I tend to approach artist’s self-help and how-to books with scepticism, so Making Your Life As An Artist didn’t hold high expectations for me. Had it not been available as a free download on Artists U I’m unsure if I would have even given it a second glance.
Although suspecting the woolly motivational rhetoric that’s fairly common in such titles, I was drawn to the publication by its open-source nature and conviction to reach 100,000 artists. At the time of writing the book has been reportedly downloaded 65,447 times, and in this post I hope to bring this number a little further along – for rather than espousing unrealistic ideas, this book provides fresh and valuable advice for the working artist.
Written by North American choreographer Andrew Simonet as a guide for all arts professionals, I found this book to be applicable to my own practice within a very different environment and medium – in fact, this publication would hold value even for those not placed within the art world. An essay of succinct, direct and digestible information, it reframes artists’ practice in society, and thus what artists, funders, and society should expect from their work as both a single and collective force.
Beginning with a discussion of wider definitions and effects of artistic practice, the author uses a memorable analogy to describe the skewed perspective of artists’ work by the wider world – the process is widely compared to sport, yet has much more in common with scientific research. As such, the “success” and outcomes of our work have shifted focus, away from what is important, fulfilling and sustainable – and in turn, confused art’s role and art’s effects.
Outlining a different perspective, the book goes on to suggest ways of utilising what is routine for an artist – such as statement writing or the skills used in making art – for their wider benefit. Broken down into sections covering areas such as planning, money and time, small and practical steps are outlined that can easily help structure the frenetic life of an artist.
To summarise such a concise and freely available book feels redundant. I can only encourage you to spend a short time reading this publication for the applicable and pragmatic advice within a considered philosophy of making art. In re-placing the role of the artist in society and time one gains a fresh respect for what we do, why we do it, and where we fit into the world as artists.