If you think that summer art projects ended long ago with halfhearted lanyard at sleep-away camp, allow me to correct you. Summer is the perfect time to bust out those DIY books and get artsy. The weather is nice enough for crafting outside, you might have a little more downtime than usual if you're a student or a teacher, and the chill summer vibe inspires everyone to cut up their old t-shirts into halter tops. So here are some books to inspire the perfect summer art project.
Anytime is the right time for a new art project. But those long, lazy summer days can be particularly inspirational. Why not paint with watercolors in the park? Or make a wind chime out of old utensils? Or make a DIY gift for your friends wedding because they already have a toaster? Look, it doesn't have to be wind chimes. But let's reclaim all those lumpy summer camp friendship bracelets, and bring back summertime arts and crafts. You never know when you'll need a decoupaged end table.
And yes, you can certainly find craft instructions and art projects online, if you're willing to venture into the depths of Pinterest. But there's nothing like an art book to inspire that gorgeous new summer project:
1. Fairy Houses of the Maine Coast by Maureen Heffernan
What says re-capturing-the-whimsy-of-childhood-summers better than a fairy house? This book isn't so much a how-to guide as a tribute to Maine's fairy houses throughout the years. But it's certainly full of adorable, mossy inspiration for anyone who's going to be babysitting this summer, or who just wants to add some enchantment to their own front yard.
2. The Urban Sketcher by Marc Taro Holmes
You don't need a formal class to learn how draw from life. Even if you're working all summer, and you only have subway rides and lunch breaks to devote to arts and crafts, this book has got you covered. It's a self-led workshop on drawing the world around you, no matter where you are (but I can't promise you won't get caught sketching that cute guy next to you on the train).
3. The Guerilla Art Kit by Keri Smith
The Guerilla Art Kit is an activity book that forces you to actually interact with the world around you. Keri Smith will inspire you to make your own stencils, wish trees, moss graffiti, and seed bombs, as well as leaving books and other surprises for strangers to find. It's an eco-friendly, mostly legal way to leave your artistic mark on the world.
4. Terrarium Craft by Amy Bryant Aiello, Kate Bryant, Kate Baldwin
If you have a green thumb but no place to garden, you might want to consider a terrarium. A terrarium is a living piece of art, and you can design it to be just as low or high maintenance as you like (I prefer the succulent terrariums that will forgive you if you forget to water them for a month). Plus, this book offers 50 different tiny "worlds" to build, each with their own unique design.
5. 99 Ways to Cut, Sew, Trim, and Tie Your T-Shirt into Something Special by Faith Blakeney, Justina Blakeney, Anka Livakovic
Since time immemorial, summer has meant the ripping up of old t-shirts. But anyone can cut a t-shirt into a sloppy halter top. If you want to take your t-shirt game to the next level, consider this book of simple, wearable t-shirt projects. Never run out of t-shirt revamp ideas again.
6. Eco Craft: Recycle Recraft Restyle by Susan Wasinger
These might be the most beautiful recycling projects out there. Turn those beer six-pack rings into a room-divider, and those baby food jars into a chandelier. If you're trying to look classy, save money, and save the planet, this is the book for you (and you'll have some killer accent pieces to show off at all those chill summer house parties).
7. The Complete Book of Chalk Lettering by Valerie McKeehan
If you've ever lusted over the chalk lettering at your local hipster coffee shop, this book will show you how to develop your very own chalk lettering style. Because we all know that chalk lettering looks gorgeous, and that chalk is also smudgy and basically impossible to work with. So why not take a few pointers from a master, and learn how to chalk with grace?
8. The Repurposed Library by Lisa Occhipinti
There's nothing more tragic than a book that no one wants to read. That's why The Repurposed Library is here, to show you how to rescue orphaned books and give them new lives as lamps, mobiles, boxes, and pieces of art. These are all perfect gifts for the book-lover in your life (although tearing up those old books is admittedly pretty heartbreaking).
9. Paint Lab: 52 Exercises inspired by Artists, Materials, Time, Place, and Method by Deborah Forman
Whether you're an experienced painter looking for experimental techniques, or an art newbie in search of some guidance, this book is packed with painting exercises and fun ideas. It's not about copying a specific set of images or style: it's all about creating something on your own. There's no right or wrong, only paint experiments to get you started on your own art.