Book Review: Art Inc.

Written by Joely Rogers

Art Inc. by Lisa Congdon

Lisa Congdon wants your dream of becoming a working artist to come true. And her book, Art Inc., is all about how to make to that dream a reality. This cute little book contains seven jam-packed chapters focused on the business aspects of being an artist. She starts by urging you to embrace yourself as an artist then continues with vision mapping and goal-setting. From there, she moves on to selling and promoting your work, and then discusses how to go after different income streams. Finally, she closes with advice on how to manage the ebb and flow of success, including downtime – a very important part of being an artist. The book also features interviews with nineteen artists who discuss their business practices, and contains an extensive resources section.

Initially, I had planned to do a chapter-by-chapter review, but the book has so much information that I decided to pick a small section to focus on. I chose “Building Your Vision and Accomplishing Goals” from Chapter 2 – Getting Down to Business. In this section, she outlines a four-step process for creating a vision for your art business and setting goals to achieve that vision. Since I’m an artist, I thought this would be a great experiment.

I have been creating art since I was five years old, so a solid 41 years, and have tried just about every art medium and subject. These days, I mostly focus on art related to food. I have a website and would like to eventually do more with my art, but have been too busy with my real job, i.e. Vice President of Frame Destination, for the last 11 years to figure out any long term goals related to it.

Step One – Build Your Vision Map

Lisa says, “The first step in setting goals is to make a vision map for where you would like your art career to be in three to five years.” How to do it? She says to write your name in the middle of a piece of paper; I suggest mixed media paper, so you can paint on it if desired, and draw a circle around your name. Then, select a few vision statements, draw an equal number of lines extending out from the circle’s edge, and write a vision statement on each line. I made my vision statements as ambitious and free of judgement as possible.

My Vision Statements:

  • Get published in an art or food magazine
  • Teach an online class on culinary art journaling
  • Boost traffic to my website
  • Sell prints through my website
  • Sell my illustrated Simple Summer Salads cookbook on my website
  • Exhibit at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum
  • Create an online portfolio featuring my food illustrations
  • Put a mini e-zine on my website featuring my food cartoons

According to Lisa, the finished vision map should resemble a sun. I actually turned mine into a flower, which is more appealing to me than a sun. You can draw on an inspirational photograph, or even do it in Photoshop or another digital editing program, like I did.

Frame Destination - Book Review Art Inc

Step Two – Articulate Your Values

Lisa urges the reader to clarify their values from the start by using statements like “Selling my work will feel good as long as I…” or “I will feel good about my success as long as I…” She says “Clarifying your values will help you clearly communicate what your business is about to galleries, customers, collectors, suppliers, or potential clients.”

This took some thought because up until the past few years, my art has been mostly private aside from occasional showings to family or friends. The value statement that arose from my thinking was, “I will feel good about showing and selling my work if I can provide high quality products at a reasonable price, and have fun doing so.”

Step Three – Set Intermediate Goals

Lisa defines intermediate goals as ones that are small enough to complete within a few weeks to several months. She says, “Think about the big goals from the vision map, and set one to three intermediate goals that will work toward achieving them.” She said they should be concrete and produce a tangible result. I took two of my vision statements and broke each one down into two intermediate goals.

Sell prints and other products through my website

  • Set up a shopping cart on my website
  • Upload images or documents that I want to sell

Teach an online class on culinary art journaling

  • Create an outline for a class
  • Record some practice videos

Step Four – Develop Small Actionable Tasks

The final step in this exercise requires you to create several smaller tasks for each intermediate goal. Lisa suggests making them extremely detailed and specific. She says, “Make sure each task is something you can complete in a few hours so that you have a sense of accomplishment each day.” So for my “teach an online class on culinary art journaling” intermediate goal, I created the following tasks.

  • Check out some online art journaling classes
  • Research ecommerce platforms for digital downloads
  • Ask people what kind of culinary art journaling class they’d be interested in
  • Review my journals to see what I could use in a class
  • Get more familiar with iMovie.

I really enjoyed this exercise. The vision map helped me create a clear picture of what I’d like to accomplish with my art in the next five years. Doing the intermediate goals and small actionable task lists gave me a structure that feels doable and manageable.

In summary, if you are already a working artist and satisfied with your income stream, this book probably isn’t for you. But, if you are ready to take that leap from hobbyist to professional artist or are already a professional looking for new ways to sell your work, I strongly suggest buying it. My only criticism of the book, and it’s a small one, is her use of a dark orange background for the artist interview sections. The book’s cover and a lot of headers inside have that same orange, so I think she was trying to create a feeling of unity. However, the orange background made the artist interviews extremely difficult for me to read. I purchased the paperback; perhaps the eBook has different formatting.

Happy art-making! And, please don’t forget Frame Destination when you need frames for all those prints you start selling. We can do custom sizes up to 40” x 60” inches and offer mat boards, mount boards, glass and acrylic glazing, and all types of framing supplies.

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