Living the Artist's Life was first published in hardback, by Hillstead Publishing of Kansas City, in 2004. The second, paperback, edition came out in March 2005. The book has a dedicated web site, and you can see from the lengthy list of reviews that it attracted a fair amount of attention and praise.
Essentially, this is a book written by an art gallery owner to provide advice to visual artists on how to further their careers. More to the point, perhaps, as far as this blog is concerned, is the fact that while Paul Dorrell is not a visual artist himself, he is very definitely a writer -- to be specific, a novelist. And the book itself makes clear that much of what Dorrell has to say is also relevant to writers.
On the very first page of the book, Dorrell tells us that he has been a gallery owner and art consultant since 1991. In that field he is considered a success. 'That's cool, but what I am first is an artist myself -- a novelist. That is the primary passion of my life.'
Fortunately, from the point of view of visual artists, Dorrell then goes on to give masses of useful advice to those who are desperately trying to get their work taken up by a gallery -- much as writers pester publishers. In the process, he is amazingly frank about the economics of running a gallery. His own, for example, ran at a considerable loss for a long time. At one point, when about $100,000 in debt, he could not afford to renew the fire insurance... and, yes, there was then a fire. However, he staggered on.
In addition to all that, Dorrell reveals his painful frustrations in trying to get his career as a writer off the ground. It took him six novels and fifteen years to land an agent, and when he did he became a classic case of 'We loved this book but...' The agent had 36 rejections before he gave up trying to sell a novel which many editors admired but could not figure out how to market.
Dorrell is brutally frank about the effect which all this had on his own state of mind. He tells us that at least twice a year he suffers from bouts of clinical depression which last a couple of months.
Overall this is a brave book. It is more self-revelatory than most people would be comfortable with.
As far as I am aware, Paul Dorrell has yet to see one of his novels in print, and at the very end of the book, he has things to say about failure.
What happens if you 'fail' and have to join the business world, or some world similar to it? The truth is, you haven't failed. All those years of struggle, adversity and wrestling with the muse have brought, in return, these years of growth and a hopefully mature outlook. Without the struggle you wouldn't have had the growth.In other words, Paul Dorrell is very much of the 'you can do it if you just stick at it long enough' school of thought. To which the response of this rather world-weary old reader is: Hmm. Well. Yes. Maybe.
But it's worth noting, I think, that, before he found Hillstead Publishing, Dorrell had Living the Artist's Life rejected 177 times. So for him, at least, perseverance paid.