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What They Didn't Teach you in Art School

Written by Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley

Published by Octopus Books

' Essential Reading for Artists' The Observer.

“A comprehensive introduction to how to survive and succeed as an artist, artist-curators Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley have created an easy to use guide that draws on the advice and experience of over 30 contributors, including artist and a-n contributor Alistair Gentry, curatorial duo Day+Gluckman, and painter Graham Crowley..what is hugely worthwhile is the way they have been brought together in a practical and accessible format.There’s much here that will be helpful for artists starting out, and possibly some useful tips for more established practitioners too” a-n.

'What they didn't .....' reads beautifully. It's thankfully free of jargon and there's also no arts-speak - that's not only refreshing but essential in a book designed to demistify and enable. The style is both accessible and intelligible. The balance of lucidity and (raw) information is a hell of an achievement. The 'voice' of the writer(s) is authoritative and generous. Instead of dictating to the reader you offer them a range of strategies. I was very glad to see that you've avoided giving undue credence to the business of celebrity, 'success' and fame. Your book allows the reader to address their needs in a purposeful and intelligent manner.I also enjoyed the way in which you've managed to encourage the reader to reference their own values and needs. You've resisted the temptation to impose a template.' Graham Crowley

Read another review here by KELISE SOIXANTE-DOUZE “an essential survival guide for artists at any stage. Finally, a practical how-to guide for artists by artists!

WTDTYIAS is organised into various topics including text, images, illustrations/graphs, real-life case studies, and quotes from current and well-known British artists or practitioners. Delivered in direct and clear language, topic areas include: knowing your art practice, promoting yourself and your art practice; writing about yourself/art practice; exhibiting; making proposals and applications (e.g., for grants, commissions, prizes, etc.); “business stuff” such as a few bits on self-employment, copyright, and other legal aspects of an art practice; and there’s a whole section on expanding one’s art practice, for instance, through collaboration, teaching, commissions, or other opportunities.

Being present is an essential part of exhibiting work…remember, you are the best ambassador for your work, represent yourself!

— Rosalind Davis, on exhibiting and promoting yourself as an artist (WTDTYIAS, p. 73)

Throughout, the focus is on practical professional development for artists, makers, and creatives of all kinds, with advice, guidance, or real-life examples for doing everything an artist needs to do at some point in his or her career. Inside WTDTYIAS, you can see an example artist statement, advice on press releases, some tips about online presence, and much more, with steps or exercises you can immediately try out for yourself.  I found the case-studies particularly useful, as the authors first talked through a topic area, such as making proposals for grant funding, after which they walk through the experience via Q&A with other artists/practitioners or through in-depth analysis of their own personal experience.

At the heart of my philosophy for surviving as an artist is the idea that as artists we learn from other artists…[they] are a measure of our own progress and development. They tell us how we are doing.

— Annabel Tilly, on Philosophies for Surviving and Thriving as an artist (WTDTYIAS, pp. 176-181)

In summary, “What they didn’t teach you in art school” is recommended for its succinct, clear delivery of practical ideas and solutions. Also, speaking as an arts graduate, it wouldn’t hurt to add this book to every art school’s curriculum as required reading. There’s a lot of really helpful stuff in there, and new artists especially can always use a little extra hand up.

You can buy the book on Amazon as well as a number of other discerning bookshops across the world!