How we use our art books...

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How we use our art books...

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Ago 23, 2007, 8:49 am

Do your art books have post-its sticking out of them, marking "eye feasts"? Have you ever *gasp* cut pictures out of your books? When you straighten up your living room or decorate for the holidays, do you tinker with the art books piled around on tables? Tell us about how you interact with your art books. How do you use them differently than your "regular" books? Looking for tasty "slices of life" to be posted here...

Ago 23, 2007, 9:58 am

Well, mine live on their very own shelf (actually two, both kinda side-to-side narrow, so one is for folios and the other for quartos), but various ones come out at least once a week for various reasons: historical context, reference, the sheer pleasure of looking through them (like reading poetry, only looking at pictures). But my favorite reason for bringing them out is to look at them with The Boy, simply to expose him to art (I've taken him to a couple of exhibitions – Audobon bird prints and Henri Rousseau jungle paintings – but, sadly, galleries do not often put on exhibitions that would hold a 4-year-old's attention for very long, and when they do, the works are mounted so that when you look at them from the height of a 4-y-o's eyes, mostly what you see is the glare of the gallery light reflecting off the surface of the work). We just turn through the pages, I ask him what he thinks is happening, whether he likes the picture, that sort of thing. There are a couple of wonderful books for this sort of exercise: Unlikely Pairs and one whose title I don't remember but that has 20 or so paintings from throughout (pre)history and across the globe, and each has several small 'highlights' next to it and you try to find each 'highlight' in the picture. My object is to keep art from seeming high-falutin' to him, to make it just another part of his world, something simply to recognize and acknowledge and be willing to appreciate.

Ago 23, 2007, 10:10 am

I do try to place them strategically on the coffee table when I'm having company or at holiday time. Unfortunately, even though I try to make them inviting I can't seem to get my visitors to flip through which is the whole idea in the first place. I supposed I should whack them with an oversized art book to get their attention??

Ago 23, 2007, 10:41 am

Like drbubbles, I used to look through my art books regularly with my children when they were little. They have both grown into adults who love museums and art, and my daughter is working towards a museum certificate in addition to her PhD.

One of our biggest thrills has been seeing works of art "in person" that we were familiar with from our books.

Editado: Ago 23, 2007, 10:58 am

My art books are all safely on a (sturdy) shelf at the moment. When I can get a bigger place, I may get a coffee table to display my favorite books. I never put post-its in my art books, or even bookmarks. I'm very protective of my horde (I seem to know an inordinate number of unintentional book-abusers.)

I would never cut anything out of a book (unless it was a cheap duplicate copy purchased expressly for that purpose.)

Amancine, I completely agree with your last sentiment; I have a wonderful memory of seeing Edward Hopper's Chop Suey in person at the Seattle Art Museum a couple of years ago.

Ago 23, 2007, 11:05 am

I'm a post-it person. I like to flip immediately to paintings I adore. I have most of the books protected by mylar dj covers. I've got a dedicated art book shelf but I've outgrown it and soon I'll have to boot poetry to another place so I can expand! My parents never took me to museums so I think I'm making up for lost time.

amancine - I know what you mean. 2 years ago I got to see a Van Gogh self-portrait in person in Washington DC. I could see details in the paint which you miss in a print or a book. My husband took my picture with the painting and I have a HUGE grin on my face. It was a fantastic experience.

Set 2, 2007, 10:36 pm

My first and only art book I own is a Phaidon of portraits, beautifully photographed. I'm not very showy with this book, as I usually look through it for my own interest, and often find inspiration for pencil sketching.

However, I have created a shelf for drawings and other visual things that inspire me, i.e. this book or certain vases... does that count?!

One of my favourite places to look at big and beautiful art books is a gallery in Toronto in the Distillery District called Pikto. I highly recommend stopping by there if you're in the area!

Editado: Set 3, 2007, 12:03 am

Mine all sit on their own shelves, some stacked horizontally (gasp!) because my shelves are too small for them to stand up. I don't have room for a coffee table - if I did, I might put them out if I was sure some fool wouldn't spill on them! :)

Edited to say - And no, no, no - I would never cut out of them - some were purchased with considerable difficulty at some expense, but all have great sentimental value. I tend to but them on vacations, so they remind me of those times.

Editado: Set 21, 2007, 11:42 pm

Mine are scattered all over the house so I can dip in at any time for inspiration - living room (shelves and coffee table), office, bedroom; and I have a large set of bookshelves in my art studio which is chock-full with art books and other books that I might like to dip into when I'm working, such as books on mythology etc. Oh, not forgetting the ones in the basket in the loo - MOST important!

I haven't so far been able to cut up any of my art books but lately I've found myself collecting old books in second hand and charity stores which have great images that "I might use in an artwork one day" (e.g. in a collage), such as really old art books that are falling to pieces, and technical and medical texts and magazines which have great illustrations. Of course, these days you can scan pictures in and print them out so maybe there's not such a need to cut them up, but it's very hard to reproduce that lovely aged look to the pages that you get in old books, which is really useful in collage.

drbubbles: What a lucky little boy to have a mother who's instilling in him a love of art right from the beginning. Maybe you already know this, but there are some absolutely wonderful art books for children that I've seen, mostly in art gallery bookshops. I can't name any off the top of my head right now but let me know if you're interested and I'll have a look at the bookshop when I'm at our great new Gallery of Modern Art here in Brisbane tomorrow. I wish they’d had them when my children were young.

VictoriaPL: l grew up in the country and we didn’t have access to any kind of art gallery at all. Even when I went away to boarding school at age 11 (in a much larger country town) I don’t recall ever being taken to an art gallery. Maybe that’s why I feel, too, as though I’m “making up for lost time”, and now can’t have enough art books!

Editado: Jul 25, 2011, 12:20 pm

kristena: My art book section is probably one of the best organized of my personal library. It runs from floor to ceiling in ca. 24" x 8' section of shelving. (6 shelves, some large enough to hold larger "coffee table" volumes. That said, it has now overflowed into other areas. I need to get everything off shelves and re-organize. Some of the newest and largest are horizontally heaped on a step stool in front of the art book shelving. (I have reached the balancing limit.) Other shelves which are more inaccessible hold old EX LIBRIS catalogues, Portfolio magazines, craft books, HORIZONs, etc.

drbubbles: I shared many of my art books with my children when they were young. My daughter has a more abiding interest in them than my son, an avid ESPN fanatic, does. I am constantly sending art appreciation books to my grandsons (currently 7 and 4). Since they live in Toronto and have a family ROM membership, I sent them quite a few books on Egyptian culture. They also have Playmobil Egyptian sets. Recently we discovered that Playmobil has animated videos made to stimulate interest in the set. Great fun! They seem far less interested in the Art Gallery of Ontario, despite the presence of child level drawing tables in many rooms, eg the Henry Moore space. I think the 7 year old has quite a haptic sensibility since he has huge collections of seashells from trips to Florida, Costa Rica, and Caymans, rocks from Lake Ontario, fossils from a beach on Lake Huron near Collingwood, quartzes, etc. from the ROM shop, and loves old coins and keys. They have an extremely enviable creative space as well.

inner_artist: I am loath to cut up any art books. Fortunately the Somerset Studio publications provide some really nice images and papers for collaging in each issue of their not inexpensive magazine. I also enjoy seeking out images in old New Yorkers, New York, Antiques, Art & Antiques ads, etc. My mother, on the other hand, when in a manic fit of decoupaging tore up a number of lovely art books that she owned. They came to me mutilated, so sometimes I may use them if I find the space to do more collaging in my book-cluttered home.

Jul 25, 2011, 12:31 pm

On my very first visit to my art history adviser, I became quite awestruck at the amazing book shelves in his office. He cautioned me about handling them as they were on loan from an alumnus who had loaned them to the department since in 1958 it was a very new major and the University hadn't yet developed a good academic library in the subject. Far from being "coffee table books", they came from all over the world, as the alumnus had gone on to graduate school at Harvard to study Asian art. It was then that I vowed to have my own collection. I soon discovered that male undergrad and grad students were allowed more access to this library than I was. This was a HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT.

The alumnus got a job on the faculty. He did not have room for the collection in his home. One day he came into the seminar room where many were shelved, and lambasted a graduate student working on her MFA for pulling down a book from a shelf to look at it. TO THIS DAY, I have never quite forgiven him. He is no longer alive, but that memory rankles. Eventually, his library became a bequest to the University, but many of the more fragile rarities were sold, and having been merged into the millions currently on the shelves of the libraries, it's hard to know which are his.

We do need to share. My collection is holistic, totally reflecting my outlook and learning experiences. I am not sure if another reader would have quite the same interests in making use of it. But that's not the point. If you expose books to other readers, you naturally want people to open them, look at them, and want to learn more about the artists, the culture, the history, how it might affect you to want to imitate, exploit, play with the images.

Jul 25, 2011, 12:39 pm

convivia; interesting comments about your art books. I have very few art books, mainly from art history classes at Salem College. I have found your library quite interesting.

Jul 25, 2011, 1:06 pm

Another Jane Austen enthusiast...that reminds me, I must write to someone who has actually published books and articles about her work. Glad you find my "Things" of interest. Will be sure to visit your site soon. I am about ready to log off and go read about now. I will participate in two book discussions tomorrow, and another is coming up later in the week. Fun!

Ago 3, 2011, 8:55 pm

Because most art books are heavy, I keep them on the bottom shelves of my bookcases. All of my books (1800) get dusted twice a year. When I am experiencing a lot of arthritis pain, I drag them out and look at them with a cup of cocoa. It's so relaxing that it actually reduces pain. Sometimes when I am stuck on a design for a colored pencil drawing, I peruse the art books for ideas on colors, scale, and shapes as well as their placement on a piece of paper. I always see something in a few paintings that I had not seen before and get inspired. Finally, when my mother was homebound with Parkinson's Disease, we went through my museum books, with her on the couch and me sitting on my knees on the floor and turning the pages for her. She was not a big art fan, but she loved looking at these books and we both pointed out paintings we liked and why. This is one of my favorite caregiver activities that I relish now that she is gone.

Ago 18, 2011, 5:12 pm

I find that, when it comes to target practice, art books are the best. It's so much easier to, say, hit the apple in a still life at 50 paces than it is to hit an equivalent sized "o" in Moby Dick at the same distance.

Out 15, 2012, 2:39 pm

The traditional art books that I own (books on Monet and Degas, for example, or specific styles and periods of art) kind of just sit in my living room, on a coffee table. I love having them around, but I don't spend much time looking through them regularly, to be honest! It's sort of a mental thing--surrounding myself with art.

That being said, I've "cut" out pages of books that, to me, are art. Not on the subject of art, but are artistic creations. I take the page and frame/hang it. They tend to be books from a specific publisher, because the books are made in a folk art style and the book itself was handprinted and silkscreened. So the book as object is destroyed in order to display the art content. I've met many other people who do the same with these books, so I know I'm not alone--and yes, it is hard at first to "destroy" the books by cutting out pages! But the result is worth it.

Editado: Out 26, 2012, 8:12 pm

>11 convivia: - convivia - please don't hate the late alumnus - and/or your first art history adviser: I never studied art, but I'm an old guy who loves it - and many books about art are fragile pieces of art themselves, illustrated, designed or printed by real creative artists in each category. These books, specially the older ones, are often fragile and require lots of loving care in order to preserve them for future generations. Not every student (male or female) - even graduate - is aware of this fact.

Fev 24, 2013, 12:56 am

I have a large collection (1100+) of art books, ranging from 99 cent purchases from Alibris (so I could buy a bunch from the same seller and get discounted shipping) to $200+ catalogues raisonne (I think that's how to pluralize that). They completely own my living room - so much so that I have a pair of bookshelves butted against each other rather than against the (already full) walls. They run the gamut, but tend to center on the 20th century. Save for a few favorite artists (Miro, Kandinsky, Klee) and a few of great significance (Picasso, Cezanne) I focus on breadth over depth.

Though I've read a couple hundred from cover to cover, most of my time with them is spent admiring and studying the illustrations. Alas, much as I love art I'm stuck 120 miles away from the nearest significant museum (no offense to the great local galleries!) and I have no car, so access to the actual paintings is hard to come by. Which is especially painful as a fan of Rothko! At least Miro translates well to book form. :)

I can't bring myself to cut up books. When I've ended up with duplicate books (rarely because I double ordered something, more often because I bought a lot on eBay or Craigslist) I've given the extras away. I'd rather something poster sized for my wall, anyhow, and I don't do decoupage. For some artists without posters available (I'd say I'm too poor to buy large prints, but the reality is the money goes to books) I've found the Super Poster Calendar line a good value.