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December 2014

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Margaret Peot book review and a contest!

Recall that we hosted a series of master classes last week by Broadway fabric painter and author Margaret Peot, in tandem with the release of her newest book, The Successful Artist's Career Guide: Finding Your Way in the Business of Art. I've recently finished reading it--this post is not only to share my review but also to give away a signed copy!

I'm going to follow in the footsteps of the esteemed author and blogger Joshilyn Jackson, who is a dab hand at these book giveaway deals, and basically rip off how she does hers. Leave a comment on this entry, one comment per reader, between now and Friday March 9th at noon EST, at which time I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner who will receive a copy of the book! I'll notify the winner that afternoon and contact you for your mailing address to ship you the book.

But first, my review!

Understand that i am coming to this book as a reader from the perspective of someone who decided twenty years ago to pursue a career as an artist, so I recognize that the first two chapters are not aimed at me. Rather, they are aimed at the woman i was at 18 or 20, wondering whether I really wanted to major in theatre instead of something like advertising or accounting or electrical engineering. I think, had I access to a book like this at the time, I would have felt more confident about my choices, less terrified that i'd end up a starving junkie or something, and it would have taken me a lot less time to get where I got. The first two chapters are devoted to a sort of pep talk, confidence-building inspiration, anecdotal advice, things to help assuage the fears of one's family and friends who might be less than thrilled about the prospect of one's artistic career.

For me, the place where this book really takes off and becomes universally important and useful to even mid-career artists like myself is the third chapter, in which the author breaks down exactly how to put a price on your artwork and bid on various kinds of contract jobs--what sorts of variables to consider, how to weigh different contingency factors, and explains contractual terms like a kill fee (what you get paid if they decide they no longer want the piece but you've already begun making it). I'm actually planning to use it as a textbook in one of my graduate classes for a project we do on developing bids, that is how thrilled i was to see this information collected and presented.

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Subsequent chapters deal with other practical matters--doing your taxes, securing health insurance, setting up retirement plans, promotion of your work, time management, even how to decide what sort of studio space you might need or want. I wish i could go back in time and hand this book to my 20-year-old self, because I guess i might still have made some of the same mistakes and underbid myself or gone years without insurance, but i wouldn't have had ignorance to blame.

Peppered throughout the book are interviews with working artists in all kinds of disciplines--graphic art, printmaking, decorative ironwork, art therapy, illustration, etc. These are nice little interludes and a fascinating glimpse into the lives of various successful-but-unfamous artists that serve to underscore how one does not need to be the next Pablo Picasso or Prince or Meryl Streep or William Styron in order to make a successful, fulfilling artistic life for oneself. These interviews are--like the first two chapters--perhaps more eye-opening and useful to the early-career artist (particularly a young student who needs to convince her/his parents that majoring in lithography is not an expensive ticket to the garret and starvation), but are nonetheless an interesting read no matter where you are in your own career.

Lest you think my review is nothing more than a cheerleading shill for the book, I do have one primary criticism: I think the publisher did the book a disservice in overdesigning its interior, and in choosing the size of the book. At first glance, i was really drawn to the unique size (8" square), the full-color interior, and the quality of the paper and cover. The more i read through the book though, the more some of the graphic design choices jarred me: images and text randomly oriented at skewed angles, or printed on faux-finish "textured" backgrounds which occasionally obfuscate a word here and there.

The most frustrating element of this is the way in which the numerous worksheets and exercises are treated graphically, printed at odd angles on what is meant to look like a torn-off sheet of spiral-bound paper superimposed on a background. Given that i can honestly imagine this book serving as an invaluable text in art classes, schools, and universities, this layout for the worksheets and the choice to make the book a size difficult to nicely photocopy for educational use shows poor forethought on behalf of the publisher. In places it's as if the book design was meant for a new-age self-help text, not the book which Peot wrote.

Luckily, this criticism in no way diminishes the value of the book itself for the sheer usefulness of information contained within. Graphical grousing aside, i still plan to recommend it to all my colleagues, and starting in the fall use it as a textbook in my series of four graduate courses. Perhaps the book will be so wildly successful that there will eventually be a second edition in which the worksheets are presented more functionally and less flakily. Take my advice, buy this book!

Don't forget to drop a comment on this entry for a chance at my giveaway of a signed copy! You can also Like the book on Facebook to learn about other giveaways and workshops attached to it, and if you do the Goodreads thing you can add it to a shelf over there.

Comments

Curses, I missed the drawing! Thank you for reviewing this book, I definitely want to pick it up.