Book List for Artists Seeking Art Careers

When I was in college there weren’t a lot of books to read regarding how to be a professional artist and how to run your art business, etc… I was left on my own, not having any direction in college about it either. I felt I either had to be an art teacher, independently wealthy, really lucky or all of the above in order to have a career making art. So, I graduated and headed into the corporate world. Fast forward 10 years later, I was able to stay home with my son and started working on my art again during nap times. It has grown every year since, sometimes exponentially. Luckily, since graduating college there have been many books written (Thank you to the artists and authors!!) about having an art business and being a professional fine artist. Here is a list of my favorites and why:

Reading List for Fine Artists

  1. The Artists Guide by Jackie Battenfield. This was one of the first art business books I read and still one of the most memorable and impactful. Jackie writes about how artists need multiple streams of income and what those streams could be. She also talks about finances and more.
  2. Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon. This is similar to the one above, but more condensed, updated, and written by one of my favorite artists.
  3. The Artist’s Guide to Public Art, How to Find and Win Commissions by Lynn Basa. Public art is big money. Murals don’t even have to be painted on location anymore. They can be printed and installed on any wall.
  4. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. This is a fun read and encourages you to show your art.
  5. Books about marketing, SEO, writing, sales, management, customer service, Instagram, accounting, etc…

*Please keep in mind that the strategies for making a living may vary based on geographic area. Galleries might be more lucrative than art shows or vice versa.

Reading book list for artists seeking art careers

Building Your Art Business Reputation

It is worth emphasizing that your reputation is your business’ best asset. For example, being honest, communicative, and keeping your word is really important in business, as in life. It may be beneficial to read books about personal integrity, organizing, etc… They say it takes 12 positive customer experiences to make up for 1 negative experience. Here are some books that I like:

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  2. The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
  3. How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  4. Creating True Peace by Thich Nhat Hahn
  5. How to Talk so Kids will Listen & Listen so Kids will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (Yes, it’s written for kids, but has helped me to navigate many adult tantrums in my years working in customer service.)

Funding Your Art Business??

It takes money to start a business and it’s risky here in the United States. Generally, it takes 4-5 years of working full time to start making a profit. Working part time it took me about 7 years before I turned a profit. I would recommend the following:

  1. If you are still young and living with your parents under their insurance, start now.
  2. Keep your expenses low. Pay off debts and buy a small home in an affordable neighborhood, if possible.
  3. Save up enough living expenses and health insurance money to last 4-5 years while you are growing your business.
  4. Take out a loan? It’s an option, but not one that I would recommend early in your career.

Do you have any other books or tips to add? I’d love to read them in the comments.

About the author

Mixed Media Artist and Mural Painter, Virtual Art Teacher

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