Category Archives: BMA Shop

Creating and Creativity: Books to inspire

Looking for inspiration or inspired but can’t quite make the next step? The following books offer a very polite kick in the pants.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
Edited with text by Mason Currey
Confession: I have a weakness for collections like this. Here you will find the day-to-day routines of 160 famous people, as diverse as Francis Bacon and Ben Franklin, Goethe and Gould, Matisse and Melville.  Each of these very creative types summons their personal muse in endless and surprising variation, confronting all those gnarly obstacles like procrastination, earning a living, distraction, self-discipline. Delightful to browse, entertaining, and oddly inspiring.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work
Hegarty on Creativity: There are no Rules
Sir John Hegarty has cred as one of the world’s more famous creative minds.  He can also teach. This compact and, not surprisingly, very smartly designed book slips perfectly into a pocket or purse to accompany you wherever. Sage advice for the artist, writer, musician, filmmaker – anyone tapping into their creative self or trying to take that next step.  There may be no rules but here are some guidelines from a master.


Freehand: Sketching Tips and Tricks Drawn from Art
Helen Birch
Artist/author Birch believes interest in drawing already has you halfway down the creative path. This nicely formatted volume provides visual examples by contemporary artists working in the astonishing range that is encompassed by “drawing”, including many digital applications. A short but sweet primer on drawing fundamentals rounds out the offering.  The sheer diversity presented is sure to get your eye and brain sparking.

Grids & Guides: A Notebook for Visual Thinkers
Oh how I love handling this smart little notebook, made up of 144 pages of blank grids in eight repeated variations, itching to be filled. Great for sketching, planning, story-boarding, daydreaming, compulsive list-making. Periodically interspersed throughout are very cool charts on a broad array of topics, my favorite being the orders of architecture and carpentry joints.

Lucien Freud: Eyes Wide Open
Phoebe Hoban
A perceptive analysis of the life, creative process, and inspirations of the great realist painter. In the hands of this excellent writer and through the use of much source material Freud comes alive, largely as a man of compulsions: to gamble, to womanize, but most of all to find and capture that inner essence in all his subjects through paint. The recounting of his longstanding friendship with and admiration for the flamboyant Francis Bacon is a highlight.


Paper Play
Gingko Press
A celebration of, or really an ode to, the medium of paper in all its exquisite variations. Primarily a book of images – glorious images – of works from a wide range of international artists and designers, all making small miracles from a material we take for granted and use daily. I knew I needed to own this book about 10 pages in.  Really, human beings are awe inspiring in what we can do.


We carry all of these books in the BMA Pop-Up Shop. You can also order them online at, or via the links above.

Happy reading!

Books to Have and Hold

Books are so exciting these days, both in content and as objects to touch and explore. It seems like book design gets more thoughtful every season. Following are a few standouts, for one reason or another!

Chatting with Henri Matisse: The Lost 1941 Interview
Henri Matisse with Pierre Courthion
Matisse wanted to call this Bavardages or chit-chat. Swiss art critic Pierre Courthion spoke with Matisse as he recovered from surgery over the course of months. This is the never before published interview – more an extended conversation – with the great master.  It is marvelous. Informal and personal, reading it transports you to a shared table with Matisse and a bottle of wine at a cafe. One can dream.chattingwithhenrimatisse

The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge
Manuel Lima
Tree diagrams – branched structures for organizing knowledge (think family tree) – have been used for more than eight centuries. It was the cover of this book that initially got my attention but once I cracked it open… wow! I wanted to see and know more. The variety and breadth of subject, from the medieval tree of virtue to the contemporary Blog Tree will engross and even inspire.

Book from the Ground: from point to point
Xu Bing
Is one picture worth 1,000 words? Both an art form and a written language, contemporary artist Xu Bing’s tale is told entirely in pictograms (symbols and icons). Seven years in the making, the “novel” follows 24 hours in the life of a white collar worker in the city. It is an oddly compelling work whose beauty, in addition to its visual appeal, lies in the recognition of simple human needs and actions that we all share. This fills the artist’s stated “ideal of a single, universally understood language” with no translation needed.bookfromgroundup

Bruce Nauman: The True Artist
Peter Plagens
The book on Nauman – it’s all here – stories of his life, photos, scholarship, and most significantly, the work. And the work is astonishing in its range, including sculpture, performance, sound, video, and installation art. Author Plagens is a lifelong friend of the artist and the access and insight that provides shines through. Beautiful as an object in itself, this book has a raw neon stitched binding and folded cover.  Collectible: get one while you can!

Richard Diebenkorn: Abstractions on Paper
Edited by Bart Schneider
This is a visual gem of a book. Compact and strikingly well-illustrated, it consists solely (solely!) of gorgeous images with the occasional quote from the artist dropped in. Three periods of Diebenkorn’s career are covered through 88 works, most of which are previously unpublished: the early experiments, the Ocean Park years, and the final years in California. Luminous in all senses of the word.

Maija Isola: art, fabric, marimekko: The story of a legendary designer of Marimekko
Edited by Kaoru Takahashi
Maija Isola was the creator of more than 500 print designs for the famed and enduring textile company Marimekko, including the instantly recognizable Unikko rose. This book is a small treasure that includes pages from the designer’s sketchbooks, and page after delightful page of exuberant color and cheering and inspirational patterns. Definitely one for the reference shelf.


Whistler: A Life for Art’s Sake
Daniel E. Sutherland
James McNeill Whistler likely led one of the more controversial lives of any American artist.  He seemed to deliberately cultivate it.  Author Sutherland uses Whistler’s own words to dispel myths and clarify character in a very readable account of the artist and the times. This brilliant man of contradictions was, above all, passionate about his art. Includes many illustrations.


We carry all of these books in the BMA Pop-Up Shop. You can also order them online at, or via the links above.

Happy reading!

A (Very Few of Many) Favorite Art Books for Kids

When I was a kid, summer meant being flopped in the grass with a book. Truth be told you might still find me there. And I may be reading one of these favorites, old and new.

For the youngest readers, So Many Stars is a delightful board book out in a new expanded edition (big at 24 pages) created with artwork by one of our brightest stars, Andy Warhol. Many images from his “So” Series are included here, as in “So Sunny” and “I Love You So”. I can’t think of a better introduction to Warhol than this sweet and playful book. Ages 1-4.

The Day the Crayons Quit

Yes, it’s a bestseller and deservedly so! The Day the Crayons Quit (by Drew Daywalt, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers) is laugh out loud funny.  The concept is brilliant: anthropomorphized crayons revolt. And you thought all was calm in that pack of Crayolas! Parent alert: you will NOT get tired of re-reading this one (because you will be reading it over and again.)  Ages 4-7.

Nina's Book of Little Things

Sometimes it isn’t about reading and looking, it’s about making.  A treasured favorite, Nina’s Book of Little Things!, is out in a fresh new edition. Keith Haring created this book for a 7 year old friend and what a gift it is, full of love and inspiration. Of all the cre-activity (I think I just coined that word) books published, this is still one of the very best. Thank you, Nina, for sharing your book! Ages 6+.

Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book

Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book (by Johanna Basford) provides hours and hours of coloring in beautifully intricate nature designs. I mean the kind that obsessively draw you in (no pun intended). Bonus: it is layered with hidden images, mazes, and spaces to draw. Excuse me – got to get back to my colored pencils  . . .  Ages 7+.

The popular surrealist painter’s “real” muse is revealed in this absorbing picture book tale. Magritte’s Marvelous Hat by D. B. Johnson is a visual treat that will keep you looking and looking again (and even again) at the inspired illustrations. Use this as a great introduction to the Magritte paintings that are referenced in the  book.  Kind of surreal in itself! Ages 4+.

Sandy's Circus

Find out how the iconic inventor of the mobile got his start in Sandy’s Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder (by Tanya Lee Stone, illustrated by Boris Kulikov), and about finding and following your own path. And maybe a little bit about childlike wonder and imagination.  If you’ve never seen Sandy (Alexander) Calder perform his circus, you can watch a video here. Ages 6+.

Architecture According to Pigeons

Architecture According to Pigeons (by Speck Lee Tailfeather, illustrated by Natska Seki) gives a nice introduction to great constructions of the world, from the Gothic cathedral to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Yes, it is told from a pigeon’s eye view with that unique high-flying perspective.  This is for the child who likes to pour over pictures and browse. Chock full of good information, it will pique interest not only in architecture, its history and styles, but the world as portrayed through engaging collages. Ages 8+.


Optical illusions are a topic of endless fascination for many kids. My Big Book of Art and Illusion by Silke Vry gives examples of all variety of visual tricks using art from the classic to contemporary, heavy on the contemporary. What AMAZING (and fun) effects! Each example is explained and each spread includes a related activity.  Ages 8+.

Happy reading!

We carry all of these books in the BMA Pop-Up Shop. You can also order them online at, via the links above.