6 Travel Books to Inspire Artists & Travelers Alike

Images of Travel Books for Artists

I love books, and as you already know, I also love travel!  So it won’t be surprising to hear that I  love to read travel books. I also love art. Whether it’s photography, painting, or beautiful sculptures, it is something that brings me joy.  I believe that everyone has a creative side, and when we allow ourselves time to do creative things, it inspires and energizes us.  

These six travel books combine my love of travel and my love of art. Each book inspired me with new places to explore, restaurants to try, and museums to visit. They also gave me great ideas for using sketches and photographs to create artistic travel journals. The use of drawings, paintings, and pictures combined with written notes creates a travel journal that makes each experience easier to recall and relive.

Each of these travel books are beautiful to look at and will delight both lovers of travel and art. If you are an artist, you might even find that you begin thinking about designing your next trip around your art. There are so many wonderful ideas in these books of places to see and ways to use travel as a conduit for your art. 

Perhaps you don’t identify as an “artist” that’s okay too, if you enjoy looking at art and discovering new things, you will find something in each of these books to inspire you too.

Who should read these books?

Do you love to travel?
Do you enjoy looking at art?
Are you an artist?
Do you want to create art or find inspiration?
Do you enjoy reading about beautiful and exciting destinations?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should read these books. If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, I’d rush to your nearest library or buy one today. These books are easy reading, beautiful to look at, and inspiring to read.

1) Paris in Winter: An Illustrated Memoir

In Paris in Winter: An Illustrated Memoir, David Coggins takes you on his annual winter trip to Paris. Each chapter is a different year, and another winter spent exploring Paris with his family. Paris In Winter is an example of luxury travel, fine dining, art museums, and shopping. 

Paris in Winter is a journal and sketchbook in one. It’s filled with simple paintings that accompany the written memory Coggins is attempting to capture. The mood, the smells, the sounds he heard, and funny snippets of conversations with his family.

It reads like a stream of consciousness journal in which the author shares his notes and watercolor sketches of individual moments. You don’t get a continuous story, but instead, you peer into his journal and see how he captures the essence of that particular memory—a moment he did not wish to forget.

I also use this style of notetaking when I travel. I create short, bullet-point style references to help me recall what I did that day and the moments I don’t want to forget. Often I’m too tired at the end of the day to write pages of detailed notes. So this shorthand style of journaling helps me to capture the moments.

The addition of drawings, paintings, and even photographs to your travel journal can enhance future recall when rereading your journal and make it a more interesting read.

Paris In Winter leaves me with a long list of museums to visit the next time I’m in Paris. It also leaves me feeling just a little bit hungry as I read his descriptions of their sumptuous meals. There is something about Paris that calls people back to it year after year. Wander the streets with the Coggins family and get lost in the finer things of this magical city.

2) Travels Through the French Riviera: An Artist’s Guide to the Storied Coastline, from Menton to Saint-Tropez

Reading Travels Through the French Riviera: An Artist’s Guide to the Storied Coastline, From Menton to Saint-Tropez by Virginia Johnson is like reading a storybook for adults. The brightly colored pages with pictures and text bring the feeling of the Riviera to the reader as you journey along the coastline with the author. I could almost feel the warmth of the sun as I imagined myself enjoying gelato along the waterfront.

Travels Through the French Riviera is not “just” an art book and a travel book in one. As you read it, you feel like you’re taking a stroll through a French town with a friend. Johnson guides you through these beautiful French towns that were once artistic retreats for artists such as Picasso and Chagall. You learn of the art history in each town and her go-to spots for inspiration. 

In addition to giving you detailed itineraries for each village, Johnson also provides a list of the best places to buy art supplies and what she uses as a traveling artist. If you want a personal artist retreat mapped out for you, then you need to read Travels Through the French Riviera.

I’ve yet to visit the French Riviera, but after finishing this book, I’m excited to plan a trip to explore this beautiful region and delve into its artistic history. A month here would be perfect for seeing all of the towns. However, one could easily create an enjoyable 2-week itinerary by using this book as a guideline.

If you’re interested in art, art history, and travel, this is the book for you! Painter or photographer, poet, or writer, Travels Through the French Riviera will inspire you to take a journey that feeds your creative soul.

3) Dear Paris: The Paris Letters Collection

A Little Background

I first read Janice MacLeod’s book Paris Letters: A Travel Memoir about Art, Writing, and Finding Love in Paris on a flight to Europe when I’d visit Paris for the first timeI enjoyed the humor she infused in her story of how she came to live in Paris. It describes her desire to live abroad, how she came up with a budget and a plan to do it, and how the experience changed her life. She used her painting skills to help pay for her stay in Paris, making both a dream to travel and get paid for her art a reality. 

One of the ways she did this was through a letter subscription she sold to her Etsy subscribers.  She’d paint a letter and handwrite a note about her experiences as a newcomer to Paris and then copy and mail these to her subscribers. I loved this idea and have contemplated doing something similar with my photographs. 

7 Years Later

As I read her book Paris Letters, I imagined how the painted letters looked. So when I saw she published a book filled with them, I jumped at the chance to purchase it!  Dear Paris: The Paris Letters Collection is a beautiful book filled with a compilation of some of her best-painted letters. The ones presented in the book are only a fraction of what she sent over an almost eight-year period.  

As you flip through the pages, you will find yourself living vicariously through Janice as she shares what it’s like for her to move to Paris. She shares her experiences about the language barrier, her favorite cafe, and the beauty she uncovers in this remarkable city.  Dear Paris is also a book about dreams and the beautiful life we can have if only we take the first step (or perhaps flight).

If you’ve ever visited Paris, Dear Paris will be a walk down memory lane, you will envision the same places she sees, and it will be a beautiful way to relive your memories there. If you’ve never been, this may be one of the best ways to “visit” until you can. Dear Paris is a travel book worthy of being left on your coffee table for repeated glances and visits to Paris.

4) A Paris Year: My Day-to-Day Adventures in the Most Romantic City in the World

I know I already mentioned her other two travel books on Paris, but I felt this one also deserved a place on the list.  In A Paris Year, Janice fills the book with artwork, photographs, and various clippings and written notes describing her life in Paris throughout every season of the year.

It’s less a daily journal and more a book filled with musings, historical references, and all things Paris. Each page represents a day of the year, and it reads like an insider’s guide to living in Paris. She discusses the various markets, bookstores, her favorite art stores, local restaurants, and life in Paris from the view of a foreigner. 

A Paris Year looks at what it’s like to move from the States to Paris for one year. Where you’d shop, what the seasons would be like, holidays celebrated, and more. If you’ve ever wanted to live in Paris, this book is only going to increase that desire further. 

You’ll feel like you’re living a year in Paris along with Janice as she purchases bread at the local bakery, sips coffee at the cafe around the corner, and bonjours her way around Paris. It’s another beautiful book to inspire both artists and travelers, but especially anyone who loves Paris.

5) An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers

Danny Gregory worked with 40 artists, illustrators, and designers worldwide to create An Illustrated Journey. What makes An Illustrated Journey unique as a travel book is its art-focused approach to travel. Each artist, illustrator, or designer describes how drawing changed their view of travel.  Gregory mentioned how he now plans his travel based on his artwork. Rather than it being a secondary factor, it is now his primary reason to travel.

An Illustrated Journey is not only a travel book it’s also an art community. This travel book is a little different than the other ones on this list as it focuses on art first and its influence on travel. Gregory writes how each artist began drawing while traveling, and it “has made them more deeply in love with both.” Now, he continues, “they travel because they draw, rather than vice versa.”

Each artist interviewed in the book gives examples of their drawings and shares their favorite places and pens and paper. They share the ways they immerse themselves in their art, whether at home or abroad. They offer tips for getting started drawing, creating the habit, and encouragement to persist for its life-changing benefits.

An Illustrated Journey is chock full of inspiring ideas for artists. It makes a great coffee table book for flipping thru and looking at the variety of sketches and paintings from around the world. 

This travel book is for the current artist, aspiring artist, and traveler who has never even thought of drawing in their travel journal. It’s a call to begin seeing your world thru a new lens. Its artistic spirit is contagious, and you might find yourself ordering a travel journal and pens before your next big adventure. I know I did.

6) The Rainbow Atlas: A Guide to the World's 500 Most Colorful Places

The Rainbow Atlas: A Guide to the World’s 500 Most Colorful Places by Taylor Fuller (along with other Instagram collaborators) is full of beautiful photographs of some of the most colorful places in the World. If you want a book to inspire you as a traveler or an artist, this book will do both, and you can use it as a bucket list guide to inspire your next travel destination. 

As a photographer, I love finding ways to create photographs that resemble paintings. This book provides plenty of inspiring material.

As a traveler, I love seeing unique places so different from my home, and this book is full of colorful destinations I would love to see in person and explore the culture and customs of each colorful area. 

For painters and sketch artists, this book offers inspiration for your creations as well as muse-worthy destinations. And for anyone stuck at home right now and unable to travel, it gives gorgeous, brightly-colored photos to uplift and entertains your visual senses. The Rainbow Atlas is another beautiful book worthy of your coffee table. 

I want to make one small comment regarding the images in the book. As a photographer and traveler, I’ve visited a number of these destinations. In person, they may not be as vivid as represented in this book. This can occur due to post-editing, as well as the settings when photographed. 

For example, colors tend to pop more on a bright sunny day with a blue sky for the backdrop vs. an overcast day when grey skies tend to mute colors. So if by chance you visit and you think, “Hey, this doesn’t look like the image in the book,” you’ll know why. However, they are still gorgeous destinations, so will you really be disappointed? I doubt it.

Closing Thoughts on Travel Books and Artistic Inspiration

One of the reasons I love reading books about travel is because I can’t always travel. Reading travel books and watching movies about travel adventures is my way of traveling when I can’t leave home. I wrote the article 15 Inspiring Things to Do When You Can’t Travel to help you find ways to infuse your life with travel even when you’re at home.

Lastly, take time to explore your creative side. It is an essential part of being a human, and I think you’ll find it both relaxing and energizing. You may spark a passion you’d long forgotten or find a new one to pursue. Life is about discovery.

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you read any of the above books and what you thought. If you have any particular ways you mix your art with travel, I’d love to hear about that as well!

Bon Voyage!

6 Travel Books Inspiring Artists and Travelers
6 Travel Books Artists and Travelers

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