Sometimes all you need to kick start a creative career is a little guidance. When combined, the books Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon and Art/Work by Darcy Bhandari & Jonathan Melber are an encouraging, inspiring, and informative duo that offer insights into creative career options, the realities of professional relationships (like being represented by a gallery), and the necessary tools for building both confidence and contracts!
Art Inc., The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist by Lisa Congdon is broken up into chapters that share valuable information on all aspects of having a career in the arts. It is full of interviews with artists that tell engaging success stories and easy to understand sections chock full of guidance and motivation. Each section is also peppered with beautiful illustrations that keep the inspiration flowing. Some of our favorite sections are:
Chapter 3: Promoting Your Work
The basic steps to promote your art such as website, social media, and blogs
Navigating the press world
How to create an effective marketing plan
Chapter 7: Managing the Ebb & Flow of Success
Balancing the busy time with the down time
Other income opportunities such as teaching
How to say no to manage your workload
Our favorite quote from Art Inc. is:
"My painting teacher used to talk about the "painting curve," a line that looks like the letter U. He said that when you begin a painting (or other form of art), you are at the top of the U. Things look clean and wonderful in the beginning. But as you develop a piece of work, it often gets messier; that is the bottom of the painting curve. He insisted that working through the bottom of the painting curve - the point at which we think our work looks horrible or awkward - is critical to making good work. Working through the complexities of a piece to the point where it looks and feels wonderful again - rising back up to the top of the U - helps develop your technique as well as your unique voice." Chapter 1: You Are An Artist, Page 21.
Art/Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career by Heather Darcy Bhandari & Jonathan Melber is a more in depth, textbook-like resource that is full of sample spreadsheets, contracts, and quotes from industry leaders on every topic you can imagine! It’s a hefty book and not meant for reading in one sitting, instead it's meant to be used as a resource when looking for guidance and to fill in the gaps in your art career education. The combined knowledge of an artist and lawyer make it a practical, logical, and informative read. We found the following sections the most helpful!
Chapter 2: Groundwork
Pros and cons of having a day job
Simplifying paperwork such as receipts, expenses, and taxes
Organization for your inventory
Chapter 5: Opening Your Studio
The benefits of letting people in
How to hang your work
The ins and outs of pricing and selling
Our favorite quote from Art/Work is:
"Do I have to live in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago to be successful?
The short answer is no. While those cities have obvious advantages and produce the most famous artists, they represent only one part of the contemporary art world. You can make your work just about anywhere. The key is to be aware of what is going on throughout the country, regardless of where you live, and to appreciate your audience your local audience and early supporters no matter where you end up. As one gallerist put it, 'if your making art and making a living, be happy about if for crying out loud!'" Chapter 3: Submission Materials, Page 73.
Art Inc. and Art/Work are two books worth getting your hands on if you are looking for motivation, knowledge, and resources to support your artistic practice. They are both full well written, beautifully designed, and full of practical information about all aspects of being an artist. There is so much more to being a professional artist than creating artwork, and these books are an important acknowledgement and tool for the hard work that goes into a successful art career!