Off the Shelf: Artists' Business and Legal Guides
Category - Arts Resource
Written by Kellie A. Hanna

This month I thought I'd compile a bibliography of print resources that I have known to be helpful to artists. I gathered these resources from friends, advice I've gotten in the past few years, and from my own shelves. I've gone out and compared these with other artists' books to make sure I had the best information I could find; each has been thoroughly scoured and I consider them to be useful and informative resources. While I have offered some personal insight into some of the following books, I do not regard myself as a reviewer or a critic, and did not attempt to offer book reviews or critiques. Instead, I tried to explain the books in terms of their content and usefulness for artists. This month I concentrated on the business and legal side of things; in the future I will present bibliographies of handbooks, reference manuals, and relevent misciellany. If you know of any such helpful, informative books or manuals, email me at and let me know; I might be able to include it in an upcoming listing.

Caplin, Lee. The Business of Art, Second Edition. 1989: Prentice Hall. NJ
With the premise that "financial opportunities for the artist exist today as never before," The Business of Art gives practical, realistic information and sound advice to today's artists. This book is comprehensive, and covers a variety of artists' concerns--from preparing a slide portfolio to tax and legal issues, and copyright information. Some Chapter Titles are: Keeping your Artwork Unique, Insuring Artwork, and Understanding Everyday Finances. Other chapters discuss artists' unions, the politics of art, and the relationships between artists and dealers. The author wrote the book while he was the Assistant to the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the book is published in cooperation with the organization.

Doherty, Stephen M. Business Letters for Artists. 1993: Watson-Guptill. NY
This is a thick book, full of perforated form letters that can be torn out and used. Each form comes with guidelines so that you can tailor each letter to your personal needs, and is explained in detail. There are 15 forms, with multiple copies in the back; they may be photocopied for later use. These templates serve as artists' guides to writing legal and business agreements that, according to the book's editor, "will clarify and guarantee your rights."

Crawford, Tad. Business and Legal Forms for Illustrators. 1995: North Light Books. Ohio
Containing 17 ready-to-use forms, this book (recommended to me by a friend) is a handy collection of documents specifically for illustrators. It contains--among others--a book publishing agreement, transfer of copyright, an illustrator-gallery contract, and a contract for the sale of an artwork. Beyond the necessary forms, Mr. Crawford provides advice on standard contractural provisions, a guide to contracts, and information on how to contact local volunteer lawyers for the arts (see the archives for information on the Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts). Extra forms are provided in the back of the book, and the author provides negotiations checklists.

Crawford, Tad. Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers. 1995: North Light Books. Ohio
This book focuses on the graphic artist, offering a complete set of 33 legal and business tear-out forms needed to be your own graphic design business, including a letter of interest, jobs master index, proposal form, and project confirmation agreement. The author goes further to provide practical business tactics for those in this particular field.

Crawford, Tad. Business and Legal Forms for Fine Artists. 1995: North Light Books. Ohio
Yet another gift from Mr. Crawford, and recommended to me, Business and Legal Forms for Fine Artists is a must for all artists who don't want to get taken for a ride in the business, or who are frustrated from having already been there, and don't want to make the same mistakes again. It contains 17 necessary forms for Fine Artists trying to professionally display and sell their works. Some forms include: contracts for the sale of artwork and comissioned art, an invoice for the sale of work, a licensing agreement form, and a copyright application.

Mary Cox, Ed. The 1998 Artist's and Graphic Designer's Market 1998: Writer's Digest Books. Ohio
This is a comprehensive, state-by-state listing of art buyers, galleries, design firms, magazines, and book publishers, to name a few. Each listing outlines submission guidelines, pay rates, preferred styles and mediums, and tips for successful contacts. It's an invaluable reference source for the artist looking to do freelance work. I have the 1996 copy on my shelf; the books are published in annual editions.


Do you know of a similar organization in your community? Perhaps you know of an invaluable national resource we can all share. We'd love to know about it! If interested in sharing your resourceful knowledge with other artists please write

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