MCBA Visual Journal Collective’s 2012 Reading List and Other Related Reading News

October 15, 2012

Members of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective who attended the September meeting shared the following book recommendations with the group. (There were also some write-in suggestions from people who couldn't attend.)

The following list provides these recommendations with the member's name followed by his or her recommendations so you can understand the specifics of the recommendation. If a book was recommended by more than one member I have put an asterisk before the name of the book. (There are many popular books that some members elect not to recommend because they think that someone else will recommend it, so just because a book is only mentioned once doesn't mean that only one member has read and enjoyed it.) 

I have not added any recommendations of my own to this list because I routinely post book reviews on the blog. If you quote or refer to recommendations in this article please make sure to attribute the comments to the actual reviewer listed above the review.

Book Recommendations from the Members of the MCBA Visual Journaling Collective

The recommendations are written in the order they were sent in for this post.


Left: Marsha Micek with one of her drawings. Members were asked to bring in artwork they had created after reading a book on their recommended list. Marsha was inspired to create a series of drawings on a single sheet that showed the development of a plant. Marsha works in ink using a stipple technique.

Marsha Micek
Blossfeldt, Karl. Working Collages. (The one I brought had multiple iterations of his subjects. Art Forms in Nature now available through Dover shows selected photos in much larger magnifications).

Nuridsany, Claude & Pérennou, Marie  La naissance d’une fleur • A flower is born (This was the calendar.) The full name of their book is The Metamorphosis of a Flower.

Lilley, AEV &  Midgley, W.  A Book of Studies in Plant Form. (This is from Chapman & Hall, 1927.)

Carol Malkinson
Lynne Perella, Alphabetica:  A-Z Creativity Guide for Collage and Book Artists,

Elaine Franks, The Undercliff: A Naturalist’s Sketchbook of the Devon to Dorset Coast. 

Claudia Nice, How to Keep a Sketchbook.

Jean Shannon
Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Artist Within. Simon & Schuster, 1986.  
I read a review of this book on Amazon which said that it repeats much of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, but that the section on "analog drawing" is not to be missed.  I agree.  I took it out of the library and then found it at the thrift store. In This book, Edwards discusses the universal psychology of line and gesture and how drawing can be used to "portray" emotional or psychological realities but even more exciting, how to use drawing to discover those realities! I haven't finished this book yet, but I am excited to use her insights to develop my visual vocabulary.

Alisa Golden, Unique Handmade Books. Sterling Publishing, 2001.
I have never taken a bookmaking class, so I was happy when I scored this book at a used book store.  The author describes and illustrates all kinds of artists books and the materials & techniques used.  There are diagrams and instructions for sewing a signature.  I learned how a flag book is constructed, etc. etc.  Lots of good photos and diagrams, a great introduction and reference book to have on hand. 

(Roz's note: Golden has 3 excellent books which were combined into one volume and reissued so if you are getting "Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures, and Forms" you don't need the individual books.)

Felicity Allen, Your Sketchbook Yourself. Tate Publishing, 2011.
What a terrific book!  I found this at Wet Paint.  Wonderful illustrations!  This book was designed, I think, for beginning art students, to explain why keeping a sketchbook is essential for an artist, and the various ways sketchbooks are used by working artists.  I bought it for a gift but  I needed  it more.  I want to expand and strengthen my sketchbook habit, and I think this book is going to help me!

Joe Burgess
Alwyn Crawshaw, Sketching.  (ISBN 978-0-06-149184-9) This book is from the Smithsonian 30 minute art series. The book give concise beginner instruction on sketching with different graphite pencils  and some instruction in beginning watercolor.  I like that he shows doing quick sketches and show how different pencils (2B, 3B and 6B) can be used to produce sketches with different levels of detail.  In addition I like how he shows how to work quickly and get essential detail in a sketch or watercolor.  Also I like the color and softness of his watercolor and can aspire to do some of the simple yet elegant work that he does in the book.


Left: Ken Avidor gives his presentation by sketching on the white board.

Ken Avidor
Ken brought in two Walter Foster books that were important to him when he aquired them as a very young artist—One was on Trees, the other on drawing nudes. Ken did an incredibly funny presentation along with this sketch, but it was not video taped. I have taped another story Ken told us but my new camera takes video in a format not read by iMovie so I can't process it at this time—I hope to be able to share it with you at a later date.

Thomas Winterstein
This past summer I started painting landscapes. With the help of my friend and instructor in landscape painting, Derek Davis, I am learning how to compose a painting out of the complex landscape in front of me. This means learning how to simplify shapes, colors, and values and learning how to arrange them in an interesting way that expresses my concept. The following books are the three that have most helped me to do this. 


Right: Thomas Winterstein shares his book recommendations with the group. There are full tables on either side of this image not visible here. Between 25 and 30 people attended the September meeting.

Jeanne Dobie, Making Color Sing—Practical Lessons in Color and Design. Watson-Guptill Publications, 1986. New York. This is the book most quoted by Derek Davis. He has referred to his copy so much that it is now held together by duct tape. The book was written for the water colorist but the color and compositional theory applies to any painting medium (I don’t paint in watercolor, I paint in oil).  There are 31 lessons in the book covering color theory, and using color and shapes to construct dynamic paintings.

Daniel Chard, Landscape Illusion—A Spatial Approach to Painting. Watson-Guptill  Publications, 1986. New York. The book is in three parts. The first part presents strategies for creating a convincing illusion of three-dimensional space and volume. The author claims that these strategies can be applied to any subject, regardless of specific coloration, surface textures, or other details. The second part focuses on how to integrate the three-dimensional illusion into a unified two-dimensional composition. The author discusses how size, placement, relative proportions, shape, light and dark values and other components affect the over composition. The third part is specific to painting in acrylic.  

William B. Lawrence, Painting Light & Shadow in Watercolor. North Light Books, 1994. Cincinnati, Ohio.  I almost listed Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting (John F. Carlson, 1973, Dover Publications, Inc., New York) instead of this one. While Carlson’s book is a classic in landscape painting (it was first published in 1929) I felt that this book would be more useful to most contemporary painters. It covers much of the same material that the first two books do but with different emphasis. 

Kelly Pratt
*Jill K Berry, Personal Geographies – Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking (Heather also brought the same book…) I love it becuase i LOVE  maps – and it also jogs my imagination for new tools to use with my clients for exploration into business ideas and life choices.

Lisa Sonora Beam, The Creative Entrepreneur—a DIY Visual Guidebook for Making Business Ideas Real. Lisa is an MBA and artist—so her take on "business plans" comes from the right brain—a place where i'm very comfortable.  I love playing with her tools and ideas when planning my business and she introduced me to the concept of visual journaling.  At least the official concept as it turns out i've adding visual elements to my journals for decades. 

Barbara Ganim and Susan Fox, Visual Journaling—Going Deeper Than Words. This is interesting to me as a coach and guide to people trying to figure out their way… diving into the right brain always gives great results and their use of visual journals in their therapy practice is very interesting.

Jill Bolte Taylor, TED Talk (She's the author of My Stroke of Insight.She is a brain scientist who had a stroke and was able to "study her brain from the inside out" as her left brain went off line and she could ONLY operate from her right hemisphere.  Fascinating!

Gwen Partin
Burt Dodson, Drawing with Imagination

Does not recommend
Techniques Gouache Painting for Beginners vol.1: secrets of professional artist by Olga Shmatova
(bad translation) 

(Roz's note: Hilarious translation!)

Molly Anthony
Keri Smith, How to be an Explorer of the World. It has great exercises to make you think outside of the box and become more aware of the world around you. She also does a lot with found objects, which are fun to work with because they can help offer a different perspective of everyday items. It's a good reference if you're ever feeling blocked and don't know where to start. 

Liz Lamoreux, Inner Excavation—Explore Your Self Through Photography, Poetry and Mixed Media. This is a great resource for people who also write or would like to write more in their journals. It has a lot of prompts, both for visual and written exercises, that help kick start your brain and challenge you to step outside of your comfort zone. 

Pamela Wissman and Stefanie Laufersweiler, editors. Sketchbook Confidential 1 and Sketchbook Confidential 2. These are a great compilations of pages from artists' sketchbooks. It's always fun and inspirational to see what other artists are doing in their books or to see how they're using materials. It's a great way to get new ideas on how to use the space on the page, different techniques to try, or even themes for pages or books. These are the types of books you can just get lost in and spend hours flipping through the pages, constantly finding something you missed the last time you looked at a page. 

Sharon Hylton
Carla Sonheim, Drawing Lab for Mixed Media Artists: 52 Creative Exercises to Make Drawing Fun 
Being someone who is challenged to get onto the page (God forbid I mess it up!), I appreciate Carla’s playful approach to getting past the fear or anxiety or resistance and approaching the blank sheet. She is not so much instructing how to draw, although she includes some of that, like gesture drawings and blind contours, she is giving ideas for setting up limits or a structure or a challenge with which to create without taking yourself too seriously. One of her exercises that I tried is called Drawing Cats in Bed. The cats are not in bed but you are, with your paper resting on the uneven, smooshy surface of the bed to give the lines some unpredictable character, and then you draw cats from memory as fast as you can. There are exercises for realistic, abstract, and imaginary drawing or painting or mixed media. I don’t have the book or I’d give more examples. She includes some of her own whimsical work and she also features various artists and what they have to say about their creative process and what has been influential to them, in addition to including some of their work. Roz is in here, as most of you may know. Cool! The book is very light-hearted with a  lot of fun ideas to get creative juices flowing.

Noah Scalin, Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work, and in Your Studio. As I mentioned, I have some trouble getting onto the page, or into whatever media I’m using, so this book is in a similar vein as Carla Sonheim’s, but it is not tied to any specific media. The exercises are like ice-breakers or stretches for the brain, and they vary in time needed from a few minutes to a few hours. Some that I enjoyed were the six-word memoir, which is self-explanatory, creative acronyms, and eyes everywhere. For the creative acronyms activity you take any word, “donut, “boing,” and “saliva” being some of his suggestions, and then quickly make an acronym out of it, or several. For eyes everywhere, you make a set of eyes and attach them anywhere that looks like it could be a face. My daughter did this, and for several weeks our kitchen trash was transformed into the voracious garbage monster. Noah did a skull a day project, so his skulls are scattered throughout the book, and they are really cool. One was made with a bike chain, another out of a pie (mmmm!), and another out of the hands of some friends.

Carol Eshelman
Quinn McDonald, Raw Art Journaling.
Has motivational info on raw materials, facing fears, using poetry, one-sentence journaling, pouring emotion into lines, landscapes and making meaning with imagery. Even a section on making journals called "Mutant Journals"—to quote the authori, "letting go of perfection opens a world of materials for you to play with."

Mari Le Glatin Keis, The Art of Travel with A Sketchbook.
Beautifully illustrated with several workshop participants' art journal pages.

Sarah Eshelman
*The Creative Entrepreneur by Lisa Sonora Beam 
Visually appealing; a unique approach to approaching goals. 

Jo Ann Musumeci
I am inspired by all kinds of images—works by artists, especially abstract, but also primitive and magical or mythological realism.  So the books include calendars as well as catalogs of artists' exhibits, and even cards, like the imaginative Mother Peace round tarot cards.  These calendars, books, cards and other images I collect, give me ideas and permission to do what I want and are richly rewarding to look at.

Karen Vogel and Vicki Noble, The Motherpeace Round Tarot Deck. (There is also a book that explains how to use the cards and what they mean—Motherpeace: A way to the Goddess through Myth, art, and Tarot, by Vicki Noble. It includes many of the images on the cards.) These tarot cards are very imaginative though they have the same suits as a regular tarot deck–wands, swords, discs, priestess, shaman, etc.  They are enigmatic and almost force unconventional interpretations.

David Hockney: Travels with Pen, Pencil and Ink. (Selected Prints and Drawings 1962-1977)
David Hockney is a topnotch draftsman but can also see beneath the everyday look of things and infuses his work with patterns, textures and surreal forms and objects. The book Hockney Paints the Stage is even more surreal.

Kandinsky At The Guggenheim Museum. Vasily Kandinsky was a Russian-born artist prominent in the early 20th century, whose work revolves around using form and color as a language in themselves.

The layout, images and writings in calendars also inspire Jo Ann. Here are two.

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron (she has a book by the same name).  This calendar from 2002 has a writing to consider for every week.  I draw around the writings and in the boxes for the days of the week.

A Song In My Heart 2007 calendar (birds—I'm a birder) has sayings at the bottom of each week/page and nice spaces for writing and drawing.

Kathleen Richert
George Aspden, One Piece of Card. Patterns for sixteen different three-dimensional figures from a single piece of card stock. It gives me ideas for pop-up constructions and pattern drafts for three-dimensional objects from two-dimensional materials. (It's not unlike the costume work I do in that regard.)

Robin Berg, WWII Envelope Art of Cécile Cowdery. I find this album of illustrated envelopes that Cécile sent to her husband, away at war, inspiring as mail art. Cécile never left her home in Central Minnesota, but went on to a career as an illustrator. These envelopes had been packed away for many years. The book was published by USM, Inc, Lakeville, MN.

Willy Eisenhart, The World of Donald Evans. An album of faux postage stamps created by Donald Evans, for invented geographies. They have myriad themes; I especially like the set that features pasta varities.

Liz Carlson
Jan Hart, The Watercolor Artist's Guide to Exceptional Color—amazing color choices to give you extraordinary control over your paintings. Walter Foster Books. Hart uses largely Daniel Smith colors, it contains TONS of different palette ideas with loads of pigment information and color swatches. Even if you just love color charts (like me) someone would benefit from looking at those.

Randel Plowman, The Collage Workbook—How to Get Started and Stay Inspired. (Lark Crafts Books)
As it states on the cover it includes 50 Project Prompts and an image library. I've been using this one for eye candy—lots of artwork. But do like the prompts—they are very approachable and can be applied to journaling—it would be a good way to use up materials that are sitting around the studio!

Miss T
Ernst Rottger, Creative Drawing, Point and Line (Creative Play Series)
(Link included because it is an out of print book with prices all over the place. She likes to use the exercises as morning drawing warm ups—fun, doodle ways of playing with line.)


The new Strathmore Artist Papers Newsletter has been released. You can go to and sign up to get them (I've been assured they don't sell their email list) or you can go to the site and read it there. The current issue relates the experiences members of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective had using the Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper we made into journals. They worked with a variety of media on this paper and let you know what to expect if you are wondering whether or not this paper will be suitable for your painting, sketching, and binding needs.  

At the end of the September meeting members also shared some of their recent journaling. Suzanne Hughes shared her accordion fold Minnesota State Fair Journal. You can read Suzanne Hughes' post about sketching at the Minnesota State Fair here. Her post includes scans of her artwork.

Other members showed their artwork but unfortunately none of my other photos were crisp enough to share. I might have to take a tripod to future meetings!

Below: Suzanne Hughes shows the group her accordion fold 2012 Minnesota State Fair Journal, unfolded.


  1. Reply

    Comprehensive reviews from people who actually have experience. How often do you do this?

    • Roz Stendahl
    • October 16, 2012

    Cate, While no one brought this book to the meeting Clare Walker Leslie’s “Nature Drawing” is a book that I have discussed on the blog (I too love it) and which we have discussed at the Collective (many members also mention it). So it is definitely on the shelves of many of us.

    I first found the book in the late 80s on a remainder table in a book store. Not only is the book an excellent educational tool. (I use several of her exercises in my nature drawing classes. And I include it and her other books on my recommended reading lists in my Nature Journaling classes.) It is filled with wonderful examples of great nature drawing from lots of people whose work I love.

    I didn’t realize this book was now out of print. I thought I saw it in a softcovered version recently. If it is that’s a great shame. People should watch out for it and snap it up when they find it.

    Our yearly lists tend to be split in two directions—the most recent of titles that the members have read, because some members are always reading the latest books and seeking them out, and then the older titles that are out of print or that members realize no one has mentioned in previous years. With this pattern and CWL’s book falling out of print it seems she’s ripe to mention now so thanks for giving people a head’s up to look out for it.

    I’m flattered you find my blog in the same vein.

    • Roz Stendahl
    • October 16, 2012

    Molly, we started having a book recommendation meeting “officially” last year and this is our second. You can find the first list here

    We found that everyone was recommending books every month (and people still do) but it was fun to actually devote a meeting to it specifically.

    And doing it once a year gives people time to read new titles if they are so inclined and keep the rest of us up to date.

    It is a fun meeting and always well attended. (We had almost 30 people there, though not everyone got around to sending in their recommended titles for the published list.) Maybe someday we’ll have video of our meetings and people can attend “virtually.”

    • Cate in Dundee
    • October 16, 2012

    Roz, I just did a quick search and my guess was wrong—CWL’s Nature Drawing is in fact still very much in print! 🙂

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