To be honest, I was a little nervous while reading this book because I wanted to absorb as much information as I could from it. Art Inc – The essential guide for building your career as an artist by Lisa Congdon (available here) covers pretty much anything an artist needs to know to get started, the necessary tools and mindsets along with lots of advice, resources and experiences from people who have already started building their path as an artist. For this one I recommend having with you a soft pencil and a lot of papers to bookmark pages because I can guarantee, you will be bookmarking almost every page!
“When you affirm yourself as an artist,
the road before you can feel equally exciting and terrifying”. (p.14)
The book is organized in seven main chapters followed by four pages of resources like call for artists sites, print competitions and annuals, print services to tax information, domains and hosting at the end of the book. Below I’ll talk a little about each chapter and what you will be able to find on them:
First chapter: focused on the artist mindset and finding our own voice.
Second chapter: getting down to business, literally! From branding your business to managing your artist income, it guides you on what to risk from your to do list in order to build a strong structure to a successful entrepreneurship. I particularly like the tips on creating a file name system for our projects (p. 51). I am a very organized person by nature when it comes to this part, but I was able to come up with an improved approach to the one that I already had after following the tips and examples given in the book.
Third chapter: it covers how to promote your work through a strong website, social media and newsletters as well as how to create a marketing plan and a press kit. It was really rewarding realizing that I was on the right track with my website (currently working on it) and even managed to bring something new to the layout. For those who don’t feel confident about taking down a lot of social media at once don’t worry, start small with a strong presence. Lisa gives us some social media basics and goes through the most popular ones explaining how they work and the advantages of having a profile on them.
Fourth chapter: selling your art. If you’re looking into producing your own products and prints this chapter is packed with useful information: pricing print reproductions, selling through wholesale, taking commissions, packaging and shipping tips as well as good advice for your customer service. If you’re planning on opening an Etsy shop or even if you already have one, there’s an interview with Julie Schneider (p.102) where she gives us a lot of tips on how to sell online, what aspects to focus on such as the importance of the product description. I’m planning on exploring this platform somewhere in the future so most of these topics will come in hand.
Fifth chapter: exhibitions and galleries. It was an interesting chapter to read, and although I’m not focusing on this side there was a topic about writing our own artist statement (p.131) that made me wander on the pages for a while. What your work means to you? What your work represents? What inspires your work?
Sixth chapter: illustrating and licensing. My favorite chapter and the one I was most looking forward to. Book illustration, fees, contract terms explained in a way anyone can understand (bless it), licensing contracts and agents, these 27 pages are now one of my work mini bibles.
Seventh chapter: the last chapter is all about reality check and being truth to ourselves where Lisa talks about how to manage the flow of success, how to make the most of downtime to slowing down and achieving balance.
“The amount of time you spend working should be balanced with the amount of time you spend relaxing, resting, and pursuing other interests. (…) Just because your work is in demand does not mean you are doomed to a life of only work and no play. (…) Finding equanimity in the midst of our creativity and entrepreneurial journeys is truly our life’s work.” (p.176-177)
A truly solid and useful book that is for sure a go to resource for any artist. One of my favorites for sure!