Sketching and Creativity: A Book List

Of all my bad habits, the worst (for my mental health and wellbeing, at least) has to be my endless ability to self-sabotage my creativity. The very instant that an idea starts to form, the massed bands of negativity and criticism start up with a rousing chorus of "Reasons Why It/You/Everything Will Fail" (second verse, same as the first) and within seconds, the spark dies before it's had a chance to become flame, never mind roaring fire.

Over the last couple of years I've been trying to counteract this behaviour, with varying degrees of success. I think I've become better at externalising my inner dialogue when collaborating with others and asking the questions that I usually answer in my head out loud. I've also become a bit better at sharing my personal work with a small circle of people I trust, but really feel that I need to work on making sure my inner critic doesn't monopolise the conversations I have with myself so I can be a bit braver in what I create.

In essence, I want to explore more creative, less safe solutions and push myself to go beyond the first safe thing or two I think of.

I often find it quite difficult to be creative for creativity's sake. I get the urge to be creative, but no specific need for something which require creativity. Knitting has often filled this gap, but isn't quite so instantly gratifying as I'd like, and even that isn't as brave as I could be. So to try and overcome this, I've been slowly building a collection of books relating to creativity.

In tandem, I've also been working on improving my visual communication, because an unfortunate and unwanted side-effect of my (perceived or actual - who knows) lack of technical ability when drawing has led to occasions where I cannot adequately communicate the concept in my head so I've also been slowly building a collection of books relating to sketching.

What prompted this post was an offhand tweet following one of those Amazon wormhole experiences where you start off buying one book and then follow a trail of recommendations and "other people bought this"es and before you know it you have ten books in your basket. @kelbyuk asked me to share the booklist, so here it is.

The following books I have already:

The Creative Habit - Twyla Tharp

I put this on my wishlist a couple of years ago and got it last Christmas. I'm a little bit ashamed to say that it came home and went up on the shelf where it has remained unread. I have no intention of getting to Christmas 2011 with it remaining unread.

The Advertising Concept Book: Think Now, Design Later - Pete Barry

I love how this is illustrated almost entirely in sketch and deconstructs various advertising campaigns. This was the book that really got me excited about the potential of good sketches to present work and ideas more quickly than an OmniGraffle session.

The Fundamentals of Drawing - Barrington Barber

Not just a fantastic name for an author, but a really great book taking you from the real basics through a number of exercises to full on proper drawings. I've read it but haven't, for reasons passing understanding, started doing any of the exercises yet. Must try harder.

The Back of the Napkin - Dan Roam

Bought because London UX Book Club were going to be discussing it. Didn't read it and didn't go to the Book Club. Shameful.

How to Draw Anything - Mark Linley

To go along with The Fundamentals of Drawing. Only arrived on Saturday.

It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be - Paul Arden

Really great book. Bought it a couple of years ago, read it in one gulp. Could probably do with reading it again.

And these are the books that flew into my Amazon Shopping Basket:

An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers - Danny Gregory

Because I find looking at other people's sketches incredibly inspirational (as well as a little bit depressing in a "I'll never be as good as that" kind of way - hoping for more of the former and less of the latter). Now sold out. Curses.

The Creative License: Giving Yourself Permission to be the Artist You Truly Are - Danny Gregory

Because it looked interesting, got good reviews, and I feel like I could do with following a few exercises until I find my feet a bit more.

Sketchbook: Conceptual Drawings From The Worlds Most Influential Designers and Creatives

See above re: other people's sketchbooks.

How to Make a Journal of Your Life - Dan Price

Because I bought his book on Radical Simplicity on kindle and really liked the few short pages I managed to read before life intruded. Also because I've been enjoying sketchnoting and like the idea of sketchnoting my life.

A Picture's Worth 1000 Words: A Workbook for Visual Communications - Jean Westcott and Jennifer Hammond Landau

Not sure about this one (the cover is… uninspiring, to say the least), but this goes to the heart of what I'm trying to do more of at work - communicate visually for when words aren't enough.

Wreck This Journal: To Create is to Destroy - Keri Smith

Because I fetishise notebooks too much.

Mess: The Manual of Accidents and Mistakes - Keri Smith

Because the exercises seem like fun, and because I loved doing the teabag sketch at Eva-Lotta Lamm's London IA sketch workshop and this reminded me of that.

So there you go, a few books on sketching and creativity. Are there any others I should really know about? Comment or @pixeldiva on twitter and I'll add them to this list.