For weeks, I have been meaning to write about the delights of exploring public libraries. From the time my mother first took me to Muskegon, Michigan's castle-like Victorian library as a small child, libraries have held a fairy tale magic for me. Since the last post featured books and since I recently found a terrific series of photo reference books for artists, now is the perfect time for this subject.
I am an absolute library junkie and did my best to raise our sons to share that obsession. It seems particularly timely in a difficult economy to remember the remarkable resources available free of charge in public libraries. As much as I love books, I purchase relatively few--in particular, very few novels. They are free at the library; I read each one only once--why would I buy them? The library is also my favorite source for current non-fiction (often works I have heard about on public radio) like the latest nutrition book, exercise DVD, financial advice, business trends, and other works that I want to look at, but don't need to purchase. Most libraries offer wonderful additional services, such as children's story hours, student and adult programs, free computer use, and a variety of media (beyond books) available to borrow.
Admittedly, we do purchase books, too. We have kept a number of worthwhile books from our years of study and from my adventures teaching philosophy and math. I also like having reference books handy, so our shelves hold atlases (up-dated periodically), travel books, books about words and writing, nature field guides and bird books, books about architecture, home repair, sewing, knitting, music, history, and many other topics. Other long-time friends include poetry, quality art reproduction collections, and thought-provoking, spiritually meaningful books.
Of course, I also own some books that inspire and assist my painting. For example, when my own reference photos don't provide quite enough detail for accurately painting birds in a landscape, my various bird books provide rich detail about that particular species--everything from characteristic textures of feathers and subtleties of coloring to unique patterns of flight and characteristic posture when standing or perching.
Still, the world is full of wonderful books we don't own that the library can provide. The pages above were scanned from a series of books by photographer Gary Greene, who generously and explicitly invites artists to photocopy or scan and then adapt images from his books (as long as they do not try to profit from an exact copy). As always, you can click on the images above to enlarge them in order to appreciate the remarkable detail in Greene's photos. His beautiful books spark my creative process even when I don't use any of the specific images for a painting. Our library system has a number of his works, and I am currently waiting for one to come in on a transfer from another branch. The above pages appear in Artist's Photo Reference, Reflections, Textures & Backgrounds. The volume I am waiting for showcases boats and marine scenes. When it comes in, you can bet that along with it, I'll carry home an armload of additional, irresistible finds from my magical library.
Question of the day: Are you a public library junkie? What are your favorite recent library discoveries?