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Become An Artist

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Working As An Artist

  • $61,000

    Average Salary

What Does An Artist Do

Craft and fine artists use a variety of materials and techniques to create art for sale and exhibition. Craft artists create handmade objects, such as pottery, glassware, textiles, and other objects that are designed to be functional. Fine artists, including painters, sculptors, and illustrators, create original works of art for their aesthetic value, rather than for a functional one.


Craft and fine artists typically do the following:

  • Use techniques such as knitting, weaving, glassblowing, painting, drawing, and sculpting
  • Develop creative ideas or new methods for making art
  • Create sketches, templates, or models to guide their work
  • Select which materials to use on the basis of color, texture, strength, and other qualities
  • Shape, join, or cut materials for a final product
  • Use visual techniques, such as composition, color, space, and perspective, to produce desired artistic effects
  • Develop portfolios highlighting their artistic styles and abilities to show to gallery owners and others interested in their work
  • Display their work at auctions, craft fairs, galleries, museums, and online marketplaces
  • Complete grant proposal and applications to obtain financial support for projects

Artists create objects that are beautiful, thought provoking, and sometimes shocking. They often strive to communicate ideas or feelings through their art.

Craft artists work with many different materials, including ceramics, glass, textiles, wood, metal, and paper, to create unique pieces of art, such as pottery, quilts, stained glass, furniture, jewelry, and clothing. Many craft artists also use fine-art techniques—for example, painting, sketching, and printing—to add finishing touches to their products.

Fine artists typically display their work in museums, in commercial or nonprofit art galleries, at craft fairs, in corporate collections, on the Internet, and in private homes. Some of their artwork may be commissioned (requested by a client), but most is sold by the artist or through private art galleries or dealers. The artist, gallery, and dealer together decide in advance how much of the proceeds from the sale each will keep.

Most craft and fine artists spend their time and effort selling their artwork to potential customers and building a reputation. In addition to selling their artwork, many artists have at least one other job to support their craft or art careers.

Some artists work in museums or art galleries as art directors or as archivists, curators, or museum workers, planning and setting up exhibits. Others teach craft or art classes or conduct workshops in schools or in their own studios. For more information on workers who teach art classes, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, and postsecondary teachers.

Craft and fine artists specialize in one or more types of art. The following are examples of types of craft and fine artists:

Cartoonists draw political, advertising, comic, and sports cartoons. Some cartoonists work with others who create the idea or story and write captions. Some create plots and write captions themselves. Most cartoonists have comic, critical, or dramatic talents, in addition to drawing skills.

Ceramic artists shape, form, and mold artworks out of clay, often using a potter’s wheel and other tools. They glaze and fire pieces in kilns, which are large, special furnaces that dry and harden the clay.

Fiber artists use fabric, yarn, or other natural and synthetic fibers to weave, knit, crochet, or sew textile art. They may use a loom to weave fabric, needles to knit or crochet yarn, or a sewing machine to join pieces of fabric for quilts or other handicrafts.

Fine-art painters paint landscapes, portraits, and other subjects in a variety of styles, ranging from realistic to abstract. They may use one or more media, such as watercolors, oil paints, or acrylics.

Furniture makers cut, sand, join, and finish wood and other materials to make handcrafted furniture. For information about other workers who assemble wood furniture, see the profile on woodworkers.

Glass artists process glass in a variety of ways—such as by blowing, shaping, or joining it—to create artistic pieces. Specific processes used include glassblowing, lampworking, and staining glass. Some of these processes require the use of kilns, ovens, and other equipment and tools that bend glass at high temperatures. These workers also decorate glass objects, such as by etching or painting.

Illustrators create pictures for books, magazines, and other publications and for commercial products, such as textiles, wrapping paper, stationery, greeting cards, and calendars. Increasingly, illustrators are using computers in their work. They might draw in pen and pencil and then scan the image into a computer program to be colored in, or they might use a special pen to draw images directly onto the computer.

Jewelry artists use metals, stones, beads, and other materials to make objects for personal adornment, such as earrings or necklaces. For more information about other workers who create jewelry, see the profile on jewelers and precious stone and metal workers.

Medical and scientific illustrators combine drawing skills with knowledge of biology or other sciences. Medical illustrators work with computers or with pen and paper to create images of human anatomy and surgical procedures, as well as three-dimensional models and animations. Scientific illustrators draw animal and plant life, atomic and molecular structures, and geologic and planetary formations. These illustrations are used in medical and scientific publications and in audiovisual presentations for teaching purposes. Some medical and scientific illustrators work for lawyers, producing exhibits for court cases.

Public artists create large paintings, sculptures, and installations that are meant to be seen in public spaces. These works are typically displayed in parks, museum grounds, train stations, and other public areas.

Printmakers create images on a silk screen, woodblock, lithography stone, metal etching plate, or other types of matrices. A printing press or hand press then creates the final work of art, inking and transferring the matrix to a piece of paper.

Sculptors design and shape three-dimensional works of art, either by molding and joining materials such as clay, glass, plastic, and metal or by cutting and carving forms from a block of plaster, wood, or stone. Some sculptors combine various materials to create mixed-media installations. For example, some incorporate light, sound, and motion into their works. 

Sketch artists, who are a particular type of illustrator, often create likenesses of subjects with pencil, charcoal, or pastels. Their sketches are used by law enforcement agencies to help identify suspects, by the news media to show courtroom scenes, and by individual customers for their own enjoyment.

Tattoo artists use stencils and draw by hand to create original images and text on the skin of their clients. With specialized needles, these artists use a variety of styles and colors based on their clients’ preferences.

Video artists shoot and record experimental video that is typically shown in a recurring loop in art galleries, museums, or performance spaces. These artists sometimes use multiple monitors or create unusual spaces for the video to be shown.

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How To Become An Artist

Most fine artists earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in fine arts in order to improve their skills and job prospects. A formal educational credential is typically not needed for craft artists. Craft and fine artists improve their skills through practice and repetition.


Most fine artists pursue postsecondary education to earn degrees that can improve their skills and job prospects. A formal educational credential is typically not needed for craft artists. However, it is difficult to gain adequate artistic skills without some formal education. High school classes such as art, shop, and home economics can teach prospective craft artists some of the basic skills they will need, such as drawing, woodworking, and sewing.

A large number of colleges and universities offer bachelor's and master’s degrees in fine arts. In addition to offering studio art and art history, postsecondary programs may include core subjects, such as English, marketing, social science, and natural science. Independent schools of art and design also offer postsecondary education programs, which can lead to a certificate in an art-related specialty or to an associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degree in fine arts.

In 2014, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) accredited approximately 320 postsecondary institutions with programs in art and design. Most of these schools award a degree in art.

Medical illustrators must have a demonstrated artistic ability and a detailed knowledge of human and animal anatomy, living organisms, and surgical and medical procedures. They usually need a bachelor’s degree that combining combines art and premedical courses. Medical illustrators may choose to get a master’s degree in medical illustration. Three accredited schools offer this degree in the United States.

Education gives artists an opportunity to develop their portfolio, which is a collection of an artist’s work that demonstrates his or her styles and abilities. Portfolios are essential, because art directors, clients, and others look at them in deciding whether to hire an artist or to buy the artist’s work. In addition to compiling a physical portfolio, many artists choose to create a portfolio online so that potential buyers and clients can view their work on the Internet.

Bachelor’s or higher degrees in fine arts or arts administration are usually necessary for management or administrative positions in government, management positions in private foundations, and teaching positions in colleges and universities. Those who want to teach fine arts at public elementary or secondary schools usually must have a teaching certificate in addition to a bachelor’s degree. For more information on workers who teach art classes, see the profiles on kindergarten and elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, and postsecondary teachers.


Craft and fine artists improve their skills through practice and repetition. They can train in several ways other than—or in addition to—formal schooling. Craft and fine artists can train with simpler projects before attempting something more ambitious.

Some artists learn on the job from more experienced artists. Others attend noncredit classes or workshops or take private lessons, which may be offered in artists’ studios or at community colleges, art centers, galleries, museums, or other art-related institutions.

Still other artists work closely with other artists or assist them on either a formal or an informal basis. Formal arrangements may include internships or apprenticeship programs. Artists hired by firms often start with relatively routine work. While doing this work, they may observe other artists and practice their own skills.

Important Qualities

Artistic ability. Craft and fine artists create artwork and other objects that are visually appealing or thought provoking. This endeavor usually requires significant skill and attention to detail in one or more art forms.

Business skills. Craft and fine artists must promote themselves and their art to build a reputation and to sell their art. They often study the market for their crafts or artwork to increase their understanding of what potential customers might want. Many craft and fine artists sell their work on the Internet, so developing an online presence is an important part of their art sales.

Creativity. Artists must have active imaginations to develop new and original ideas for their work.

Customer-service skills. Craft and fine artists, especially those who sell their work themselves, must be good at dealing with customers and potential buyers.

Dexterity. Most artists work with their hands and must be good at manipulating tools and materials to create their art.

Interpersonal skills. Artists often must interact with many people, including coworkers, gallery owners, and the public.


Craft and fine artists advance professionally as their work circulates and as they establish a reputation for their particular style. Many of the most successful artists continually develop new ideas, and their work often evolves over time.

Many artists do freelance work while continuing to hold a full-time job until they are established as professional artists. Others freelance part time while still in school, to develop experience and to build a portfolio of published work.

Freelance artists try to develop a set of clients who regularly contract for work. Some freelance artists are widely recognized for their skill in a specialty, such as illustrating children’s books or cartooning. These artists may earn high incomes and can choose the type of project they undertake.

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Average Length of Employment
Commercial Artist 6.1 years
Fine Artist 6.0 years
Ceramic Artist 5.6 years
Free Lance Artist 5.0 years
Artist/Illustrator 4.4 years
Graphic Artist 4.4 years
Designer/Artist 4.3 years
Senior Artist 4.2 years
Artist 3.0 years
Production Artist 3.0 years
Visual Artist 2.9 years
Lead Artist 2.9 years
Sacred Art Artist 2.9 years
Animation Artist 2.7 years
3D Artist 2.0 years
Game Artist 2.0 years
Concept Artist 1.9 years
Artist Assistant 1.8 years
Top Careers Before Artist
Cashier 12.4%
Internship 10.7%
Volunteer 5.7%
Server 5.2%
Assistant 4.3%
Instructor 3.8%
Manager 3.6%
Teacher 3.5%
Designer 2.7%
Top Careers After Artist
Cashier 11.5%
Internship 6.5%
Server 5.4%
Instructor 4.4%
Volunteer 4.3%
Owner 4.0%
Teacher 3.6%
Manager 3.6%
Assistant 3.2%
3D Artist 3.0%
Designer 3.0%

Do you work as an Artist?

Average Yearly Salary
View Detailed Salary Report
Min 10%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Median 50%
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Highest Paying City
Mountain View, CA
Highest Paying State
Avg Experience Level
2.6 years
How much does an Artist make at top companies?
The national average salary for an Artist in the United States is $61,900 per year or $30 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $33,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $114,000.

Real Artist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Flame Artist Framestore Inc. Culver City, CA Oct 19, 2015 $180,000
Flame Artist Framestore Inc. New York, NY Oct 15, 2015 $180,000
Story Artist The Secret Lab CA Sep 28, 2015 $160,795
Paper Cut Artist Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA Mar 10, 2016 $140,000
Environment Artist Valve Corporation Bellevue, WA Oct 20, 2016 $140,000 -
Story Artist SONY Pictures Animation Inc. Culver City, CA Oct 26, 2015 $135,655
Flame Artist Deluxe Media Creative Services Inc. Santa Monica, CA Jul 04, 2016 $125,000 -
Multi-Media Artist Valve Bellevue, WA Aug 18, 2016 $120,000 -
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Sep 22, 2015 $117,541
Environment Artist Microsoft Corporation Kirkland, WA Nov 03, 2015 $117,078
Ui/Ux Artist Insomniac Games, Inc. Burbank, CA Nov 14, 2016 $115,000
Artist 4 Microsoft Corporation Redmond, WA Oct 20, 2015 $115,000 -
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Nov 09, 2016 $80,891
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Nov 22, 2016 $80,642 -
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Sep 14, 2016 $80,642 -
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Aug 14, 2016 $80,642
Environment Artist Naughty Dog, Inc. Santa Monica, CA Aug 27, 2015 $80,000 -
FX Artist Naughty Dog, Inc. Santa Monica, CA Jun 30, 2016 $80,000 -
Character Artist Arenanet LLC Bellevue, WA Apr 21, 2016 $80,000
UI Artist Carbine, LLC Aliso Viejo, CA Jun 08, 2015 $80,000
Environment Artist Rockstar San Diego, Inc. Carlsbad, CA Sep 08, 2016 $64,700
Environment Artist Epic Games, Inc. Cary, NC Sep 14, 2015 $64,419 -
Visiting Artist The School of The Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL Jan 08, 2016 $63,000 -
CG Artist Deluxe Media Creative Services Inc. Los Angeles, CA Jan 01, 2015 $62,610 -
Ui/Ux Artist GLU Mobile Inc. Long Beach, CA Aug 16, 2016 $60,000
Cinematic Artist Telltale, Inc. San Rafael, CA May 04, 2015 $60,000
Media Artist EFFY Jewelers Corp. New York, NY May 30, 2016 $60,000 -
Prop Artist GLU Mobile Inc. Bellevue, WA Sep 21, 2015 $60,000

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Top Skills for An Artist

  1. Art Direction
  2. Adobe Photoshop
  3. Original Works
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Managed and art directed multiple, concurrent projects in art direction, design, layout, and final production assets.
  • Cover art created through Adobe PhotoShop.
  • Create original works of art of historic, commercial, and residential buildings.
  • Received multiple reviews acknowledging my level of dedication to excellent customer service.
  • Make sandwich, clean, prep food, wash dishes, customer service, money management.


Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Artists

  1. Maryland
  2. Georgia
  3. District of Columbia
  4. Virginia
  5. Florida
  6. West Virginia
  7. Alabama
  8. Delaware
  9. Idaho
  10. Ohio
  • (222 jobs)
  • (71 jobs)
  • (25 jobs)
  • (171 jobs)
  • (111 jobs)
  • (7 jobs)
  • (30 jobs)
  • (2 jobs)
  • (6 jobs)
  • (50 jobs)

Artist Resume Examples And Tips

The average resume reviewer spends between 5 to 7 seconds looking at a single resume, which leaves the average job applier with roughly six seconds to make a killer first impression. Thanks to this, a single typo or error on your resume can disqualify you right out of the gate. At Zippia, we went through over 32,412 Artist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Create A Top Notch Artist Resume

View Resume Examples

Artist Demographics










Hispanic or Latino


Black or African American





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Foreign Languages Spoken








































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Artist Education


Savannah College of Art and Design


Full Sail University


Academy of Art University


Art Institute of California - Inland


New York University


School of Visual Arts


University of Phoenix


Columbia College Chicago


Art Institute of Pittsburgh


Arizona State University


School of the Art Institute of Chicago


The Academy


Fashion Institute of Technology


Florida State University


San Jose State University


Pratt Institute-Main


Virginia Commonwealth University


University of Central Florida


University of North Texas


University of Florida

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Fine Arts


Graphic Design














General Education, Specific Areas


Computer Science




Design And Visual Communication




Entertainment Business




Liberal Arts


Visual And Performing Arts






General Studies

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What is it like to work as an Artist


Visual Artist

March 27, 2019 on Zippia

What was your job title?

Artist.. Show More

What do you like the most about working as Artist?

Painting Use of all mediums Creativity Shows.. Show More

What do you NOT like?

I don't have anything to say about NOT like ART IS MY PASSION PASSION IS MY ART.. Show More


Still working it

March 14, 2019 on Zippia

What was your job title?

Artist.. Show More

What do you like the most about working as Artist?

1) Makes my own art decor(I don't just paint I do other art as well) 2) It releases stress 3) Make my own gifts without having to go out buy one. 4)I am not hobbyist 5) tried to do digital art depends on program.. Show More

What do you NOT like?

1) High school degree is not always requested, mainly AS degree or BS degree is on high demand so those who graduated should head to college afterwards. 2) since college degrees are in higher demand, there are no jobs for me. So I am left to sell my art on t-shirts or textiles. 3)Masters had it easy these days artist have fucked up life if they don't belong to community or special grouping they are considered frauds... Show More

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Top Artist Employers

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Day in the Life: Recording Artist

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