It was very difficult to narrow down my favorite art books of the year to just four picks. Really, really difficult! Books about art are my very real weakness and there have definitely been more than four that I bought and loved this year. However upon deep deliberation, these four stood out in their uniqueness and beauty. Briefly, however, here are my picks for Gorgeous Art Books Of 2017:
1. The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St.Clair.
Colors have so much power and symbolism behind them and when, in this stunning book, you discover their unique, and sometimes strange histories – like the white that protected against the plague – you won’t look at your paint palette the same again. I think it’s very important for people who work with color to understand that particular tool and element of their trade. This book also works as the perfect gift for the history buff who is intrigued by the interplay between color and politics, or even the science lover who is interested in the origin and chemical composition of the colors we take for granted today.
2. 365 Days of Art by Lorna Scobie.
When this book was released, I had just made my recurring- and quite optimistic vow- to stop buying more art inspiration/prompt books. Heaven knows that I have more than enough art I’m working on myself to keep me more than busy. And, while it’s true that, like with coloring books, I never actually work in the books, I do love them for their beautiful Illustrations and consider them art monographs in a way. Lorna’s lovely art is fun and vibrant and happy and with great prompts for every day of the year, even if you just look to it for inspiration, it’s a wonderful way to start the new year off on a good artistic foot.
3. This Truck Has Got To Be Special by Anjum Rana, illustrated and designed by Hakeem Nawaz, Amer Khan, and Sameer Kulavoor
My family is from India and my color and design sensibilities definitely draw inspiration from that vibrant subcontinent. Whatever CAN be decorated WILL be decorated! Including something as industrial and utilitarian as a truck! Google Indian (and, in the case of this book, Pakistani) trucks and you will see some gorgeous specimens! Told in a narrative format, this art/picture book tells the story of a Pakistani truck driver who had finally acquired a truck of his own and wants to make it a work of art! As the artist he commissioned begins working on the truck, the driver reminisces about all of the journeys he’s been on. You will just get lost in the stunning and intricate (and colorful!!) illustrations and, although this book is certainly perfect for kids, I think adults will appreciate it perfectly and that’s why I included it in this section.
4. In The Garden Of My Dreams: The Art of Nathalie Lete
For me, this book was love at first touch! Yes, TOUCH! The cover is a soft, PADDED, shiny sky blue!!! Once you stop pawing at it and actually open it up, you will enter the dreamy wonderland of Nathalie’s pop/folk art imagination. Lots of inspiration and beauty – a contained burst of joy on your book shelf, art desk, or coffee table.
And there you have it! My art recommendations for 2017. I hope you check these out for yourself. And, if you have any recommendations for me – what art books did you lose yourself on this year – please let me know in the comments.
Next week, I will be rounding up my Self Improvement selections for the year.
“A natural disaster is not a disaster until it becomes a human disaster; otherwise, in the minds of most people, it is a mere spectacle.”
This is one of my favorite lines from Steve Olson’s 2016 book, ERUPTION: The Untold Story Of Mount St. Helens. It perfectly sets the tone for the entire narrative : an honest and humanistic telling of the events of 1980. No one was prepared for what happened – the eruption was one of the largest in American history, killed 57 people and caused over a billion dollars in damage.
ERUPTION is coded as Science and the strikingly beautiful cover – featuring an erupting Mount St. Helens – only hints at the depths the book goes into while telling the tale of this dramatic natural disaster. You think you’re going to learn about the geology of volcanoes – and you certainly do – but the book is much more than that : a sympathetic tribute to the humans who found their lives intertwined with Nature in a powerful, life-altering way that fateful summer.
Olson is a master at weaving these stories through the narrative in a way that is easy and uncontrived. We learn about the science teams, the logging industry, and the local residents who were all major players in what transpired during those months and trace the final days of those who perished. We discover how decisions made even decades ago influenced the events of that day – of all the economic and political factors that shaped the fates of the victims.
I can’t recommend this book enough! It was a sweeping, cinematic look back at an important time in our nation’s history and Olson helped put everything into a larger context, interweaving personal tales with politics and capitalism in a moving and evocative way. It’s a great book for those interested in Natural History, Conservation, or the Pacific Northwest.
I didn’t know anything about razor clams, much less razor clamming, before I met David Berger. I was the event person in charge of one of his book readings and his enthusiasm for the subject, as well as great presentation skills – he came prepared with some awesome visual aids!- soon had us all enthralled with this fascinating bivalve!
David has been a contributor to the food feature, “Northwest Taste,” in the Pacific Magazine, and is a former art critic for the Seattle Times. He is also a recipient of a Metcalf Fellowship for Marine and Environmental Reporting.
His new book, RAZOR CLAMS: BURIED TREASURE OF THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST, is published by University Of Washington Press.
Now, let’s here what David has to say!
1. If you could have been the author of any book that has ever been published, what would it be, and why?
I read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island every couple of years, so I guess it’s reasonable to wish I’d written it and had the chops for it.
It’s a great yarn and one of the world’s most popular books. I like stories and insights that have to do with the sea, and young Jim crossing the ocean with pirates and comrades, and having a tide-tossed boat ride in a tiny vessel called a coracle, are quite the watery adventures.
Sometimes people like to be read to as they’re failing in health and preparing to shuck this mortal coil. I wouldn’t mind hearing this tome in that circumstance. We’re all crossing something, one way or another.
2. What do you need around you when you start working on a book?
I need the stars to line up correctly, some space in my life and head, research and papers at hand, and a good amount in my bank account
3. You are forced to condense your book collection down to one small shelf. What six books would you want to always have in your home?
Well now, that’s a tough one. A dictionary, say the Random House Dictionary of the English Language. I like words and language.
Treasure Island, I’ve already said.
Arctic Dreams, by Barry Lopez.
Collected Essays by George Orwell.
My portable field guide to Western mushrooms, All that the Rain Promises and More… .
I like art, too, so The Hokusai Sketch-Books: selections from the Manga.
But OMG that’s leaves out Dostoyevsky, Michael Chabon, Margaret Atwood, One Hundred Years of Solitude, Moby Dick, all the poets and so much more!
4. What one piece of advice would you go back in time to give yourself when you first started your writing career?
I dunno, not feeling very advisor-ly at the moment.
Eat more chocolate. Buy more real estate.
5. During the course of your research for the new book, what was the most surprising thing you discovered about the razor clam or about clamming?
One thing that was surprising was how much fun it was to do the research. The number of people who went razor clamming in the 1970s, maybe as much as seven percent of Washington State’s population, was surprising.
And It’s quite astonishing to picture the razor clams on the West Coast all dwelling in their sandy intertidal burrows with hinges facing the surf. Their backs to the pounding waves. “Lined up as orderly as soldiers on parade.” That haunts my imagination every time I think of it.
Be sure to pick up a copy of David’s book from your local bookstore and check out the UW Press website to see if he has an event near you! And stay tuned for next week’s Five Questions With Grace with Eric Andrews-Katz!