My Real Job is Being an Artist: Book Review

My Real Job is Being an Artist

written by Aletta de Wal

My Real Job is Being an Artist is a paperback guide written by Aletta de Wal. If you are looking for something to help you take your art career to the next level, you’ve found it.

Aletta doesn’t pull any punches in this informative how-to for artists. If you are looking for a quick buck, don’t read this book. If you are expecting to become the next Damien Hirst, don’t read this book. If you want to be rewarded for consistent and strategic hard work, My Real Job is Being an Artist provides you with a step-by-step guide. 

The book is professionally published and is seriously substantial in size and the depth of information. Unfortunately, the cover doesn’t look like a book for artists. The graphic is perhaps more suited to a textbook and it doesn’t invite me to pick it up and leaf through it. That is probably deliberate as the book is academic in its approach to artist careers but I did yearn for a bit more color and flair to the cover design. Having said that, we all know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover and it couldn’t be truer in this case.

My Real Job is Being an Artist cover

de Wal is an artist, educator, and entrepreneur. She obviously has enough skin in the game to know what she’s talking about and she is generous with her knowledge.

The book begins by categorizing artists at various stages of their career. Are you an emerging artist, a mid-career artist or an established artist? You will almost certainly blush with recognition at the descriptions that de Wal provides as she highlights the strengths and weaknesses of an artist in your category.

These descriptions are the perfect launching pad for the rest of the book. Once she has the categorizing out of the way, de Wal takes off into the rarely charted territory of what an actual art career looks like. What does it take to build a body of signature work? How does an artist consistently make sales? How do you handle rejection? There’s a whole chapter on accessing your creative muse.

The detail of the book is truly stunning. I’ve always thought that a career path for artists was a unicorn. If you go to see a career advisor they wouldn’t have a clue where to send you to find your future as an artist. de Wal takes that preconception and turns it on its head. This is the corporate ladder for artists. She outlines exactly where the entry-level work is and how to slowly grow your practice to the size that you want it.

The nuts and bolts chapters about paperwork, taxes, insurance, are everything you need to create the professional framework to build an actual business, a business that is rewarding and sustainable.

de Wal’s tone can sometimes tend towards the omniscient and, as I was reading, I found myself pushing against that. I would think to myself, “but it’s not always like that”, or “how about this situation”? Almost without fail, de Wal would address the complexity of the situation in the next paragraph. She brings a humility and self-assuredness to the topic that convinces me that I’m in safe hands.

My Real Job is Being an Artist is the go-to book for putting together your art career. You will find yourself going back to it again and again for inspiration and guidance as you career ebbs and flows.

The book is available on Amazon and other outlets as well as on de Wal’s website


Thanks to Aletta de Wal for providing a copy of the book for me to review.