A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: Books (and Illustrators) That Help Teach Art to Children

Amy Fauss
March 21, 2013

Pablo Picasso said, "All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." Isn't that the truth? Children spend hour after hour creating—drawing, painting, writing—visualizing and expressing their thoughts, ideas and dreams and transferring them into special works of art to share with others. If only we spent more time doing the same as adults, perhaps our lives would be filled with more of the childlike laughter and wonder of our younger days.

Over the years, I know that I have been blessed by engaging my children in art. Whether it's smearing a rainbow of finger paints onto a blank sheet of paper, forming little animals out of clay, or even just looking at a book with beautiful illustrations, slowing down and losing myself in an array of lines, shapes, and colors has been good for my soul.

The next time you spend time studying or making art with your little one, consider one (or more!) of the following titles to get you started on an exciting journey into the world of art.

Elements and principles of art

Color Farm by Lois Ehlert

Lois Ehlert has been a favorite in our home for many years. This book is a wonderful introduction to shapes, colors and creative ways to make animals.

Eyelike's Colors and Shapes & Patterns

Eyelike equals eye candy! These books offer stunning pictures depicting where we can find a variety of colors, shapes and patterns in the natural world. Very inspiring!

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

This cherished childhood classic shows in a very simple way how to use lines to create anything imaginable. And all you need is a purple crayon!

Art appreciation

Art Fraud Detective by Anna Nilsen

I bought this book for my oldest daughter this past Christmas, and we've thoroughly enjoyed working through the mysteries and trying to determine the fake work of art versus the real one. It's been a great introduction to many of the world's greatest artistic treasures.

Katie Meets the Impressionists by James Mayhew

Mayhew has written nine books about a little girl named Katie who visits museums and has marvelous adventures in art, introducing readers to famous artists from the Italian Renaissance to Post-Impressionism.

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art

Artists like Leo Leonni, Eric Carle and Rosemary Wells share about their journey to becoming an artist. It's striking how often we see that the dream of becoming an artist begins in early childhood. This is definitely a book you'll want in your library.

Introducing famous artists

When Pigasso Met Mootisse by Nina Laden
VanGogh and the Sunflowers and Picasso and the Girl with A Ponytail by Laurence Anholt
Through Georgia's Eyes by Rachel Rodiguez

Each of these books finds creative and amusing ways to introduce well-known artists to children and to make them seem relatable.

The freedom found in art

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle

Ahhh, the beloved Eric Carle.  Carle shows us with vibrant illustrations that there are no rules in art, and that you don't have to stay within the lines. Artists use their imaginations however they see fit, and there is no "wrong" art, contrary to what he witnessed as a young boy in Germany when modernistic "degenerate artists" were banned by the Nazi regime.

ART by Patrick McDonell

"There's no stopping Art, when Art is inspired," writes McDonnell. The illustrations in ART really do evoke an inspiring energy to run to your desk and start creating!

From the Parents

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