Those Who Create: an Artistic Booklist

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Does your child have a passion for art?  Would you like to cultivate creativity?  Do you admire those who have made our world a more beautiful place?  No matter your reason, if you would like to read about the lives of famous artists, we have curated a book list just for you.

As always, we recommend a visit to your local library; it’s a great way to connect with your community and reduce waste.  We understand that’s not always possible, however, and we have included links below to purchase any books you might be interested in.

Andy Warhol’s Colors by Susan Goldman Rubin

Looking for a board book with culture?  This amazing one teaches color using famous Warhol paintings.  The bold hues and animals are sure to draw young kids in (rows of pink cows?!).

Vincent’s Colors by Vincent van Gogh

This unique book appeals to a wide range of ages.  Its pages present van Gogh’s gorgeous paintings alongside minimal text.  While he was still alive, the artist would pen letters to his brother, often carefully describing his work.  These descriptions are used as the text on each page, allowing readers to see the paintings while reading the artist’s own perspective of each.


Action Jackson by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker

This sweet story takes readers through the ordinary, everyday routine of Jackson Pollock.  We meet his pet dog, the wild crow he tamed, and watch as he alternates painting with other daily activities, such as having supper with his wife.  Readers get a peek at Pollock’s unconventional painting methods as he creates his famous painting Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist).


Georgia’s Bones by Jen Bryant

Young Georgia O’Keeffe saw the world differently than everyone else around her.  She noticed the spaces between things, and how those spaces framed her view.  She thought about the bones inside her hands, and found beauty in our world that is often overlooked.  This charming book gives young readers a peek into O’Keeffe’s development as an artist, beginning with her childhood.

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier

This is the true tale of a man enslaved on a plantation in South Carolina.  Dave created clay pots that plantation owners would use to store their harvests in.  Over time, he became a master potter, but his story has an interesting twist.  As we know, slaves were forbidden from reading and writing, but somehow, Dave had learned and wrote poetry on the outside of his pots.  He signed and dated them as well, and for hundreds of years the pots changed hands and moved their way around the country.  Some are now valued at over one million dollars and some are displayed in museums.

Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter

This beautiful story teaches children how one man continued to create after his life had drastically changed.  Matisse had been a famous painter, but age and illness eventually left him bedridden.  Unable to paint, he found new ways to create, and felt he had found a new life.  Using paper painted by his assistants and a pair of scissors, Matisse began to create what has become some of his most beloved work.


The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPré

Kandinsky was raised to be a proper boy, but that all changed the day his aunt gave him a small set of paints.  Now able to express his ability to hear color, his life was transformed.  At the urging of his family and others, his creative tendencies were suppressed for years, but not forever.  Unable to resist painting any longer, an adult Kandinsky returned to his brush and paints and began to create.


The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt

Part of a series based on real children who influenced the lives of famous artists, this book illustrates the relationship between one small girl who visits family friend Claude Monet in his garden.  The two take a walk through the magical grounds, including across the famous bridge, past the ponds, and even selecting one large lily from the water.


Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

This gorgeous and fascinating book is part autobiographical and part fiction.  The narrator reflects on the fun times her parents had on the roof of their old home, sharing food and card games with friends.  She remembers the view from the roof while gazing at the George Washington bridge, and imagines herself flying over the bridge and claiming it as her own.


The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Amanda Hall

Rousseau did not become an artist until the age of 40.  He had been a toll collector and without any formal training, began to paint.  For much of his life his work was ridiculed by other artists, but he continued to paint his jungle scenes.  Undeterred by his critics, Rousseau persevered long after many of us may have quit.


We hope you will find these books to be inspirational.  We have found that the stories of these artists make us want to create, but also to live our lives fearlessly.  Enjoy!

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