjects, including landscapes, buildings, portraits, animals, still life and fantasy. It will help you to develop your own acrylic style.
Need some new watercolours? I really like this box of 12 colours from Windsor & Newton (£10.40)
Colouring books for adults
Colouring books continue to be popular amongst adults as a way of de-stressing and relaxing. You can read more about why I think this is in my recent post here. And here are a few of my favourites (although there are tons to choose from).
Relax while colouring in mandalas. The notion of colouring to calm the mind goes back a long way. Mandalas – a symbolic picture of the universe – have been used since the 4th century by Buddhists to help them meditate.
This books allows you to play around with watercolour, without worrying about creating a perfect, finished painting. It’s a very good starting point for getting creative again, and using art as a way to be more mindful and relax.
This is my favourite of all the colouring books. It’s filled with 100 places to colour, from the Valley of the Kings to the Grand Canyon. I’ve been using Sharpies to colour mine in, whilst dreaming of exploring all these places!
Who doesn’t love a Sharpie for colouring in? So satisfying. This limited edition pack has 28 colours with fine nips for £13.99.
It’s unlikely you’re going to be making crafts every day of the year. But this bumper book has many, many ideas for when you’re feeling creative. Doodles, collage, calligraphy, statements of inspiration. This book has it all. It’s also great for anyone struggling with mental health problems, who wants to keep a creative journal and create positive change.
Eco art is on the rise. Learn how to recycle everyday items which you were going to throw away, or find in a charity shop or flea market, into art and decor for your home. It includes ideas for glass jars and bottles, wooden crates, old lampshades, dishes, cotton and linen, and more!
Did you know that building LEGO can help you to beat stress and anxiety? If you’re inspired to build your own LEGO creations, these 2 books are filled with ideas for you.
The LEGO Ideas Book (£11.80)
This book is great for children and adults, with over 500 ideas to choose from.
LEGO Architecture Ideas Book (£14.99)
Creator Alice Finch shares tips with aspiring builders who want to turn their ordinary models into something extraordinary. In this example-packed guide, Alice (renowned for her massive, detailed models of buildings from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) shares her best building secrets for crafting realistic walls, roofs, columns, and decorations using LEGO.
You can read more about the power of LEGO to help you relax (and see the AMAZING creations of other adult fans) in my recent post here.