Because making art isn’t just about making art.

To survive and continue to make art, you’re gonna need some business sense. And if you’re prepared to stop avoiding the subject because “you’re just not good at it” and want to learn, this is a great place to start. I’ve boiled down 10 books that are utterly essential for every artist who wants to make a living at this crazy career.

The 4-Hour Workweek

Tim Ferriss gets a bad rap. His polarizing personality seems to distract from the content of his books. And the content is great. There’s a lot to learn here about passive income, separating the notion of money from work, and generally upsetting many of the “normal” mindsets we have on things. This book was life-changing. No joke.

Your Money or Your Life

The single most important book on personal finance you can read. Countless invaluable lessons and simply an essential way to look at money. If you’re scared of money or saving or investing or anything, read this. You won’t regret it. While I have minor qualms with some of the notes on investment, this is an incredibly good book.

I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Yes, the title is terrible. But I swear the book isn’t. Aimed at a bit of a younger crowd, this was my introduction to the world of personal finance. This was the book that taught me how to take control of my finances so I could feel comfortable (and even pay off my student loans). Some great stuff about responsible use of credit cards and conscious spending (yes, you should be allowed to spend money without guilt!).

How to Win Friends & Influence People

You need to read this. I certainly need to read this (again). We should really all read this. The ability to simply get along with other people is, often times, not that easy for some of us. But just like drawing or painting, this can be studied and practiced. So let’s all learn how to be nice and treat others the way we’d like to be treated.

Anything You Want

Derek Sivers offers the fascinating perspective of an artist who almost inadvertently wandered into the world of business. He also did incredibly well for himself. A very fun, short read with invaluable life lessons.

Permission Marketing

One of the best Seth Godin books out there. He goes against many of the common thoughts on marketing (that is to say, buy as much advertising as you can and hope for the best). In terms of getting out your personal brand as an artist, the advice is perfect. The information here is easily applied to a freelancer.

All Marketers Are Liars

Seth Godin’s so good, he gets two books on the list. The central message of the book, despite the catchy title, is on the telling of stories. What story does your life/art/business tell the world? Is it an honest, compelling one? Because it needs to be if you really want to connect with your audience.

The Power of Habit

Habits control us. So it’s about time we realized that, understood it, and figured out how to use habits to our advantage. This book goes over how habits work and also how we can begin to adjust our own habits to lead healthier, happier lives.


Why do people do the things they do? Why do we choose to buy from certain people? Why do we like certain companies? Why do we donate to certain causes (and maybe dump ice on our heads)? Psychology is a fascinating science and this book is a revealing look at psychology as it relates to the world of business & sales. Whether you’d like to learn how to avoid sleezy business tactics or perhaps learn to sell your work better, this book is for you.

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing

Simple, concise, and accurate. These laws should not ever be forgotten. Keep them in mind no matter what you’re pursuing and you’ll have an easier time of it.

This list has been a sequel to another article, 10 Books Every Artist Must Read. If you’d like more art-focused books, I suggest you check out that list.

When you’re looked over, passed by, and straight up refused, that isn’t failure. When it feels like you can’t do anything right, that isn’t failure.

When it all feels hopeless and you don’t even know why you bother, it still isn’t failure. When you change directions to do something else, that’s not failure.

Failure is neither delays nor going slow. Failure isn’t starting late or starting wrong. Failure isn’t feeling worry or regret or confusion.

Failure doesn’t look like struggle, it looks like nothing at all.

Failure is when we stop. When we put our goals and dreams up on the shelf to collect dust. Failure is accepting failure.

But until the day we die, failure doesn’t have to be permanent. We can always dust off those dreams and start again.

All we have to do is keep going.

Minimum Wage Artists

by Noah Bradley | November 20th, 2015

To my fellow artists, creatives, illustrators, and concept designers,

Do not work for less than minimum wage.

Companies like Fantasy Flight Games ask artists to do a fully painted illustration and sign away nearly all rights to that piece for just $100. That is rude, disgraceful, and downright wrong. We need to bring this to light so it can stop.

For a company pulling in tens of millions of dollars in revenue annually, surely they are capable of paying their freelance artists a reasonable rate.

$100, assuming the average artist will take around 15 hours to complete the work (factoring in communication, research, revisions, actual painting, and invoicing), will earn the artist somewhere around $7/hour, less than the current US federal minimum wage.

By most estimates, a freelancer should mentally divide any hourly rate they earn by half to compare it to any in-house, full time position (as a freelancer has additional taxes, has to factor in time for accounting and advertising, has to pay for health insurance, and has all of the overhead to supply their own equipment and work space).

So that puts our functional wage for that job closer to $3.50/hour.

“But I work a lot faster than that! I can make good money!”, they scream.

You really can’t.

If you do an $100 piece every working day of the year, ignoring all holidays and never taking a vacation even for Christmas, you will earn a grand total of $26,100 at the end of the year, before taxes.

You will work like a dog to earn less than even the median American income to do a skilled job that helps your employer earn the position of one of the largest analog game companies.

But the thing is, you won’t make that much. You’re not going to make a livable income. You’re not magically going to fill every hour of your day with doing paying work for companies. You will be like the majority of freelance artists in this field and earn below the poverty line. I’ve known far too many friends in this field who are at the top of their game and struggle to earn even $15,000. Most don’t even earn $10,000 in a year.

But nobody talks about it. We all keep our mouths shut because money and rates are taboo subjects and we fear losing our jobs. We fear to lose the jobs that don’t even pay us enough to live.

Still others will say “But you’re doing a job that you love! Don’t you enjoy doing art? Why do you have to bring money into it?” Please. Don’t get me started. I know more than a few carpenters who love their job, but a remarkable few who don’t think they deserve to be paid for their work.

Something has to change.

Artists need to be paid more. Not so we can sit comfortably and drink martinis or lounge on a beach all of the time. But just so we can be paid fairly and earn a decent, sustainable living. We’re not asking for much.

We’re only asking for enough.

So artists, do not be lured in by the prospect of working for “a big company” or for the illusory “prestige” of working on easily recognized IPs. A bad job is a bad job, and nearly anything Fantasy Flight Games will give you is a bad job.

I made the mistake of doing a few jobs for $100 when I was starting out years ago. I hope you won’t make that same mistake.

I’ve had it.

I will no longer encourage aspiring artists to attend art school. I just won’t do it. Unless you’re given a full ride scholarship (or have parents with money to burn), attending art school is a waste of your money.

I have a diploma from the best public art school in the nation. Prior to that I attended the best private art school in the nation. I’m not some flaky, disgruntled art graduate, either. I have a quite successful career, thankyouverymuch.

But I am saddened and ashamed at art schools and their blatant exploitation of students. Graduates are woefully ill-prepared for the realities of being professional artists and racked with obscene amounts of debt. By their own estimation, the cost of a four year education at RISD is $245,816. As way of comparison, the cost of a diploma from Harvard Law School is a mere $236,100.

This is embarrassing. It’s downright shameful. That any art school should deceive its students into believing that this is a smart decision is cruel and unusual.

Artists are neither doctors nor lawyers. We do not, on average, make huge six-figure salaries. We can make livable salaries, certainly. Even comfortable salaries. But we ain’t usually making a quarter mil a year. Hate to break it to you. An online debt repayment calculator recommended a salary exceeding $400,000 in order to pay off a RISD education within 10 years.

Don’t do it.

Don’t start your career with debilitating debt.

Please. I beg you. Think long and hard whether you’re willing to pay student loan companies $3000 every single month for the next 10 years.

You’ve got other options.

You don’t have to go to college to be an artist. Not once have I needed my diploma to get a job. Nobody cares. The education is all that matters. The work that you produce should be your sole concern.

There are excellent atelier schools all over the world that offer superior education for a mere fraction of the price. Here are a few:

There are more. Many, many more. And none of them will cost nearly as much as a traditional four year school.

And then there are the online options. The availability of drawing and painting resources is incredible.

Sitting at a computer I have direct access to artists all over the world. I have the combined wisdom of the artistic community to pull from at my leisure. For less than a few grand a year I can view more educational material than I would see at any art school. You can get a year of access to all of the Gnomon Workshop’s videos for the cost of a few days at the average art school.

With all of these options it can be a little daunting. So you know what? I’ve come up with a plan for you. Do this:

The $10k Ultimate Art Education

  • $500Buy an annual subscription to The Gnomon Workshop and watch every single video they have.
  • $404.95Buy Glenn Vilppu’s Anatomy Lectures and watch all of them.
  • $190 Buy all of these books and read them cover to cover.
  • $1040 ($20/week x 52 weeks) – Weekly figure drawing sessions. Look up nearby colleges and art groups and find a weekly session to attend.
  • $2500Sign up for a SmART School Mentorship when you feel ready to get one-on-one guidance to push your abilities.
  • $2400Sign up for four classes from CGMA. Get taught by professionals in the industry on exactly the skills you want to learn.
  • FreeWatch all of these keynotes.
  • FreeStudy other things for free. Suggested topics: business, history, philosophy, English, literature, marketing, and anything else you might be interested in.
  • $500 – Throughout the year, use at least this much money to visit museums in your area. And not just art museums. All museums.
  • Free – Create accountability. One of the great advantages to attending a school is the comradery. So use the internet to create your own. Go join a forum where you can give and receive critique on the work you’re developing. There are many different ones out there that can suit whatever flavor you prefer.
  • The rest – Materials. Buy yourself some good art materials to create with. Whether digital or traditional. Don’t skimp.

There. For less than a quarter of the tuition for RISD you’ve got yourself a killer education. You’ve received more quality, focused education than I think you’ll find at any art school.

Moving forward

There has never been a better time to be an artist. I’m inspired by the sheer quantity and quality of internet resources available to artists.

But I encourage all aspiring artists to think long and hard about their options. Student loans are unforgivable through bankruptcy and can wreck your financial future. Establishing a career while under the unceasing brutality of student loans makes an already difficult task nearly impossible.

Find another path. Art is a wonderful, beautiful, fulfilling pursuit. Don’t ruin it with a mountain of debt.

Disclaimer: I do not mean any offense to any of the educators at art schools. I have numerous professors who I consider close friends. This is neither an attack on you, nor your teaching abilities, nor the value that you provide for your students. I’m talking about the schools, not the artists teaching at them.

I love it.

Last week I purchased a Yiynova MSP19U, a 19″ pressure-sensitive tablet monitor. After the fantastic review by Frenden this tablet monitor has gotten a lot of internet attention. Wacom has utterly dominated the field, leaving little room for competitors. But there’s a new kid on the block.

The MSP19U is a worthy competitor. It’s not perfect. But it’s darn good.

Noah Bradley using the Yiynova MSP19U


It’s not the greatest presentation. If you’re looking for a slick, Apple-like packaging… look elsewhere. All you’ll get here is simple instructions with more Engrish than you can shake a stick at.


The device itself is great. It’s sturdy, well-constructed and has a nice screen on it. It’s more lightweight and portable than any Cintiq I’ve used. I was quite comfortable sitting on my bed with this thing in my lap. I’m pretty sure a Cintiq would have crushed my pelvis.

I like the colors better than any Cintiq I’ve used. I’ve found Cintiqs to have unusually dull colors (even when calibrated). The MSP19U is bright and vibrant. It leans a bit cool in color (and a tad light) out of the box, but nothing a little calibration can’t fix.

The surface is glassy smooth. Personally, I like this better than the faux-grit that a lot of current Wacom tablets have. If you really want to put some grit on the screen, you can always add a screen protector.

There are no buttons on the device. Word has it that the next generation device they’re producing will have them, but this one didn’t. I’m ok with that. I’ve never used the buttons on my Intuos and I don’t have any need to start. I prefer key commands on my keyboard—they’re faster and more reliable.

The viewing angles aren’t great. But I find when working on a tablet monitor you’re more likely to be looking directly at it than at a traditional monitor.


The drivers are a bit problematic and the software interface is kinda ugly. But not a big deal. I was able to get it working quickly. And once you get it working there’s little need to touch the software again. I do wish I had more customization on the pressure-sensitivity, but I’m sure that will come as the company improves their software.


It’s not a flawless piece of hardware, but I absolutely love this thing. And I haven’t even mentioned the price: at $600, this is a steal. To get a Wacom product of similar quality, you’d be looking at 2-4x that price.

I’m not going to tell you that the Yiynova MSP19U is better than a Wacom Cintiq. But I will tell you that it’s every bit as good. If you’re in the market for a tablet monitor and prefer to not spend money for the sake of spending money, buy one of these. You won’t regret it.

Purchase a Yiynova MSP19U

4.5/5 stars

Photo courtesy of A Muse Photography


by Noah Bradley | April 2nd, 2013

Start working.

Convincing yourself to sit down and work is a difficult prospect. You might have other things you want to get done. You might think it’s daunting to sit down to a big task like that. You might be scared of “wasting” your time. So you end up procrastinating.

But the greatest trick you can play on yourself is to force yourself to just start. Sit down and agree to work for 10 minutes. That’s it. Anyone can do something for just 10 minutes.

I bet you’ll find yourself working for longer than 10 minutes. You’ll get into what you’re doing and lose track of time. Momentum is easy to maintain. Starting is tricky and sometimes requires some coaxing.


Piracy doesn’t bother me.

It’s quite easy to pirate any of my paid content (namely, The Art of Freelancing). And you know what? I’m not freaking out. It’s ok.

I know quite well what it’s like to be a poor college student living off of student loans. I know what it’s like to not have an income. I know what it’s like to struggle to pay for a $10 download (much less a $57 one). Because I went through that.

But even back then I forced myself to pay for the downloads and bought many of the old Massive Black videos. Even though I had never met them, guys like Jason Chan, Whit Brachna, Nox, El Coro, and Carl Dobsky became my teachers. I used my sparse cash to pay for these downloads so that I could become a better artist. And it paid off. Without those videos I would not be the artist I am today.

So if you’re really strapped for cash but are desperate to learn, feel free to pirate anything of mine. Maybe down the road when you’re better off you can buy it properly. Or maybe not. Either way it’s ok. I won’t hunt you down or sue you or anything.

I wish you the best of luck in your career. I hope I can help you in some small ways to reach your goals.


by Noah Bradley | November 1st, 2012

Being creative is hard.

Being creative while constantly being distracted and interrupted is impossible.

Learn to disconnect. Turn your phone off. You don’t need it buzzing with texts, phone calls, and notifications every couple minutes. Disconnect from the internet. You’ll live without it for a while. Find a time and place where no one will feel inclined to ask you to do something. Shut the door. Noise-canceling headphones are a gift from God. Put an end to the constant barrage of interruptions.

This has been one of my favorites parts of traveling overseas. Not having a phone nor the ability to get on the internet more than a couple times a week. The peace is almost tangible. When we aren’t distracted, we can finally think.

It requires a conscious effort, but it will pay off. I promise.

Now I’m going to get off the internet and go paint.

Stop Overthinking It

by Noah Bradley | October 30th, 2012

We’re our own worst enemy.

Our minds keep us from doing the things we want to do by telling us that we can’t do them. That we don’t know how or we’re not qualified or we’re going to fail.

Stop listening to yourself. Solely thinking about a creative problem will rarely find a solution. We find our solutions as we combine our thinking and our doing. The best work is often done when we turn our minds off and let the subconscious work. Sometimes we need to get out of our own way.

If you’re fully convinced that you’re going to produce a bad piece, it’s very likely that you’ll succeed in doing so. If we only expect the same results we’ve always gotten, we’ll only produce the same. Expect great things. As Robert Henri said, “Work always as if you were a master, expect from yourself a masterpiece.”

Don’t let thinking get in the way of doing.

Fake it

by Noah Bradley | October 25th, 2012

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received has been “fake it till ya make it.” I took it to heart.

I thought I was a good artist before I was. I acted like a professional before I was. I put out my first instructional video before I started working professionally. I was working professionally when I didn’t know what I was doing. I acted like an extrovert when I was an introvert. I acted like a businessperson when I hadn’t made a dime. I acted like a marketer when I hadn’t sold anything.

I learn by imitation. By looking at those who do what I want to do and studying how they do it. I imitate them. Then I find that I don’t need to imitate them any longer. I’ve done it time and time again. I continue to do it.

It’s very hard to be a professional artist when you’re still acting like a student. So fake it. Be the person you want to be even if you know you’re not (yet).

Find more time

by Noah Bradley | October 24th, 2012

We all want to have more time.

One of the best ways to have more time is to simply spend it on the right things and to stop spending it on the wrong things. Easier said than done.

Enter RescueTime. A free application that runs in the background and keeps track of how you spend your time. It groups programs into categories and ranks them into varying levels of productivity (all customizable, of course).

At first I was just curious. I thought it might be interesting to see a breakdown of my time. But then I realized that it made me more conscious of where I was spending my time. Almost like someone looking over my shoulder, it encouraged me to stay on task. Just the thought of the program running was enough for me to be more productive.

So go ahead. Find out exactly how many hours you’re spending on Facebook. If you’re like me… that number might be unsettling.

Remove negativity

by Noah Bradley | October 5th, 2012

Negativity doesn’t help.

Negativity is bringing you down. Discouraging you. Distracting you. Keeping you from creating. Telling you that you aren’t good enough. You won’t make it. You can’t make it. You’re wasting your time. It takes the best of your time, energy, and motivation.

Remove negativity.

Situations, people, and habits can be negative influences on your life. Remove them. No, it ain’t easy. It’s necessary.

First, identify the negative influences. Find things in your life that leave you worse than before. That destroy your creative drive. At some level, we usually know what these influences are. But for the sake of tradition, loyalty, or merely routine we don’t do anything about them.

Remove them. I can’t tell you how to do this. Everyone deals with a very unique set of negativity in their lives. The balance you strive for and the lengths you’re willing to go are entirely your choosing. Don’t make any hasty decisions. Sometimes things can change for the better. Sometimes it’s worth holding onto something in hopes that it will. Or sometimes—painful though it may be—we need to make the harder choice.

And then embrace the positive. Surround yourself with the situations, people, and habits that make you better. That encourage you. That inspire you to work harder than you ever have. Fill the role that negativity used to play in your life with positivity. Befriend those with an insatiable desire to live. Find places that almost vibrate with a creative excitement.

Lastly, be certain that you yourself are not a source of negativity. See that you are a positive influence on those around you. Removing your own negativity can be the hardest of all, because it can become so ingrained in us. We get used to it. We don’t even see it anymore. Look at how you affect people.

Too often we are comfortable maintaining negativity in our lives. We’re too lazy or scared to change things. Even when they will make our lives and our work better.

Don’t accept the shackles keeping you down.

I don’t feel inspired. But that doesn’t stop me from painting. It’s work. I love it. I even enjoy it sometimes. But it doesn’t mean I’m working under the influence of some brilliant stroke of inspirational genius. I’m just working.

If you only work when you feel like it, you’ll never be a professional.

Inspiration is great. Really. Feeling an intense creative drive coupled with a brilliant idea is a wonderful feeling. But if we sit back and wait for that feeling to kick in, it never will. Inspiration, as they say, only finds us working.

So work. Create. Put in the hours. There will be moments, hours, maybe days where you feel inspired. And you’ll produce wonderful work. But all of the time spent working uninspired prepares you for inspiration.

If all you do is wait, it will never come.

Stop waiting.

Start a lot of things. Scribble down thousands of thumbnails for paintings. Jot down ideas for novels, poems, articles. Sketch constantly. Start drawings, paintings, sculptures, songs, anything. Every day, start something new. Hell, start ten new things.

Finish a few things. Don’t finish everything—you don’t have time. But when you do finish, finish well. Pick the best starts. There’s no sense in finishing a lousy start. Take your time and make it the best you can. Do it right.

Starting forces you to come up with more ideas. Finishing makes you pick the good ones.

Starting puts you on the right path. Finishing shows you how far that path extends.

Starting is dreaming. Finishing is making it real.

Starting is part of an idea. Finishing is the completion of that idea.

If you don’t start well, you won’t finish well. If you can’t finish, you only have the potential of something great.

Start often, finish well.

Do Impossible Things

by Noah Bradley | September 27th, 2012

I want you to do the impossible today.

I want you to do something that you can’t do. I want you to try something you know you’ll fail at. I want you to put your heart and soul into something where the end result will likely be ugly and unpresentable.

And then I want you to do it again tomorrow.

Only by doing things that we can’t do can we learn to do them. In art and many other creative fields, it’s only in pushing our personal boundaries that we grow. Staying still is easy. Creating the same thing we did yesterday. And maybe, eventually, we might creep a little forward. But we won’t make any leaps.

Make a leap of faith into the unknown.

Do one thing

by Noah Bradley | September 14th, 2012

Every day, do one thing.

You don’t have to clear your to-do list.

You don’t have to do ten things.

You don’t have to do everything.

Just one thing, every day. Pick one thing that will make you feel like you accomplished something today. That you had done something worthwhile today. Something towards your goals. Something you might not want to do, but need to do. Just one step towards your dream.

Eventually, enough one things become a lot of things.

One thing at a time, one day at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be there.

all posts

2010 Books Every Artist Must Read (that have nothing to do with making art)
20What failure looks like
20Minimum Wage Artists

26Don’t go to art school
6Review of the Yiynova MSP19U tablet monitor
1It’s just piracy

30Stop Overthinking It
25Fake it
24Find more time
5Remove negativity
3Stop waiting for inspiration
2Start often, finish well
27Do Impossible Things
14Do one thing
21A year, a month, and a day
6Consume, Create, Recharge
14Love the Process
7It’s Dangerous To Go Alone

8When in doubt, return to the basics
25I Hate Your Portfolio
24Noah’s 2-Step Program to Being an Awesome Professional Artist
15How to be an Artist Without Going to Art School
308 Great Anatomy Books for Artists
287 Things I Hated About Art School
277 Things I Loved About Art School
23Stop Whining, Start Working
1510 Books Every Artist Must Read