Monthly Archives: December 2014

Loving Art Books

Loving Art Books

If you so much as dabble in a  bit of art, chances are that you own at least a few books or treatises on art. You may have looked up many more and will definitely stop by the art section in a book store and browse intensely through books that may look interesting. A painting on any wall will elicit more than a passing interest. And you have tried once, if not often, to draw like one of the masters whose works you have seen and admired.

I picked this up when I was just 12 years old and wanted to draw 'just like that'

I picked this up when I was just 12 years old and wanted to draw ‘just like that’

I have to stop and stare if I come across a bookshop, more so if they have an extensive art section. It’s been a while since I’ve stopped buying such books. For one, they are expensive. Apart from that I have a fairly decent collection of books on possibly every thing I need to know…how to do water colours, how to create portraits, how to make pencils sketches, an art encyclopedia that lists different types of art work, a directory of different international commercial artists with samples of their work and a printer’s colour-chart book.

Why do I need these books?

Here’s why. It’s inspiring. Thoughts and ideas lead to similar or even different strains of thoughts or ideas. The book of portraits (and some of the other how-to books) is a good way to exercise and limber your creative muscles. Lastly, but not least, in a way an artist communicates through his work. When you’ve looked at an art work, you’ve actually spoken to a master or someone who is slowly lumbering his way up the ladder of success, and there’s much to glean from such a conversation.

Some of the amazing art books picked up from various places

Some of the amazing art books picked up from various places

On an average day, I like to turn the pages and pore over the contents of some of these books, and if I was uninspired when I started looking at the book, usually I’m brimming with ideas by the end of it.

I usually pick up these books during any one of Bombay’s popular bookstore, Strand’s biannual fair. The books are reasonably priced and a section is dedicated to an extensive collection of books on art.

Danai bookshop, which is now closed, also had a good collection when I first went there over fifteen years ago. The first few books I picked up from there are still a source of inspiration. Just before it closed, I bought a book of Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings at a throw away price.

And what brought me to this topic. Just yesterday, I was out clothes shopping and came across this little shop in the same complex.


It was getting  late, so I didn’t get much time to browse, but among the many titles on sale were collections of work done by popular artists, books on architecture and sculpture and framed prints of works by Mario Miranda.

Not just an art book section, but a whole shop dedicated to art!!!


Once Upon a Time, A Treasure Chest

Once Upon a Time, A Treasure Chest

Some memories are the kind dreams are made of.

Somewhere towards the end of the 1970s, my father subscribed and bought a series of encyclopedias (in bright red and blue hard binding…the red set were heavy  A3 sized volumes, was comprehensive and touched on everything from animals to famous people with really beautiful photographs and illustrations). I remember deciding to go through the books till one chance encounter with the article that dealt with ‘shrunken heads’ with some pictures to go with it, put an end to all the enthusiasm.

Accompanying the amazing volumes was a cardboard life-size replica of a treasure chest…the free goodies that came with the encyclopedia. The chest was packed with books…the latest bestsellers in fiction, many many how-to books and a book or two on technology as well. I remember delving into the box with my father in open-mouthed wonder. I was to fall in love with books by and by.


Many of those books still remain with us, the whole set of encyclopedias still lie in my father’s living room…it holds the pride of place, and I doubt they make them like that any more.


Among the many how –to books was one on How to keep a cat and How to keep a dog. It had everything from all the breeds of both animals possible, different diets for pups or kittens,  how to handle illness, how to groom, the works. And as I entered upon my adolescent years, there was this book called ‘Beauty Around the Clock’ that got me interested in looks, exercises, diet and weight-watching.

Then there was a book of remarkable Sci-fi short stories that I began to read when I was around 15 or so. It was  while reading the third or fourth story in that book that I got so scared—a story about a man who is troubled by his half-dead wife who turns into a vampire, and how a passing salesman (or was it a clergyman) manages to rescue him after much difficulty— I promptly kept the book aside.


And not to mention, those ‘other’ books, which had to be probably hidden away from my brother and me for the longest time…adult fiction and adult humour. With time, guards were lowered and I got my first taste of the forbidden during my later teen years.

And we’ve managed to hold onto many of those books even after all these years. Meanwhile ‘Beauty around the Clock’ like a trusted steed goes with me wherever I go.