vintage paint brush photography setup

Books that inspire images for me…

I love big, inspiring, coffee table books…

Which is funny… because I don’t actually have a coffee table. But I love looking at beautiful pictures… whether that comes in the form of magazines or books. And the big coffee table books are the crème de la crème of them all.

I’ll admit – I didn’t always see the virtues (or maybe they just weren’t in my budget at the time) of these big books until a couple of years ago when I came across Sibella Court’s books… For some reason, the imagery and the way she writes – really speak to me. Sibella is an interior & product designer, author & historian… and her books are about interiors – which is probably why I’m really drawn to them as I have a Fine Arts degree in Interior design and have always been fascinated with interiors and the way people live in their spaces.

I use that fascination and inspiration to create still life setups sometimes, which are not unlike little vignettes you create throughout your house. I thought I’d share some of my favorite books from my bookshelf for you to check out. Some are new, and others I got off used books sites. I’d look around and price shop them for the best prices as some may not still be in print.

Of course, you can just browse the internet for inspiration, and I definitely do that plenty… but books are different. You can hold them, savor them, sit with them for a while and let the ideas take form. I like having a physical book to hold that I can set up and look at for a while… really focus and study… get real close if I want to.

Inspiration for me comes in waves. When I’m feeling inspired… the ideas just flow and flow… that is usually the time I get a big project done – like a workshop… other times I can’t think up an idea or take a good photo to save my life. These are usually times when I’ve been going full out for a while and I’m getting tired or burned out. These are times I love to take a few days to rest… maybe binge Netflix… then pick a book to slowly go through. Taking in the images and words… letting them wash over me as I relax… and before I know it – the ideas start to flow and flow for me again.

sibella court books
sibella court books
sibella court books

So how do I use the books to inspire me exactly you might wonder… Let’s take the book above for example. A lot of Sibella Courts’ books have close-up photos of interesting things she has found and uses in interiors. That really speaks to me and my own particular brand of photography. I like details, elements, things that are close-up bits of larger spaces or setups.

So as I was flipping through the Ect. book… I came across these old paintbrushes… and antique art supplies are already something I love and collect. It immediately got me inspired and excited to get some out and do a photoshoot with some of my old paintbrushes. 

My goal when I get inspired by a photo is not to copy it… but instead, be inspired to do my own version of the subject that I got so excited about. 

Looking at the photos sometimes reminds me of the things I already have and forgot about… or didn’t think about but suddenly see new potential… or inspire me when I’m out shopping and I see a prop that might do well in a setup that I saw…

I use the photos to learn about composition, elements that really work together, I look at the lighting, the backdrops, the props used, I really study the photo, and ask myself:

why does this really work?

What do I like about it?

Why did it stop my page-turning to take a closer look?

What appealed to me the most?

How can I use what I learned to create better photos for myself?


Here are the photos I took after being inspired by the original paint brush photo in the book above:

vintage paint brush photography setup
vintage paint brush photography setup
vintage paint brush photography setup
vintage inkwell
vintage paint brush photography setup
vintage paint brush photography setup
vintage paint brush photography setup

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  1. Wendy

    Love this set. Love the close-up details, the subject matter, your eye for placement, colour, etc. Makes these images stand out.

    I haven’t really gone through many books as you mention in your post lately, but I do have one I purchased recently called “The Art of Coorie – How to live Happy the Scottish Way” by Gabriella Bennett which I purchased for no other reason other than to glean ideas from. I think you have far more interesting books in the images above however. They look really scrummy. So love your photographic style.

    • Denise Love

      Thank you!! I’ve started collecting these since they really do inspire so many things for me. I justify them as a business expense! Ha! 🙂


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