The blog and weekly journal of South Australian artist, Elaine Cheng, as she travels through Adelaide, interviewing the local cafes and restaurants. Art, inspirations, and beloved products will be inserted here and there.

Art Books and Inspirational Reads


I miss the days where I could finish a novel in a week and immediately plow through another, leaping from one world to the next. So whenever I fly out on a trip, I make sure to do two things:

  1. Bring a book to read.
  2. Buy more books to read.

So far, these three books are sitting at the top of my favourites. And yes, two of them aren't even novels, but they are one of the most useful things I picked up on my trip to San Francisco. I didn't just learn, I was inspired, it pumped me with adrenaline. 


1. Meanwhile in San Francisco

by Wendy MacNaughton 


It's a visual diary, a documentary, a quirky guide to the city.

I was swept away by the colourful pages, the layout, and the pacing. 

Wendy takes you through the streets of San Francisco with her playful illustrations. With a few strokes of ink and a splash of Copic markers, she interviews the everyday citizens and their bus driver. She paints a diagram of the Mission Hipsters, and portraits of the people you'll find on 4th and 5th Street. It's an insight to daily life in San Francisco.


Not a lot of words, but you'll be spending the same amount of time on one page as you would a typical novel. The art is raw and simple, yet full of character and life. The words are laid out in harmony with the illustrations and oh so carefully paced.

For me it was the ultimate sketchbook diary I wanted to cultivate for myself, this was the living entity of my dream. I remember clutching this book, trembling with excitement, all the way to the counter. A genuine moment of, 'Shut up and take my money'.


2. The Urban Sketching Handbook

by Gabriel Campanario


There were many, many other books on technique in the section I was browsing. What made me pick out this little guy was the way it distinguished the chapters in terms of the elements to creating the perfect sketch. From composition, to scale, to depth, to contrast, Gabriel addresses each of these key aspects with techniques, exercises, examples, and creative approaches you can use to take advantage of each element. 


This handbook is simply overflowing with examples of different art styles and techniques from an array of artists. It opened my mind and changed my approach to sketching landscapes and architecture. I realised that buildings and cityscapes didn't have to be a rigid boring backdrop for characters, they had life too. That's when sketching got more fun. 



3. The Alchemist

by Paulo Coelho


A friend of mine handed this book to me, unknowingly, when I was facing some adversities last year. I could not put it down. Perhaps it was because of my situation at the time, but I felt as though it was speaking to me and egging me on.

The words are so simple, yet so beautiful and eloquently put together that I had to take a pause after every paragraph or so just to soak in its significance and the weight of its message. Every bit of this story was thought-provoking, challenging, and philosophical. God I love philosophy.

The imagery that Paulo spun through his words filled my mind with drawings and inspiration. Again, another source of great motivation from a bundle of paper.


What are some of your favourite books so far? Got any suggestions? Novels, art books, magazines, anything! Tell me now.