In Starting Your Career as an Artist: A Guide for Painters, Sculptors, Photographers, and Other Visual Artists, Parsons The New School for Design’s Angie Wojak and Stacy Miller provide advice for almost every conceivable subsection of the art world. From tips for finding good studio space to dealing with inevitable legal issues, Wojak and Miller combine their own advice with that of other professionals in the field—curators, art lawyers, gallery owners, and artists—many of them well-known and respected.
In the first chapter, an excerpt from “The Guerrilla Girls’ Guide to Behaving Badly” encourages artists to continue creating art no matter what. In fact, this is a central theme in the book as a whole: there is always a way to create art; artists should never give up and stop making things and should always be searching for worthy and rewarding alternatives to the mainstream art world. In other words, there are many different ways of being a “successful artist.” Success is not measured in money or fame, but in the feeling of personal fulfillment. Because Wojak and Miller are realists, they stress that the majority of artists will never be world-famous; a large number will have to work other jobs in order to support themselves. But all this is perfectly normal.
Wojak and Miller go out of their way to encourage the reader to seek alternatives to the mainstream art world, devoting a whole chapter to alternative spaces and stressing the positive aspects of non-traditional artistic endeavors throughout the book. They urge artists to think outside the gallery and get involved in street art and underground artist communities, even to create their own collectives. Unlike many advice publications for artists, Wojak and Miller’s book genuinely promotes such independent and unconventional artistic endeavors instead of just paying them lip service.
One of the major strengths of Starting Your Career as an Artist is its inspirational realism, something that is seldom easy to achieve. Another aspect of the book that deserves praise is its breadth—it draws attention to issues in rural as well as urban communities and addresses artists with families as well as those fresh out of art school. All in all, this is a good and practical reference book for artists to come to an understanding of the so-called “real world,” from which even the most creative individual can never truly escape.
Starting Your Career as an Artist:
A Guide for Painters, Sculptors, Photographers, and Other Visual Artists
by Angie Wojak and Stacy Miller
New York: Allworth Press, 2011
256 pages, $19.95