IN THIS POST: Hands-on experience with art is necessary for developing those creative skills but snuggling up with a good book is a close second. These best picture books for young artists will inspire and delight burgeoning creatives.
Art is one area that you can’t just read a book about and expect to become proficient. It’s a discipline that requires practice, ingenuity, and experimentation.
In our homeschool we’ve enjoyed several projects to ignite our creativity and my youngest daughter has taken drawing lessons (and taught herself a fair amount). Artistic creativity does not come naturally to me, but I do believe that creating is an important part of how we are wired as humans.
What does come naturally to me is finding books and reading books and sharing books. So, I was excited to pull together some of our favorite picture books to share with others of like-mind.
I concede that this list of best picture books for young artists is not comprehensive. New books come out regularly and new-to-me-books are discovered almost as regularly thanks to the library search feature and Bookstagram. However, this list of 22 books is a great place to start.
I’ve linked the books in BetterWorldBooks, though I assume you could also find them on Amazon. Better yet, check out your favorite local bookstore. If you’re on the east coast of the U.S. and need some local bookstore ideas, you may find a new local favorite on my list of 40 bookstores before 40.
List of 22 Best Picture Books for Young Artists
We’ll start with several recommendations from a series and then move into individual books. I’ve also divided the books into Biographies and Fiction to Inspire Creativity.
Laurence Anholt’s Artists Books for Children
The titles from Laurence Anholt’s Artists Books for Children series each share a story of the famous artist in the title engaging with a young child. Further, each book naturally incorporates works of art from the artist into the illustrations. These are the books that we’ve read and enjoyed, but I suspect that any title within this series is worth a read.
A glimpse into the life of artist Georgia O’Keefe by prolific children’s biography author Jeanette Winter.
Another great picture book inviting young artists to consider how Georgia O’Keefe saw the world and how that influenced her art.
This was a surprise find for me. I had never heard of Nek Chand, but his story is a must-read for artists everywhere. He used what he could find and created a garden of color and creativity that the community rallied behind to preserve.
Mike Venezia’s books are comical and informative. This book introduces artists to Faith Ringgold and her story quilts. We included her in our history of America through quilts unit study. This is another series where I think you can find a wide range of people to learn about and expect a quality product.
Learn the story of the artist behind the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial. Her story is inspiring and gives insight into the iconic design of the memorial.
A picture book that captures that many experiences, art forms, and ideas behind the unforgettable work of Marc Chagall.
Dorothy Lange is known as the photographer who captured the human experience during the Great Depression. Her experience with a limp after a bout with polio in her childhood helped her learn to blend into the background and observe – a skill which produced some of the most striking images of this time.
In his earlier career Henri Matisse was recognized as an accomplished painter, but it was later in his life that he pursued the art for which he would be known. Using scissors he created designs of vivid color.
A tribute to Romare Bearden’s painting and collage work that captures the influence of his Southern upbringing even as he moved and entered into the New York City art scene.
A look at the memorable collage work of Romare Bearden and his inclusion of a wide range of experiences and perspectives into his work.
Another Romare Bearden text, this time told from the perspective of a young boy, James, on his way to visit the renowned artist. Experience the anticipation of visiting a distant relative and a new city while learning about the environment and work of Romare Bearden.
Fiction to Inspire Creativity
Katie tries to get some sunflower seeds from Van Gogh’s painting, Sunflowers, and ends up on a journey through several paintings.
One of my favorite books! Swatch bottles up various colors until an encounter with a rare color convinces her that they are better in the open. Vivid illustrations.
The best book for inspiring creativity. When Liza can’t use her crayons, she has to find other ways of expressing the colorful creativity inside her. Her solutions are inventive and beg to be tried.
One of the most perfect books for introducing children to the idea of abstract art (an approach that, I’ll admit, I’m a bit fuzzy on myself). I had one daughter who “didn’t get it” and the other wanted to read it multiple times.
A sweet story of a shy boy who notices a tree and starts to draw it when he gets to class. His classmates are soon offering ideas and suggestions and David moves past his shyness to make friends.
A small, creative act on a big canvas transforms a dull, gray neighborhood.
Another nod to creativity unleashed. Find artistic expression and thoughtful reflection with bright and brilliant illustrations.
How to Use the Best Picture Books for Young Artists
If you have a burgeoning creative on your hand, by all means, let them create. When you want a minute of calm or would like to expand their imagination to the possibilities open to them, pick up a book.
If you read a Day with No Crayons, go outside and see what natural elements you could use to make a picture. If you read a book about Romare Bearden, get some old magazines and create a collage.
A rainy day may call for a couple books and snuggle-up to read. No extra elements needed.
Don’t over-think it. Take it from me, a professional over-thinker. These books feature creativity at its best and are sure to get some ideas going.
Happy creating (and reading)!