Making a living while making art

New York City-based artist Margaret Peot makes the bulk of her living as a costume painter for Broadway artists, figure skaters and circus performers. She loves her craft, and makes a good living at it, too. Plus, it provides her the security to pursue her personal art: elaborate, time-consuming, allegorical woodcuts.

When she received her BFA from Miami University in 1986, she never could have predicted that career. So, when Peot set out to write a career guide for visual artists, she wanted to ask searching questions of the reader rather than attempt to deliver clear-cut answers.

“The Successful Artist’s Career Guide: Finding Your Way in the Business of Art” will be officially released this week. The 224 pages are teeming with worksheets and writing assignments intended to aid readers in divining their true calling, and they include scores of interviews with a variety of successful, working artists.

“I love to read about people’s lives — how they got from point A to point B. It’s never what you think. I started interviewing my friends, and then people started referring me to extraordinary artists,” says Peot. “I kept discovering people that were really making a decent living with their artwork, and I wanted to share some of their wisdom. The idea got picked up pretty quickly [by a publisher]. I think maybe because of the times we’re in, people are reshaping their lives and this book rang a bell.”

No need for starving artists

“Artist’s Career Guide” is adamant that visual artists can lead healthy, financially stable lives. But, unlike other careers, it is a journey that requires personal tailoring — and introspection.

“There’s something romantic about the troubled artist living a difficult life,” explains Peot. “But you can’t sustain being a tortured artist forever. I make it a point to say, ‘Maybe you can actually choose how you want to live and have your dream, too.’”

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