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Become An Artist

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Working As An Artist

  • $66,315

    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.

Duties

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.

Education

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.

Training

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.

Advancement

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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Artist Videos

Joseph Burgess - Artist

Day in the Life: Recording Artist

Career Advice on becoming a Ceramic Artist by Matt R (Full Version)

Artist Jobs

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Average Length of Employment
Fine Artist 6.5 years
Performing Artist 4.7 years
Graphic Artist 4.3 years
Senior Artist 4.1 years
Designer/Artist 3.8 years
Artist/Illustrator 3.6 years
Artist Manager 3.1 years
Layout Artist 3.1 years
Visual Artist 3.0 years
Artist 3.0 years
Production Artist 2.9 years
Makeup Artist 2.6 years
Animation Artist 2.5 years
Mural Artist 2.2 years
3D Artist 2.0 years
Concept Artist 1.9 years
Artist Assistant 1.8 years
Storyboard Artist 1.8 years
Top Careers Before Artist
Internship 11.6%
Cashier 9.8%
Volunteer 5.6%
Assistant 4.7%
Instructor 4.5%
Server 4.3%
Teacher 4.2%
Manager 3.6%
Designer 3.0%
Top Careers After Artist
Cashier 8.8%
Internship 6.5%
Instructor 5.1%
Teacher 4.8%
Server 4.5%
Volunteer 4.4%
Owner 4.1%
Manager 3.9%
Designer 3.2%
Director 3.2%

Do you work as an Artist?

Artist Demographics

Gender

Female

55.2%

Male

42.7%

Unknown

2.1%
Ethnicity

White

61.8%

Hispanic or Latino

15.9%

Black or African American

10.2%

Asian

8.3%

Unknown

3.8%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

45.8%

French

14.4%

Italian

6.6%

Chinese

4.7%

German

4.7%

Mandarin

3.5%

Japanese

3.1%

Russian

2.9%

Portuguese

2.7%

Korean

2.1%

Hebrew

1.8%

Greek

1.3%

Polish

1.2%

Arabic

1.2%

Cantonese

1.0%

Hindi

1.0%

Swedish

0.5%

Romanian

0.5%

Turkish

0.5%

Norwegian

0.5%
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Artist Education

Schools

Savannah College of Art and Design

16.4%

Full Sail University

8.2%

Academy of Art University

7.9%

Columbia College Chicago

5.5%

Art Institute of California - Inland

5.3%

University of Phoenix

5.0%

Art Institute of Pittsburgh

5.0%

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

4.8%

New York University

4.8%

Fashion Institute of Technology

4.4%

Virginia Commonwealth University

4.2%

School of Visual Arts

3.8%

Arizona State University

3.7%

University of Central Florida

3.4%

Florida State University

3.4%

Temple University

2.9%

University of Florida

2.9%

Pratt Institute-Main

2.9%

San Jose State University

2.8%

University of Southern California

2.8%
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Majors

Fine Arts

22.7%

Graphic Design

19.0%

Business

8.0%

Photography

5.3%

Animation

4.6%

Music

4.4%

Communication

4.3%

Psychology

3.8%

General Education, Specific Areas

3.2%

Computer Science

2.7%

Education

2.7%

Design And Visual Communication

2.4%

Entertainment Business

2.3%

Marketing

2.3%

Liberal Arts

2.3%

Visual And Performing Arts

2.2%

English

2.2%

Theatre

2.0%

Elementary Education

1.8%

Criminal Justice

1.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

43.0%

Other

25.7%

Masters

14.4%

Associate

9.8%

Certificate

4.2%

Diploma

1.3%

Doctorate

1.0%

License

0.5%
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Artist Videos

Joseph Burgess - Artist

Day in the Life: Recording Artist

Career Advice on becoming a Ceramic Artist by Matt R (Full Version)

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Real Artist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Flame Artist Framestore Inc. New York, NY Oct 15, 2015 $180,000
Flame Artist Framestore Inc. Culver City, CA Oct 19, 2015 $180,000
Story Artist The Secret Lab CA Sep 28, 2015 $160,795
Environment Artist Valve Corporation Bellevue, WA Oct 20, 2016 $140,000 -
$200,000
Paper Cut Artist Facebook, Inc. Menlo Park, CA Mar 10, 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 -
$150,000
Multi-Media Artist Valve Bellevue, WA Aug 18, 2016 $120,000 -
$200,000
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Sep 22, 2015 $117,541
Environment Artist Microsoft Corporation Kirkland, WA Nov 03, 2015 $117,078
Flame Artist Deluxe Media Creative Services, Inc. Santa Monica, CA Dec 19, 2015 $115,000 -
$160,000
Ui/Ux Artist Insomniac Games, Inc. Burbank, CA Nov 14, 2016 $115,000
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Nov 09, 2016 $80,891
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Nov 22, 2016 $80,642 -
$90,000
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Sep 14, 2016 $80,642 -
$90,000
Story Artist Pixar Emeryville, CA Aug 14, 2016 $80,642
FX Artist Naughty Dog, Inc. Santa Monica, CA Jun 30, 2016 $80,000 -
$95,000
UI Artist Carbine, LLC Aliso Viejo, CA Jun 08, 2015 $80,000
VFX Artist Crazy Horse Effects, Inc. CA Oct 01, 2015 $80,000
Character Artist Cloud Imperium Games LLC Los Angeles, CA Jan 10, 2016 $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 -
$104,967
Visiting Artist The School of The Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL Jan 08, 2016 $63,000 -
$73,000
CG Artist Deluxe Media Creative Services Inc. Los Angeles, CA Jan 01, 2015 $62,610 -
$83,480
Ui/Ux Artist GLU Mobile Inc. Long Beach, CA Aug 16, 2016 $60,000
Nuke Artist Framestore Inc. Culver City, CA Jul 11, 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 -
$65,000

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Top Skills for An Artist

  1. Original Art
  2. Adobe Photoshop
  3. Original Works
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Produced original artwork for annual yearbooks including covers and interior pages.
  • Cover art created through Adobe PhotoShop.
  • Create original works of Art on Canvas.
  • Major projects included redesigning outdated web visuals and developing the original art and web design for the Digital Fish Library.
  • Facilitated Setup-Breakdown of event locations, and provided customer service and promotional service.

What is it like to work as an Artist

5.0

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

2.0

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 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)

Top Artist Employers

Jobs From Top Artist Employers

Artist Videos

Joseph Burgess - Artist

Day in the Life: Recording Artist

Career Advice on becoming a Ceramic Artist by Matt R (Full Version)

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