Reading to feed my art

Buoyed by the energy of the turning of the year, I’ve decided it’s about time I read more. I have loads of books and an endless appetite for learning, so this shouldn’t be difficult…

a stack of books

I miss reading

I used to read avidly. Reading non-fiction was a favourite way to relax and expand my mind at the same time. Anything about the natural world, science, history, neurology, psychology, philosophy and art of course. Then something changed – as I’ve got older I’ve got less able to focus late at night which used to be my usual reading time. This shift in my cognitive capacity has meant that reading deeply interesting books has slipped quietly out of my life, to be replaced by podcasts, audio books and other less taxing media in the evening. I now do my best thinking in the morning – great for productivity but not so good for my reading habit.

Read like an artist

My art-making needs challenging ideas and new knowledge to sustain it, which has been more difficult to find in these isolated times, so I’ve scoured my shelves and piles of books for 12 which I think will really feed my practice this year. Some I have already read and would love to revisit, some are new to me, some are going to be easy to absorb and others will be intense and challenging.

I know myself well enough not to promise I’ll get through one a month but I’m aiming to have at least sifted some new ideas and learning from every one by the end of this year. I’ll skim some and dive deep into others, I’ll keep my sketchbook handy for noting down any quotations which strike a chord and doodling ideas they provoke.

I’m beginning with one which wasn’t on the original pile but, as it was a Christmas present it’s shouting the loudest. I first read Frederick Franck’s ‘The Zen of Seeing’ when I was an art student and it made a deep impression on me then, so I’m looking forward to revisiting it now, particularly as I’m about to start teaching my ‘Permission to Draw’ course very soon.

I’m going to make it as easy as I can to get back into my reading by leaving the book next to the sofa, we’ll see how that goes.

You can read more about what inspires my art in these blog posts.