Taking the Leap: Building a Career as a Visual Artist, by Cay Lang, is a good and important book for anyone who’s serious about a career in art.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you look at the broad field of art and art careers. (I tried to keep the list short at my Squidoo page about Art Careers. It’s still overwhelming.)
You need a starting point. One of my favorite parts of the movie, The Secret, is where the guy says something like, “If you think to yourself, ‘Well, I could do it that way, but I wish I didn’t have to,’ …that’s not it.”
In other words, if you’re not building the career of your dreams, pause. Rethink what you’re doing. If you’re doing something only because you think it’s the one-and-only way to succeed… you’re already off-track.
Art is about energy. If the energy isn’t there for you — and I mean in nearly every aspect of your career — find a way to make the energy happen.
I think it’s Stuart Wilde who talks about people buying energy, not things. When they buy your art, it’s about acquiring something that displays your unique energy. No energy = no sale.
So, you need a creative vision. You need a goal. You need a way to get there. And… you need to know the business side of a career in the visual arts.
Taking the Leap by Cay Lang is probably the best all-purpose guide to the nuts & bolt side of a career in the visual arts.
From the list of possible art careers, to creating your PR materials, to how to approach galleries and collectors… all the way to the ins & outs of contracts, Taking the Leap holds your hand and shows you what to do and what to avoid.
I won’t pretend this is light, amusing, inspiring reading.
Oh, it’s inspiring enough, especially when you read about the percentages of artists who are doing it wrong. They’re mistakes narrow the field considerably, giving you a h-u-g-e advantage.
But, this is roll-up-your-sleeves reading. It’s the kind of book you should own, and read when you’re serious about success. It’s as close to a blueprint for success as you’re going to find, with all the bits of information you’ll need to avoid costly blunders from the start.
My own copy is dog-eared and the spine — and a few pages — are stained with fruit juice. (I don’t drink coffee, or I’m sure there’d be coffee rings throughout this book.)
I understand artists. I’m one myself. We tend to try everything intuitive before looking for answers elsewhere.
And, by the time we’re consulting others, we’re usually securely in “starving artist” mode, reminding ourselves that Vincent Van Gogh sold one painting during his entire lifetime… and that was to a relative.
So, I understand that you don’t want to spend a cent that you don’t have to.
The good news is, you public library probably has a copy of this book. The newest edition is best, but if you have to use an older copy, that’s okay. You’ll find enough information in it to get things moving in the right direction.
However, before long, you’ll realize that this book is an important reference to have in your studio or home office. It’s that useful, no matter where you are in your art career.
Take the leap!
The Art Model’s Handbook, by Andrew Cahner is one of those books I look at and exclaim, “Why didn’t anyone write a book like this before..?”
If you use artist’s models in your studio, work as an artist’s model, or have ever thought of working as an artist’s model*… you need to own a copy of this book.
Yes, I usually say, “Read this book at your public library first, and see if you want to buy it.” However, this is the kind of book that you’ll refer to so often, you may as well buy a copy and save yourself multiple treks to the library.
This book is 141 pages of to-the-point information. There’s no fluff, and the author is knowledgeable, experienced, and addresses issues on both sides of the canvas (or sketchpad).
Author Andrew Cahner has left nothing out. He tackles the difficult aspects of nudity in Chapter 2. In Chapter 3, he tells you the two things that every model must bring with him (or her), and then lists many items that will make your work easier and create a more professional environment.
Chapter by chapter, Cahner provides useful tips and the kind of information every artist — and artist’s model — needs to think about before, during and after a modeling session.
For example, the author provides some brilliant ways to research poses, so you don’t stand in front of the group, blink, and ask shakily, “Err… what do you want me to do?” (Likewise, if you’re working with models, these resources will avoid wasted time while the artists try to think of poses, and the model responds, “Okay, how about this?”.)
There’s even a list of useful links to find modeling work, online.
If there’s anything missing from this book — from either the model or artist’s standpoint — I can’t see it. And, I’m speaking as a third-generation artist who worked as an artist’s model during her college years.
I rarely give a book five stars, but — for this topic — I can’t think of any way the author could have improved the book. Every working artist and every classroom that uses models should have a copy of this book in their studios. When you have a question, the answer will be right there.
And, of course, every working model should own one as well.
I read many books about and for artists, and this one stands out as a brilliant idea, well executed and long overdue. It’s well-written and easy to read, but — even more importantly — it’s a useful reference that provides far more than just the basics.
*If you’re willing to sit still for 20 minutes at a time — with a roomful of people staring at you — this can be a fine career choice for people who need work or want extra income. Taking off your clothes is optional but will significantly increase your chances of getting work, but it’s not vital. (Portrait and other models are needed, too, but — for economy — classes often swap-out students in those roles.)
Even better, this book will explain the nuances of working in this field so you don’t feel like a total novice.
Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles by Steve Meltzer is a one of the most important books for any artist or crafter.
We’ve all read webpages, magazine articles, or chapters in books that provide valuable photo tips. However, few of those articles provide enough information–especially about digital photography–for professionals in arts and crafts.
If you need photographs of your art or crafts for a juried show or competition, the quality of your pictures can be more important than the quality of your art. That’s why you need to read this book, and–if you are like me–you probably need to own a copy of it
First, the author explains how to select a digital camera and how to use it. The camera that you use for family photos or your travel pictures may not have the features that you need to competently photograph your artwork.
Many of us only know how to turn the camera on, push the button to take a photo, and then transfer the digital image to our computers. That’s not enough for photos that juries will see.
In this book, the author talks about image sizes and file types, and the differences between photographs for online use, for slides, and for print.
He provides a list of the minimal amount of equipment you’ll need to take pictures of your artwork. He suggests seven items. (The first three are a digital camera with a zoom lens, a memory card, and a tripod.)
Then, he provides a full page illustration showing exactly how to set up your studio for professional quality photographs.
Until I read this book, I had no idea how to light my arts and crafts to look their best.
The author not only tells you how to take successful photos, he explains it in plain English. Even better, he has illustrated the book with drawings and photographs that will appeal to visually oriented artists.
One of the most important features of this book is the section that discusses the specific needs of different kinds of art and crafts. For example, if you are taking a picture of your glass or ceramics, you will use a different approach than when you are photographing quilts or art made with fiber.
In my opinion, this is a book we’ve needed for a long time. A copy belongs on the bookshelf of every professional artist and crafter, and it should be referred to often.