Publishing books to assist artists in their careers has become a small industry, with new titles being released all the time. (Disclaimer: I am part of this industry, too, having produced a number of career guides for fine artists.) Artists often have very specific questions – Can I deduct this? Is doing that legal? How can I sell work from my own studio? – to which they hope to find specific answers in these books, and it requires the authors know something about what preys on the minds of artists. Some books reveal a bit more about the interests of the authors than of their audience.
Among the more recent releases in this field are three paperback originals – Starting Your Career as an Artist by Angie Wojak and Stacy Miller (Allworth Press, $19.95), An Artist’s Guide to the Law by Richard Amada (Focus Publishing, $16.95) and New Tax Guide for Writers, Artists, Performers & Other Creative People by Peter Jason Riley (Focus Publishing, $19.95) – that provide clear, intelligent answers to the questions that come up in an artist’s career.
Wojak and Miller structure Starting Your Career as an Artist in a question-and-answer format, with boldface questions and topics (What are some tips for communicating with curators or critics? What professional practices do you recommend for an emerging artist?) followed by concise discussions written in a conversational style. In some instances, these are actual conversations, as the authors – Wojak is the career services director at Columbia University and Miller is former director of professional development at the College Art Association – interviewed a variety of people in the fine arts and design fields (including art critic Jerry Saltz and Liz Claiborne chief creative officer Tim Gunn), writing up their comments.
The authors don’t tell artists what to do but provide a wealth of ideas. It is even more difficult to advise artists in the realm of law, since every situation is and can be a bit different and every case is “fact-based.” Richard Amada, a Washington, D.C. lawyer, offers an overview of intellectual property (copyright, patents, trademarks) and contract law, as well as what rights are protected by the First Amendment. Clearly, an artist facing a legal quandary would be well advised to contact a lawyer, or a volunteer lawyers for the arts organization, but readers of An Artist’s Guide to the Law may certainly claim to be forewarned of situations that pose legal risks.
Peter Jason Riley, a certified public accountant in Newburyport, Massachusetts, has worked with writers, fine and performing artists for many years, and his New Tax Guide asks and answers most of the questions that clients have brought him over the years. Most of the book dealing with fine artists looks at what may be deducted, listing 26 different realms of expenses and providing a fictitious case example of an artist who travels to another city where her work is to be exhibited and sold in order to identify all of the potential deductible expenses. He includes several pages of a deduction checklist that artists may use when figuring their taxes or to assist a preparer of their tax returns. In each chapter are reproductions of the relevant Internal Revenue tax forms that artists would be filling out, which might seem a bit like filler to more experienced artists, but that is a minor quibble.
In all, these three books offer quite digestible information on many of the business questions that artists face.
— Daniel Grant