5 Great Books for Artists and Creative Entrepreneurs

Artists and entrepreneurs have a lot in common.

Both seek to change the world in some small way by using their talents and creative vision. For a long time businesses shunned too much creativity and focused on numbers and dry logic. Luckily however, there is a movement emerging that creativity into building a businesses.

It has become obvious with pioneers like Steve Jobs that being rebel minded, risk taking and wildly creative can lead to incredibly successful and world changing products. Some artists have shunned doing too much business out of the old fear that it would compromise the artistic vision and make the artist a 'sellout'. However more artists are beginning to realize that if they integrate entrepreneurial practice into their artistic vision their artwork can reach farther, be more impactful and sustain the cost of living for the artist.

In todays digital age anyone can start a business. Services like Society 6 and Zazzle has made it easy for artists to make their artwork available for purchase to people around the world. Social networks like Pintrest, Tumblr, Instagram and facebook has made it possible for artists to reach a global audience of like-minded people. Making a business out of your artwork does take time, dedication and a structured approach and if you're not into business it can be difficult to know where to start.

The following selection of books are ment to help artists expand their horizons to see new ways of making their artwork a sustainable way of life.


The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup is a new approach being adopted across the globe, changing the way companies are built and new products are launched. 
The Lean Startup approach fosters companies that are both more capital efficient and that leverage human creativity more effectively.  Inspired by lessons from lean manufacturing, it relies on “validated learning,” rapid scientific experimentation, as well as a number of counter-intuitive practices that shorten product development cycles, measure actual progress without resorting to vanity metrics, and learn what customers really want. It enables a company to shift directions with agility, altering plans inch by inch, minute by minute. 

Rather than wasting time creating elaborate business plans, The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs - in companies of all sizes - a way to test their vision continuously, to adapt and adjust before it’s too late. Ries provides a scientific approach to creating and managing successful startups in a age when companies need to innovate more than ever.

Business Model Generation

A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers

Based on the wildly popular creative tool Business Model Canvas. It offers a creative way to sketch out a business idea and see how the pieces fit together. It makes you consider all aspects of your venture and see it clearly from the top. The Book is very nicely designed and uses a lot of creative techniques to simply some complex ideas and presents them in a practical way for you to use in developing your business venture. Read the first 72 pages for free at http://www.businessmodelgeneration.com/downloads/business_model_canvas_poster.pdf:

The Startup Owner's Manual

The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company

This book really is handy to have when you need direction on how to maintain and run your business. Each chapters pertains to a certain challenge or process in a startups life. Being an artist professionally really is like managing a business and Startup the Owners Manual provides concrete steps and checklists of how you progress through common stages.

Steve Blank the Author of the The Startup Owner's Manual is connected to both Alex Osterwalder and Eric Reiss, the authors of the two previous books. Their theories meld together and Steve Blank in particular does a great job of connecting the ideas of all three books through presentations available free on Youtube!

The War of Art

Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

A succinct, engaging, and practical guide for succeeding in any creative sphere, The War of Art is nothing less than Sun-Tzu for the soul. hat keeps so many of us from doing what we long to do? Why is there a naysayer within? How can we avoid the roadblocks of any creative endeavor—be it starting up a dream business venture, writing a novel, or painting a masterpiece? Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identif ies the enemy that every one of us must face, outlines a battle plan to conquer this internal foe, then pinpoints just how to achieve the greatest success. The War of Art emphasizes the resolve needed to recognize and overcome the obstacles of ambition and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline. Think of it as tough love . . . for yourself. Whether an artist, writer or business person, this simple, personal, and no-nonsense book will inspire you to seize the potential of your life.

Turning Pro

Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life's Work

The follow-up to his bestseller The War of Art, Turning Pro navigates the passage from the amateur life to a professional practice. "You don't need to take a course or buy a product. All you have to do is change your mind." --Steven Pressfield  When we turn pro, we give up a life that we may have become extremely comfortable with. We give up a self that we have come to identify with and to call our own. . The passage from amateur to professional is often achieved via an interior odyssey whose trials are survived only at great cost, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. We pass through a membrane when we turn pro. It's messy and it's scary. We tread in blood when we turn pro.. What we get when we turn pro is we find our power. We find our will and our voice and we find our self-respect. We become who we always were but had, until then, been afraid to embrace and live out.

Realize Your Dream to Be a Professional Artist


Do your dream

London street art by .akajimmyc
London street art by .akajimmyc

If we have great dreams we must to be willing to do something for them. Define your dream and put your effort towards realizing it. It takes work and dedication but if you are passionate you will attract things that someone with lots of money and no passion never could. If we are brave enough to follow our passion and shift our life towards realizing our dreams they will happen.

It takes believing in yourself and being responsible to yourself. We are responsible to our dreams.

Someone will think of their company as like their baby and take care of it as such. Can you nurture your art and make it grow, anticipate its needs, plan for its future, protect it and show it the right attention and care? Like investing your heart and soul into making your child grow up you put the same passion into realizing whatever vision you have. Following your passion will take work and in many ways a regular mindless job is much more comforting. If you want to be in charge you have to be the boss and the employee. That is a lot more responsibility and it takes managing yourself in a practical way.If you are do it and stick to it you will be able to live comfortably doing what you love.

Say 'I am an artist' proudly!

Things you can do to bring your dream into reality.


  • Write 5 things you want to make happen.
  • Do a dreamboard, put up pictures that remind you of what you to create.
  • Write inspiring affirmations on post-its down and put them up places you will see them.
  • Set up your workspace to you have things ready when inspiration strikes.
  • Dedicate structured time to working to working on your artwork.
  • Connect with like-minded creative people around you.

Artopia Book Recommendation

The War of Art

by Stephen Presfield

Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Expect this book to make a change in your creative life. This book is a classic among working artists

Yeah, that's a bold statement. But deep down inside you know that it is only you standing in the way of your potential.  This book will take you from the mentality of the weekend warrior - amateur artist, to what it is to be a professional artist.


Becoming a Professional Artist

We have the distant goal of wanting to be a professional artist but we might not think about what that really means to us. What life changes do we need to make to live a sustainable life as an artist? What do we actually want and how much work will it take to achieve that? What most of us want is really just a comfortable place to live and having food in the fridge. What will that cost and many paintings do you have to sell, at what price to maintain that?

These are practical questions that many artists don't ask themselves. Artists want to make art but besides making artwork there is figuring how you making artwork is going to sustain your lifestyle in the real world. That is an art in itself and we call it artrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are sometimes people who dedicate their heart and soul to realizing a vision for products and services that changes people's lives. In many ways it is similar to being an artist, having a vision and putting effort towards creating it and getting it in front of people.

  • Managing their time.
  • Setting goals and deadlines.
  • Leading themselves and others by example.
  • Networking and making connections to people.
  • Promote and stand by proudly of their product or service.[/list][/box]

Incorporating these disciplines into the work of being an artist is blending what it means to be an artist with what it means to be an entrepreneur.

That's why we call it artrepreneurship to describe the practice of being entrepreneurial with your artwork.

do your dream big
do your dream big

Artrepreneurial practice can help artists:

  • Earn more money.
  • Get more artwork done.
  • Be more established in communities.
  • Have consistent outlets to express yourself.
  • Feel better about yourself as an artist.

photos by

Johannes Madsen of artwork by .akajimmyc of London

Innovation and Artrepreneurship


by Johannes Madsen

In my journey to 'start my own thing', I discovered entrepreneurship as the method to make a product, find the customer, set up a company, distribute the product and get a return on the investment you put in. I found out that having a good product isn't all it takes to have a successful product. In the same sense, being a great artist is more than being good at making artwork.

The greatest artists are the ones who have found a unique and innovative way to:

  • Promote and present their artwork
  • Offer new value to the audience
  • Distribute and monetize their artwork

In the previous article in this series, I wrote about how an entrepreneurial mindset might apply to being an artist. We introduced the term 'Artrepreneurship' to describe the practice of realising your artwork in innovative new ways amplifying the value of your existing artwork by working around it.

In this article we will look more closely at specific types of innovation and how they apply to real life artrepreneurship.

10 Types of Innovation

The term 'innovation' simply means to do something in a new way that unlocks new value in some form.

Entrepreneurship is very much focused on having a structured approach to come up with new ideas that create value or innovations.  One powerful tool used to get an overview over the different areas of innovation is  'Doblin's Ten Types Of Innovation'. We are going to look at how this can be applied to being an artist.

1.  Finance  - Businessmodel

How does your product make money or what is the value exchange with your audience?

2.  Network and Affiliation

Are you partnering or collaborating with someone in order to make your artwork faster, better or cheaper?

3.  Process

How is your studio set up? Does your workspace enable you to make your artwork efficiently?

4. Core process

How do you create your artwork? Are you using the best methods and techniques to achieve what you want and make the process fun?

5. Product performance

What is your artwork able to do? What are the remarkable features of your artwork?

6. Product system

What context does your artwork fit into? Is your work part of a series?

7. Service

How do you offer your audience or customers value beyond the artwork itself?

8. Channel

How are you delivering your artwork to your audience?

9. Brand

How do you communicate your identity and what is remarkable about your work?

10. Customer experience

How does your audience feel about the experience you are providing them?

Watch a video about the 10 types of innovation

When this tool was created, they looked at what type of innovation companies used the most and what types of innovation typically generated most value.

Most companies focus on making their products better, but it turns out that that isn't where the most value is generated. 

When a company finds innovative ways of branding and delivering an existing product it might amplify the value of that product and ultimately make more money for the company.

The lesson smart companies learned from this is to think beyond the product.

I believe the same is true for artists.

We tend to put so much time and effort into making a better, more technically advanced piece of artwork, but that doesn't always lead to a larger audience, more income or a better experience of your art.

As artists we need to think beyond the artwork and having the 10 types of innovation in mind is a great way to make sure that you get more out of the art you have already made.

In the next few articles in this series we will explore each type of innovation in-depth and how it relates to specific types of artists. For now, let's look at a case of a true artrepreneur who has incorporated many types of innovation in their artistic vision.

Case study: Shepard Fairey the Artrepreneur

Love him or hate him, almost everyone has heard about Shepard Fairey or seen his iconic pieces of artwork. His style is simple and easy to copy, but that has only helped his artwork reach a global audience.

Obey Giant by Shepard Fairey
Obey Giant by Shepard Fairey

As an inside joke he made a stencil of André the giant and painted it around his town. He invited others to do the same and inspired a global cultural movement of sorts that has now grown in to successful clothing line.

Shepard Faiery didn't just get technically better at making his artwork - he put it in interesting ways, made a simple process people could copy, created an experience and story around the artwork.

He puts his artwork next to advertising to put it into question. This tells a story and contributes to the 'customer' experience. The placement of the artwork makes the art more than had it been seen by itself. This is an innovative way of delivering the artwork that amplifies the effectiveness of it.

Consider the 10 types of innovation and how Shepard Faiery is using each area to make more out of his artwork

Shepard Fairey interview part 1


It seems that Shepard considers the reactions to his artwork and the cultural impact of it as much as making a beautiful piece of artwork. The placement and message of his work makes it into something much more than if it had stood on it's own.

The artwork itself is just one piece in a bigger whole.

"A Lot of artists want to be the mysterious person behind the curtain I actoually want to demystify and say here are these simple tools go out and rock it!" - Shepard Fairey

Shepard Faiery's open attitude empowered a movement. Many artists fear that sharing their techniques will mean giving away their trade secrets yet it has seemed to work very well for Shepard Faiery.

He blends the two opposing worlds of rebelling against 'big brother' and making money.

He discusses the challenges of working commercially as and still having integrety as an artist saying that a lot of artists have this fear that if they do commercial work will make them sell out in the eyes of their peers. An attitude that doesn't support a sustainable life as an artist.

Shepard Fairey interview part 2

Shepard Fairey talks about how he is evolving his style but still uses certain repeated icons through his work to create a continual experience. One of his pieces of work will fit with a series of other works he has made.There will be a thread going through his street art, paintings and clothing products that he sells.His way of making a business is challanging the convensional way of doing artwork and of doing business.Had he kept his method and techniques to himself, his artwork would never have grown the way it did.[hr]

It is safe to say that Shepard Fairey's work has had a long reach. He has figured out how to make a living from what he does and he has done it by thinking creatively about how he uses his artwork.

I hope this inspires you to take your art farther. Hiding your artwork in the closet isn't honoring your work.

Striving to make money as an artist isn't something bad but essential to free you up to do what you love.

For more on artepreneurship check out our article Being an Artepreneur

Yes We Scan. Deal with it.
Yes We Scan. Deal with it.

Being an Artrepreneur


by Johannes Madsen

I have always had a dream of 'starting my own thing'. I wanted to create something I would love and that others would love too. I think many people share similar dreams, but, like me, lack a context to put that in. It is easy to have a dream, but it is something else to put it into reality and actually realise that dream. I have all sorts of ideas. I wanted to make and sell t-shirts, make community websites, do online games and many more ideas that I never realised. It took me a while to figure out that what I was doing was entrepreneuring.


An entrepreneur is someone who has a vision and puts actions behind it to realise that vision.

Little did I know that what I was attempting to do was actually called entrepreneurship and has its world of tools, literature and best practices when it comes to making a sustainable business.

Most entrepreneurs have a goal to grow a business and make money, but that wasn't really exactly what I always wanted. I just wanted to make enough to get by, doing what I love doing. The goal of my vision has always been to make myself and others happier through what I do, not to make a big company that makes lots and lots of money.

I think many artists share this with me. Somehow we would like to do what we love and share it with others, but we get strangely uncomfortable a soon as money is involved. Most artists would rather avoid it and certainly not have it effect their product or vision.

Traditionally in entrepreneurship the product and vision are primarily focused on money - although with a growing sense of social responsibility, the drivers of entrepreneurial vision have become about:

  • Sustainability
  • Enriching people's lives
  • Making an impact on the world
  • Empowering others to express themselves

Through rock star entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg entrepreneurship has become cool, and what's cool about it isn't all about making. Making an impact is what matters.

Many artists share this vision of making an impact and there is a lot artists can learn from the practice of entrepreneurship that would empower them to make a deeper impact with their artwork.

That is why I am writing this series of articles and why we are using the term 'Artrepreneur' to describe an artist who applies practices to grow their artwork.

The Artrepreneur

Artists live thinking that all they will have to do to realise their artistic vision is make the artwork. Good artists wonder why their work isn't being seen, featured or sold. The answer is that there is a lot more that has to be done besides making the artwork. Networking with galleries, setting up an online portfolio with your art, submitting your stuff to competitions and so on. All of this is Artrepreneuring!

An artrepreneur is someone who does things around their artwork to amplify the value of it. A painting only exists one place but upload it to your online portfolio and it will be viewed many places around the world. You are taking a static value and stretching it out farther and wider.

We are using the term 'artrepreneur' in order to state clearly that there are many more activities besides making good artwork that makes a good artist. We are going to apply terms entrepreneurship to the world of artists in order to set some guidelines for what you can do as an artist to farther your artwork and yourself as an artist.

Having an entrepreneurial mindset as an artist can be extremely powerful to realising your art in more innovative and creative ways.

The artwork is only the beginning!

Being good at your craft and producing great artwork isn't always enough to make a great artist. 'Making it' as an artist is much more than doing good artwork.

It is:

  • Promoting your art and distributing it in creative ways
  • Engaging with a community through your art
  • The process of how you make your artwork
  • The value exchange between your artwork and your audience
  • These are all artrepreneurial subjects

As an artist you might realise that these are  things you are already doing, but it might not be considered part of your art. You are already an Artrepreneur, and becoming aware of that will empower you to master the art of Artrepreneuring. When you take responsibility for making your art grow and nurture the soil around it, your art will flourish in incredible ways you couldn't imagine.

Getting your art out there and experienced by people in new ways will free your artwork from the darkness of your storage room. You can make much more with what you have by being innovative in what you do with your art.


Another thing we will attempt to do with the term artrepreneur is to remove the phobia artists have for money.

Money is simply another tool you can make things with and it is essential if you want to build a sustainable life as an artist.

I do understand the discomfort artists tend to feel about money but ignoring it won't make the reality that the world runs on money go away. Don't be naive and learn how you can use the money system to your advantage.

The idea of money messing with your vision might not be a productive one. Bring money into your vision and embrace it as an empowering tool you can use to realise your artistic vision in greater ways.

The point of this whole article is to say 'get out there and do it!' Art is not something that stands alone by itself, it is an interaction with an audience. You as the artist make that interaction happen and that takes work besides doing the art.

You have to get out there and talk with others, make connections and show your artwork to the world.

Practical examples

  1. Submitting your artwork to social networks
  2. Creating an online portfolio or blog about your artwork
  3. Making businesscards and networking with potential stakeholders