“You can captivate and educate like no other.... a Robert Henri of the 21st century.”
Ron Lemen

Artistic Development Reviews

I'm leaving out many books that I've loved, like Rollo May's The Courage to Create and Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, but there are so many good books that just listing those two brings to mind more that I feel compelled to include, like Julia Cameron's books which have helped several of my students and friends but I don't know them well enough to review. For now, here's my short-list of “Self-Help” books for artists.

Note: Some of these books may also be listed under other seminar resource reviews.


Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence

Forgive the title. A friend of mine felt embarrassed to buy it at the store because of that title. But it's a worthwhile book. David Keirsey carried on the tradition of Carl Jung and Myers-Briggs with their categories of temperament, and brought it to a level that is easy to understand and responsible enough to recommend. I have lots of gripes about it that I address in my seminar (any system that categorizes humans so simply will break apart in the face of real humans) but corporations use this system to place employees because it works, especially with extremes. I spent about three years absorbing it, then “abandoned” it, but it still helps me daily in understanding the conflicts and harmonies of relationships, including artists' relationships with their work. In my seminar, I explain the system and show it's value, then move on to how we can better understand personality with a many-thousand-years-old approach that is more instinctive and natural. —mv

Click to buy from Amazon.com

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fullfillment

In 1998, a student told me that I taught the same things George Leonard taught. I had never heard of George Leonard, but in the week following, I read Mastery twice through. It felt good to know that someone further along the path was teaching the same things, and with such a generous, loving attitude. He explains how the path to mastery is not a straight line — it has “plateaus”, and there are three “enemies” that can prevent us from moving on. He shows how our skills grow naturally, as our bodies grow naturally, when we simply keep working and learn to enjoy the process. Easy to read, and very encouraging. —mv

Click to buy from Amazon.com

Zen in the Art of Writing

Not every essay in here is great, but chapters 1, 3, 8, & 9 are corkers! Ray Bradbury wrote essays that can make your blood rush with hope and enthusiasm for doing your best work. His advice is so simple and sound — he points us back to the loves of childhood that made us want to live forever so we could draw or paint or make music or tell stories. Worth reading when your creativity could use some emotional nutrition, or at least some emotional caffeine. —mv

Click to buy from Amazon.com

Writing the Natural Way

This is an excellent book in every way. The best of its kind. I also listed it in the Composition book reviews because I took more from her in teaching pictorial composition than from anyone. But it is technically a writing book, focused on poems. Sorry to put it that way. It's much more than a writing book. It is a course in creativity. She takes the old wisdom that creative people have used for thousands of years and not only represents it so that it feels fresh and new, but she presents a method called “clustering” that is the most useful tool for arranging ideas that I've ever encountered. It has helped me as much as any technique I know. Gabriele Rico has fused theory and practice so well that I feel no obligation to write a book on creativity. This is the one I recommend. —mv

Click to buy from Amazon.com


Artistic Development

After thirty years of teaching college students, I've seen them run into many obstacles as they pursue artistic careers. Some lack talent. Some lack training. Some face tough markets. But even in impossible markets, a few continue to train and improve and prepare and produce. The greatest battle often happens within an artist's own personality. Our temperaments and feelings affect our art and our careers — for better and worse. My Artistic Development Series Seminar will help you understand these forces and avoid many of the pitfalls.

Please see my info pages for details on all my seminars, check my schedule for all upcoming offerings, join my announcement list for the latest updates, or contact me if you have specific questions.

Marshall Vandruff is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.