Customer Reviews: The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love
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on June 27, 2009
Without doubt, this is one of the best books for artists available. I've read most career guides for people in the creative fields, and Jackie. Battenfield's is easily the best. I love this book, and highly recommend it.

It is clear, thorough, and covers all aspects of the business of art. What I found most appealing was how the author would mention a specific action and then discuss how she felt about doing it herself. Making actions can be emotionally unnerving, especially when showing work to dealers for example, or just deciding to make a living from your own artwork, and Jackie reassuringly discusses her feelings as well as how she got over her doubt and anxiety.

Another major reason why I love this book is its clarity. It starts, as it should, with determining what your goals are, how to define them, and how to make them happen. She gives simple steps to help define your vision for your life, and then breaks them into easier chunks. She also stresses planning and making lists, which I personally think is fantastic (organizing my day and week has not only made me much more productive but has also reduced much of my anxiety I had over all the projects I have to accomplish).

The book then goes through what tools are needed, such as artist statement, CV, etc., and how to send work out and to whom. Jackie also discusses specific details, such has how to contact gallery directors and how to connect with fellow artists--which is one of the best sources for getting shows.

It is a joy to read The Artist's Guide, and I can not recommend this book enough. Even though I have been in the art world for years, it has already changed how I work and I plan on following through on many of Jackie's suggestions. Do yourself a favor and read this--I think it's that good.
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on February 21, 2010
Written for the aspiring fine artist, this guide focuses heavily on marketing and getting into galleries.

It contains helpful information, but falls far short on the promise of the title.

Nowhere in this book will you find information on how to "make a living doing what you love" as an artist.

The author's personal experience in running a gallery enables her to give authentic examples of dealing with the world of galleries and her expertise, making for an easy read.

However, confusion sets in when the author jumps from how to obtain fundraising and grants and working jobs to support your art, to a new section on hiring assistants, accountants and attorneys. There is a huge hole in between, and you're left asking "how do you make the huge jump from relying on grants and non-art jobs to needing assistants and accountants?"

You can't "Make a Living Doing what You Love" off of grants and donations,etc.

It misses the mark on how to generate income. Where does the money come from? This is the real question that artists want answered.
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on June 19, 2009
Jackie Battenfield knows about developing a career as an artist not only from her own art practice, but also from years of working with emerging artists. I bought the book as a resource for my art students, and it addresses issues that students will face just starting out; but I have also found it to be full of insight and suggestions for those of us who are past the first years of our careers and who now struggle to stay sane while continuing to make art despite the isolation, rejections, and financial difficulties that a commitment to art entails. Battenfield assumes a level of intelligence and seriousness of purpose in this book, yet her writing is conversational and easy to understand. Her enthusiasm and optimism will inspire and motivate the reader.
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on October 10, 2009
I opened this book in the studio for the first time when I was working on a budget for a project bid, and looking over a supplied example (chapter 7) immediately gave me new ideas of line items I had not considered. They were things I was doing but not charging for, and since I got the gig, it literally made me money. Now the impressive thing about this is I have been working for a while now as a full time artist, and the budget I was looking at in the book is actually from a friend here in New York, but there were still new things to learn. This is a small example of why this book is a cut above what else passes for professional career guidance for artists, because most can't help you beyond a year or two after school - they just don't go that deep. This book provides not only the kind of nitty-gritty details artists need in the moment, but an overarching support plan for how you can still be a working artist in ten years or twenty or thirty. Make no mistake you need help to get there, and this book covers both the internal and external practice that can make that possible. The book approaches this not through thin bullet point advice, but honest and revealing discussion about the habits that need to be practiced over a lifetime.

Having once taught Professional Practices to BFA students I read every book out there on this topic, and I wish this had been around then. There are other books that do some basic things well, or approach it from a theoretical direction, but a book that could speak to both recent graduates and working professionals has never existed until now. Beware of anything not actually written by an artist who has walked the walk and supported a family with their art work. I am fortunate to have gotten to a point in my career where I was interviewed by Jackie for this book, (p110) but I still have found insights in almost every page and frankly things I need to continue to work on. It's a book you can go back to more than once and find new ideas and habits to hone. Some people think the art world is a sprint, but if you're in it you know it's a more like a marathon, so plan for it. If you only buy one book like this buy this one, if you only buy two, buy two copies of this book and go through it with a friend. Seriously, read chapter 10 and you'll know why.
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on October 16, 2011
I get the feeling that the book was written for an era that has gone away. Where is the information about marketing on the internet? Relegated to 3 pages. The rest is dealing with galleries, non-profits, etc. While there is definitely relevant information, such as contracts, dealing with lawyers, etc., a good chunk of it seems concerned with galleries. What if an artist doesn't want to deal with galleries? In today's economy, that 30%-50% the artist turns over to the gallery may represent the difference between poverty and "making a living doing what you love".

I also found it interesting that the book's images were slanted toward conceptual art, performance art and the like (maybe she had them in mind when she wrote this book). However the majority of buyers do tend to still like landscapes, figure, and flower paintings. By majority buyers I mean regular folks, the masses, the great unwashed. To the "cognoscenti" and the "tastemakers" it may not be hip to like such things, but remember Andrew Wyeth died a multi-millionaire.

Anyhow, if you feel you absolutely have to read it, save your money and instead go to the library and check it out (like I did). You'll be supporting your local library and you can put the money that would have been spent on the book into buying art supplies.
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on June 29, 2009
Under normal circumstances, is The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love (Jackie Battenfield, Da Capo Press, 2009) a book that I would stay up into the wee hours of the night reading? Most likely, yes. I read it cover to cover on the bus ride to Canada, finishing it while the sun rose over Burlington, Ontario this morning. Because of the organization of information, it functions like a reference book so readers could also easily skim it for an overview of the issues they may face during their careers and then revisit particular chapters on an as-needed basis. Another way that it acts as a reference source is by including annotations of recommended books at the end of each chapter.

I really like the tone of Battenfield's writing, which is firm, but not heavy-handed, not to mention empathetic. Her voice has not been diluted to the extent that it sounds neutral; the advice sounds like it is coming from a mentor or teacher. Battenfield shares her success stories but also discloses her professional foibles, which creates a sense of `we are all in this together'. I think this tone is very appropriate, especially after leaving the author's presentation at the NYPL the other night. I rode the elevator with a group of artists who sounded excited to take control of their careers, but there was definitely a collective hint of trepidation that made the enclosed space seem a bit suffocating. Her ability to establish trust and camaraderie with the reader, if such a thing is possible in a one-way exchange, is a strength of this book. Her presence is not overwhelming though; it is not as though the book reads as one woman's journey through the art world. Even if it did, Battenfield has balanced her own perspectives by including side bars of quotations from arts professionals about topics as varied as proposal writing and tax preparation.

Unlike so many artist career guides, this one has pictures, and lots of them. Occasionally they are images of work by an artist who has been quoted in the book so their presence is not critical (though it is certainly welcome), but usually the images are of artworks that illustrate a specific point. Since artists are visually oriented and many of them are primarily visual learners, breaking up the text with images shows that Battenfield really knows her target audience.
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on November 16, 2009
This book is an essential tool for the artist who is "on the verge" and ready to make the leap into a professional art career. Before I read the book, I felt like a talented artist who was staring through an impenetrable wall of glass into the illusive and cold art world. I felt I knew no one, and had no leverage. After 10 years in NY loving looking at art in galleries, I felt there was no way in. I felt like artistic success was a lottery situation, not a real job I could pursue systematically. Randomly researching the myriad art periodicals I was subscribing to for submission opportunities had me overwhelmed and stumped. My time was disjointed due to my new baby and busy life. I would have wasted a lot more time and overwhelmed myself while missing opportunities in the future without the guidelines and descriptions in this book.
This book provides the tools and most importantly the mindset needed to get on the right track to build your career. It's the most empowering book I have ever read. After a first read through, I transformed a small local cafe show I was having -which had me depressed and feeling far behind and out of touch -into a major opportunity to network and start building a serious series with purpose and tools to get it out to bigger venues. Two months after completing the book, I have a successful show hanging, new friends and contacts I never would have had without following the advice in this broad minded creative approach, and lots of positive feedback from people in the art world. There are powerful tools out there at our disposal, and this book specifies them.
There is time to do it ALL by including your life's responsibilities right in with your art ones. And this book tells you how. There are many dimensions to handling your career, and this book covers them all. As a successful artist and mother herself, Jackie Battenfield inspired me and got me on my path with this book. It is a priceless resource I will be referring to constantly for years to come. This book is like a warm supportive invitation to the art world at last.
~Amy Abattoir.
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on February 27, 2011
This looked good at first, but upon reading through it I found that she borrows very heavily from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits, which I'd already read, so it did not help me. The goal making and visualizations and blah blah blah are all pretty much the same as any self help book, and the book could do without it. There was a great deal of space filler emotional banter that strayed from the title and focus of the book.
Also, the focus on the art examples themselves is sadly narrow, only showing modern art. I was really put off by what I see as an obvious representation of urban and rather lifeless "installations" and other pseudo-art as being what art is. Real, traditional artists will probably not feel that welcome in there.
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on March 16, 2013
The book definitely does the job in explaining different aspects that are necessary in building the foundation for a career as an artist. That said... it is extremely wordy! Honestly, unnecessarily so! it can be amusing sometimes but I'm not reading the book for amusement, but other books I know people have recommended are more expensive. So, I do recommend it just be ready to skip over parts. Other than that it is thorough.
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on January 12, 2010
Readers, writers, artists, and musicians,read this book to find out how to make a living doing what you love. Written for artists by artist Jackie Battenfield, who has been perfecting these principles and keeping detailed notes about them for the past thirty years, this book holds a wealth of information. But anyone in the arts can use these strategies because they address our human need for acceptance, nurturing, support, and direction. All you have to do is replace "artist" with writer, musician, craftsperson, or whatever word suits your passion.

Financial, family, organizational, or personal challenges sometimes sidetrack those who aim to be self-employed in the arts. Battenfield guides us gently past our childcare needs, credit card debt, chaotic record keeping, and insecurities to show us how to attack each challenge and correct our faulty thoughts and behaviors. Keeping the reader engaged with anecdotes of other artists, their direct quotations, and images of their art, as well as her own experiences, Battenfield helps us solve each of our dilemmas with sincere, concrete methods that only need our commitment to complete.

As a self-employed writer, just reading her strategies motivate me and gently move me forward in my weakest area--self-promotion. For a daughter who is an art therapist, and another daughter who is a musician, I have already ordered a copy of Battenfield's book. They will learn what I did from sections such as "Taking Charge of Your Professional Life," "Circulating Your Work," "How to Earn and Manage Money," "How to Find Even More Support: Grants, Residencies, Gifts," and "How to Build Community to Survive Being Alone"

Jackie Battenfield has a keen sense of how it feels to be an artist by addressing "the underlying emotional impediments--insecurity, guilt, fear, and shame--you will confront that will derail you." She goes on to say, "Most of the topics address issues you can control...It was an intoxicating feeling to know I had so many tools under my command." Just reading this book makes me feel supported knowing that I am not alone in my quest to make, promote, and display my art.

by Susan M. Andrus
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
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