Summary of Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon and Meg Mateo Ilasco

BookSummaryClub Blog Summary of Art, Inc. by Lisa Congdon and Meg Mateo Ilasco

The general thought is that to be an artist, one has to suffer. Their work is often underappreciated or they struggle to sell it. But does it really happen that way? Are artists confined to a life of struggle until they gain recognition? The truth is just like their art, every artist’s journey is unique. However, to be successful, every artist should also have a good business mind. 

It’s not just about being a creative genius. You have to know your market, know where your advertisements will be best seen and how to sell your work. Sure, it is a little extra work on your part but it is what sets successful artists apart from the struggling ones. 

In this book summary readers will discover:

  • You can’t strive to be like other artists, authenticity sets you apart
  • Know your values
  • Promotion is key
  • The modern world has its advantages for artists
  • Exhibitions still work
  • Artists need creative breaks to refuel

Key lesson one: You can’t strive to be like other artists, authenticity sets you apart

Do you admire Vincent van Gogh? He was an incredibly talented artist even though most of his work came to light after his death. However, if you admire him as an artist, it does not mean you need to suffer as he did when he was alive. No matter how good they were, trying to be like them will get you nowhere. Who says you can’t live with your supportive circle of friends or family? Why do artists always have to be isolated, anti-social and struggling to make ends meet? As an artist, you cannot emulate others, you have to be your authentic self.

Other than your talent and creativity, what is important is that you retain your passion for your art and that you put in the hard work needed to succeed. Where you stay and how little money you have is of no consequence. Neither is where you studied or who your mentors were. It is nothing but a myth and one that artists need to let go of. Your work is a reflection of your own experiences and history. It is as unique as you are. Therefore there is no such thing as following what other artists did as a way to succeed. If you do this, you will not be able to embrace innovation, new techniques and be inspired by the things that surround you. 

Key lesson two: Know your values

There are many things you need to consider when you decide to be an artist. Beyond deciding on the type of art you would like to create, you also have to consider if you want it to be your main source of income. If you do, then you need to start thinking like an entrepreneur. You need to determine what type of artist you want to be, the image you want to project and your most important values.

Values will be integral not only to what type of artist you are but also to the type of customers you attract. For example, if one of your values is to strive to be environmentally friendly in your work, you may choose the materials you use more carefully, avoid working for some companies and attract other companies that appreciate your values. 

Whichever route you choose, it will take time and you must be patient. Identify your goals and take the steps necessary to achieve them. As an artist, do not believe that your work starts and ends in your studio. You must be prepared to deal with the outside world and all that will be required of you to make your business a success. That means you must be prepared for the admin side of things as well. Paperwork, filing tax papers, acquiring business permits – these are all things you need to do as well. 

Key lesson three: Promotion is key

As an artist, your work is the most important thing. However, in order to sell your art and get your name out there, you have to be a skilled promoter. In this day and age, you have one great advantage – the internet. 

The internet affords you many opportunities to get your name and work to reach more people. Social media offers you an easy way to promote your work. Some, even have promotional tools that you can use. You also need to ensure that you have a website that is user friendly and allows people to view your work and get to know about you as an artist. Also important is that the domain name is easy to remember so that people can easily recommend it to others. You can also try blogging to share your inspirations, thoughts and accomplishments. If you do try blogging, you should ensure that you stick to topics that align with your interests. 

Lastly, you can also attempt to contact the press. The best way to approach this is to do your research and make a list of blogs and magazines that you want to contact. Once you have the list, get the names and contact details of their editors. You can then send the editors a carefully put together press kit that contains your contact details, your biography, resume and press releases.

Key lesson four: The modern world has its advantages for artists

Besides the benefits of the internet, digital technology gives artists a whole new approach to their work. Digital reproduction is a nifty way for artists to sell their work to a number of people. So, it is best if you know what it can offer.

As an artist, you need to first decide what images customers would want and figure out your market niche. Depending on who you sell to, you must carefully consider your images, the type of paper used and the number of prints you make. For higher-end galleries, you want to use paper and ink that is high quality and print a few copies. This will ensure that your work remains valuable. If you want to increase the number of people you want to sell to, then consider cheaper materials. The one thing you should never cut costs on is the photographs you take to advertise your work. 

When it comes to pricing, you also have to consider the place you wish to sell it and ensure that it covers the production cost and the cost of your labour. The possibilities are endless with the option of selling your work this way. There are many online retailers you can use along with your own website where you can sell your prints and you can look at working with clients on a commission basis. 

Key lesson five: Exhibitions still work

Putting your work on display in a gallery is the ultimate goal for many artists. The most important thing regarding exhibitions though is finding the right place to exhibit your work. Different galleries have different requirements and aesthetics just like every artist also has a preference to who they want to work with. 

If you know the gallery you want your work in, you can always contact them. However, you must also be willing to be patient. Responses often take months depending on what the gallery has got going on. If they do respond and offer to meet with you. Make sure you take your portfolio, resume and artist statement with you. Your artist statement should be able to give gallery managers an intro to your work and why you created specific pieces. 

But if you can’t get a gallery to show your work, you can always consider a solo or group exhibition at a shop, art cafe or even a restaurant. If you take this approach you must remember that promotion will be key to its success

Key lesson six: Artists need creative breaks to refuel

Being an artist means that you are constantly inspired by your environment and this, in turn, leads you to always be working on some level. This is completely normal but it also means that you will experience periods of low energy levels. When this occurs, you have to embrace it as a sign to take a break from your work. It does not mean you have to step away altogether but rather that you need to refuel your energy and regain your spark. 

This can be achieved in many ways. Firstly, you can think about refreshing your portfolio, making new connections or taking up a personal project. You can also look at teaching others which is a great way for you to rediscover your passions and rediscover old techniques that you had forgotten about. In addition, teaching can be a very rewarding experience for your personally allowing you to realize how much you have actually achieved in your career thus far. 

And as much as most artists love organized chaos, it is often much better to keep things organized. When you do decide to take a break, work can accumulate quickly in your absence. It is worthwhile to keep a list of projects that you need to complete along with your admin tasks. If you are in a financial position to do so, then hiring an assistant can also be an option.  

Just remember that balance is key. Yes, being an artist means working hard but just like any other job, you can’t afford to burn out. Your creativity depends on a clear, stress-free mind. Thus, you must learn to find a healthy balance and remember that is okay to decline a project.

The key takeaway from Art, Inc. is:

The notion that all artists must lead a life of struggle needs to be put aside. To be an artist in this modern world you must be prepared to think like an entrepreneur. There are more opportunities available to artists nowadays and you should have the know-how of how to seize them. So, along with your creativity, be prepared to think like an entrepreneur, gain skills in promoting and marketing your work and always know your options as an artist. The possibilities are endless. You have the talent, you just have to know how to use it wisely.

How can I implement the lessons learned in Art, Inc: 

Promoting your work is the key to your success as an artist. This is true no matter what type of art you create. Thus, you should take all parts of this into consideration. Use high-quality photos to advertise your work if you want people to truly appreciate its value. You also want to take a proactive stance in exhibiting your work. If no gallery responds to your requests to show your work, consider setting up your own exhibit. And even when you start selling your work, put effort into the packaging. All this plays a part in promoting your art and yourself as an artist and entrepreneur. Make yourself and your work memorable.

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