10 books to inspire your little artist

Kids At  Sfmo Ma

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the wonderful artist and children’s book illustrator James Otto Siebold, of Mr. Lunch, Olive the Other Reindeer, and more recently, Lost Sloth. We were talking about art and life and how we got to be where we were when he said something that stuck with me.

As an artist, he felt it was important to make books for kids (including his own) so they could recognize artists as role models and the arts as a potential career. It’s not an idea kids are presented with—the career path is less defined, the rewards aren’t necessarily tied to financial security, culturally, we value art more than artists—as often as professions like education, law, or medicine (see these Old Navy tees for kids with “artist” replaced by “astronaut” and “president”).

We also know that art makes us smarter and more empathetic. Science says! Art exposes kids to a broader range of ideas which in turn makes them more tolerant. It also supports memory and critical thinking skills.

Unfortunately, art is consistently cut out of financially-strained and test-driven schools. And unless you live in or near a big city, providing your kids access to art outside of school is hard. Thankfully, there are great books and other resources for inspiring and supporting your little artists.

Here are some of our favorites from our review site for wonderful kids’ media, Loves.

Anorak  Magazine

Looking & learning

  • Life Doesn’t Frighten Me combines Maya Angelou’s vibrant poetry with the dark, edgy graffiti of Jean-Michel Basquiat, weaving together challenges both imaginary and real, scary and exciting, while encouraging us to respond to it all with the empowering refrain, “Life doesn’t frighten me at all.”
  • Visiting the Art Museum features a family’s day-long wander through a large art museum, discovering famous works across many eras–from Greek statues to early American painting to Warhol’s pop art.
  • Anorak is a children's magazine created by artists. Every richly illustrated issue focuses on a single topic and are self-described as being full of “happy stories.” They’re fun, inventive, full of ideas, and many of the stories are in the form of graphic novels.
Outside The  Lines

Drawing & making

  • Outside the Lines and Outside the Lines, Too are full of fill-in drawings from hundreds of incredible artists like Keith HaringShepard FaireyLisa Congdon, and Shantell Martin. It's a brilliant way to expose kids to all kinds of modern and contemporary art, and importantly—show them that art can look like lots of different things.
  • Mike Perry is an illustrator, a painter, typographer, sculptor, photographer, printmaker and constructor of patterns, zines, and workshop spaces. He shares a little bit of his work with us in A Coloring Book by Mike Perry And YOU.
  • Hervé Tullet’s Doodle Cook is "an interactive book but it’s not about doodling or drawing. It’s about feeling free to make and build whatever you believe in." In other words: it's pretty great.
  • Ed Emberley’s Great Thumbprint Drawing Book provides clear, simple instructions for making your thumbprint into almost anything—a tiny part of you can be a thousand different creatures!—ensuring good times for hands of all sizes. 
  • Squiggles provides the beginnings of drawings and limited context. It's just enough structure to prompt the imagination without limiting kids to simply follow instructions. Kids are invited to make the book their own.
  • Beyond just a simple drawing or coloring book, Chibitronics gives kids the opportunity to play with supplies they’re not normally allowed to use and that do things they can’t do with traditional art materials—like build a circuit.

And a bonus coloring book: we haven't had a chance to review it for Loves but Jason Polan's Little Brown Mushroom Coloring Book looks super fun.

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The image above of kids looking through a grate at SFMoMA is via Austin Kleon via Roberto Greco/em>.