I had to lay my Moleskine Tower on the floor so that it would not tump over. 55 books, with another one in the works at the moment. When Moleskine notebooks and sketchbooks became widely available in 2006, I bought one and found I liked it, not because it was the cool or hip thing to do, but the size felt right. As did the paper. I’ve tried to go totally digital a few of times over the past 10 years, but I keep coming back to these little black books.
I have another large stack of sketchbooks, maybe an additional 100, in my bedroom, that I filled prior to 2006. Most I bought at the art supply store or Barnes & Noble, but many I made myself as I used to have the time and enjoyed bookbinding.
Back in college, many of my professors extolled the virtues of keep diaries and sketchbooks. Over the years, I have found that keeping writings and drawings is extraordinarily beneficial to creativity. Also for memory. As the years go by, I forget so much, but have found that I can open a book, read a passage or see the rough sketch of an idea and instantly be transported back to that moment in time. I find that a very simple joy in life.
Now, where to store all these book?
Although Sister Corita Kent was the impetus for starting the now defunct Look at Everything blog, there have been many other influences that have led me down this path as well. Teachers from my college days, but also a number of books I’ve come across over the years, too. Here is the Essential list:
The Art of Looking Sideways, Allan Fletcher
Of all the books I have on my shelves at home, this one never collects any dust. It is a constant source of inspiration. From the careful design of each spread to the content on each page, The Art of Looking Sideways rejuvenates my soul every time I open it. I suggest keeping it handy and not reading it cover to cover. Rather, pick it up on occasion, turn to any random page and start there. Repeat this process any time you are stuck looking for ideas, need a break, can’t sleep at night or want to take an adventure but have no money.
I recently stumbled onto this site which is very nice.
How to See, George Nelson
Nelson is one of my heroes, not just because he was an amazing designer who helped shape the USA post-World War Two, but because he was a deep thinker. I don’t know that he was the greatest designer ever, but he had the right people around him and knew everything there was to know about Good Design. How to See is exactly what the title says it is … a how-to manual that every artist should commit to memory.
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards
My 11th grade art teacher recommended reading this book and I scoffed at her. After thumbing through its pages at the bookstore one day, I thought to myself “Why read about drawing when the best way to learn about drawing was to just do it?”. I’m not sure if that was wisdom or that I did not want to read the book. Either way, it was a foolish mistake. This book is filled with more than the how-to’s, it is filled with a lot of why’s.
Ways of Seeing, John Berger
You can find the original TV broadcasts of Ways of Seeing on YouTube. They are extraordinarily dated and downright hilarious at times, but the information Berger presents is second to none. Reading the book instead of watching the program will scrub away any of the 1970’s sheen, and leave you with nothing but a wonderful treatise on art, life and seeing the world.
On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, Alexandra Horowitz
All of the other books in the Essential catalog focus on art or design, but On Looking, a rather new addition, focuses on the rest of the world. Although it is a little long at times, it is a delightful read from which you will learn about art, science, exploring and a number of other fascinating subjects.
What library would not be complete without a few magazines.
On a monthly basis, both Travel & Leisure and the National Geographic both provide an endless source of exploration around the world. I love T&L because it is so aspirational (namely being that I have neither money for travel nor time for leisure), showing how life can be led. And the Geographic goes without saying as one of the most important lens from which the world can and should be viewed. lately they’ve become a little preachy at times, but every single issue has something to learn.
And finally, out library needs an audio section. After much listening and deliberation, it has been determined that a visual blog needs to have a theme song. The Grateful Dead’s Eyes of the World has been selected to be the official song of Look at Everything.