Starting Your Career As an Artist is a book intended primarily for emerging artists, but as someone who’s a little past that level but hasn’t had the exposure/experience to consider themselves quite mid-level, I still found it useful and chock-full of valuable information. What I especially liked were the interviews with working artists, gallerists, non-profit workers, etc. about the business they do, along with the advice they gave. It’s easy to tell young artists and students what to do, very hard to show how these concepts and methods actually function. The interviews fit perfectly with what is the primary goal of the book, spelled out early on, which is to dispel the myths about making and selling art, to get emerging artists to think outside the old closed systems and pursue the best venues for their work. Then the best way to produce that work, to talk about it, to connect with the art community. While a lot of the information here is not new, it is compiled in a concise, straightforward manner that is easy to read and take in. They focus a lot of attention on pursuing alternative venues, co-ops, residencies, working with non-profits, stuff that many young artists still aren’t being encouraged to think about as potential venues or sources of support. It also encourages artists to consider whether teaching or grad school are necessary for their growth. Another bonus is the inclusion of online resources, which are so necessary in this day and age.
However, this book is not without its problems. Those seeking out alternative venues like local/regional art fairs won’t find much of use here. Miller and Wojak mention fairs as a potential venue, recommend another book to read, and pretty much leave off there. Also, while they try to push the artist to expand their thinking beyond large art centers like NYC and LA, the majority of interviews are with those working/living in New York City. I realize that as professors at Parsons, this is probably what they know best and what was most readily available to them, but I would have liked more coverage of other regions, at least some attempt to include those working in “flyover country” and rural areas. I live in a Midwestern city with an active, vibrant art scene, and I’ve met successful working artists in rural areas, so it’s not like it would be that difficult. It seemed to me that Miller and Wojak were working in a particular aesthetic milieu, which colors their thinking. Which is to say that the world of academic fine art often ignores or doesn’t deeply touch on the worlds of regional art, the art fair circuits, working portraitists, etc. This is not to say that the bulk of information covered is not useful to all artists (or even crafts-persons), but it does mean that certain readers are not going to get everything they want from the book.
But overall, I think this is a fantastic book for helping the emerging or slightly more experienced (but still baffled) artist navigate the sometimes tricky issue of making, selling, and sharing their work. It’s probably also useful for mid-career artists to uncover new venues and sources of revenue, or just make better use of internet marketing, resources, etc. It will certainly be keeping a place on my shelf for years to come.
This is an older review I posted to GoodReads back in October 2012. It was never posted to this blog, but I’ve decided to make a backdated version available. Hopefully, readers out there will find it was useful as I found the book.