The Top 19 Picture Books for Budding Artists

Updated Feb. 22, 2019

They say art is subjective, but they'll change their minds once they see our ultimate list of books about artists! Whether your little ones are interested in painting, dance, writing, photography, music, or more, we've gathered the best books to educate your little prodigies and help them find their muse. We're sure they're going to create many masterpieces.

“Every artist was first an amateur." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Art of Miss Chew book
#1
The Art of Miss Chew
Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

Patricia Polacco's signature illustration style vividly tells this emotional story based on her own childhood and her own start as an artist. I love the personal attention and care both Mr. Donovan and Miss Chew give her in helping her overcome her struggles with reading and also excel at her passion—art.

After spending the summer with her artist grandmother, Trisha knows she wants to be an artist, too. She’s thrilled when her sketches get her into Miss Chew’s special art class at the high school. A substitute teacher tells her she’s wasting time on art when she should be studying – but fortunately, this is one battle that Miss Chew and Trisha are up for! This true story shows just how important a teacher can be in a child’s life – and celebrates the power of art itself.

The Dot book
#2
The Dot
Written and illustrated by Peter H Reynolds
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

All about a little girl's journey to discover her artistic talent but more especially her self-confidence! I love that after a little encouragement from her very wise and positive teacher, she takes it upon herself to pass along the lesson she learned to a little boy in her same predicament.

Vashti believes that she cannot draw, but her art teacher's encouragement leads her to change her mind.

Claudia & Moth book
#3
Claudia & Moth
Written and illustrated by Jennifer Hansen Rolli
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-6

A small girl with a passion for nature turns to her new passion for art as the seasons turn colder. Claudia loves butterflies. Blue ones. Yellow ones. Purple ones with dots. And since she can’t take them home, she paints them in all their beautiful colors. But when winter comes, there are no more butterflies to paint…until she finds a little moth. Suddenly, Claudia sees winter in a whole new light.

The Magical Life of Mr. Renny book
#4
The Magical Life of Mr. Renny
Written and illustrated by Leo Timmers
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

When he is unable to sell his paintings and has no money for food, Mr. Renny meets a man who is able to make his paintings come to life.

Willow book
#5
Willow
Written by Rosemarie Brennan, Denise Brennan-Nelson and illustrated by Cyd Moore
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This book is a reminder that sometimes it's not the teachers who always have a profound impact on the students... sometimes it's the other way around. Willow's positivity, kindness and resilience despite continuous criticism from her art teacher allow her to break down barriers and touch her teacher's heart, changing her for the better. The illustrations are bright and just the right amount messy... just like Willow herself.

In Miss Hawthorn's art class, neatness, conformity, and imitation are encouraged, but when Willow brings imagination and creativity to her projects, even straight-laced Miss Hawthorn is influenced.

The Night Gardener book
#6
The Night Gardener
Written and illustrated by Eric Fan, Terry Fan
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Everyone on Grimloch Lane enjoys the trees and shrubs clipped into animal masterpieces after dark by the Night Gardener, but William, a lonely boy, spots the artist, follows him, and helps with his special work.

The Art Lesson book
#7
The Art Lesson
Written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola
picture book
Recommend Ages: 2-5

Having learned to be creative in drawing pictures at home, young Tommy is dismayed when he goes to school and finds the art lesson there much more regimented.

If Picasso Painted a Snowman book
#8
If Picasso Painted a Snowman
Written by Amy Newbold and illustrated by Greg Newbold
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-11
Thoughts from The Book Snob Mom

This was a great introduction to a host of very famous painters in an approachable and entirely enjoyable way, demonstrating what a snowman might look like in each of their signature styles!

Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

Such a fun book showing how all artists have different styles. It walks through famous painters and what their snowmen might look like. I love this introduction to famous artists and their styles! It's also super fun that there's a blank canvas at the end for you to copy and create your own snowman with your own style.

-If someone asked you to paint a snowman, you would probably start with three white circles stacked one upon another. Then you would add black dots for eyes, an orange triangle for a nose, and a black dotted smile. But if Picasso painted a snowman....-

Henri's Scissors book
#9
Henri's Scissors
Written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

An introduction to the life and paper-cutout art of Henri Matisse describes his early sketching hobby, famous paintings and the illness that confined him to a wheelchair and inspired his sophisticated paper-cutout masterworks.

Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! book
#10
Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee!
Written by Andrea J Loney and illustrated by Keith Mallett
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

James Van Der Zee was just a young boy when he saved enough money to buy his first camera. He took photos of his family, classmates, and anyone who would sit still for a portrait. By the fifth grade, James was the school photographer and unofficial town photographer. Eventually he outgrew his small town and moved to the exciting, fast-paced world of New York City. After being told by his boss that no one would want his or her photo taken -by a black man, - James opened his own portrait studio in Harlem. He took photographs of legendary figures of the Harlem Renaissance--politicians such as Marcus Garvey, performers including Florence Mills, Bill -Bojangles- Robinson, and Mamie Smith--and ordinary folks in the neighborhood too. Everyone wanted fancy portraits by James Van Der Zee. Winner of Lee & Low's New Voices Award, Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee! tells the story of a groundbreaking artist who chronicled an important era in Harlem and showed the beauty and pride of its people.

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing book
#11
Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
Written by Kay Haring and illustrated by Robert Neubecker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

Iconic pop artist Keith Haring comes to life for young readers in this picture book biography lovingly written by his sister This one-of-a-kind book explores the life and art of Keith Haring from his childhood through his meteoric rise to fame. It sheds light on this important artist’s great humanity, his concern for children, and his disregard for the establishment art world. Reproductions of Keith's signature artwork appear in scenes boldly rendered by Robert Neubecker. This is a story to inspire, and a book for Keith Haring fans of all ages to treasure.

Viva Frida book
#12
Viva Frida
Written by Yuyi Morales and illustrated by Tim O'Meara
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Bilingual text, accompanied by colorful photographs, explores the famous artist's life, and illuminates the laughter, love, and tragedy that influenced her work.

Rabbityness book
#13
Rabbityness
Written and illustrated by Jo Empson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Tells the story of a rabbit whose love of music and art inspires other rabbits even after he disappears.

Draw! book
#14
Draw!
Written and illustrated by Raul Colon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Based on his own childhood, beloved and award-winning artist Raúl Colón’s wordless book is about the limitless nature of creativity and imagination. A boy alone in his room. Pencils. Sketchbook in hand. What would it be like to go on safari? Imagine. Draw… A boy named Leonardo begins to imagine and then to draw a world afar—first a rhinoceros, and then he meets some monkeys, and he always has a friendly elephant at his side. Soon he finds himself in the jungle and carried away by the sheer power of his imagination, seeing the world through his own eyes and making friends along the way.

Polka Dot Parade book
#15
Polka Dot Parade
Written by Deborah Blumenthal and illustrated by Masha D'yans
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

"Beautifully rendered and told, the book brings to life the work of a gifted 20th-century artist whose creative vision will always be in vogue." Kirkus Reviews, Starred review This is a moving and impassioned picture book about the iconic fashion photographer Bill Cunningham that will inspire young readers to go discover their own ideas of beauty and embolden the world with their own creativity! He found "sheer poetry" in the drape of an evening dress, delight in the swoosh of a knife-pleated skirt, and sartorial splendor in Jazz Age garb. Every day, Bill Cunningham pedaled his bike through New York City searching for beauty. As he took picture after picture, Bill found beauty not in people, but in their clothes. Drawn to bold and creative choices, Bill's photos captured the attention of the New York Times. He traveled to Paris for Fashion Week, and admiration for his work grew. With his sense of creativity and daringness, his own personal style of photography came to be known as street art photography. His photos left a lasting impression on all those who came across his work and they continue to inspire creativity today. This is the story of the legend who created street fashion photography and left behind a legacy of glorious pictures. Bill Cunningham used his passion and talent to capture the beauty he saw in fashion and the ultimate freedom that it represents to each and every person. This is an inspiring picture book about finding your path and being creative.

A Poem for Peter book
#16
A Poem for Peter
Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Lou Fancher, Steve Johnson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 7-10

A celebration of the extraordinary life of Ezra Jack Keats, creator of The Snowy Day. The story of The Snowy Day begins more than one hundred years ago, when Ezra Jack Keats was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. The family were struggling Polish immigrants, and despite Keats’s obvious talent, his father worried that Ezra’s dream of being an artist was an unrealistic one. But Ezra was determined. By high school he was winning prizes and scholarships. Later, jobs followed with the WPA and Marvel comics. But it was many years before Keats’s greatest dream was realized and he had the opportunity to write and illustrate his own book. For more than two decades, Ezra had kept pinned to his wall a series of photographs of an adorable African American child. In Keats’s hands, the boy morphed into Peter, a boy in a red snowsuit, out enjoying the pristine snow; the book became The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal, the first mainstream book to feature an African American child. It was also the first of many books featuring Peter and the children of his — and Keats’s — neighborhood. Andrea Davis Pinkney’s lyrical narrative tells the inspiring story of a boy who pursued a dream, and who, in turn, inspired generations of other dreamers.

Cloth Lullaby book
#17
Cloth Lullaby
Written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-7

Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) was a world-renowned modern artist noted for her sculptures made of wood, steel, stone, and cast rubber. Her most famous spider sculpture, Maman, stands more than 30 feet high. Just as spiders spin and repair their webs, Louise's own mother was a weaver of tapestries. Louise spent her childhood in France as an apprentice to her mother before she became a tapestry artist herself. She worked with fabric throughout her career, and this biographical picture book shows how Bourgeois's childhood experiences weaving with her loving, nurturing mother provided the inspiration for her most famous works. With a beautifully nuanced and poetic story, this book stunningly captures the relationship between mother and daughter and illuminates how memories are woven into us all.

Rosa's Animals book
#18
Rosa's Animals
Written and illustrated by Maryann Macdonald
picture book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Painter and sculptor Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899) led a highly nontraditional life, especially for a woman in the nineteenth century. She kept lions as pets, was awarded the Legion of Honor by Empress Eug�nie, and befriended "Buffalo Bill" Cody. She became a painter at a time when women were often only reluctantly educated as artists. Her unconventional artistic work habits, including visiting slaughterhouses to sketch an animal's anatomy and wearing men's clothing to gain access to places like a horse fair, where women were not allowed, helped her become one of the most beloved female painters of her time. Among the artworks discussed are The Horse Fair and Ploughing in the Nivernais. Along with her life story are a list of museums that house her work, a bibliography, and an index.

The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell book
#19
The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell
Written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Gerard DuBois
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Joey Cornell collected everything — anything that sparked his imagination or delighted his eye. His collection grew and grew until he realized that certain pieces just looked right together. He assembled his doodads to create wonderful, magical creations out of once ordinary objects. Perfect for introducing art to kids, here’s an imaginative and engaging book based on the childhood of great American artist Joseph Cornell, told by master picture book author Candace Fleming and lauded illustrator Gérard DuBois.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected]!