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Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists Paperback – October 15, 2013

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Editorial Reviews


“Extraordinary. . . . Louden has initiated a public discussion of how an artist can persist. It’s an essential question in a field that no one chooses for its assurance of financial rewards. In many ways, Louden’s book helps us to answer the question, ‘How does an artist make a living today?’ . . . Louden makes an important contribution to the discussion of how art is made now by the vast majority of artists at work. The book is a reality check prompting us to recall that invention doesn’t happen without determination. As these artists’ testimonies so vividly show, history, theory, and criticism are activities dependent ultimately on the hard-won production of art.”
(Art Journal)

“Contributions range from predictable to shocking, in-control and overwhelmed. Some artists have full-time jobs; many are parents. . . .[Louden is] telling it like it is.”

“A strikingly frank book that removes the veil of mysticism surrounding the artistic life.”

"Consisting of 40 essays, this book presents the realities of the creative life over time, as reported by practicing artists. The stories take the form of interviews, narratives, and statements, and convey in frank, authentic form the joys and challenges of being an artist....Aspiring artists and students will be inspired by these essays, and professionals will see themselves in many of the stories being told. Anyone considering a career in art can profit from reading this book. It also provides insight into the world of art as a commodity, and the challenges of balancing business, relationships, and the creative life....Highly recommended."

"Anyone serious about a career as an artist must read this book."
(Adam Sheffer, partner, Cheim and Read Gallery)

“Too often the story of how an artist makes art and a living is advertised as either a step into an abyss of debt and dementia or a glamorized Bohemia misunderstood by a general public. Yet what these artists demonstrate in this valuable book is that the common bond for us all who aspire to a well-lived life is blood, sweat, and tears. From artists living off sales of their work to those who teach and those who search for paychecks in odd jobs, the desire to create is never extinguished.”
(Franklin Sirmans, Terri and Michael Smooke Curator, Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

“From surprisingly frank sharings on the struggles of starting out as young artists to the challenges of making time and space for creation, the artists in Living and Sustaining a Creative Life share with candor and heart just what it takes to be an artist today."
(Anne Pasternak, president and artistic director, Creative Time)

“Sharon Louden has gathered together in this book an exceptionally diverse range of artists’ experiences in order to illustrate, in a manner otherwise inaccessible, the inherent tensions that artists face in constantly balancing their drive to devote core time and energy to creating new work and their wish to share that work with the world with the complexities, as well as the joys, of their personal and family lives.”
(Michael Straus, chairman, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts)

“I applaud artist Sharon Louden for assembling this fascinating compilation of artist testimonies. It provides a refreshing, honest look at the myriad ways that artists shape and feed their lives and evolve authentic, generative practices in a society that does not always make it easy for artists to subsist and fully contribute. Living and Sustaining a Creative Life is thus an inspiring, unexpurgated resource for artists beginning their careers as well as any individual seeking to recalibrate his or her daily life to pursue a more purpose-filled existence.”
(Olga Viso, executive director, Walker Art Center)

"Louden’s collection offers valuable lessons on striking a balance between the need to make money and the need to make art; for if making art is the primary concern, making money becomes a means to an end—not the end itself. . . . Though written about the unique experience of fine artists, Living and Sustaining A Creative Life is worth the read by anyone seeking to build a life of artistic intention without ignoring the need for monetary sustenance."
(Courtney M. McSwain, writer and storytelling consultant)

About the Author

Sharon Louden is a practicing, professional artist living and working in Brooklyn. Her work has been exhibited at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, Neuberger Museum, and the Weisman Art Museum, among other venues, and it is held in the public collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, Weatherspoon Art Museum, and National Gallery of Art.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Intellect Ltd (October 15, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 178320012X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1783200122
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sharon Louden is an artist, editor, educator and culture producer. You can find information about Sharon and her work on her website at

To learn more about Sharon and this book, click on to this page: and press about this book here:

To view a conversation about "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life," here is a video from a panel discussion at Art Basel Miami Beach Art Fair: and another at the 92nd Street Y in New York City:

Join Sharon on her book tour. You can find the most updated schedule and more information on the book tour here: and here:

You can also find photographs from the book tour here:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Linda M. Smith on February 6, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Some of these 40 essays are better than others, perhaps due to the fact that they are written by visual artists, not writers (I believe there is a difference). Also, many of them didn't have much depth. It would have been nice to have included more older artists and those not deliberately following a "career" path. After a while, there seemed to be a sameness about them. I was hoping to find a variety of distinctive approaches and viewpoints.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Glory Benacka on December 5, 2013
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As a young artist and nonprofit arts professional who graduated with an art degree, I wish I could have read this book when I was in undergrad! It has still been an insightful and timely read for me 10 years after graduating. I thought it would be more of a how to guide and describe specifically how to make money in art, but it is much more. The book is a collection of personal essays from working artists who each describe their personal challenges, practices and approach to work life balance. I have appreciated the sincerity and honesty of the essays.

There are many books about arts marketing and trade publications offering specific advice for specific arts markets and strategies for making a living as an artist. What's different about Living and Sustaining a Creative Life is the personal approach, which is helpful for understanding how working artists have individually designed their careers with work-life balance and economy in mind. The art field is truly unique encompassing such a wide variety of talents, interests, and micro economies. I've enjoyed the variety of perspectives and experiences compiled in this collection. The life of a working artist is as much about lifestyle as it is about breadwinning and I think this title articulates both the challenges and possibilities of earning a living with one's art, while maintaining creative perspective, practice, and having a life.

The essays are concise and well edited, it's a quick read, with a human voice, peppered with a few swear words and humor, while maintaining seriousness, depth and being informative. Most of the essays express struggle at different levels, some overcome and some outstanding, but without a negative or depressing vibe.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David A. Clark on November 3, 2013
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There are many wonderful things about this book. Each artists chapter reveals the layers of what it means to balance life as an artist. The term working artist can mean many, many things. Defining what is a "working artist" is indeed one of the great intangibles of learning what it is to be an artist. The bottom line is we all figure it out and define it in different ways. Sharon's book illuminates the various ways artists define what it is to be and do and function as a working artist. The essays, most narrative in form, peel back the layers of daily life and work. They reveal the sometimes precarious balance that artists walk with their daily practice, their business and their personal lives. I wish I'd had this book when I was at NYU. It would have demystified the artistic world I so desperately wanted to be a part of. Now many years later I have figured out the daily ins and outs of what it means to move through life as an artist. But back in school this book would have been an invaluable tool in putting a creative life together bit by bit as it works for the individual. I say it should be required reading for art students of all disciplines. It's filled with insight that one only gets from experience. Its a rare gift to get an inside view of the path to come. I loved every page. Wonderful book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ann Fensterstock on October 28, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Eye opening, touching, humorous and brave – these honestly-rendered descriptions of what artists do to survive (emotionally, materially and creatively) are extraordinary. Certainly a reassuring read for all working artists – but they know this stuff. For the rest of us – a call to arms to do anything we can to support the gifted but under-rewarded in our midst.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Joanne W. on December 1, 2013
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Though I felt like some of the essays were pretty dry, there are some very frank and honest real-life honest stories about making this art life work, even if it doesn't always generate the revenue. There are all sorts of artists from all different backgrounds... the possibilities are endless.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dori Decamillis on June 1, 2015
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As a professional artist, I was very taken with this refreshing book of essays about the practical side of making a living as a visual artist. My path of making a living as an artist has been as unique and unexpected as many of the stories represented in Louden's book, and I found myself feeling validated and supported. As in my experience, the book shows how serendipity, hard work, luck, talent, and building relationships play a part in developing the careers of artists. There are quite a few essays included, and each path and perspective shared was interesting in its own way. The editor, Sharon Louden, presented the pieces in a straightforward manner, forgoing too much opinionated commentary that can take away from the clarity of the material. In fact, my favorite thing about the book was how each author stuck to the topic (making a continuous living as a visual artist) without intellectual discourse. The mystery of creativity is a powerful and wonderful part of being an artist, but the day to day workings and the meanderings of a career are a thing of fascination, too. This book celebrated the functional side of art, presented by professionals who can instruct by honest experience rather than didacticism. It was at times funny, surprising, and triumphant. I recommend it to artists at the dawn of their possible careers or artists who've been at it for a lifetime.
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